An Evening with Ronwen Smith and Peggy Walpole

On April 16th 2002 Ronwen Smith and Peggy Walpole, the head and deputy head of Linden Bridge School, talked about their school. Ronwen spoke for about 45 minutes, and then her Deputy Peggy Walpole spoke. A review of their talk is included here. Ronwen's presentation was also recorded and is now available to listen to in RealAudio format. In order to listen to the talk, you must have RealPlayer installed on your computer. You can follow the instructions on the BBC Radio 4 website on how to download the free version of the player from RealNetworks. The recording is broken down into 6 sections. Each section covers a topic or a question. Just click on the title or topic that interests you to start listening.

Read the review of the evening

Allocation of places
Linden Bridge is an autism-specific school in Worcester Park, with 120 pupils from 4 to 19. There are approximately four times as many children wanting places as can be taken, and the decision about who is offered a place is taken by a panel of professionals. As well as the headteachers, the panel can include a psychologist, speech and language therapist, education officer, care officer and Partnership with Parents representative. They read all the reports about each pupil, and the children who have Linden Bridge as their first choice will have been seen by the school staff. The panel decides which children's needs can best be met by each school.

Linden Bridge has separate primary, secondary, and 16+ provision, and they follow mainstream school procedures and curriculum as much as they can. So in the primary department pupils stay in the same classroom, whilst in secondary they learn to move from room to room for different subjects. Each class has 8 pupils who will all have their own targets, which could be the same as a mainstream child for some subjects, but in others a 10 year old pupil might be working to the national curriculum targets for a 5 year old. The curriculum also covers the child's social and communication needs, teaching skills such as eye contact, waiting, and tolerance of others. The children enjoy subjects such as music, art and cookery as well.

The school uses a variety of approaches to teach their pupils, including one to one teaching and small group work, Makaton signing, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), speech and language therapy and the TEACCH programme (Treatment & Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children/Adults).

TEACCH is a system which uses structure to lessen difficult behaviour and improve learning. This covers the pupil's environment, timetable and workplace and helps by making life more predictable for the child and therefore less stressful. For instance, at home a child may understand that you are likely to get food in a kitchen or have a bath in the bathroom, but in a classroom things are not as predictable. Using picture timetables and prompts, working areas without distractions, and systems such as always putting work to be done in the same place, reduces stress and enables the pupil to be more independent.

Further education
The Further Education (16+) department is temporarily in two three-bedroom houses at the edge of the school site but by the end of the year it will have its own purpose-built rooms. There will also be new boarding facilities on site. The school currently has 25 beds for boarders, some of whom stay all week and others stay for 2 nights. The overnight stays are for educational purposes, although they also enable the family to have some respite. If pupils are particularly able in a subject they can attend GCSE classes at a nearby mainstream school. They are always accompanied by a member of staff from Linden Bridge. One pupil, having taken GCSE and A level music in this way has since achieved a degree in music and is now working as an organist. Ronwen ended her talk by reassuring parents that things do get easier as the children grow up and they develop and mature.

Listen to RealAudio recording

real audio Introduction; Ronwen Smith's background. History of Linden Bridge School; Current position regarding school numbers;. Length 4 minutes 13 seconds.

real audio Admissions Process; Panels; Dilemmas; Viable Class Groups;. Length 5 minutes 29 seconds.

real audio Boarding Provision; The school buildings; The Primary Department; The Secondary Department; The Further Education Department;. Length 7 minutes 6 seconds.

real audio The Curriculum; Academic Targets; Music; Integration with Mainstream and College; Life Skills;. Length: 5 minutes 58 seconds.

real audio Art; Home Economics; Computers and I.T.; P.E.; Numeracy Strategy; Length: 4 minutes 17 seconds.

real audio Augmented Communication: Signing, Symbols, TEACCH, PECS; Classroom Routines and Structure; One-to-one; Small Groups; Speech and Language Therapy; Information Boards; Importance of Group Work; Sequencing and Rewards; Length: 7 minutes 26 seconds.

Review is 2002 Sara Truman. Our thanks to Ronwen Smith for giving permission for the recordings to be made available

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