Building an inclusive school is hard work, requiring a clear vision and commitment. It’s a journey that we are only at the start of at Prior Park School, but it’s one that the staff and team are fully committed to, and after 27 years teaching, I have never been prouder to say that I am a member of a school than I am to say I work here.
Having been Special Educational Needs Coordinator across five schools and had the opportunity as a Specialist Leader of Education to support other SENCOs and Behaviour Leads within their schools, I have seen first hand the impact that treating learners as individuals can have.
I am a great believer in personalising our student’s educational journey as much as possible. Within the school system this can be a real challenge but there are things we can do to make it easier and a key one for me is to work towards the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Award.
It was in Gibraltar through some excellent sessions provided by the Gibraltar Dyslexia Society that I first came across the BDA Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark Award. Working towards and achieving this award in a UK school, I saw the impact that it had not just on the dyslexic learners but on all of our children.
What I hadn’t expected was the impact it also had on staff. As the quality of teaching improved, confidence grew and relationships blossomed. As we celebrated learning differences amongst our pupils we began to recognise them in each other and became a community that celebrated differences and supported one another.
Since then I have been vocal in my support of the work done by the BDA, I haven’t experienced the same level of impact across a school community from any other external accreditation or award. The BDA Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark Award has been developed by educationalists and specialists within the field of SEND, alongside parents and grandparents of dyslexic children.
It is a whole school award of nationally recognised dyslexia friendly good practice, focusing on: leadership and management, quality of learning, the learning environment and partnerships with the wider community.
Headmaster of Prior Park School, Mr. Peter Watts has recently signed the “Made By Dyslexia Pledge” and at Prior Park, we are working towards being a ‘dyslexia friendly school’, because dyslexia friendly teaching is simply quality-first teaching that will impact on all of our learners.
Being mindful of the criteria for achieving the BDA Quality Mark helps to keep us focused on the right steps we need to take and although only a young school I believe the dedication of staff in embracing this journey is already being reflected in the experience our students have. I would recommend the Quality Mark as a tool for improvement to any school.
Karen Lawton, Deputy Head of Pastoral & Special Educational Needs Coordinator
Ms. Karen Lawton is the Deputy Head of Pastoral at Prior Park School and is the Special Educational Needs Coordinator. Ms. Lawton has 25 years’ experience across a range of schools in the East-Africa, Gibraltar and the UK.
Most recently, Ms. Lawton was head-teacher for a mainstream school in Cheshire, where she led a “Cognitive and Learning” unit. Making school accessible to all children is her main area of expertise. Ms. Lawton said:
“I am passionate about making education accessible to all children and would consider inclusion to be my main area of expertise. My primary background has given me a real understanding of how children learn and the range of different barriers they can face. I find supporting Students, Parents and Staff to understand and overcome these barriers incredibly rewarding work.”
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