In our secondary department, students work in small groups of pupils with similar educational needs. They are taught by specialist teachers of hearing impaired children supported by Learning Support Assistants. Pupils study up to ten subjects, including additional English lessons which target specific reading skills and enhance their access to the wider curriculum.
The development of literacy is a key priority for our school and, when students have particular difficulties in this area, we provide intensive specialist teaching. We have teachers of the deaf with additional qualifications in dyslexia and dyspraxia and have developed a shape-coding system that is used throughout the school by both teachers and speech therapists to support pupils’ understanding of grammatical structures.
The promotion of speaking and listening skills is integral to learning in all subjects. To facilitate listening, all classrooms are acoustically treated and sound field systems enable pupils to hear their teachers and peers above any background noise that could mask speech. In addition, all our students have individual or group sessions of speech and language therapy. These may be as often as three times a week and are delivered by our own team of highly specialist therapists.
There is a high level of personalisation in our curriculum and more than sixteen different subjects can be studied at different levels, from entry level to GCSEs and their equivalent. Different curriculum pathways are planned for individual students to match their needs and interests. While some students follow wholly school based courses, we also offer a high quality vocational curriculum strand from year 9 onwards. Students can choose an Employability and Personal Development course which involves attending a local skills centre each week. Students have tasters of areas of work including horticulture, hospitality, construction, hair and beauty, and animal care. The language content of the course is prepared and taught by specialist teachers at St John’s and our teachers and learning mentors support the practical sessions at the skills centre. This provides an early introduction to life at college, and builds our pupils’ confidence in working with young people and tutors outside St John’s.
Our school is committed to continually improving our facilities and the students’ quality of learning. Our new performing arts centre has transformed pupils’ learning in drama, and complements our facilities in music where pupils play and record their own music in a recording booth. Study facilities have been enhanced with a new library where we provide homework support both at lunchtimes and after school. Upgrading our ICT facilities has enabled students to use i-Pads in all areas of school. This has been highly motivating, particularly when pupils are assessing their own work.
Throughout the school, we encourage our pupils to participate in new challenges and provide a wealth of enrichment opportunities. All pupils take part in inter-school sports competitions which are adapted for our young people with physical difficulties. Former students have achieved places in national football teams and athletics squads. Locally, we are closely linked with a specialist sports college and our pupils take part in outdoor challenges with their mainstream peers.
Our location makes working with local schools very easy as we have five schools within walking distance. A number of theatres, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Gallery are all within easy reach, as well as York and the Yorkshire coast. Learning outside the classroom builds an enthusiasm and engagement that result in very good progress and achievement.
We continue to build on our students’ interest and understanding of the wider world by offering residential trips to Rome for our year 10 students and France for our year 11 leavers, a celebration of all they have achieved at St John’s.
The outcomes for our students at the end of their secondary education are outstanding. St John’s has never had a NEET (a student not in education, employment or training at the end of year 11). All of our year 11 students continue in education, some studying A levels and going to university, others studying vocational courses leading also to higher education or employment.