Frequently Asked Questions
What age ranges do you accept?
We currently teach Key Stages 2 to 4 (ages 7-16) and accept new learners up to age 11. This ensures that all learners can complete our bespoke SEMH curriculum and promotes the best possible outcome for the individual.
Is it a full-time provision?
Yes, we are officially registered as a full-time Independent Special School operating 5 days a week. We follow Devon County Council’s published term dates, three of which are INSET days for our teaching staff.
Who is the school aimed at?
Our curriculum is designed to develop learners with SEMH and ASD needs. Typically, our learners are those who have struggled in mainstream settings, due to behavioural issues and high levels of anxiety. Before accepting a placement, we always consult about a learner to ensure that we can effectively cater for their needs. We aspire to break the negative cycle of failure that many of our learners have experienced in mainstream education.
How do I apply for a place?
You cannot apply for a place directly through the school. In Devon we are commissioned by the 0-25 team for places, and this would typically require learners to be permanently excluded or at risk of permanent exclusion, to be attending a PRU or other special school placement and to have an EHCP. If the Local Authority agree with you that the placement is the right one for your child, they will complete referral paperwork and commissioning procedures with The Outdoors School to secure a place for your child. The Outdoors School will not be suitable for every learner that is referred.
If your child is refused a place, the local authority have an appeals process, and where appropriate The Outdoors School can offer signposting and advice to help with this process.
If you wish to speak with the 0-25 team about requesting a place, you can contact them directly through their contact details online, or your current school SENDCo will be able to provide further details.
How much does it cost?
As places are commissioned with the local authority, there will be no direct costs to the parents; However, contributions to events, trips and other things may still apply as they would in other school settings.
How do I know if the school is suitable for my child?
We will consult with parents, carers and other agencies involved, as well as reviewing paperwork, to help decide whether we can offer a suitable placement.
How do the sites operate, and which will my child be placed at?
We have 4 sites in Devon that are registered as one school. Our sites are in Shillingford, Tiverton, South Brent and Crediton. Our Crediton site delivers KS4 only.
Learners are predominately placed based on individual needs; However, travel distance will also be factored in when looking at an appropriate placement.
What are the staff ratios like?
Typically, we aim for a minimum of 1:3 as a staff to learner ratio to ensure all learners get the support that they need to progress and achieve. Each tutor group has a Curriculum Tutor, Pastoral Tutor and Learning Support Assistant. Where it is identified through the commissioning process that a learner needs 1:1 support this will also be provided.
Is the school linked to Steiner principles in any way?
No, our ethos is linked to the Forest School ethos of creating lifelong learners.
Will the staff have training and experience with ASD and SEMH?
All staff are specialists within the field of education and support within the fields of SEMH and ASD. In addition, all staff have access to and are expected to continually develop their skills and training.
If the learner requires 1:1 support, how will that be managed?
Should a learner require 1:1 support, this will be applied through the normal EHCP process and funded in addition to the school’s annual fees.
Due to contractual constraints, learners’ current 1:1 support would, in general, not move establishments with them; However, we would provide an intensive outreach and handover period to promote a smooth transition.
If my child has an Occupational Therapist, how will this be supported?
If your child has an Occupational Therapist (OT) in place, this is separate to the school placement, meaning that they will be able to continue to meet with their OT as before. If dates and times are discussed with The Outdoors School, we will do all we can to ensure these appointments can be met or rearranged to best suit the learners.
What is your safe holding policy? Do you provide safe spaces?
During the first term, all learners establish their own safe space as part of the curriculum, which over the terms and years will develop into learning communities.
We only use physical intervention as a last resort. All staff have received appropriate training in PRICE techniques and our grounds for physical intervention will be based on safety, physical danger to self and others. All staff receive regular updates and support to avoid the use of physical interventions.
Do you have plans to work with mainstream schools to identify students that are suited to The Outdoors School?
The referral will always be made through the 0-25 team. As the school roll grows, we will be able to provide consultancy and support to schools looking to place learners with us.
My child is very aware of being treated differently, how is that managed?
The Outdoors School is a learning community and recognises that we are all different in many ways. Every learner will have access to the same core support, our community ethos will empower learners to accept these differences and to see them in a positive light.
How is the gender divide managed?
With the nature of specialist provision, male learners will often outnumber female learners. We actively challenge negative stereotypes and have a range of female lead instructors on our staff who will be able to provide effective and positive role models.
My child needs intimate care, what is your policy on this?
As with any provision, our support is tailored to individual learners. As a company, we have an intimate care policy and should the need be identified for additional support, we will provide training for staff and include details of support needed within the learner’s individual learning plan.
Where can I find more information on the referral process?
We understand that the process of dealing with schools, TAF meetings, EHCP and the 0-25 team may be overwhelming and we are happy to give guidance and signpost where possible. We recommend Devon Information, Advice and Support (DIAS) as an information source; they have an excellent website and top-quality advisors.