What does learning during non-contact times look like?
At Wandle Valley Academy we take every opportunity to support and educate our pupils on how to be a successful and positive member of society, not only in the future, but from the moment they walk out the school at the end of each day.
For many of our pupils, social time and non-contact times (unstructured times) are challenging. Understanding social norms and society’s basic expectations are not only a challenge to a majority of our pupils, but also can be the time where their behaviours become harder to manage, due to a number of factors such as heightened anxiety and over-stimulation. This is when most of our pupils really struggle to manage their ‘super powers’.
As a result, although you may not see it, non-contact times at Wandle Valley Academy are also very much about ‘learning’. Pupils playing football or running around the playground, may look exactly like that, but a lot of support and work that has gone into getting those pupils to that point, and you will see staff in ‘Hi Viz’ tabards strategically placed in particular spots so that they can support, enable and guide so that successful play is able to take place.
Respect, Honesty, Resilience, Determination and Empathy are our school values and non-contact times are a perfect time to teach the pupils to demonstrate these values.
Pupils at Wandle Valley Academy are given the opportunity to be in an environment that tries to mimic a mainstream school as much as possible. With pupils moving from classroom to classroom independently, with high numbers of staff present. Pupils have lunch in the Dining Hall, choosing their food and also where they sit. All of these activities – or processes – many of us take for granted, but for the pupils that attend Wandle Valley Academy these are some of the most challenging times of the school day.
Many of the pupils that attend Wandle Valley Academy have not taken part in any form of non-contact time ever or for a long time, due to their unsafe or challenging behaviours. This means that they need to learn how to manage themselves in order to take part in these activities. This is an ongoing process as any tiny factor, including weather, can have a profound effect.
As a result of the support from staff in preparing for and during these times, you will be able to see, hopefully, our pupils taking part successfully in non-contact time and, where it isn’t successful, someone will be on hand to support and guide. However, you may not even notice the support as it can be subtle and may just be in the form of presence, or a wink, or a smile.