Pontville School, Lancashire, L39 (ages 5 - 19)

OFSTED rating

Pontville School is a co-educational, independent specialist day and residential school in Lancashire, providing high quality education and care for children between the ages of 5 and 19.

The school meets the needs of a diverse group of pupils with speech, language and social communication difficulties. Situated in Ormskirk, the school has a unique approach, whereby all subject teaching is designed to make communication skills a central theme to their content

Contact name Mrs Justine Sims
Contact position Headteacher
Contact telephone 01695 578 734
Contact email justine.sims@witherslackgroup.co.uk
Venue name Pontville School
Black Moss Lane
L39 4TW
Date Monday to Friday (term time only)
Time of day MorningAfternoon
Session information
The school also offers residential placements for weekly boarders
Referral required Yes
Referral type

Pontville operates a referral system usually initiated by the local authority. Paperwork can be emailed to janine.drew@witherslackgroup.co.uk

However, parents and carers are welcome to take a look around the school by contacting Heather Morley on 01695 578 734 or emailing heather.morley@witherslackgroup.co.uk to arrange a visit.

Website http://www.witherslackgroup.co.uk/pontville-school/
School's extended local offer response

School Introduction

Pontville School is a co-educational, independent specialist day and residential school in Lancashire, providing high quality education and care for children between the ages of 5 and 19. The school meets the needs of a diverse group of pupils with speech, language and social communication difficulties, Situated in Ormskirk, the school has a unique approach, whereby all subject teaching is designed to make communication skills a central theme to their content. The guidelines from the Department for Education, Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2014 influence Pontville’s Local Offer and how our young people are education within our school.

How accessible is our school?

Our school building and surroundings offer a wonderful environment for our pupils to learn and enjoy their time at school.  We have adapted and improved our buildings and grounds to ensure that they are as accessible as possible.  Although our school is on different levels, if your child uses a wheelchair or has mobility needs we have ramps that we can use to help them access different areas and we also have a disabled toilet. We have added handrails in some areas for pupils who have low core stability or balance difficulties and we will always endeavour to support every child’s need in ensuring they are able to access our buildings and classrooms as fully as possible.  We also have free parking and designated disabled parking at our main entrance.

At Pontville School we have both a Pastoral Team and a family liaison officer who work closely with pupils and parents to ensure everyone is able to access the school in a fully supported and personalised manner.

We have Occupational Therapists at Pontville. They will assess your child’s movement, balance, organisational skills and awareness of their own movement and coordination.  They will then make individual recommendations and develop an individualised plan for your child and work with teachers to support your child in class by providing sensory diets or movement breaks.  Some strategies will be personalised to your child and some may be generic to the class. 

We make accessing important information about what we do easy.  You can find information about the school and news of recent events on the website and in the school newsletter.  Information for pupils (such as school rules, timetables, menus and rewards) are displayed on walls around the school and in all classrooms.  Policies and procedures can be obtained from the school web site and on request from the school office.

The TEACCH approach is used at Pontville, which allows each step of the lesson or activity to be displayed on the wall or board so pupils understand the routine and structure of the lesson.  We also utilise a concept called ‘Communication in Print’, which is used to create pictures and images to accompany written information to aid understanding for all pupils.

We know how daunting the first day of school can be, not just for the child but also the parent.  Your child will be given a pupil handbook when they start to help them learn about the routine of the school including timings for the day, lesson information and reward systems. The handbook can be adapted for your child.  For example, the font can be made larger if your child has a visual impairment.

We consider the sensory needs of our children and so throughout our school wall displays are minimal and not present on the teaching wall.  Our classrooms are also clutter free and private study areas are provided.   We try to consider the level of noise within our classrooms and have installed lower, tiled ceilings and carpets throughout to minimise noise levels.  We make use of the latest innovations in assistive teaching technology to support your child’s learning and to cater for their individual sensory and communication needs.

If English is not the first language of your child we endeavour to provide a support assistant who speaks their language to support them in the classroom until your child can understand without support.

What is the school’s approach to teaching and learning?

We are proud that Ofsted rated the teaching and learning at our school as ‘Outstanding’ in their latest inspection July 2016.

Before your child even starts at Pontville, we want to learn as much about them as possible. We will speak to you and your child and work hard to make sure that we understand what works for you and what you both want to achieve whilst at school.  We want to learn about what your child enjoys, what their strengths are and what they are interested in.

On starting at Pontville your child will begin a twelve week assessment period during which time they will be assessed by our on-site therapists and teachers.  We have Speech and Language Therapists who assess communication, Occupational Therapists who assess movement and sensory issues and an Educational Psychologist who will assess cognitive levels.  The results are used to produce a clinical profile which helps us to determine a language level, the expected rate of progress and the most appropriate class for your child.

Teachers will also complete baseline assessments to find the level your child is working at as they enter the school.  The results will help teachers to plan lessons and set achievable yet challenging targets for your child.  We will continue to regularly assess your child during their time at Pontville and we really enjoy celebrating pupil achievements and successes as they develop.  Teachers will provide informal progress reports on a regular basis to you and tell you how your child is progressing and what they are doing well in. You will also receive formal progress reports during the year and can discuss these at parents evening and at annual reviews.

Pupils are grouped according to language level within their appropriate Key Stage.  They will also have access to Social Communication Groups with a Speech and Language Therapist every week where they work on a communication focus, which includes such topics as turn-taking and friendships. The focus is then included in every lesson so the skill is reinforced across the school.

All of our staff have had induction training including communication training from the Speech and Language Therapists so they know how to plan for the communication focus.  They have also been trained by the National Autistic Society in strategies to help people with autism learn.  Occupational Therapist training has made teachers aware of the sensory needs of their pupils and they have adapted their classrooms and lessons to reduce distraction.  We have TEACCH trained staff so they are able to plan the structure of their lessons carefully with individual planning and support.  Staff also have had a range of training to enable them to support pupils with communication difficulties, some to Master’s Degree  level.

All our classes are small in size (max. 8), with at least one Teacher and one Teaching Assistant.  Additionally there are several pastoral support staff available throughout the school day should any young people need additional support outside the classroom.  Every class has a Specialist Support Assistant who stays with the class and moves around the different lessons during the day.  Your child’s class Support Assistant will get to know them very well and will have regular contact with you so we can work together to help your child learn and succeed. 

For those pupils who struggle changing classes or Teachers, or find it hard to be independent, more nurture based classes where they are based in the same classroom with the same teacher for most of the day are offered.  There are also opportunities to be taught in smaller groups or even individually if the need is identified.

If your child needs extra help to achieve their potential a Support Assistant can support in class to help reading or writing.  If concentration is difficult ear defenders or a quiet place to work can be provided.  The Occupational Therapist can provide a fidget toy, movement breaks or sensory diets.  Visual timetables or instructions can be produced to prevent over reliance on support staff and increase independence.  Specialist resources can be provided if your child has a specific difficulty e.g. coloured overlays or paper can help pupils with dyslexia.

Your child will be allocated a keyworker which is likely to be their class Support Assistant.  Every week they will contact you to report on your child’s progress and you can contact them if you need to speak to them at any other time.

We offer a full National Curriculum and will work with you and your child to maximise their ability and potential, which may include studying towards GCSE’S or other similar qualifications.  Functional Skills subjects such as English and Maths are taught alongside ASDAN, which helps your child to develop independent living skills.   

In addition to the National Curriculum, Pontville School also has a vocational offer in the form of our specialist off-site setting, where pupils can study a number of practical disciplines, including construction and motor vehicle skills, and obtain a range of vocational qualifications that will lead them on to college and beyond.

There is also an opportunity to study at our Alternative Centre of Education (A.C.E), which enhances the already outstanding curriculum at Pontville School by offering pupils the opportunity to learn in a vocational setting whilst still focusing on their academic studies.  The vocational studies that are delivered by A.C.E. are land based studies, horticulture, site joinery, bench joinery and basic construction skills.

At Pontville we also have two residential settings that provide a 24 hour curriculum, one being a more nurturing environment, the other for older or more independent pupils.  Residential pupils stay from Monday to Friday, going home at weekends and holidays.  The residential staff are also trained by the Clinical Services Team and can help with homework or any difficulties your child might have in school.  They work with your child to develop independent skills for which your child can receive AQA units.  They also support in school during lunchtime.

During the year your child will experience other off-site learning.  These could include outdoor pursuits, theatre trips or historical places. Our Speech and Language therapists will plan programmes to help your child practise the communication skills they have learnt in school, out of school in their Generalisation lessons.  This might include shopping, eating out and travelling.

Pontville supports our college age pupils to go on to attend their local college and further their education and personal development.  We make a commitment to all of our pupils going on to college that we will support them as much as they need to ensure that the transition and their time at college is a success.  Pupils can attend our 16+ Centre and will receive on-going support to improve their english, maths and communication skills whilst at college.  At the 16+ Centre they can access the Duke of Edinburgh Award which includes walking and camping, and also a range of other activities and experiences which will assist in their studies and general achievement and life skills development.

How does the school review and evaluate outcomes?

In the latest Ofsted inspection our school was rated as ‘Outstanding’ for pupil’s achievement and personal development.

All pupils have targets set in each subject.  You will receive a report at the end of each term showing the progress made by your child and the targets set for the following term.  Once a year your child’s Educational, Health and Care (EHC) plan, and their personal targets within it, will be reviewed. Your child will be encouraged to attend and contribute to the meeting, with support if required, or alternatively they can prepare a presentation or report in the medium of their choice.  You will receive a full school report prior to the meeting so that you too can prepare.

We make transition plans for pupils moving into school and for those moving on to their next school or college, which include regular supported visits and appropriate handover of information to ensure that transition is as smooth as possible. This is overseen by our Family Liaison Officer who will keep in contact with you throughout the whole transition process. We know that starting a new school is an anxious time and we ensure that this challenging time is supported with care and empathy.

An important outcome for us is realised when our pupils take their first steps into their chosen career through work experience.  We ensure that we fully support each pupil in selecting their placement and liaise closely with the partner organisations to maximise its success.  To see our young people gaining confidence and developing their skills further is something that our school is always proud of.

How does the school keep children safe?

In our most recent Ofsted inspection our pupils’ welfare and safety was deemed as ‘Outstanding’.

Your child’s safety and welfare is of the highest importance to us.  When your child starts at Pontville a personalised risk assessment will be produced based on all the information we have received.  For each area of assessment the risk level will be high until an opportunity to assess has occurred.  For example, we cannot assess road safety until we have taken your child off-site so the risk assessment will remain high up to that point. 

Risk assessments are produced for all areas and activities on and off-site.  Risk assessments are obtained from external activities and a further risk assessment is completed from a school perspective, taking into account safety, communication and sensory needs.  Risk assessments will be carried out by your child’s keyworker but input will be taken from all who have worked with them. The risk assessment is reviewed every three months but can be updated at any time.

Whenever your child goes off-site our staff will have obtained risk assessments for the activity and will complete their own risk assessment taking into account the location and the pupils going. Our approach to risk is ‘risk beneficial, not risk adverse’.  This means that our pupils are able to experience a range of activities, but are able to do so in a safe and controlled environment.

From the moment your child arrives at school to the time the school day finishes, your child will be well supervised and supported by our team of highly skilled and trained staff.  For those pupils who require transport, we offer training for their drivers and passenger assistants and liaise with the transport department.

All school staff attend a briefing at the beginning of the day and a handover at the end of the day. The residential staff also attend to handover an evening report. Any information or messages regarding pupils are disseminated to staff at these handovers and so the school always operates with a high level of understanding about any issues or any changes to the individual needs of each child. 

As pupils arrive and leave, school staff are on hand at the entrances and exits to make sure cars and taxis drive slowly and carefully and park in the right spaces.  Staff ensure pupils don’t walk onto the car park until it is safe to do so.  Parents and carers who drop and pick their child can also take this time to handover information to staff, as and when required.

Bullying is not allowed at Pontville and even minor incidences will be addressed promptly.  If your child feels they have been bullied they can tell any staff member but there are also posters around the school with photos of complaints officers who they can talk to in confidence.  We  have assemblies about bullying, especially during anti-bullying week and issues are also discussed in PHSE lessons.

How does the school promote a healthy lifestyle?

Your child’s EHC Plan and their health information are kept in their file so the staff working with your child are aware of their needs and if they have any medication requirements.  Before your child starts at Pontville we will talk with you and ensure we have all the relevant health information from you.

If your child is unwell during their time at school we will communicate with you and ensure that your child is well looked after and receives the correct medical support, if required.  We have First Aid boxes around the school and all staff are trained in First Aid.

If your child needs to take medication at school our Medical Officer or Pastoral Care Manager will make sure they are given the right amount at the right time.  They keep it safely locked in a secure cupboard and make sure they record the medication, the amount and the time it was given to your child by signing and countersigning the record sheet.

The emotional wellbeing of all of our pupils is considered in all areas of our school’s activity.  Each class has Self-Awareness lessons across the year which helps pupils to concentrate on what they are doing and how to stay calm if they are feeling anxious.

At Pontville we have a team of on-site therapists to help support your child, which consists of:

Speech and Language Therapists – they help to improve communication and social skills.

Occupational Therapists – they help to improve balance and movement. They also help with developing daily living skills.

Educational Psychologist – they help to identify cognitive issues and improve access to learning.

Mental Health Practitioners (plus Murphy, his dog) - they help with controlling and understanding emotions and anger management.

How does the school communicate with parents?

From the moment that we know that your child will be coming to our school we will begin to communicate and liaise with you to ensure that we develop the strongest relationship with you and the best understanding of your child possible.  Before your child starts we will meet with you and answer any questions or address any concerns that you or your child may have.

Your child will be given a keyworker who will contact you to introduce themselves and will agree with you how you would like information to be shared on your child’s progress and how regularly this will be. We can communicate via phone, email or communication book too.  If you need to speak to anyone in the school you can ring the main school number.  If the person you want is teaching or in a meeting they will return the call as soon as they can.  You can make an appointment to speak to specific staff, but we also operate an open door policy and so you can call in if you have a general enquiry at any time.

You will be invited to school for your child’s annual review, and there are open days and a range of parent events and workshops that you can access to help you support your child’s needs.  These events act not only as a great way to offer support and advice to our parents, but as an informal opportunity to talk with you and answer any questions you may have.

A full school report will be sent to you prior to your child’s annual review and termly reports on progress and targets will be sent to you at the end of each term.  Parents’ evening will take place once a year and this will be an opportunity for you to meet your child’s teachers and discuss their progress and successes.  We also ask you to complete a parents’ views form prior to a review.

We value the thoughts and opinions of our pupils and their parents and carers, even if it is about an issue that you feel that we have not dealt with well.  When your child joins the school we will make you aware of our complaints procedure and let you know how we will respond to any complaints you may have.  You can also give verbal feedback to the school at any time.

We conduct regular parental surveys to understand what we are doing well and what areas we can improve.  We want to ensure that you are able to share your views and help us deliver the highest possible standards of education, care and support for you and your child. 

We understand the importance of confidentiality and operate to the highest standards possible to ensure that we communicate with you in an appropriate, considerate and confidential manner around all aspects of your child’s education and care.

How does the school promote working together?

The continued success of our school is in many ways down to our commitment to work closely with our pupils, parents and their families.  Everyone is encouraged to contribute and play their part in making our school the best it can be.  By working together and understanding every individual child’s needs, we will be in the best position possible to meet and exceed the objectives for your child as detailed in their EHC plans.

Every class has a school council representative who will represent their fellow pupils and communicate ideas on how to improve various aspects of our school.  The class representative will take the collective views to School Council Meetings and will be able to discuss ideas and suggestions with senior staff.  The School Council has played an important role in making Pontville the school it is today.  Recent areas of work have included improvements to the school uniform and changes to the dining room and lunch time activities.  Your child may very well go on to become a class representative and play their part in helping our school become even better.

Pupils are able to complete questionnaires about school life and their views and feedback will be taken into account at their annual review, through the pupils’ views form.

Our staff will work with other people involved in your child’s care.  Sometimes external agencies such as health workers, social workers, nurses and activity leaders need to meet with school staff.  They are invited to meetings to share their ideas which can be arranged at school.  If needed staff will write programmes or social stories to help with home difficulties, while therapists or pastoral care can make home visits to set up programmes of support.

What help and support does the school offer to families?

We understand that to achieve the best outcomes for your child we will also need to work closely and offer support and help to you and your family.  We offer many different types of practical help and resources for you to support your child outside of school.

Our Pastoral Care Team can work with you to access further help and support.  We will communicate with you regularly so we are aware of the help you need and find out how to obtain it.  It might be help to improve your child’s health, independence, college options or activities outside school.  Our Pastoral Care Manager also deals with the transport department to arrange taxis and ensure your child is comfortable and safe on their journey to and from school.  We can even arrange transport for you and your family when you are visiting the school or attending your child’s review.

You will have access to a wide range of practical advice and support resources and will also be invited to attend our regular parent events and advice workshops.  These focus on giving practical and helpful advice and tips on a variety of relevant issues, including bad behaviour, travelling, sleep problems and narrow diets.

When you are planning for your child’s future including college options our Transitions Officer can provide guidance and support, arranging college visits if needed.

How does the school support new pupils and school leavers?

Before your child starts at Pontville we will meet you and your child and really get to know you.  We want to make sure that you all feel as comfortable as possible and are able to look forward to starting at Pontville. 

We will arrange as many school visits and taster days in class as required.  We will also speak to your child’s last school, if appropriate, to ascertain your child’s academic levels and work completed.  If your child is nervous about starting we can arrange for some sessions to be delivered at home or for them to initially start part-time at the school while they build their confidence.

When your child is preparing to leave and move on to college or employment our Transition Officer will arrange college visits and will accompany you if needed.  We can arrange careers advice for your child through careers lessons or careers advisors.

If your child is not ready to move to college without support we are currently developing a 16 to 19 pathway for students at Pontville. Including accredited pathways, they will also be able to access a wide range of complimentary activities and courses, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Our therapy team help your child to prepare for adulthood.  Through social communication lessons they work on a focus in class and help them to deal with social situations such as starting conversations or going for an interview.  All students access generalisation therapy which means they can transfer skills learnt in school into everyday life, for example; complaining appropriately, ordering food and travelling independently.

We also offer work experience to our young people, where appropriate, so that they can progress to being able to live as independently as possible and enhance their personal and communication skills.  We will fully support them to take their first steps into a work environment by matching their placement to their personal interest and career aspirations.  We are also able to support your child in accessing career events and advice that will help them gain a greater understanding about the options available to them and more information about the jobs and careers that interest them.

If your child may be living independently once they leave school we can help them find accommodation and set up home.  We want to support them as much as possible as they make their first steps into adulthood and living a more independent life.  Of course, we want to keep in contact with them and updated on how they are getting on over time.  We are always thrilled to hear about the successes and achievements of our ex-pupils.

What extra-curricular activities does the school offer?

To ensure that all pupils are able to share in extra-curricular experiences, all activities, trips and events are free of charge and funded by the school.  We have lots of activities after school depending on what your child’s preferences are including bowling, football, youth club, gym, kayaking, archery and meals out.  

At lunchtime we offer the choice of a wide range of activities and clubs including arts and crafts, console games, film club, sports, outdoor activities, indoor games and also quiet time.  All pupils attend lunch activities and it is a good opportunity to make friends outside of their class. 

Homework is provided to all pupils and focuses on Literacy and Numeracy up to and including Key Stage 5.  For those studying GCSE options, homework will be tailored for each subject.  A homework club is available at lunchtime and support for residential pupils is offered of an evening. 

If your child finds friendships hard the Speech and Language team can include them in friendship groups, which helps pupils to understand how to make the first step to making friends, keeping friends and understanding the different types of friend.