At Pennthorpe, it is our policy to appreciate the individuality of all the children who come into our care, and to support and nurture their physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, irrespective of their starting points. Recognising a child can be both challenged and gifted in different areas, we have brought our Special Educational Needs and Gifted and Talented provision together to form our Individual Educational Needs programme. By doing so, we are able to provide highly tailored learning journeys for our pupils. Here is an overview of how the programme operates within the Upper School:
Stretching the Academically Able:
- Differentiated Core Provision
For pupils who show special academic promise it is the policy of the school to ensure differentiated provision for that pupil in order to maximise his/her achievement potential. That differentiation will usually take place within the child’s own chronological age group, though in rare circumstances the child may be invited to move ahead a year. In the Upper School, the plan for differentiated provision is undertaken by the Individual Educational Needs Coordinator, in conjunction with subject teachers, the Deputy Head, Academic and the Headmistress.
- The Talent Pool
Beyond the tailoring of normal course work, academically strong Upper School children will be invited to take part in Pennthorpe’s Talent Pool programme. These workshops, tutorials and special events take place on Saturday mornings throughout the term.
- Academic Scholars and Common Entrance Preparation
At the end of Year 7, recommendations are made for 13+ scholarships across a wide range of disciplines. Those put forward as Academic Scholars will follow a curriculum of preparation to sit the full suite of CASE examinations.
Stretching and Supporting Pupils in the Middle:
There is no such thing as ‘the forgotten middle’ at Pennthorpe. Quite the opposite. Being ‘fairly decent’ at lots of things denotes versatility: a highly distinguished talent in itself. These ‘package deal’ characters make the strongest candidates for All Rounder scholarships, so we will be tailoring their studies for maximum performance across a wide range of disciplines. Keeping class sizes small enables our teachers to get to know the particular learning styles of each pupil, and to introduce learning strategies to play to those strengths. Classes are loosely ability streamed to ensure everyone is working at optimum level, with plenty of opportunity to provide ‘extra boosts’ in particular subjects or concepts as required – whether that be to address difficulties or nurture emerging talents.
Common Entrance and 13+ Scholarship Preparation:
At Pennthorpe we offer a highly tailored course of 13+ Scholarship and CE preparation. At the end of Year 7, recommendations will be made for scholarships and each pupil’s Year 8 course of study tailored accordingly. Pupils not pursuing the Academic Scholar course of study will sit CE examinations only in English, Maths and Science, giving greater curricular freedom to develop talents, research skills and portfolios in non-CE subjects for which they may be pursuing scholarships.
Stretching the Artistically Gifted:
From Year 5 pupils are invited to join the Art Club, in which advanced individually tailored projects are discussed and set. During this time, members work towards developing scholarship standard projects and portfolios.
Stretching the Athletically Gifted:
In most cases we are able to ability group our pupils for sports and PE, stretching both the athletically gifted and those still developing skills. The fixtures list is extensive and we regularly nominate children for Area, Regional, Academy and County trial and assessment days in a range of sports. Talented children are encouraged to enter for Sports Scholarships to their Senior Schools and Sports Clinics are arranged regularly and taught by both staff members and visiting specialist coaches.
Stretching the Musically Gifted:
In the music department, gifted pupils are recognised from an early age and may be offered a music scholarship or bursary to help with instrumental tuition. We also offer theory and one-to-one help with senior school scholarship preparation. Pupils are encouraged to perform as much as possible and are provided many opportunities to do so.
Stretching the Theatrically Gifted:
For those gifted in the performing arts, there are extra-curricular opportunities as well as differentiated learning within the core curriculum. Besides the conventional afterschool drama and theatre clubs, we also offer LAMDA training and, when the time comes, one-to-one scholarship coaching from the Head of Department. There are many performance opportunities within our core drama provision, with leading roles offered to the most able drama students within each year group.
Supporting Learning Difficulties:
By the start of Upper School, any learning difficulties will normally have been identified and plans set in motion to overcome barriers. Our Three Wave system still provides the strategy for provision as follows:
- Wave One: Quality First Teaching
All class and subject teachers at Pennthorpe tailor their lessons, learning strategies and prep work to meet the needs of higher, lower and middle ability children. Those identified as still struggling in a particular subject or with a particular concept are recommended for Wave Two support below.
- Wave Two: Additional Support
When it is deemed a pupil would benefit from additional support, we make use of Teaching Assistants and/or small group teaching by the class teacher both during and outside of normal lesson time. In addition, the Individual Needs Coordinator (INCo) begins to work with identified pupils to plug gaps in literacy and numeracy skills. Inclusion of pupils in these groups is fluid and parents are made aware informally.
- Wave Three: Further Support
Pupils not making expected progress despite Wave Two support above will begin to receive 1:1 support within the Learning Support Department. Pupils will normally have an additional 50 minutes of individual specialist tuition per week, following an individually planned programme. At this stage collaboration may be sought from outside agencies such as an educational psychologist, speech and language therapist or occupational therapist to ensure we offer the very best support to the individual pupil.
Our highly tailored programme of learning is perhaps the single greatest advantage of a Pennthorpe education. As an independent school, Pennthorpe is ‘just big enough’: we are able to offer a full range of high calibre subject faculty, supported with excellent specialist resources, and with sufficient pupil numbers to compete strongly across a wide range of disciplines; yet our small class sizes and excellent pupil teacher ratios enable us to craft a highly customised learning journey for every child in our care.