Head of School: Matt Rooney
Tel: 01777 703683
Email: head@st-giles.notts.sch.uk

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Help children with SEND to stay safe and keep learning during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Help children with SEND to stay safe and keep learning during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Advice from parents and staff of St Giles School, Retford, for parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Children who are currently attending schools are not experiencing what they usually would, this makes things feel very different. Acknowledging this is a good thing. Your children might just want to talk things through or do reassuring things with you.

Schools are providing care, routine and places of safety for the children who need it the most. For those staying at home, the expectation is exactly the same.

Parents are not expected to ‘teach’ or ‘home school’ their children. Do not worry about this, as adding additional pressures and stresses in to households during this time is likely to be unhelpful.

Nobody knows your child better than you do. Make a note of all the things you have to do to meet the basic needs of child, their siblings and yourself. Then, make a list of everything you know they like and dislike. Ask your child’s teacher to do the same and share it with you.

Note down all of the things that make you happy, activities your like doing together with your family, help you to de-stress and be calm. Being mindful and knowing yourself might help you to recognise when you need to take 5 minutes. The ‘Incredible 5 Point Scale could help.

Using the two paragraphs above and the paragraph below, sketch out a little timetable to help keep a routine and structure to some of your days. Saturdays and Sundays should feel different to ‘school days’.

Most people find comfort from routine. Knowing what is happening and what will happen next is important. Here’s a blank schedule.

There are loads of great things happening online for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. A list of just some of these can be found here. The Department is also keeping a list of great resources and ideas on their website.

10 top tips:

  1. Find a routine that works for you and your whole family. Try and follow this routine. Drawing and talking about what you are doing may help reinforce this. Sounds and places can also help to establish and reinforce routines.
  2. Speak to your child’s school regularly. They will want to know how you are and how things are going. Schools can offer you support, signpost you to others who may be able to help and provide you with some of the activities and resources you may need.
  3. Enjoy spending time with your family. Think about the things you can do to make memories together. Hand and footprints, time capsules, scrap books and shared experiences. For children who don’t speak or have more complex or profound needs, try copying noises and body movements, it’s called intensive interaction.
  4. Get fresh air and exercise. Play together, look at the sky. Feel the warmth, the breeze and maybe even the rain. Look at the trees, smell the grass, roll a ball, shoot a hoop, paddle in a pool.
  5. Think about providing experiences for all the senses. Using Christmas lights and cardboard box to make an immersive sensory room. Try a hand massage with essential oils. Rolling, squeezing, swinging, rocking can also be great fun.
  6. Sometimes doing nothing is great too. Relax, share a film, listen to music, meditate, make shapes out of clouds, just enjoy being still.
  7. Stay in touch with people who are important to you and your family. This might be on FaceTime or Skype. Hearing familiar sounds and voices can give reassurance and enjoyment.
  8. Don’t feel pressured in to doing loads of things because ‘everybody’ is doing it in the parents’ WhatsApp group!
  9. Ask for help and support. Keep talking to your friends, child’s school and family members. It’s okay not to be okay. People are interested in you and your family. Schools and other professionals, such as paediatricians are still there to help you.
  10. If your child can display risky behaviour, following some of these top tips could help reduce the likelihood of occurrences. Generally, people do what they do for a reason. (because they want something, because they don’t want something, because of the way it feels or because they are trying to tell you something.) To stay safer, you might:
  • Manage the environment and make it safe
  • Think about what the behaviour is telling you
  • Follow a consistent plan
  • Work as a team
  • Think about your personal space
  • Maintain a safe position, perhaps sat down
  • Ask for help from a professional if things are too dangerous.

Week Ten

A New 1/2 Term Begins

Well, it’s like we haven’t been away! Pupils have settled back in to school life beautifully! This half term, we are very much aim to provide some calm and  routine, to support pupils on the build up to Christmas. Timetables are staying in place and school will be a Christmas-free zone until December.

We continue on our mission to make learning irresistible for all learners. I think it’s safe to say that feedback from pupils shows us that they are loving our new curriculum, which is really exciting them to learn more. This is true of each of our three learning pathways; Discoverers, Explorers and Adventurers!!

We have a number of activities planned over the coming weeks to test out lots of the parts of the new curriculum and how it is enabling pupils to know more and remember more, so they can do more.

A huge congratulations to Bradley, Jayden, Mason and Tyler, who have all received Head of School Awards for their exceptional achievements!

Next week we are joining 2 local schools, as we take part in a shared Act of Remembrance. This is a huge step towards embedding ourselves as part of our local community and ensuring our pupils feel part of a wider world outside of St Giles.

Have a great weekend!

Weeks Eight and Nine (Half-term)

A not so quiet 2 weeks!

As with any school holiday, there is always something going on in school. This half-term is no exception. We’ve a a re-jig of our direct access outdoor space on the Retford Oaks side of the school. The means that we have increased them amount of space our young discovers and explorers can access, as part of their learning.

We have also invested in some fabulous pieces of equipment to help pupils to play, explore, learn, create and think critically. With one piece of equipment really capturing my attention!!

We have now completed the overhaul of the school hall’s lighting and sound equipment. This means that can now create intense, immersive environments on a large scale. We are now creating colours and shapes with lights, that are evoking brilliant responses from our pupils. Our new Bose surround sound system means that we are now able to create the most amazing soundscapes too!!

A group of #TeamStGlies staff were lucky enough to attend a two-day master class on a fabulous approach for working with people with autism, in a systematic way to increase independent engagement.

The approach is called ‘Attention Autism’ and the course as lead its creator, and world-leading authority on Autism.

I felt privileged to be able to attend alongside a fab team of St Giles teachers and teaching assistants to learn first-hand to really exciting approach. It’s based on set stages of interaction that promotes pupil-initiated responses.

Following the training and in an overexcited ‘change-the-world’ state, I bought loads of new and exciting interaction stimulating toys from amazon!! It was a real challenge to prize them away from my own children to bring to school!!

Week Seven

A week of trips and talents

It’s been great seeing our pupils heading off in to the wider world this week. Pupils have been auditioning for the Christmas Show, in our very own version of Britain’s Got Talent. Cllr Simon Greaves, the Leader of the Bassetlaw District Council has spent a morning in school. Jason Steel, the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) from Retford Oaks meet with Leaders to sketch out plans for some exciting partnerships that will develop over the coming year.

As part of our Literacy work, the school has been study texts based on farms. Oak Class visited White Post Farm in Farnsfield. Our pupils had a great time as they explored the sights, smells and feels of the whole farm. From holding chicks, to stroking reptiles, to feeding some of the cheeky llamas,  there was something for everyone.

As well as meeting the animals, our pupils (and staff!) explored the indoor and outdoor play areas and enjoyed a bite to eat together in the picnic area.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw the first ever ‘St Giles’ Got Talent’ auditions in school. I was absolutely blown away by the confidence and pride of pupils, as they performed for the judging panel.

There was a footballing duo, an artist, and solo singers who performed songs from Take That, Pitch Perfect and Shrek. It was just incredible!! I’m not going to say too much more, as I don’t wan to spoil the surprise of this year’s Christmas show spectacular!

Our Post 16 student have also been attracting attention to themselves whilst out and about this week! Anna, who studies catering at our community cafe in Retford, was praised this week by a customer, from making the ‘best mocha in Retford’! Whilst JT, at student attending a joinery course at North Notts College, was celebrated by the college for his ‘Outstanding joinery skills’, as shown by making a perfect wooden table.

This week I was hugely privileged to spend some time with a couple of our pupils from Cedar class, where I had the chance to brush up on my ‘Intensive Interaction’ (II) skills.  II is a way of working with the child’s brain using signals with which it is so familiar that they do not trigger sensory distortions or sensitivities. It uses the child’s own body language to build up emotional engagement.

Phoebe Cauldwell, a leading experts in II says, “It begins with observation. What is this child doing? What are they focusing on? You need to look not only at their face, but all their bodily behaviour. Are they scratching their hands, wriggling their feet? We also need to look at any activities that focus on a particular aspect of the world outside themselves.

These repetitive behaviours are more than just ‘comforting’. They are the language that the brain understands as significant without having to go through elaborate processing: their sounds or images or feelings seem to be hard-wired in. You use these behaviours to gain access to the child’s attention, rather in the same way as we use a smart card. Once we have the correct pin number we have no difficulty getting in to their account.”

I was very pleased with the results!!

Congratulations to Anna, Cherry, JT and Paige , who received Head of School awards this week, for their exceptional achievements!

Have a great 2 weeks with your families! Can’t wait to see you all on 4 November!!


Week Six

Our Wider School Community

This week we proudly welcomed Christopher West, from Retford Oaks for his first visit to St Giles, since becoming Principal in September.

Chris met our staff and spent time with our pupils in classes as we toured school. Chris was rightly impressed by our well-structured and engaging approach to learning!

We have begun to explore how our school communities can work together to support the development of all of our pupils, staff and parents. Our first combined event will be the marking of Armistice Day on November 11.

The superb ‘Friend of St Giles’ (FOSG) were in school this week. They hosted a coffee morning for other parents to come together and chat and for new parents to find our about what they do.

Over the years, FOSG have been an amazing force for good, supporting the work of our school for years. They have raised over £72,000 to help ensure our pupils have all they need. I am hugely grateful for their continued support and fund-raising efforts.

The money raised has bought iPads for all pupils, Christmas presents, reading books, mobile sensory trolleys and loads of other items that ensure our pupils connect with our curriculum.

If any parents would like to join this fantastic part of #TeamStGiles, please contact the school office. Our FOSGs meet every halfterm to discuss and organise fundraising events and ideas for the school.

The meetings are great fun and they do amazing cake!!! (Really AMAZING cakes!!)

We’ve also been joined by colleagues from Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust, who spent the day in school to immunise our pupils against the flu virus.

Seeing the nurses work alongside our super staff to provide an individualised approach to each pupil was fantastic. As a result of this partnership approach, it meant that record numbers or pupils, received the vaccine! Go #TeamStGiles!!

It was great to meet Dr Niamh-Elizabeth Mourton this week, who was in school to train and coach some of our team in ‘MATP’. The Motor Activities Training Programme, is a specialist programme that promotes inclusive, skill specific motor skills for individuals with profound and complex needs.

Niamh-Elizabeth, is a world leader in this area of work and it a was a real honour to have her sharing her skills with our team ans students! Look out ‘Special Olympics’ we’re training the Olympians of the future!

Congratulations to Ieuan and James , who received Head of School awards this week, for their exceptional achievements in mathematics!

We’re looking forward to welcoming the Leader of Bassetlaw District Council to school next week.

Have a great weekend!


Week Five

Visitors Galore!

This week, we’ve had a real community focus, meeting parents, friends and colleagues from our wider school community.

To start the week off, I met with Christopher West, the new Principal of Retford Oaks. We toured the school and I met some staff and students. It was great to have a look around and begin exploring possibilities of future partnership work and initiatives, the first being a combined ‘Act of Remembrance’ on 11 November.

I’m already looking forward Chris’ return visit this coming week. I know that Chris will enjoy sharing our pupils’ learning, seeing how hard we work and meeting with pupils and staff alike.

All students have begun to explore black history, as part of our focused history projects celebrating Black History Month. This week we have been thinking about the impact that Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. had on their communities and the wider world.

“Never under estimate the power of dreams and influence of the human spirit”. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” and “It always seems impossible, until it’s done” are famous quotes from the three people we have been learning about, but who said each famous line?

Wednesday saw our first parents’ hub of the new school year. It was great to be joined by a mix of parents of new pupils, as well as those whose children have been at school for some time!

We discussed the overview of our 2019-20 School Improvement Plan. Parents felt the plan was positive and that it built on the significant progress we made last year. Parents had some great questions about school trips, the new curriculum and how we prepared pupils for their next steps. We also talked about the school’s ideas on an improved coffee shop offer, which could, in time create internship and employment opportunities for our students. I was pleased to see parent’s sharing our excitement for our new take on the coffee shop provision.

We finalised the parent partnership plan for the year ahead and have a comprehensive programme of support and training planned. It was also lovely to hear parents talking together about what they wanted from our school in the future. As a result we will be exploring a family fun day, sports day and opportunities for pupils and their families to make the most of our wonderful facilities outside of the school day.

On Thursday were joined by 25 SENCOs from Nottinghamshire nursery settings who are currently working towards their SENCO award. They spent time in classes, seeingfirst-hand how we ensure children and young people with SEND learn and thrive.

The feedback we have begun to receive from the participants has been truly wonderful and is testament to the hard work of our staff. Here’s a snippet of one: “Hi Matt,  St Giles has embedded its values in record time and I was totally convinced by the school’s DREAMS mantra by midday.  The culture of high aspiration is evident in all of the staff, children & the environment. I know displays are important to you & we enjoyed St Giles’ thoroughly; great that the children have exposure to literary texts, artists & politics! Learning and happiness was infectious! Holding you all in the highest regard for the incredible work you do.”

Congratulations to Bradley, Jayden, Mason, Ryan and Tyler, who received Head of School awards this week, for their exceptional achievements!!

Thanks for sharing your #LookForABook pictures, it’s great to see them around and about in our local community. Not sure who hid one in the cafe at Morrisons, but it’s been enjoyed by a member of the public already! Thanks also for the wonderful feedback about our new book bags.

Have a great weekend!


Week Four

Inspiring and accessible learning!

Imagine my surprise as I’m walking down the corridor, first thing in the morning to find a team of our staff turning it in to a farm scene!

Absolutely brilliant!! I love seeing the creativity of our staff  and their commitment to making learning accessible and engaging for all our pupils!

Our key text this term is ‘Animal Farm’, meaning that our Discoverers, Explorers and Adventurers are all studying the text. The scene, complete with hay to walk on, touch and smell also came complete with other farmyard scents! The farmyard had been specially created to immerse pupils in their reading. And wow – it worked a treat!

There is a real sense of excitement for learning throughout school, which is great to feel. Whether it’s seeing pupils asking questions, reaching out their hand to participate or using eye-gaze technology to communicate their choices, it really is exceptional.

This week we have welcomed 3 students to school, who have asked if they can join St Giles on placement, to support their studies. It’s exciting to know that the great practice within our school, is being rightly recognised by colleges and universities. Knowing that our practice will shape the practice of the next generation of educationalists, carers and teaching assistants is really good!!

As community champions and ambassadors for children and young people with special educational needs, we are extremely proud to have been selected by LNER to create a lasting legacy at the new Retford Railway Station.

This week, Peter Massey, a professional artist from Zantium Studios, was in school to teach pupils how to create their own mosaics. Once they created their own masterpiece, each pupil added a tile to the giant railway mosaic.

We are very much look forwarding to every pupil going to visit our mosaic over the course of this academic year!

Congratulations to Sean, Troy and Owen, who received Head of School awards this week, for their exceptional achievements!

Our first parent training and support session of the year was well attended. It focused on ‘ensuring good tissue viability’ and was led by David Carter, an expert from the NHS. Feedback has been really positive, with one parent saying “This training has made such a difference to my child. I am grateful to have received such high quality support”.

Have a great weekend!


Week Three

What an amazing week!

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a ‘dull week’ at St Giles, but this week has been one of the busiest and best yet!

One of our pupil’s has landed the staring role in an ‘info-movie’, which aims to promote the importance of maintaining good tissue viability. So we’ve had camera crews around school, filming various bits and pieces, but it certainly created lots of excitement for us! I have heard a pupil shout “ACTION!”

A huge thank you to our amazing staff and David, Geri and Kimberley, from the NHS tissue viability service, for supporting our pupils so beautifully, to ensure they shone! I was very proud to receive such positive feedback about our school from the film crew!

This week we have met 4 prospective pupils and their families, who have been to visit our school. It was a huge moment of pride to learn that all of them had nothing but positive things to say about our school. They were overwhelmed by the kind, caring and positive interactions between staff and pupils, they loved the learning our pupils were enjoying and commented that our school felt vibrant and full of life! Go #TeamStGiles!

We also welcomed Ian and Jules back in to school this week, who have both been long-standing supporters of our work. It was the first time I had met them both and I was pleased to hear why they kept choosing to raise money to help our pupils. They believe in what we do!

This year, we have agreed to put the money towards the funding of our new reading programmes that will have such a positive impact on all of our pupils. We want to achieve all of the objectives in the Children’s Laureate’s ‘Right to Read Charter’ this year. More information on that to come!

I am hugely grateful to Ian (‘Beechy’) and Jules, and others like them, for their continued partnership and support, as we prove that ‘No DREAMS Are Out of Reach’!

Congratulations to Charlie, Louis and Reece, who received Head of School awards this week, for their exceptional achievements!

Thanks to all those who supported Jeans for Genes day today! A charity that is so pertinent to all of us here at St Giles!

Don’t forget that our first parent training and support session is next Wednesday afternoon! It is on ‘ensuring good tissue viability’ and is led by David Carter, an expert from the NHS. (Please ring the office to book your place)

Have a great weekend!


Week Two

Wow! What a first week it’s been!

It’s been great seeing our pupils settle so well in to their learning and our new timetables. We’ve allocated time for pupils to read and experience reading, which has been so well received!

It’s also been good watching pupils making new friends with pupils who are new to St Giles and pupils who have moved class groups this year. It’s also proved that 2-day early transition at the end of last term was hugely beneficial to pupils too!

The newest staff members of #TeamStGiles have also completed their staff induction programme, and we’ve published our staff handbook. So a huge welcome to Abby, Ashley, Dom, Charlotte, Charlotte, Gaynor, Josie, and Lynne. It’s great to have you with us!

Our new-look dining room has gone down really well with pupils and staff alike. It’s given the huge space a real sense of purpose and is enabling pupils to make more choices about the food they eat.

The newest staff members of #TeamStGiles have also completed their staff induction programme, and we’ve published our staff handbook. So a huge welcome to Abby, Ashley, Dom, Charlotte, Charlotte, Gaynor, Josie, Lynne,

Pupils who wanted to stand as Pupil Presidents on our school council have been out and about campaigning and presenting their manifestos to classmates. Elections have taken place in all classes and Presidents met earlier today and have made some pretty big decisions already – more of that in a couple of weeks.

We enjoyed sharing our successes together in the celebration assembly this afternoon. Pupils (and staff) were amazed as they walked in to our star-spangled hall, to reflect on our first full week of achievements. I also set my challenge to all pupils for the year ahead: by the end of the year, we want pupils to know more, remember more and do more! And they really did seem up for the challenge!

Huge congratulations to Jamie, Josh, Leah and Linton, who all received Head of School Awards too!

Enjoy your weekend!


Welcome Back!

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer with your families!

Today at school, staff have been hard at work, preparing for the pupils’ return. We have been honing our new curriculum and revisiting our planning for the year ahead. We’ve also been learning an intensive reading programme called ‘switch-on’, which enables children and young people who find reading difficult to become more effective and active readers.

I am excited to have welcomed new members of #TeamStGiles, who started work with us today. It’s great to have been joined by new staff, who are experienced and committed SEND practitioners.

We have some amazing activities and experiences planned between now and Christmas. Educational visits will resume and we have some wonderful visitors who will be visiting school and we will also be contributing to the new town railway station and Mayflower 400 celebrations.

We’ll be running the first series of parent support and training sessions, which will focus on tissue viability, signs and symbols, sleeping better and reading.

I’m proud to have started as permanent Head of School and am I very much looking forward to our fabulous future together. We are very much looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow and welcoming our new students too.

Have a great week!