New era for Whitstone school

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A NEW era for a school that has stood on the same site since the 1970’s, as Highgate Hill House School opened its doors for its third open day.

The school premises was previously Whitstone Head School, which was closed down last year, the site was then sold and the new school was refurbished under the name ‘Highgate Hill House School’.

The school’s headteacher, Vicky Skelton, who teaches English, media studies and citizenship part time during the school week alongside her role as headteacher, said on the forming of the school: “It has been really exciting to design a school from scratch.

“This has involved everything from curriculum design, buying in resources, recruiting the best staff and working with Devon and Cornwall Local Authorities, as well as deciding how to use the building.”

The school is new to the Devon and Cornwall border and opened in Easter of 2016. They are an all through school for children aged five to 16 years of age.

The school offers children with additional and complex needs a safe place to grow and learn with a highly experienced and qualified SEN teaching team.

The school’s chair of board, Julie Smith, wrote in the school’s first newsletter: ‘We believe that everyone has the right to be free from prejudice and discrimination. Children develop and learn in different ways and we have created a school, which is flexible and can adapt to students’ needs.’

Ms Skelton said: “We are a small day school for boys and girls with special needs, many of our pupils will be on the autistic spectrum or have speech, language and communication difficulties.

“We provide a safe, nurturing environment, where we combine a personalised national curriculum with therapeutic input.”

The school provides each of its pupils with an individual learning plan where they are able to set targets with their family and teachers to ensure they are able to progress both academically and socially.

The school recently held their third open day, on Wednesday, September 14, where they invited seven families through their doors to see what resources they have to offer.

Ms Skelton said on the open day: “It was great. This is our third open day. Visiting on the day we had seven families, members of the North Devon Forum for ASC and ADHD, staff from Babcock ASC and SLC team, Holsworthy Town Councillor John Sanders and our local Methodist minister Rev Kevin Keenan.”

Visitors to the school were able to experience a tour of the school and its impressive grounds, with the chance to speak to the headteacher, the schools psychologist, the chair of board and various members of the teaching team.

A lot of work has been put in by various local companies and groups in order to get the school ready for its pupils.

Ms Skelton said: “There has been a school on this site since the 1970’s. The previous school closed down a year ago and the site was sold.

“Highgate Hill House School was formed last October 2015 and we have been working since then to get everything in place for our pupils. We were registered by the DfE in May and are now liaising with our Local Authorities on pupil placements.

“Renovations have gone well. Many local contractors have worked hard to complete building work, decorating and to install a complete ICT infrastructure. “

The school offers a wide range of resources for its pupils. There are facilities to help the pupils in subjects like English, Maths and Science, along with the humanities and Arts and Design technologies.

All their students engage daily in literacy sessions and they offer help for those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties including a therapeutic intervention programme called ‘Thrive’, and the innovative educational model ‘SCERTS’ for working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

However, Highgate Hill House School does not just stick to conventional classroom learning, they also offer an ‘Outdoor Learning Programme’.

Ms Skelton added: “We have also had a lot of work done outside to create safe outdoor spaces and a fantastic woodland area for our forest school learning.”

This programme of forest school learning includes hands on learning in the schools extensive grounds, as the schools teaching team ‘believe in the therapeutic benefits of the forest schools approach’.

As well as their own on-site resources the school also takes full advantage of the local, natural resources available to them nearby the school — these include Tamar Lakes, the coast of Widemouth Bay and Dartmoor.

After the school’s open day Ms Skelton said: “The school is a safe, nurturing place for children who find school stressful and anxiety provoking.

“We work with children and their families to ensure that they thrive with us. We always welcome involvement from parents and community members.”

The school’s mantra is ‘A Passion for Education, A Vision of Excellence, A Mission to Succeed.’

To find out more about the school and the facilities it offers, visit the website or find them on Facebook.