SEN Information Report

Priestley Smith School is a purpose-built, Local Authority maintained specialist school for children with visual impairment, located in North Birmingham.

The school is an all age (2-19) day school serving children from across the West Midlands (including Sandwell, Walsall, Solihull, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Warwickshire and Staffordshire).

Through high quality teaching, learning and pastoral care, we aim to develop confident, caring and independent young people who are able to succeed in their chosen field.

‘The atmosphere in school is very relaxed. People have a good sense of humour and a strong relationship with members of staff. There are lots of people around to help if anything goes wrong and lots of specialist equipment. Teachers are good at finding ways of explaining things if one way does not work.’

Comments taken from Student Survey

In addition to following the National Curriculum, we also deliver specialist support and training in

  • mobility (the ability to move safely around the environment)
  • specialist ICT (using special programs and devices which aid visually impaired people)
  • Braille (and Moon)
  • Independent Living Skills (learning the skills needed to live independently)

Classrooms are equipped with a range of specialist and adapted equipment to meet pupils’ needs. Where required, school provides individuals with equipment for their own personal use e.g. Braille Notes, CCTV or laptop computers with special access programs.

What kinds of Special Educational Needs does the school make provision for?

All pupils will have a significant visual impairment and some may have additional or associated needs such as:

  • learning disability
  • physical and/or medical needs
  • hearing impairment
  • moderate learning disability
  • moderate communication difficulties (including moderate Autistic Spectrum Condition)
  • social and emotional needs

The school is not able to meet the needs of children with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Children will have (or be in the process of getting) an Education Health Care Plan in which vision is listed as a significant need. Children may join the school at any age between 2 and 19 years and at any point during the academic year.

To find out more about what we offer, please select either of the two boxes below:

Can the school meet my child’s needs?

Please look back at the introduction which identified the children whose needs we can provide for.

If you are still not sure, please phone us on 0121 325 3900 and ask to speak to the Headteacher or Deputy.

Can I visit the school?

You are welcome to contact us to come and arrange a visit if you feel that your child’s needs may be met at Priestley Smith School.

Please phone 0121 325 3900 to make arrangements.

You can find out more about the school by looking at the section ‘Information for parents of current pupils’

Please note that we are not able to offer places without the agreement of your Local Authority Special Needs Department – but you are still welcome to visit.

If I decide that I want a place at the school for my child, who do I need to talk to?

Your Local Authority Special Needs Department will need to agree to fund any place. (The school cannot offer places without this agreement).

Any of these people should be able to give advice about what to do:

  • Specialist Pre-School Teacher
  • Advisory Teacher for Visually Impaired Children
  • Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) of your child’s current school
  • Your Local Authority Special Needs Service (in Birmingham this is SENAR – contact 0121 303 0829)
  • Charities associated with Visual Impairment e.g. RNIB, Focus Birmingham, Action for Blind People, National Blind Children’s Society

If Priestley Smith School does not seem to be the right place for my child, what should I do?

Please refer back to the Birmingham Local Offer (or that of your own Local Authority) where you will find details of other schools supporting children with Special Educational Needs. Birmingham’s local offer can be found at:

How is teaching and learning different at Priestley Smith School?

Ofsted: “Pupils make exceptional progress in their academic and personal development because of the outstanding quality of specialised teaching, a highly enriched and individualised curriculum, and outstanding levels of care and support.”

  • Lessons are planned, prepared and delivered by Qualified Teachers of the Visually Impaired (QTVI)
  • A high ‘staff to pupil’ ratio supports the needs of all pupil
  • Pupils are taught in small groups
  • The curriculum is adapted to meet each pupil’s learning and visual needs
  • There is a strong emphasis on concrete, practical learning experiences
  • Additional time is provided for review and reinforcement of learning
  • Learning is delivered at an appropriate pace for each pupil
  • The school is purpose built for pupils with visual impairment.
  • Individual tuition is provided in specialist skills areas eg Mobility, ILS, specialist ICT, Braille, touch-typing.
  • All resources are produced in a format which is accessible to the individual pupil eg modified print size, Braille, speech, tactile format, Moon etc.
  • The school delivers a range of accreditation in academic and vocational subjects matched to the individual needs of students. These include Personal Progress and qualifications at Entry level (pre-GCSE), Level 1 and Level 2 (GCSE) and on occasion Level 3 (A Level).

What training do the staff in school have in relation to pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

  • All teaching staff have to gain an additional qualification in the teaching of pupils with visual impairment.
  • All staff are trained in reading and writing Braille and in the use of specialist ICT.
  • Support staff have Level 2 or 3 qualifications.
  • All staff are Team Teach trained, a programme for positive behaviour management, including physical intervention where necessary.
  • The school has trained Paediatric First Aiders.
  • We have staff who are trained in supporting the medical needs of pupils under the guidance of the school nurses.
  • Staff are encouraged to develop expertise in other areas of SEN eg Autistic Spectrum Condition, hearing impairment, communication.

How does the school assess and review the needs and progress of the pupils?

The school does this in a number of ways:

  • Through the annual review of Education and Health Care (EHC) plans
  • The progress of individual pupils is tracked regularly against subject attainment targets. These include National Curriculum and specialist subjects ie Braille, Mobility, specialist ICT, Independent Living Skills.
  • Where there is a concern about pupils’ medical needs, health reviews are arranged with the school’s Medical officer and Ophthalmologist
  • Where a further need is identified, external agencies contribute towards clarification of need. There is ongoing review of and evaluation of progress.
  • Parents are actively involved in each of these processes above and are encouraged to contact the school at any time if they have any concerns about their child.
  • Parents are invited to twice yearly Parents’ Evenings and an annual review meeting. They also receive an end of year report detailing the child’s progress in all areas.

How does the school evaluate its effectiveness?

The school carries out a rigorous evaluation of teaching and learning, whole school pupil progress, behaviour and safety, leadership and management which is carried out annually.

This evaluation is carried out in consultation with the Governing Body and takes into account the views of parents, Ofsted, Teaching Schools’ Alliance partners and the school’s Self Evaluation Partner (an external consultant who regularly reviews the work of the school.)

As outlined in Q1 each child’s progress is reviewed carefully to ensure effectiveness of provision.

How are pupils involved in their own education?

  • School Council, which holds its own budget, takes part in decision making and contributes towards improving the life of the school.
  • Pupils contribute to their own reviews at an age-appropriate level.
  • Pupils are engaged in the learning process by being asked to contribute to ongoing informal review of progress within lessons and more formal reviews of Individual Targets and annual review targets.
  • Pupils are able to make option choices in Year 9 about further study  ready for Key Stage 4 and in Year 11 ready for Key Stage 5.
  • Pupils take part in regular surveys to give opinions on strengths of the school as they see them and the areas which they consider need to be developed.

How are parents involved in the education of their child?

  • Parents are actively involved in all the assessment and review procedures listed in Q1.
  • Parents are invited to regular events within the school eg. Coffee mornings, pupil performances, Stay and Play, Learning Together sessions, sports day, workshops.
  • Half termly Newsletters keep parents up to date with school events and activities.
  • Home visits are carried out by school staff to extend effective use of skills at home as well as in school. They are also carried out at the request of families or where staff and parents consider this may be beneficial to the child.
  • Parent surveys give parents the opportunity to express opinions about the strengths and areas for development in school.
  • Elected Parent governors represent the views of parents on the Governing Body.

What extra-curricular activities can my child do?

The school offers a range of extra-curricular activities which take place predominantly at lunch-times due to transport constraints. These include:

  • Dance clubs
  • Craft club
  • Social Media and Programming
  • A variety of Music clubs
  • Sports clubs e.g. Football, Ne Waza 
  • Homework club
  • Judo (after school)
  • Residential visits-primary and secondary
  • Summer holiday playscheme

The school also promotes extra-curricular family activities offered by organisations such as Action for Blind People and National Blind Children’s Society.

How does the school get more specialist help for students if they need it?

The school works with an increasing range of specialist external agencies. These currently include:

  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Hearing Advisory Service
  • Autism Specialist Advisors
  • VI Counselling Service
  • Behaviour Support Service
  • Educational Psychology
  • Ophthalmology Services
  • Education Health Services
  • Specialists from Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • Birmingham Social Care team
  • Forward Thinking Birmingham (Child and Adolescent Mental Health team)

In consultation with parents, we actively seek advice regarding any need that arises.

How does the school support pupils through transition?

  • The school puts into place a range of provision to meet the needs of pupils starting the school, moving within different phases of the school and moving on into further education.
  • Pre-admission visits take place with parents, visiting teachers or staff from their current schools.
  • Close liaison between primary and secondary staff prepares pupils for the move to secondary, including some primary lessons taking place in secondary and familiarisation work with Mobility staff.
  • From Year 9 onwards pupils complete Forward plans  to help them plan and consider their future. These are completed in liaison with Connexions staff and Careers staff.
  • The school works closely with the Connexions service to identify suitable courses and provision at post 16 and post-18 to ensure appropriate progression routes and to ensure that the receiving organisations are fully aware of student needs.
  • We support students at specialist and mainstream college open days.
  • Year 12 pupils attend mainstream college one day a week as part of the moving on process.
  • Year 10 and Year 13 pupils undertake work experience placements in order to prepare them for the world of work.
  • Habilitation staff deliver ‘Moving On’ programmes to prepare students for adulthood.

How does the school keep my child safe?

  • The school has 3 DSLs (Designated Safeguarding Leads) trained in Safeguarding.
  • All staff in school are trained in Safeguarding every year.
  • Safeguarding is part of the induction process for all new members of staff.
  • There is close liaison with Social Care and Health.
  • There are trained First aiders in post in the secondary department and two trained Paediatric First aiders in the Primary department.
  • The site is secure.
  • The Health and Safety committee of the Governing Body ensures that all pupil welfare is considered.
  • All staff are e-safety trained and accredited; e-safety awareness is part of the taught curriculum in all year groups.
  • There is an ongoing dialogue with parents about pupil welfare.
  • Safer recruitment training has been undertaken by leading staff and governors and appropriate processes are followed for all appointments.
  • All staff are DBS checked.
  • All governors receive safeguarding training.
  • The school publishes safeguarding information for parents on the school website.

The School’s Safeguarding Policy can be seen on the website in the section called Information: Policies

Who is the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) ?

All of the pupils in school have a significant identified Special Educational Need so the SENCO role is jointly undertaken by the Leadership Team of the school.

All teaching staff are additionally trained and qualified to meet the Special Educational Needs of pupils.