Julia Tyldsley has been SENCO lead at Dagenham Park for 7 years and played a big role in the development of the school’s Additional Resource Provision (ARP) Pathway. She also works part-time as an Inclusion Adviser for the local authority, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. We spoke to Julia to understand better how Dagenham Park School is Supporting Students with Learning Needs to Reach their Maximum Potential .
Dagenham Park is a large secondary school with over 1,400 children from years 7 through to 13. There are 66 students with education, health and care (EHC) plans and 183 children who are registered for school support.
All children are entitled to an education that is appropriate to their needs, promotes high standards, and enables them to fulfil their potential. At Dagenham Park, the team have found that their ARP pathway is the most beneficial learning style for special educational needs and disability (SEND) students.
Objectives of the ARP Pathway
The ARP supports pupils, encouraging equality of opportunity and learning.
The objectives of the ARP are :
- provide specialist support to pupils with complex and moderate learning difficulties
- support these pupils to develop strategies to enable them to access a mainstream classroom
- adapt lessons following the National Curriculum with an additional focus on communications skills to enable pupils with complex and moderate learning difficulties to develop
- provide on-site specialist provision
- improve access to specialist staff
Outline of the ARP Pathway
The children within ARP are taught in classes according to their year group, rather than in the mainstream classes. These lessons are delivered by subject-specific teachers following a curriculum that is ambitious but appropriate.
The children are still part of the wider year group, taking part in the school rewards programme, year 10 work experience, assemblies and mentoring schemes. However, they follow a different academic pathway that allows them to work at the right level for them. Year 7 and 8 follow level 2 and 2 skills, developing into entry-level English, Maths and Sciences in Year 9.
Some may ask whether it is beneficial for SEND students to be taught separately. However, taught separately ARP students are taught at the stage they are at, ensuring that stages of learning are not skipped or rushed. Additionally, ARP students are roughly 7 years behind peers emotionally. Taught separately they develop strong friendships and group identity. Julia explains that often children who join the school’s ARP pathway in Year 10 or 11, find that it’s the first time they have felt a sense of belonging at school.
In ARP they have the opportunity to study the topics at their level so that it’s enjoyable and accessible to them. All learning in the ARP is done under a ‘nurture umbrella’. There are built-in activities to support independence and confidence. Every ARP class has weekly speech and language classes which are usually taught alongside social skills. This is the only class taught by teacher assistants. However, they are trained and supervised by the school’s private speech and language therapist.
Healthy and safe living is part also part of ARP education. The pathway has the freedom and flexibility to deliver lessons when they think it is appropriate for each class. For example, stranger danger, safety on the internet, friendship, or personal hygiene.
This flexibility also allows for the opportunity to take lots of trips out, enabling students to familiarise themselves with public transport and develop confidence in the outside world.
In Year 10 and 11, the students work towards their GCSE’s, studying English Literature and Language, Combined Science, Maths, Art, Food Tech and the option to study Drama. They also have functional ICT skills lessons.
Many question whether GCSE’s are too hard for SEND learners. However, GCSE’s are designed to have a level for every student. Children in the ARP, who are in general behind 7 years academically, can look at the mark schemes and aim for levels 1 and 2. Julia believes that the students should have the opportunity to learn in science labs and study Macbeth, to develop cultural capital like others who have done GCSEs.
At Dagenham Park, the whole SEND team received intervention training from an educational psychologist. This style of precision teaching is aimed to target high-frequency words, subject-specific vocabulary, phonics, number bonds and times tables.
Julia recommended the process, describing it as one of the most beneficial training exercises the team had done.
Previously, children within the ARP pathway went on to college after their GCSE’s. While the children were excited to go and the team prepared them as best they could, Julia and other staff members felt they were not ready.
Additionally, to study a vocational course at college you need to have received higher than level 1 or 2 in English and Maths. Therefore, the students were progressing to taster courses with English and Maths instead of the vocational courses they’d have preferred.
Julia and her team noticed that by GCSE year the students reading age had gone up from about 6 to 8 and a half years. At this stage, their literacy was taking off and they were learning at a much faster rate. Within a year or two they could see that they would be quite literate and be able to start a vocational course.
The new Dagenham Park ARP Sixth Form pathway includes English and Maths re-sits. These are taught through spiral learning over 4 lessons a week for each subject. The pathway also offers a Level One BTEC Vocational Studies in subjects such as Child and Social Care, Creative Digital Media Arts, and Hospitality.
Julia runs us through the additional opportunities available on the Sixth Form pathway:
- Employability skills lessons
- Young Enterprise
- Christmas baking with year 1 students
- Shooting their own short film
- Apprenticeship Fayres
- Team building/ outdoor pursuits
- Weekly seminars
- Daily tutor programme
- Futures week – dedicated to students’ next steps
- Developing a personal progression plan
- Lifestyles and learning lessons
- Hospitality units
- Basketball and coaching sport
- Apprentice teaching assistant in the ARP
The students are able to achieve a level 3 or 4 in their GCSE re-sits as well as developing core skills. Overall, the ARP allows SEND students to be stretched to fulfil their potential while preparing them for real life. The success of the ARP is clear with every ARP student deciding to stay on for Sixth Form.
 Tyldsley, J. 2020. The Future of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Conference 2020
 Dagenham Park. 2019. Expansion of ARP [online] [Accessed 15/04/21]
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