Our Primary Department caters for children who are deaf, multi-sensory impaired or who have communication difficulties. These young people face particular challenges acquiring language, and need to experience a curriculum that is delivered at an age-appropriate interest level but at a level they can understand. As speech is such a complex auditory signal, they also need quiet conditions to process it.
All of our classrooms are acoustically treated, we have state of the art amplification systems, and our on-site audiologist ensures pupils’ cochlear implants and hearing aids are always working properly.
At St John’s pupils are taught by additionally qualified specialist teachers, and supported by learning support assistants and intervenors. Our high staffing ratio allows for children to be taught individually or in small groups, and to follow a highly personalised curriculum.
Our aims in the primary phase are to introduce the children to school life in an enjoyable and positive way, and to lay the foundations for high educational achievements. We make communication and language learning an integral part of each child’s experiences, and foster each child’s appreciation of their own self-worth and a respect for others.
A particular feature of teaching at St John’s is the use of a technique called the Maternal Reflective Method. This is built on the principle that the best starting point for language teaching is the child’s individual interests and experiences. Staff seize these as meaningful opportunities that make language come alive. The teacher produces a reading text which directly relates to what the child has done or said and this personalised written language is used to teach vocabulary, spelling and grammar. This text can also be a stimulus for pupils’ own writing.
We also use other specialised language techniques such as our adapted shape-coding system. This is particularly helpful for young people whose language is not only delayed but does not show an understanding of the grammatical structures found in English.
Our own team of speech and language therapists provides direct therapy individually and within small groups. In the primary department, this can be as often as three times a week and is complemented by other intensive interaction experiences such as Jabadao, where our therapists use music and movement to promote communication.
Within the Primary Department, we are very aware that children’s experiences and relationships in their early years have a profound effect on their later academic, social and emotional development. It is vitally important to provide a rich and appropriate curriculum to support children’s growth in all these areas. Our pupils participate in regular enrichment experiences such as horse riding, sporting events, drama and music. We are a partner school in the Wharfe Valley Learning Partnership, an Educational Trust of nine high-achieving local schools that work together to enhance the quality of learning for all our pupils. This provides many opportunities for our pupils to work with their local peers, and our on-site nursery provides educational and social opportunities for the youngest of our children.