who have

Our priority is for our pupils to be happy, safe, and healthy by providing and individualised curriculum in school which focuses on developing skills for maximum quality of life.

At Northern Counties School, we have a distinct population of children and young people who have combinations of very complex physical, sensory, learning and health needs – their needs are met in the Stephenson Department, where students follow a pre-formal curriculum.

These children may have:

  • Severe/profound learning difficulties
  • Sensory impairments affecting one or more senses
  • Physical needs impacting on gross and fine motor skills
  • Significant health and care needs requiring close supervision and specialist medical care

Our pupil-centred approach ensures full access to a pre-formal curriculum linked to the Engagement Model that is suitably differentiated to meet their individual needs. This service is staffed by specialist teachers, therapists and learning support assistants, together with full-time, on-site school nursing support. Pupils follow an individual timetable based on their needs and provision identified in their EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan).

We have small teaching groups in classes of up to six. Each individual has 1:1 support in order for them to fully access the curriculum and all aspects of school life. Occasionally a pupil may need additional staffing to support their health needs. We offer integrated teaching and therapy – staff work together to create individual timetables and programmes to meet the needs of each pupil. This is intended to be age appropriate in terms of topic content but developmentally matched to the child’s needs. Teachers and therapists work alongside families/ carers to create personalised learning goals which link to targets set in the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Please see the assessment page for more detail on learning goals.

We follow a whole school Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) approach and each pupil has a behaviour support plan. For the PMLD department PBS means flexibility within our timetables for personal and medical care, and position changes. The plan supports staff to identify subtle behaviours and what is being communicated.

The complex nature of our children’s needs demands a high level of therapeutic input. Therefore, the curriculum is built on explicit therapy-based sessions, including motor programmes, rebound therapy, hydrotherapy, individual physiotherapy and communication development sessions. The therapeutic approach is implicit in all sessions across the curriculum, with jointly planned sessions focussing on learning goals and EHCP targets. We utilise a variety of specialist rooms including light stimulation, sensory room, rebound room, vestibular swing room, food technology room and quiet areas.

Pupils with PMLD develop new skills at varying rates and may make progress or rebuild lost skills in very small steps. For this cohort of young people maintenance of existing skills is of equal importance. Monitoring progress requires observation and interpretation of responses over time. Staff record student responses throughout the day in daily logs. This information is qualitative and includes the context of the learning, position of the pupil, facilitations, location, noise, specific information on how the learning was staged and the mood of the pupil. Through the collation of this detailed and specific information learning goals are reviewed and assessed. Please see the assessment page for more detail on learning goals.