At Northern Counties School we recognise the value and importance of our students contributing their opinions about all aspects of school life as well as their own needs and wants. As the majority of children are non – verbal or use BSL as their primary language, staff are skilled in communicating using a range of communication methods with all children and young people. Many of our children have ASD or PMLD and as such they cannot all take part in a formal meeting which they might not manage but instead they require one to one opportunities to express their feelings. Staff are equally vigilant in monitoring the well-being of children and young people whose communication may be at a pre-verbal level and thus staff are able to identify concerns such as the young person being unwell or in pain and then to address these quickly.
Our deaf children are perhaps our most confident communicators and many are able to contribute to a more structured meeting. Our student forum meet regularly with Claire Ramsey, deputy head teacher, to consider school issues and make suggestions. Last term they took part in a formal evaluation as part of our application for the Healthy Schools Award and contributed to the process which resulted in our achievement of the award. They also helped to decide on the upgrade of our dining room, including deciding to purchase new equipment for lunch times. The forum are encouraged to consider the school environment and the needs of their peers who might have different needs to themselves and may not be able to express these.
Minutes of meetings are shared with the group to demonstrate the importance of a formal structure and appropriate social communication skills are encouraged as a learning opportunity. This term the group have been allocated a budget of £500 to consider using for the “benefit of all pupils” and to debate how this might be allocated. It can be used for separate projects or just one – the decision making process is an opportunity for them to consider how they will consult across the school and finalise their chosen project.