Winner - Beacon Hill School, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear
Independence is the key to helping special needs pupils make the most of their education and their lives. Travel is particularly important. Research shows that pupils become socially isolated when they leave if they have not learnt how to get around on their own.
This new special school for pupils aged three to 19 who have severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism has concentrated on encouraging independent travel. Most of its pupils come to school by taxi so they do not know how to use public transport or how to cross the road safely. Beacon Hill has its own travel training facility, with real traffic lights and pelican and zebra crossings across the car park. All the special schools and five colleges in Tyne and Wear now use it.
Three travel trainers also teach young people how to cope with independent travel. The result? Many of the pupils now travel to and from school and college on their own.
Next, it plans to set up a Metro station with a ticket machine and a platform to electronic doors that will give pupils confidence to use the real local Metro.
Teachers believe that the programme improves literacy, numeracy, behaviour, communication and confidence.
Judges' verdict: Beacon Hill was a clear winner because of its innovative approach in the important field of autism. They said: "The independent travel training facility is a wonderful initiative, promoting independence for all students. The focus on skills for life throughout the school is admirable."
The school had developed a great idea that others were adopting, they said.
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