PRINCIPAL Jonathan Seaward doesn’t pause for a moment when asked what one word best sums up Langside School.
“Inspirational,” he said.
“Inspirational for staff, inspirational for visitors, it is a very special place.”
The Parkstone-based special school, run by the charity Diverse Abilities Plus, provides education for children with both profound and multiple learning difficulties plus physical and medical conditions.
“We don’t say no to any child, no matter how complex,” said Mr Seaward.
“Our aim is to give children as many opportunities and life chances as they would get in mainstream school.”
The school currently has 28 pupils and there are around 40 staff on site at any one time.
The school prides itself on its multi-disciplinary approach to providing education and therapy support, so there are teachers, nurses, therapists and support assistants on the team.
Together they teach to a new multi-sensory curriculum while also offering physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and a high level of nursing care.
The school also hosts on-site paediatric, dietician and wheelchair clinics, which eases the pressure on parents by reducing the number of hospital appointments they have to attend.
Children typically join at the age of two and stay until they are 19. Mr Seaward said: “The school is a very tight community, there is a real family feel.
“It’s a friendly, warm school, a very positive school. Our parents have repeatedly been told what their children can’t do. We’re about what they can do.
“Our key aim is to ensure that our children can communicate with us to whatever level. Communication and understanding our children is vitally important to what we do, whether that is small facial expressions, noises or vocalisations.
“We’re looking at very fine levels of communications, understanding how our children want to express themselves.”
Music is an integral part of the school’s multi-sensory curriculum, whether it be noisy singalongs or tailored music sessions.
“Music is very important because it has the power to calm, to stimulate, to soothe,” said Mr Seaward. “Children respond to music.”
The school also works in partnership with the local community to offer out-of-school activities and there are weekly opportunities for children to participate in extra-curricular activities such as Riding for the Disabled. Mr Seaward, a former deputy head at a mainstream junior school, said the switch to leading a special school was a steep learning curve but immensely rewarding.
“Here, we are about education, pure education,” he said.
“Knowing what the child’s needs are to the nth degree.
“It’s refreshing that we can get on with educating them with what they need.”
Langside School, Langside Avenue, Poole, BH12 5BN
Telephone: 01202 518635/01202 549559
Age range: 2 - 19
Number of children: 28.
Head teacher: Jonathan Seaward
Overall grade: Good.
A monitoring inspection was carried out in March 2012. A report from the inspectors said:
“Langside School is a good school. The sixth form is also good. The excellent care and support the school provides for its pupils and the high priority placed on ensuring that pupils have good opportunities to develop their communication skills ensure that pupils are prepared well for the next stage of education.
“Pupils make good progress in their learning. They extend their skills in communication and their knowledge and understanding of the world around them very well. Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage and those in the sixth form make equally good progress.
“Behaviour is excellent. Pupils’ care and welfare are at the heart of all the school does. There is excellent teamwork between staff and the health and medical teams.
“As a result, pupils are safe and their enjoyment of school is very evident in the positive ways they participate in all the activities.”