The Loddon School

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Loddon School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Principal Dr Gill Barrett
Working with the artist
in residence
The Loddon School serves children with highly complex
needs; all students have autism, severe learning difficulties,
are non-verbal and have highly challenging behaviour.
Taking students between the ages of eight and 19, the school
provides year-round provision in a residential setting. With 175
members of staff, it educates and cares for 30 students, all of
whom have been unable to remain within the main specialist
education system. Principal Dr Gill Barrett explains how the school
copes with the needs of its pupils and discusses the techniques
that allow the children to get the most out of their education.
We are a school without classrooms. This is the first thing I tell prospective
parents or professionals who visit our school. All children at our school have
been failed by the education systems offered in previous mainstream and special
schools. Replicating these environments is likely to fail again, so we do things
differently. Running a school using non-traditional methods means that we are not
revolutionists: rather, we are resolutionists.
Our ethos is that we provide each child with an enhanced quality of life through
creative design, development and delivery of positive working methods by our
multidisciplinary team. Being highly analytical and solution focused permeates all
aspects of our residential school life and results in high engagement in learning and
strong progression, and students who are well prepared for their adult life.
When we are asked by a local authority to assess a prospective student, we frequently
find them in isolation rooms, corridors or even the toilets, unable to access the
classroom or the curriculum. The key to our success as a school is to focus on getting
»Principal: Dr Gill Barrett
»Founded in 1988
»Location: Sherfield on Loddon,
»Type of school: Non-
maintained residential special
school, age range: 8-19
»No. of students: 30
»No. of staff: 175 teaching and
support staff
»52-week provision
»80% Section 20 Care Order,
7% Section 31, and 13%
Section 43
»100% special needs – ASD,
SLD, non-verbal and with
challenging behaviour
»Ofsted rating: “Outstanding”
(both Care and Education
The Loddon School
Highlighting best practice
three things right for each individual:
the environment, the curriculum and the
daily structure of learning opportunities.
The learning environment
The Loddon School educates through
a home school-type model for 52
weeks a year. All children live in small
family groups with their own staff,
who are responsible for their care and
education. The team is truly integrated,
unlike a traditional care and education
model. House-based staff are trained
as living and learning support workers.
Each house has a teacher and
children’s service manager working as
joint leaders, ensuring that day and
night provision throughout the 52
weeks is consistent.
Transitioning into a school building
each day has been a key failure point
for most of our students.
Educating them in their home base
resolves this. The creation of our school
site as a mini village reduces transitions,
while facilitating our ethos of learning
and the practice of life skills in school
within simulated environments before
they are implemented in the local
community and progress to the wider
community. Therapists work with
students in situ, at breakfast, while
dressing or in the polytunnel. Wherever
the need arises, the therapist works
with the teacher to jointly plan and
deliver learning. Our students find
generalising their learning extremely
hard; educating beyond the classroom
environment resolves this.
On our school site we have a wide
variety of learning spaces, including
sensory learning areas such as a large
sports hall for PE and bouncing castle,
indoor swimming pool, tranquillity
garden, sensory room, sensory adventure
playground, sensory circuit courtyard,
an art room and a music room, massage
room, forest school area, nature trail
and mud pit with mud kitchen.
We also provide work-based learning,
including a shop, post office, library
and café for community learning skills,
small farm with hens, donkeys, goats,
pigs, Shetland pony for pony carting
and a horse for riding, large polytunnel
and outdoor classroom, and large
outdoor planting beds for horticulture.
Our home bases comprise houses with
a kitchen, laundry, living rooms and
bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms,
all designed as learning spaces. The
school has a main kitchen and laundry
for day-to-day provision. We are near
completion of the building of two new
bungalows, renewing old living spaces,
and hope to continue building three
further homes once phase one of our
project is completed.
The structure and
implementation of our
Our waking day curriculum ensures
that every aspect of our day is a
learning opportunity. All aspects of
daily activity are covered by schemes of
learning in our Personalised Learning
for Life Using Supportive Strategies
(PLLUSS) curriculum, with levelled
learning objectives. Whether the child is
dressing in the morning, playing on the
swing or exploring in a discovery club
session, each has learning objectives,
linked to individual targets from their
educational health and careplan.
Exploring liquids in
discovery club
Running a
school using
means that
we are not
rather, we are
Individual timetables and personalised
support are standard for all students.
Preferred learning activities are
dispersed throughout their day. The
occupational therapist provides a
sensory diet for each child, which
is incorporated into each session.
Keeping the child calm, but also alert
enough to learn, is essential for high
engagement. If sensory provision is
not correct, challenging behaviours
can result as the child struggles to
Outdoor learning has grown rapidly;
we have gained Forest School
Association Provider status and
have been granted Trailblazer status
following outdoor learning around the
three objectives of caring, discovery
and exploring.
Education beyond the school
Since I joined the school as principal,
learning beyond the sacred classroom
has developed, ensuring that each
child has full access to early reading,
writing and mathematics, and is
able to embrace opportunities for
the enrichment through technology,
science discovery and the arts.
Key to our PLLUSS curriculum is
communication, giving the child a
voice, then exposing them to reading,
writing and maths. As a school we
have fully embraced learning through
play and everyday activities, and we
never miss a chance to seize the
moment for learning.
Having drawn all aspects of our
curriculum together and streamlined
assessment and recording holistically
under the EHC plan for each child,
we now have a system that secures
outstanding progress and which
we share with other special needs
schools. On a weekly basis, local
schools visit us for work experience
sessions, horticultural learning and
music therapy. We also currently work
with two schools in terms of in-class
support and consultancy.
The recruitment of the right staff
for the school remains an ongoing
concern. It is essential that staff
are willing to train and upskill
themselves. We offer Level 2, 3 and 5
qualifications. We train teachers with
a local provider but are also very keen
to run a social care apprenticeship-
style degree-level qualification, to help
combat the severe shortage of social
workers nationally.
Fully embraced
through play
and everyday
activities, and
we never miss a
chance to seize
the moment for
Our favourite learning
space – outdoors!
Fostering interactions
through animal care

This article was sponsored by The Loddon School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy