An inspirational Teacher will have a lasting positive impact on our lives. If we are lucky we will all have been positively influenced by at least one passionate, dynamic, inspirational Teacher. If we are really lucky our children will experience such a life changing encounter for themselves.
For the pupils of Portfield School Alice Cherry is one such Teacher. At just 27 years of age Alice is an inspiration. Qualified with a degree in Primary Years education specialising in Special Needs, Alice is transforming the lives of young children affected by Autism through her professionalism and passion.
Alice runs a team of inspirational Early Years practitioners at Portfield School which caters for children with Autism and other associated difficulties.
“I believe that early intervention is crucial to teaching children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). The Early Years curriculum is play based which is a highly effective and motivating way of teaching almost all areas of the curriculum in a fun, low demand way. In an Autism specific setting we are able to tailor the environment to include high levels of environmental and visual structure so that the students are able to access a range of play activities to support their engagement and progress,“ comments Alice.
As well as a degree in Primary Education with a specialism in SEN, Alice is also an Attention Autism Advanced Practitioner which means Alice can lead others by setting an example of outstanding practice. In addition Alice has completed training in PECS, TEACCH, Intensive Interaction, Positive Behaviour Support, sensory regulation strategies and Signalong.
Along with her natural talent, Alice’s qualifications and 7 years of experience in the class room, allows her a unique perspective when tackling her daily role.
“During each School day we support the students to a safe and ready state for learning so that they can engage in fun, meaningful and motivating activities that will support them to develop in the areas identified in their Individual Education Plans. We spend a lot of time building strong relationships between the students and staff so that the children feel safe at school and are able to trust the adults to support them to learn new skills and help them through tricky times.”
Alice’s approach is all encompassing and parents are very much included in setting targets and objectives for their child’s development at school. “We also work with parents to identify which areas will make the most significant impact on their child and their family’s lives; this may be to develop communication skills, toilet training, or giving the child strategies to manage behaviour or anxiety. These plans are then embedded into our curriculum. This year we have had high levels of success in both academic and non academic areas. I believe this is because the children enjoy school and feel safe and confident there to try new things and trust the adults to help them.”
Portfield School has expanded its education provision to develop a new dedicated centre for Early Years Foundation Stage students for 3-5 year olds.
Alison Casey, Head Teacher at Portfield School comments; “There is an increased recognition of the importance of early interventions to respond to diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Conditions. Research shows that early intervention makes a big difference to a child’s development and can have a sustained effect on autism symptom outcomes.”
With the introduction of an Early Years centre, Portfield School will provide for the need arising in placing 3-5 year olds in a specialist environment whilst at the same time improving the outcomes for every unique child on the Autism spectrum.
The fully refurbished building will cater for up to 16 students on two floors. Initially the lower floor has been refurbished. The whole building has been tailored to meet the needs of smaller children with small toilets, height and age appropriate furniture and equipment. The space allows for separate rooms for individual teaching/intervention work, a play area that can be separated from the main classroom, as well as in-house sensory and soft play areas.
The building also offers more outside space which is an essential part of the Early Years curriculum, as it has a significant focus on learning through play outside.
The upper floors of the building will be developed in a second phase of the project.
As an Early Years department Portfield School is striving towards Outstanding from the next Ofsted visit and as part of this endeavour the new Early Years provision will strive to provide both an exceptional learning and teaching experience from outstanding staff as well as a considered and quality environment.
Mum of Rose, Claire Johnson, who started in Portfield School’s Early Years setting at the age of four comments; “We continue to be amazed by the level of personal commitment and care shown by the teaching and leadership team in support of both children and the greater Autism cause. The opportunities Rose is being given are beyond what we could have possibly dreamed of, and we are able to see daily the direct impact this is having on Rose’s development and indeed family life.”