Our school is fortunate enough to include a Base for children with Autism, which is called Treetops. Treetops is one of the four Primary Additional Resource Bases (ARP) within the Borough of Merton. We are one of three that is specifically for children who have a diagnosis of Autism.
Admissions to Treetops are entirely separate from places in the main school – and are made through Merton’s Special Educational Needs Admissions Team.
Teaching and Curriculum
As our provision for pupils who have a diagnosis of Autism, Treetops is designed to provide a structured environment that is small, welcoming and inclusive. The staff team strives to give the pupils the maximum level of independence that they can achieve.
All pupils have access to core subjects (Maths, English and Science) and the Foundation subjects (all other subjects). We use a topic-based approach to learning, which engages children and helps them to build skills in learning and thinking.
The method of teaching within the ARP is based on the Attention Autism Approach, developed by Gina Davies, Speech and Language Therapist. This method ensures learning is engaging and motivating. The children are taught from the Primary National Curriculum, using a differentiated approach, adapted to the individual needs.
In Treetops, we also strive to enhance pupil’s social and emotional development, through specific PSHE and life skills sessions. We incorporate programmes such as Social Thinking and the Zones of Regulation into daily practice. The pupils attend weekly swimming, horse riding and Creative Art lessons as part of an enriching curriculum.
Treetops has a visiting Speech and Language therapist, who works onsite with the pupils. The Therapist and staff liaise closely regarding the pupils’ targets to ensure these are incorporated within daily teaching.
Treetops also has visiting Occupational Therapists, who work with children in a range of ways, which include both direct and indirect input. This enables OT programmes to be completed throughout the school day to support children’s access to their education. This ranges from scheduled movement breaks with specific exercises (e.g. sensory activities that range from low to high intensity depending on the child’s presenting needs), fine motor activities and resources to support writing skills.
Treetops works closely with Merton’s Educational Psychology team, where a specific psychologist is allocated to the ARP for regular liaison and review of pupils’ progress.
Access to mainstream lessons
The School is also committed to adopting an inclusive approach in all aspects of its work. We believe that where it is suitable for an individual learner in Treetops, access to mainstream classes can help to promote independence and social awareness. This can take several forms: shared playtimes, lunchtimes, assemblies, residential trips as well particpate in selected mainstream lessons. All Treetops learners have the opportunity to be included in this way across the School. Our Base is part of the main School building: not set apart from it and we seek to ensure that our practice reflects that geography.
Regular teacher assessments that take place, which allow for close monitoring of the pupils’ progress.
For each child, a support plan is also drawn up. This support plan draws on the outcomes outlined in each pupil’s EHCP. The targets are devised and reviewed in consultation with parents, on a termly basis.
We assess Treetops learners using the greater precision offered by a system called Connecting Steps, from BSquared. It is better configured to record the smaller steps our learners make to build a bigger and more accurate picture of each pupil’s learning and progress.
Communication with parents
We believe collaboration with parents and carers is key to ensuring the best possible outcomes for pupils. As many of the children travel to school each day on Merton transport, Home/school communication books provide an opportunity for parents and staff to communicate on a regular basis. We also welcome parents and carers to telephone or email the school. In addition to the statutory Education, Health and Care Plan Annual Review meeting, parent meetings are held to discuss each child’s progress.