We know that this is a daunting time and you've to questions. Lots of them! Let's cover off a few of those worries straight away shall we?
Frequently asked questions
Is Flexi or Home Schooling Right For My Child?
Flexi schooling has provided the perfect solution to countless of our families over the last 11 years. We began offering Flexi schooling solutions to families we worked with through our sister company, NETwork Interventions in 2008. This happened organically as many of the children we worked with were not able to complete a full day of school successfully. We worked with some of our children for part of the day at home around their schooling. For others we supported them part of the time in nursery, school or college and part time at home. Some of our children received our specialist support part of the time on site, but out of class at school. Others of our families chose to home educate their children and receive our specialist interventions at home and in the community. These were brilliant solutions for some of our children, however some needed something a little different in order to thrive. In 2014 we opened a Centre in Epsom, Surrey, from which we taught some of our children for one or more sessions each week on a one to one basis as well as met with families and local authority and school staff.
Will my child follow the National Curriculum?
Yes. We utilise a three pronged approach to our teaching and learning. One of these prongs is the national curriculum. We do not set targets from chronological year group, but from learning level.
Will my child achieve GCSE's and A Levels?
Absolutely! We have lots of experience in helping students choose the right examination and assessment path for them. We can either organise this whole portion of your child's learning or we can support you in this. We are able to help your child with their whole learning journey, or part, from choosing subjects and study plans with them to entering them in to the actual exam and going to the exam centres with them.
Are all your classes individual or do you do group work?
We continually assess the stage your child is at. If learning in a one to one environment for numeracy is best for them, that is how they will learn at our school. If socialisation needs a little (or a lot of) support, that will be supported too. If small group work is how your child will learn best for Science, great! Your child's sessions and week will fit entirely to their learning needs and strengths.
Which model of intervention do you use?
We are led completely by research. As a team of Behaviour Analysts, Psychologists, Teachers and Therapists committed to maximum change and empowering our learners to become all they can, we would say that The Bridge School is person centred, socially sensitive and uses more of an ability-focused approach.
Will you make child 'indistinguishable' from their peers?
No, absolutely not. If this is what you are seeking, we are not the team for you. We have the enormous privilege of working and journeying with the most wonderful individuals with so many strengths and exceptionalities. We want our young people's giftings, talents and unique abilities and strengths to shine through and to teach our children to embrace these. They are, after all, what makes them 'them'. We will, however, work with our learners to ensure their hidden strengths are revealed, their already known talents strengthened and their barriers embraced and overcome where needed. It is true that many of our children cannot be 'picked out' due to their Challenges and, yes, some (but in no means all) of our young children have no longer been eligible for a diagnosis any longer after working together with us and their families. It isn't true that our children lose their individuality and amazingness. We want to teach them to stand out from their peers, not blend in, in the most astonishing ways. Our children have so very much to show the world.
Can you 'fix' my child.
No, we cannot. We work out what is, and what isn't, going on for your child and for you. We don't seek normalisation for our child as, quite frankly, normal is over rated. Our children are incredible and they deserve to be treated as so. Their individualities need celebrating. We will, however, work to remove our students' barriers to thriving. We cannot not do this on our own. Research, and our own experience, shows us that it is in the working as a partnership with our student's family that the magic lies! If you would like a team to come in, work with your child, and go... Then we are not the team for you. At our lovely school we work hand in hand with key individuals in the lives of our children. We equip parents, family members, guardians (including temporary guardians) and school teams how to implement recommendations as a way of life. In this way we maximise success for our children and ensure there aren't inconsistencies.
What is your behaviour policy? Is it zero tolerance?
No. Absolutely not. We believe that zero tolerance behaviour policies are discriminatory to our children. SWe know that there is a massive comorbidity between and across learning conditions and disabilities. For example, 80 per cent of children with an autism spectrum condition are likely to have another condition such as anxiety, depression or learning disability. Another example is the report that approximately 60% of patients with dyslexia also meet the criteria for at least one neuropsychiatric disorder. Comorbidity with ADHD is present from 10% to 50% of children with a learning disability, while comorbidity with dyslexia is present from 25 to 40% of ADHD patients. As you may expect, a high number of our Looked After children and our children who have experienced trauma have behaviour challenges, either in an overt way or through internalisation. Aside from this, most of our students come to us because they have struggled and had negative experiences in more traditional schools or have struggled with their home learning. They likely have anxieties, sensitivities and learned behaviours which we will work with.
Do all of your children have behaviour problems? My child doesn't and I don't want him to learn them.
Not all of our students have behaviour challenges. Many come to us simply as their school amd/or family feel they require additional, specialist teaching in order to acquire tools to meet their potential. We understand your concern that yiur child may learn challenging behaviour from their peers, but we would like to assure you that this won't be the case. We use a range of learning formats which vary from 1:1 to 6:1 depending on class and topic. We are privileged to have an extremely high ratio of specialist teachers to children which allows us to address the needs of each child. Your child's learning journey will be focused entirely on their needs.
Can you help with family struggles not related to our child?
We also know that there is a significant causal effect of having a child with a special educational need (SEN) and family breakdown. Unfortunately only 1 in 10 families who contact us, unless they are a family with a baby or very young child, are not in some sort of family breakdown. Statistically over 1 in 4 families with a children with an SEN or disability permanently split up, with nearly 3 in 4 living in family break down. This is a statistic that we are desperate to change, through the provision of early intervention and prevention. However, for those families who are beyond this, our sister company, NETwork Interventions, are here to help. We offer individual, couples and family support and therapy. It may be that you could do with some support at home to implement recommendations. You may need something more along the lines of talking therapy or a practical plan of action.
What is your approach at The Bridge School?
– Build understanding and communication between us and our children, between the children and their families, between us and our families and between the children and staff. We work hard to nurture each child's relationships.
– Enable environments to be more accessible and to enable learning across a range of environments
– Reduce direct confrontation. Confrontation doesn't help anybody, especially those with autism spectrum conditions and other neurodiversities and learning sensitivities. Our children are likely a bit more fragile and may have more anxieties and have faced some unpleasant learning challenges. We will, however, teach your child to have crucial conversations safely. It may be that your child currently lurches between avoidance and aggression... We can help with this.
– Build ethical considerations into every step of the process of both your child's Learning as well as ours. This will be the same when we are acquiring professional competencies. An example of this is our most recent Physical interventions training. This is a compulsory, legally obligated, training for the work we do at another setting with children who engage in extreme acts of aggression towards themselves and others. What we did as a team was to build in to the learning what it would feel like from our learner's perspective to be touched like this. We ALWAYS look at things from our learner's point of view. We know that behaviour that is observable to others is simply a result of something else going on. It is that 'something else going on' that we seek to work with. The training that we have developed for own team is now being used in schools for their staff who deal with the most challenging of behaviours. Person-centred interventions, even emergency interventions to protect the individual and those around them, is always the best way forwards. Physical interventions should only ever be used at a very last resort and for an absolute emergency to save life or prevent significant Injury. It is unlikely to work long term and we now have a wealth of literature to support effective, preventative, interventions as well as light 'calm down' and 'come down' strategies. Louise and Andy train others in these perspectives and approaches and are proud to be able to combine literature with the experiences of their learners to change not only their approach as well as approaches of other schools, but with a view to changing policy. One of Louise's Masters was in Policy, so it is an area she is particularly passionate about. Look our for her radio interviews and blogs on this.
– Utilise strengths and interests, rather than focusing on perceived weaknesses and absent skills. We use a skills tracking system to track what our child (or teen) is able to do. We absolutely teach missing skills which are pre requisite skills for your child to be able to learn next skills and to be able to thrive. We choose these skills according to the assessments we complete but also in conjunction with our children and their families. Despite what you may have been told, learning does not actually follow a completely liner pattern. There will likely be many pre prequisite skills to choose from before moving on the next step. Some will be more important to your child and to you than others and some will help get your child to where they want to be more than others!
– Build neurodivergent perspectives in to every step of every one of our processes. We are so lucky that our school was built purely to fill the needs of the neurodiverse children we were teaxhing and that these children inform our planning and decision making every single day
– Build local expertise and communities of practice, drawing upon multi-disciplinary expertise that places the neurodivergent person at the centre of all considerations and decisions.
Will my child have to wear uniform?
Nope. Your child being comfortable and able to move is important. Our team wear clothes which they feel most comfortable in, and we want your child to as well. We do have a range of super soft short and long sleeve T shirts which your child can wear in their favourite colour if they want to. We can also get your child a jumper or a hoodie made specifically for them. Your child will need to wear, or bring, comfy and safe clothing for OT sessions, sports and play outdoors.
Will you teach my child to engage in more socially acceptable behaviours?
Yes and No! We will work with your child to provide them with tools to learn in all environments of their lives and to help them to thrive. There will be some behaviours which will help them to do this which do sit well with social norms. There are others that perhaps don't but that, if we 'fixed' these we may actually cause more harm than good. What we don't want to do is to teach your child to 'mask' their struggles or anxieties simply to fit In. That will cause them a world of pain and whilst it may 'look' like it fixing an area for them, it will in fact be presenting more barriers to them thriving either now or in the future.
Our daughter Annie went to a school where tights were winter uniform and white cotton socks summer. She struggled every morning with getting ready and could not tell us why. She was the last to change after PE and swimming, despite being massively gifted in sports and being able to swim more competitively than most children 3 or 4 years above her year group. This resulted In her missing free time and sports. Her 'behaviour challenges' started to spread across every day, and then the night before, school days with sports in them. We were asked to implement a token system and 'reinforcement and Consequence system'. On the tin that seems perfectly acceptable as the aim is to shape behaviour to help the child. It actually started to do is to make our child appear as though she was fine with tights and school socks. What it actually started to do was to make her think about her body in a negative way all day, every day. She was constanly pre occupied by her footwear. Once she had been removed from school, taught at home for a while and equipped with much more language to label her internal emotions she told us that she 'felt the tights scratching deep in to (her) soul'. And yes, we had tried every type of sock and tight! We work with all of their children to remove their barriers to learning and thriving. In some cases that is actual learning but in others it can be the literal removal of something in the environment such as clothing (or a person!!). As a person-centred school we take all of your child's needs as well as their strengths and their own preferences in to account.
Will you teach my child not to stim? (engage in self stimulatory behaviour)
No, we will not. From the feedback of adults we work with who have autism spectrum conditions and other communication and learning conditions, we know that stimming is hugely important. Our children who are able to articulate well also tell us this. The truth is that we ALL stim. We may say things to ourselves in our head, tap our foot on the floor or tap our leg with our hand. We may twiddle with our hair or engage in other movement that either helps us to focus or regulate. If your child engages in a self stimulatory behaviour which hurts them or others, then yes we will work with them to replace this and to learn effective strategies. If your child engages in a self stimulatory behaviour which is wildly inappropriate to those around them and causes harm in that way, then yes we will work with them and you. The most important thing here is to work together, with your child, fully understanding their needs.
Do you have personal experience with your children?
In 2018 Louise began to teach her little girl out of her home and the Centre on a full time basis, using her incredible team. She also attended a specialist Flexi school twice a week. Over time more children joined her daughter's teaching which led to space challenges! Her little girl also faced problems with the specialist service she was accessing in 2019, along with her son who began to be home schooled at the beginning of the year. All of the these factors, combined with some the barriers of providing specialist interventions on site in some schools led to the creation of a brilliant solution: The Bridge Flexi School. Our lovely school has been created as a small, nurturing environment where our students can 'learn to learn' in a safe way, moving from individualised and specialised one to one teaching on to two to one, three to one and so on until they are able to learn in a larger group environment and thrive in the playground, if a more typical schooling is the goal for them. Others will be taught at our school simply with the goal of optimal learning, with no such goal of joining a more typical school environment. Your child's goals will be created by you, with our specialist team of educators.
How do your targets work
We work in two ways. All of the children at our school have the option of either having goals set just for when they are at our school or goals which are designed to weave through both their time at school and their time at home. Our goals are set with input from our children as well as from our children's families. We complete a baseline assessment from the Vb Mapp and from our own PALS assessment to set targets across the areas of communication, social, group, behaviour and play. This links up with our ongoing assessment for literacy and numeracy. We have two beautiful assessments we have created which carefully break down every single area of the national curriculum in to development as opposed to specific year groups. These assessments are updated in an ongoing basis for the purpose of setting ongoing targets. All of our assessments and target setting are fluid and continual as opposed to every term / year etc.
Who can attend The Bridge Flexi School?
We have children and teens from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of our students have a diagnosis of Dyslexia or other SpLD. These students will be equipped with the most effective tools to close their gaps and to thrive. We work closely with these students, their families and also their schools where appropriate to utilise alternative communication methods and assistive technology. We also work with schools and exam centres to ensure the student receives the correct accommodations for exams they choose to sit.
Some of our students do not have a diagnosis of anything. They may be struggling with some traits of ASD or some specific issues. Others of our students have no specific learning needs but a Flexi school will suit theirs and their family's learning ethos.
Do you run after school and weekend sessions?
Yes we do, however these are not run as 'after school sessions' but as actual learning sessions. Our after school and weekend sessions are tailored to the specific child or group and often has a very specific focus such as a specific social skill or exam preparation or study skills.
What if we can't get to you?
Some of our families struggle to get to us for a number of reasons. We understand. This may be because your child has a long term illness and attends our provision because they spend a lot of time receiving medical care. Others struggle to get to us due to anxiety or meltdown. We specialise in long distance Consulting and have a range of tools to bring your child in to the classroom when they cannot physically be there. We can also come to you where possible.
Do all your students have additional needs?
No. Some of our students come to us as a Flexi schooling approach fits perfectly with their home education.