Greenside School won our 2016 Autism Accreditation Excellence Award with their ‘Living Classroom’. Greenside is a special school for 124 pupils aged 2 to 19 years with severe learning difficulties. The school and specialist provision for pupils on the autism spectrum was first accredited in 2012 and reaccredited in 2015 (with a commendation).
To support autistic pupils to gain more independence, the school developed a teaching base in the heart of their community. Greenside Studio provides learning opportunities for all pupils at Greenside and for those over the age of 19. The studio is in a retail premises at a shopping centre in walking distance of the school. The choice of enterprise – loose sweets and ceramic studio – provides a range of work-related learning opportunities and creative activities for all pupils to access and enjoy.
The ceramic aspect of the studio features a potter’s wheel. The products the pupils make are sold and painted by members of the public at the studio. Other ventures include preparing party bags, wedding favours and sweet baskets, which are sold in local schools and businesses. The studio features a kitchen and IT area, where students can prepare their own lunch and undertake other forms of learning. The studio provides a bridge between the structures, systems and order of school, and life in the wider community. Students are faced with real life problem-solving situations which give them opportunities to adapt and apply their functional skills.
The Greenside Studio offers work experience to students and school leavers, particularly autistic students. Working in the shop, they help to serve customers, bag and price up sweets and deliver sweet baskets. They are supported by a team of professionals who guide them through their work experience.
Dr Lawson of The University of Exeter undertook a research study about the learning opportunities provided by the studio. The findings were published in the SLD Experience (Spring 2014). The study concluded that establishing a teaching and learning resource in the heart of the wider community has not only had a huge impact on learning, progress and achievements, it has also enabled the school to extend the transition process for life after school, which has been of particular value for autistic students. The resource has raised the profile of the school in the community, providing a positive image of the potential and abilities of its young people.
The level of independence students are demonstrating has developed significantly. This is because autistic students have the opportunity to practice their skills, while teachers gradually extend the level of challenge. For example, students combine their enterprise work with planning their meals for the week, considering aspects such as balanced diets and budgets.
In 2015, the school securing further funding to enable the introduction of supported internships. Part of this project will see three members of staff receive training as job coaches. The aim of the supported internships will be to secure some form of paid employment (supported, part-time or full-time). Supported internships will be available to young people between the ages of 16 and 25.
The Greenside Studio has attracted a lot of interest and has informed the development of other social enterprises.
Learn more about Autism Accreditation