Teamwork has come to the fore in a new way of teaching implemented at Prior’s Court as part of our multi-faceted response to the challenges posed by coronavirus.

Since the end of March, teaching at Prior’s Court has transitioned from being based within our school buildings to, largely, based within our residential homes.

This was to reduce the number of inter-person contacts on site, as our classes are made up of young people from different residential homes and a small number of day pupils.

This transition has also included:

  • Introducing new timetables
  • Planning to ensure multiple house groups do not go into the same learning areas (such as our horticulture or Countryside Learning Centre areas) at the same time
  • Assigning teachers and Education Autism Practitioners to teach in only one residential home, as far as practically possible. Autism Practitioners in our Residential function have only worked in one home during this period, again, as far as practically possible.
  • Creating generalised and personalised social stories to help our young people understand coronavirus and the changes going on around them.

Staff members from both our Education and Residential functions have worked to ensure the successful implementation of this new way of learning, in which the core facets of the Prior Approach have been retained and our young people’s learning goals are still being worked towards.

Meanwhile, learning resources have been provided to the parents of our young people who chose to have their children at home during the coronavirus pandemic so far and our small number of day pupils have also been successfully catered for.

This is in addition to numerous other changes made across the organisation, previously referenced, and documented here.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, staffing has always remained at a safe level.

Simultaneously to the changes in delivering learning, we moved to support all staff members. This included the creation of a mental health resources guide, revisions to absence policy due to coronavirus, making alternative lodgings available for contact staff to reside in to shield vulnerable family members, staff who were able to embracing working from home, and ensuring supplies of PPE and cleaning equipment were maintained.

Mike Robinson, Prior’s Court Foundation Chief Executive Officer, said: “Thanks to an organisation wide-effort, Prior’s Court has risen to meet the challenges that coronavirus has presented to us so far, including ensuring education continues to be provided to our young people.

“At all times, the health and wellbeing of our young people and our staff is our top priority.

“As many of our young people live at Prior’s Court for 52 weeks of the year, continuing to be able to provide care is essential.

“But it is equally important to continue to provide education to our young people to continue developing their skills and independence. How we delivered learning had to be adapted swiftly, but in a safe and effective way, while ensuring our young people were still working towards accredited qualifications. This involved focusing on ASDAN qualification modules which could be delivered within residential settings. Sections and sub-sections within the modules have also allowed us to monitor student progress, as to ensure their education is not negatively impacted by the changes, and provide evidence of development of skills.

“These adjustments were not made lightly, as our young people can find change very difficult. Through techniques such as social stories, schedules and structure, we were able to communicate these changes, and others made to life at Prior’s Court, effectively and introduce a new routine.

 “Our education and residential teams have reported positive outcomes from our adjusted approach, which have created stronger bonds between staff members, staff and the young people, and within the young people’s own peer groups.

“Of course, we are not complacent. There are challenges we still face and there will be challenges still to come. But the end of a term of embedding our adapted learning methods is a time to reflect and we are deeply proud as an organisation of what we have achieved so far.

“These achievements are down to the dedication, adaptability, creativity and passion of our members of staff, the support of the parents of our young people, and our young people themselves, who have taken these changes in their stride.”