Communication is at the heart of every aspect of life at St Marylebone CE Bridge School, which opened in 2013. From weekly communication classes to simple, uncluttered walls that are designed to encourage focus, the school fully embraces its commitment to providing innovative education for children with Speech, Language and Communication needs.
One of only three special free schools catering to children with this type of need, the school ensures that each of its pupils, aged 11-18, receives a personalised education. Speech and language therapists work with whole classes as well as individuals and small groups, and lessons such as maths and computing are taught in small classes, concentrating on different targets depending on what is appropriate for each group of students.
This individualised approach is complemented by the collaborative nature of the school. Students are encouraged to identify their own targets and take ownership of their communication programmes, whilst teachers, therapists and learning support assistants work closely with each other and regularly catch up with parents. The school also has an active student council, with student representatives attending senior leadership meetings to suggest ideas for school improvements and extracurricular clubs.
In addition to this, the school offers a broad range of enrichment activities, and this contributes to its goal of shaping rounded young people - not just academic results. Pupils can choose between a range of clubs each term, including coaching from Chelsea football club, therapeutic horse riding and computer programming, a popular activity that helps to prepare students for today’s technological world beyond the classroom.
Communication lessons are a chance for students to devote time to this important aspect of their development. These lessons take place once a week, and the curriculum is based on research and experience. For example, they practice their confidence reading aloud and use ‘shape coding’ to help learn grammar. The school featured as a case study for the Communication Trust’s ‘No Pens Day Wednesday’, inspiring creativity and innovation amongst both staff and students. Pupils even put their communication skills into practice at lunch, where a system of colourful chairs allows them to socialise and build relationships with different friends every day.
St Marylebone received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted when they were inspected in 2015.