Yesterday DH (dear husband) and I went along for two hours to a reception class at an OFSTED outstanding school. We were in the reception class which is made up of 60 children, two teachers, several teaching assistants and two special needs assistants. It was amazing!
There are two classes which split into 30 although small groups come together during the day depending upon their needs. We were introduced to the class then sat through a lesson talking about the development of a butterfly using photos on a white board. I had to go and sit by the sweetest little boy who was so placid. I could barely hear him above the din of children talking to each other about what they could see. A group of children had to pick people to go and do a task at a table. He was chosen and my heart sang as I feared he would be left out. I was later told that he was behind a year as he had developmental delay.
DH was left to work with individuals on numeracy and memory whilst I went with a small group which included a little girl who has severe autism. They had to pick leaves and pieces of natural things found in the treelined play ground. The assistant told me that she is the little girls carer whilst in school. She told me all about her behaviour and how she needs to be dealt with to ensure she is happy and learns with the group. This was my first experience of autism.
I noticed how she was with the children but never made eye contact, she seemed to be in a world of her own. Her carer told me how amazing and fulfilling it is to work with her but how it’s good in school due to the structure but mum and dad have a tough time at home. She said her dad is sad that she can’t just chat with him, her only conversations are practical – about her needs. In other areas of her learning she is very advanced such as reading.
Throughout the day we played the dough disco (dancing/fitness with dough) and I had two small group sessions one to develop social skills of looking at people when you talk, listening not shouting out and coaxing quieter children to speak. The second was a speech therapy one to one.
DH was ushered into assembly and sat at the side of his little group. Within minutes he was surrounded by other classes who filled the hall around him. They were all looking at him (now sat in the centre) as he wasn’t doing the actions to the song so he reluctantly got involved. He said if anyone had seen him he would have died – this big man sat cross legged in hundred children!
What a few hours it was and what an amazing class. They had structured the few hours so well and couldn’t be helpful enough. It gave us a real insight into a good school and the varying degrees of children’s development at that age. The children were so lovely and took care of each other, it was lovely to see. I couldn’t help but imagine what the background of these children is, particularly those who have developmental delay – is it nature or is it nurture?
I’m going back in two weeks, can’t wait.