Bournemouth, United Kingdom
About Autism Wessex
Founded in 1968 by parents of children with autism, The Wessex Autistic Society is a voluntary organisation, which aims to ensure that all people with autism and related conditions, and their carers in the Wessex region, have access to appropriate education, care, support and development services.
Wessex Autistic Society runs the Portfield School and is situated on the edge of the Bournemouth/Christchurch area next to Bournemouth International Airport. The school caters for up to 80 day and residential students, all of whom have Autistic Spectrum Disorders and associated learning difficulties. The LEAs wishing to take advantage of our facilities fund places at Portfield individually.
The school moved into new purpose-built premises at the end of 2002. The new school was largely funded by monies raised locally and nationally through the Domino Appeal, which continues to support further development of the school and the site. Facilities are therefore very good indeed.
Students at Portfield range in age from just 3 years old up to 19 years old and so opportunities to work in different age bands exist. Class sizes are between six and eight, and staff numbers per class depend on the needs of each student and the mix of abilities. Each class has a teacher responsible for the quality of education for their students, and for the teamwork necessary to achieve the best possible standards. The teacher is supported by at least one teachers assistant and a number of classroom assistants. The TAs deputise for the teacher to allow for non-contact time and in the event of short-term absence.
The very nature of the work at Portfield demands a close working relationship by all in the team, including parents and residential staff. The school has a strong positive ethos, and a great deal of importance is placed on appointing good team members to a family-friendly environment.
Portfield recognises the overwhelming need to provide students with a functional means of communication at the earliest opportunity on entry to the school. This may be verbal, pictorial, symbolic or involve signing. All education at the school is based on rewarding what is good and the development of life skills is encouraged and promoted from an early age, within the context of a broad and balanced curriculum.
Use of the community is encouraged as an essential part of generalising learning and developing specific skills.
The school is also committed to the development of a total learning environment, where staff and students continually learn from each other and develop their skills and knowledge.
At Portfield, and throughout the Wessex Autistic Society, Autistic Spectrum Disorders are respected as part of individual character and differences. Staff at the school try hard to make it a fun place to learn, so that students remain keen to experience the school day.
All staff members, led by the Headteacher, take a part in managing the school, with teaching staff taking a variety of coordinating responsibilities for subject areas.
The school has a parent support group which meets at the school. Many of the parents also take part in the Friends Association, which raises funds and supports the school generally.