We are now approaching our tenth year in Cantonian High School and have seen over 30 pupils welcomed in through our doors. Many of these have now left and are furthering their studies at universities and colleges. We currently offer a provision for children from the ages of 11 to 19 who have a statement of educational need for Autism.
Cantonian High School is a true community school. The ethos of the base is that every child is valued as an individual within the base, but also as part of the whole school. We are a truly INCLUSIVE school.
Aims of the Access Base
We aim to provide a specialised and nurturing base that meets the needs of all of our pupils.We offer support to pupils who can access mainstream lessons as well as providing a tailored curriculum within the base to meet the diverse needs of the pupils.
We deliver social skills training, independent life skills training and learning for life packages to help them transition into adult life.
We constantly work with parents / carers and other specialised agencies in a partnership to ensure the best outcomes for the pupils.
Transition from Primary to Secondary School
The Local Authority (LA) allocates children to the base in the final year of primary schooling. They will then inform you and formally consult with the school to request a place.
The Access Base will then proceed with transition:
Staff from the base will make initial contact with parents / carers and primary schools in the spring term. They will then visit your child at their current school at the beginning of the summer term to get to know them a little better and to talk to them about their new secondary school.
Supervised visits will then be arranged for your child to visit Cantonian High school and the Access Base. These are flexible to meet each child’s individual needs. Some may only need a few visits, whereas other children will need regular ongoing visits throughout the summer term.
All parents / cares are then invited to afternoon tea before the end of the summer term when final information about the base can be discussed.
Transition from Secondary School to College
We recognise that the move from secondary school on to college can be equally as daunting for our pupils. We liaise closely with Cardiff and Vale College and other local colleges and universities to try and ensure a smooth transition. Cardiff and Vale College now have a Transition Officer who liaises with us to ensure that their move onto college is as stress-free as possible.
How does the Access Base operate on a daily basis?
We understand how anxious pupils can be during the first few weeks of their new school and planning is put into place to ensure that anxieties are kept to a minimum. During the first few weeks of your child starting at Cantonian’s Access Base, we assess your child’s abilities in Spelling, Reading, Comprehension and Numeracy. This will help us to decide what interventions may need to be implemented in the base. They will then have a personalised timetable, which is adapted for every child to meet their individual needs. Some children will spend more time in mainstream than others; it is dependent on what your child may need. All children will have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) with a set of targets which is reviewed every six months. We also produce a Pupil Passport which highlights areas of strength and difficulty which is made accessible to all teaching staff across the school.
One of the major strengths of our school is the way in which our pupils are included in the life of the school. We are an INCLUSIVE school. All of the teachers understand the needs of the pupils and liaise with us regularly for advice on individual approaches.
As the base has now been running for nearly ten years, we are very familiar with issues that may arise with our pupils which may make it different to attend some mainstream lessons. When this is proving to be difficult, we will access the work and deliver it within the base itself. In addition, we deliver a variety of interventions and courses which we have found to be essential in their personal development. These include social skills, independent life skills, literacy and numeracy support as well as Vocational BTEC courses in key stage 4.
We have a thriving sixth form provision. As well as the courses provided in the mainstream, we have a number of courses that can be delivered in the base. In addition, we run a sixth form Independent Life Skills course which helps our sixth form pupils transition into adult life outside of school.
Pupils in key stage 3 are timetabled in the base for social skills lessons once weekly. We follow programmes specifically designed for children with Autism. These include “Talkabout” and the “Zones of Regulation”. These are delivered by our ELSA trained Senior Teaching Assistant, along with one of our other Teaching Assistants. Topics covered include:
- Building Trust
- Social expectations for behaviour
- Recipe for a friend
- Valuing others
- Recognising emotions
- Understanding body language
Independent Life Skills
Many of the skills required to enable children to live more independently are embedded into the daily routine in the base. However, we also deliver life skills as part of our COPE qualification (Certificate of Personal Effectiveness), through Learning for Life at level 2 and through BTEC Level 2 Home Cooking skills.
In addition, we deliver sixth form Independent Life Skills. Being part of the sixthform is an important opportunity for Access Base pupils. Independent Life Skills offers learners the opportunity to develop ‘real world’ skills both inside and outside of the classroom. Compulsory education is coming to an end, so learners are encouraged to develop independence skills which will be essential for the transition into Further Education.
Students are able to develop their skills in an environment which they are familiar with and feel safe in. Lessons cover topics such as budgeting, using public transport and interview skills as well as looking at how to cope with stress, personal wellbeing and dealing with conflicts. They will be immersed in projects which will enable them to work with other students. Learners are given opportunities to challenge themselves into becoming confident and autonomous young people ready for the next stage in their journey.
Topics we have covered:
- Career workshops: What can I do when I’m done with school?
- Independent budgeting: making the choice between essential and luxury. How should money be spent?
- Tricky Transport: navigating the bus system in Cardiff.
- Writing a personal statement/ CV.
- Applying for part-time jobs: interview skills, what do interviews involve? What can I expect?
- Projects: fundraising Christmas/Easter
- Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Dealing with stress and anxiety
- Conflict management: Living with others
- Time management
We recognise the need to provide additional sessions over and above those offered in mainstream and we run some sessions during registration times and break and lunch times to try and develop those skills. We currently run a Sensory Activity session once weekly. This helps to develop pupils’ sensory awareness and tolerance of sensory stimuli. All of the activities are designed to be fun and interactive. They have included:
- Parachute games
- Chinese whispers drawing game
- Blindfold fruit and vegetable tasting
- Pick up stix
- And lots more…..
We also run a debating club, chess club and much more……
Lunch and Break Times
The base is always staffed at lunch and break times so your child is welcome to stay in there at these times. We have facilities for them to eat a packed lunch, to prepare their own lunch in the kitchen or to bring back lunch from the canteen. We do try and foster a healthy eating ethos in the base. Whilst we understand that the children may be fussy eaters, we do not encourage them to bring in fizzy drinks or large quantities of sweets on a regular basis.
Your child will inevitably receive homework form their class teachers. Staff in the Access Base are happy to support them in completing some of their homework in the base. This may be during registration time or at other agreed, allocated times. We understand the issues that some of them may have about completing homework at home and are happy to discuss this with you if it is, indeed, an issue with your child.
Travel To and From School
If your child lives more than 3 miles from the school, they may be eligible to travel to school by taxi. When they first start their new school, the taxi will drop them at the designated taxi drop and a member of staff will be there to meet them and bring them up to the base. They will then escort your child to the taxi at the end of the day.
Wherever possible, we do try and encourage our pupils to be more independent and learn how to use public transport to get to and from school. We work together with School Transport who have a designated Independent Travel Trainer who can teach your child how to use public transport to travel to school. This is an excellent way to encourage independence and children who have completed this training grow in confidence daily as they travel.
How to Get Hold of Us
Communication is essential. If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email. We will try and answer any queries that you may have and are always happy for you to come and visit us personally.
Parent of a Year 13 Pupil
“Our son has attended the Autism base at Cantonian for nearly two years now and the experience he has had has been fantastic. The staff have been enormously kind and supportive, and the progress he has made has been truly impressive. He leaves Cantonian with a range of really important life skills and qualifications. At least as important, however, is the level of self-confidence he leaves with; he is happy with who he is, has an active social life and his 100% attendance record at Cantonian is a testament to the way the staff of the base made him feel about education.”