Written by Karen Lawton - Special Educational Needs Coordinator at Prior Park School
Building an inclusive school is hard work, requiring a clear vision and commitment. It’s a journey that we are only at the start of at Prior Park School but it’s one that the staff team is fully committed to and after 27 years teaching I have never been prouder to say I am a member of a school than I am to say I work here.
Having been Special Educational Needs Coordinator across five schools and had the opportunity as a Specialist Leader of Education to support other SENCOs and Behaviour Leads within their schools, I have seen first hand the impact that treating learners as individuals can have. I am a great believer in personalising our student’s educational journey as much as possible. Within the school system this can be a real challenge but there are things we can do to make it easier and a key one for me is to work towards the Dyslexia Friendly Schools Award.
It was in Gibraltar through some excellent sessions provided by the Gibraltar Dyslexia Society that I first came across the BDA Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark Award. Working towards and achieving this award in a UK school, I saw the impact that it had not just on the dyslexic learners but on all of our children. What I hadn’t expected was the impact it also had on staff. As the quality of teaching improved, confidence grew and relationships blossomed. As we celebrated learning differences amongst our pupils we began to recognise them in each other and became a community that celebrated differences and supported one another. Since then I have been vocal in my support of the work done by the BDA, I haven’t experienced the same level of impact across a school community from any other external accreditation or award. The BDA Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark Award has been developed by educationalists and specialists within the field of SEND, alongside parents and grandparents of dyslexic children. It is a whole school award of nationally recognised dyslexia friendly good practice, focusing on: leadership and management, quality of learning, the learning environment and partnerships with the wider community.
Mr Watts has recently signed the Made By Dyslexia Pledge and Prior Park we are working towards being a ‘dyslexia friendly school’ because dyslexia friendly teaching is simply quality first teaching that will impact on all of our learners. Being mindful of the criteria for achieving the BDA Quality Mark helps to keep us focused on the right steps we need to take and although only a young school I believe the dedication of staff in embracing this journey is already being reflected in the experience our students have. I would recommend the Quality Mark as a tool for improvement to any school.