Copleston is proud to have partnered with Suffolk County Council to open the purpose-built Copleston Communication and Interaction Hub in September 2021. This specialist provision is for up to 18-24 pupils in Key Stage 3 and 4 who have Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) whose primary area of SEND needs is communication and interaction.
Pupils join the Hub having been diagnosed with communication and interaction need by medical professionals. All pupils have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) before coming on roll at the school. All pupils follow an admissions process through a local authority panel where their needs and aspirations are taken into account before joining the Hub. No pupils come to the hub without EHCPs or on assessment placements.
Leaders at Copleston have thought deeply about the opportunities the hub provides for this specialist group of pupils. The key driver of the hub is that wherever possible pupils learn to cope and thrive. Hub pupils are supported to re-join their mainstream peers wherever possible. Of the cohort of pupils joining this year more than half are now taking part in mainstream lessons around the school site, either full or part-time.
All the pupils joining the hub have had a challenging time in their education up to this point. Many have had a prolonged time out of school because of their SEND needs. Staff are skilled at using a low stakes, layered communication approach to quickly find the gaps in pupils' learning that have been exacerbated by their time out of school.
Pupils joining the hub are streamed into one of two class groups. All staff are trained specialists who provide a safe and caring environment where pupil anxiety can be reduced to a point where their receptive and expressive communication can be developed.
Lessons are presented in a way to maximise the pupils' opportunity to understand what is expected of them and what they need to succeed. Every step forward for every pupil is recognised and celebrated. At this point, the curriculum at the hub is a mixture of academic and therapeutic learning.
Staff at the hub are specialists chosen because of their commitment to supporting pupils with SEND. Specialist training for Hub staff ensures that the level of safeguarding needed reflects the pupil’s additional vulnerabilities.
With this in mind the school has invested in artificial intelligence robots. These allow pupils to join lessons in mainstream classes remotely from the hub. Once pupils recognise and become comfortable with the lesson environments they are working in remotely, staff then engineer opportunities to join mainstream pupils in their learning whenever possible.
Parents, carers, other professionals and specialist services are bought together through the hub to provide the support pupils need to succeed. For example, leaders know that more pupils than average have speech and language therapy plans that need to be delivered; more than average number of pupils have support for their social, emotional and mental health and staff use 'trauma informed’ practice.
The vision of leaders at Copleston is exceptionally ambitious. Using the methodology outlined above, teachers in the hub have a solid handle on pupils' starting points and a constant focus on the pupils' aspirations for the future.
As a specialist unit the progress made by the pupils’ at the hub is not directly comparable with pupils’ with SEND in the mainstream. To this end, staff have developed means of evidence gathering to show their progress. These can be found in the pupils' learning journeys, EHCPs, annual reviews, pupil progress reports and is reflected in their pen portraits.
The pupils at the hub are not automatically included in the government's ambition for the EBacc for mainstream pupils; neither are progress eight measures useful for most pupils as a performance indicator. Leaders at Copleston know the real evidence of each pupil's success at the hub and in the wider life of the school is how well each pupil is prepared for the next stage of their education, employment and/or training.