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Being individuals

When the health accreditation team descended on Campsie View special school, it was a dreadful day - at least in one respect, says Helen McLauchlan, principal teacher.

"They arrived in the middle of a snowstorm and all the school buses were late. It was one of those days when you felt that everything that could happen was happening."

It was certainly an unpropitious start to the culmination of weeks of work at the school. "We had begun just before Christmas, and at one point we had two tables full of documentation - IEPs, children's folders, photographs, curriculum documents, all the things we needed to support what we were doing.

"I remember looking at this stuff and wondering what to do with it. But once I started cross-referencing and relating it to the quality indicators, it started to fall into place."

Preparations for the visit had begun with a walk-through of the school, says Ms McLauchlan. "I wanted to see what was going on from the point of view of someone coming into the school for the first time.

"It was amazing - lots of things on the walls that hadn't been done specifically for health accreditation were really relevant to it. There were photos of kids walking the West Highland Way, a display of one class doing a young enterprise project, two others with healthy eating themes.

That was all before we got into the details of the audit."

From a selection of documents on health promoting schools, Campsie View used three for guidance during the audit and to help structure their evidence-gathering for the big day. These were Being Well - Doing Well, a self-evaluation document from HM inspectors, and an audit tool produced by East Dunbartonshire.

"We didn't have to devise any new documents," says Ms McLauchlan. "It was a matter of gathering evidence for each of the quality indicators, and cross-referencing all the materials for the team to look at when they came in."

Ethos, being rather intangible, was the hardest quality indicator to find evidence for: "People coming into school say there is a very positive feeling, but that's hard to validate. But our drive for fairness and equality, for instance, came out in the wide range of opportunities our children get to access that are available in the mainstream."

Valuable assistance to human brains trying to pick a path through paperwork was provided by visual aids and photographs: "There is a map in the health promoting school toolkit we got from the authority that has all the quality indicators colour-coded," says Ms McLauchlan.

"We used a lot of photographic evidence, and I backed them with the same colour as the indicator they related to. The accreditation team found that very helpful. They also liked other visual forms of evidence around the school, like a ceramic mural made out of fruit, which the kids had made with the help of a specialist who had come in."

In the end, the team marked Campsie View better than the school did themselves. The school got a glowing report and full marks in all nine quality indicators.

The single most important feature of a health promoting school is that its focus is on individual young people, not on rigid rules about healthy eating or exercise, says Carol Bowie, headteacher.

"That's more obvious to us as a special school with a wide range of children's needs. You have to work with the person you've got, not try to turn them into somebody else. What we have learnt is that health promotion is not just part of personal and social development. It is embedded across the curriculum. I think we knew that already. But the accreditation exercise clarified it in our minds."

* www.healthpromotingschools.co.uk

Links to Being Well - Doing Well and HMIE advice on using quality indicators for self-evaluation and accreditation www.healthpromotingschools.co.ukpractitionerslearningandteachingindex.asp

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