Category Archives: From the School

A message from Mr Gannon, Care Manager

In the same spirit as last year, I’d like to salute first and foremost the children and young people on the tremendous courage they have shown in navigating the past 12 months. I would like to then extend this to all families for their support and understanding over what has been a tumultuous period. It is with sincere hope that you have all valued the stability that the team here at Falkland House School have offered over the course.

This past year more than any has highlighted the importance of mental health, personal and social growth. A change in culture has reflected this, with more structured outdoor pursuits and activities coming to the fore.

The boys have greatly benefitted from this vision through a number of new initiatives, including the roll out of the Duke of Edinburgh Award with Gordon Shaw, the Young Leader programme with Kevin Robb, Outdoor Learning and the Bike Club to name a few. We have been conscious to include day boys in these offerings where they exist out with the school hours, and it is our expectation that this will continue.

Managing the mental health and wellbeing of the children and young people, alongside a range of other therapeutic interventions, has also been at the forefront of our initial engagement with the group’s clinical services team, and in order to structure and put into action the array of strategies and programmes on offer we will be soon be appointing a wellbeing coordinator to lead in this area.

Another area of focus has been in promoting the independence of the boys, with work ongoing around budgeting, cooking, washing, and soon the creation of imitation bills. This in turn promotes interdependence with the boys learning how to work together as a group to manage their living area and meet their needs. In this area, we have also appointed a designated Throughcare Coordinator, Aimee Findlay, in order to more effectively prepare the young people for their next steps and ensure smooth transitions to their varied destinations.

Looking forward to next year, there is hope and anticipation for us all that the vestiges of lockdown and levels recede and we can engage the young people in more socially inclusive activities: clubs, volunteering and external work experience. We will also look to embed a variety of other initiatives, including a new set of values which will inform all aspects of our organisation.

Finally, all fingers will be crossed that the only waves encountered will be those on outdoor learning.

Patrick Gannon

A word or two from Mr Morrison, Head of Education

As we draw to the close of another academic year, it is worth noting what has been lost, what has been gained and what we can look forward to a return to next year.

Firstly, we will be losing four of our senior pupils, who will be moving on to life after Falkland House School. We wish Luca, Ryan, Sol and Harris all the best for their future as they consider the world of work, college and independent adult life.

We have also had a change of staffing within our education team as the delivery of Art has been seamlessly handed over from the capable hands of Ms Davie to the equally capable hands of Mrs Stewart.

Even in this testing year we have been able to continue learning in a consistent manner, which has allowed us to submit a substantial amount of pupils for SQA course awards, from National 2 to Adv Higher.

Next year we will be looking to further embed our Outdoor Learning curriculum and Duke of Edinburgh awards. We will also be developing entrepreneurial activities within our Contract Services Company. Congratulations must be given to Thomas and Robbie for both successfully being awarded the position of manager with the company. They will have the joint responsibility of managing their fellow pupils while producing creative ideas for improving the grounds of the school.

It will be buoying in the New Year to be able to return to normal routines within and around the school. The pupils recently enjoyed an excursion to Blair Drummond Safari park. Now that we finally have the green light to visit farther afield, we will be planning more learning experiences out with the school building.

Within the school building we are continuing to look at developments both physical and educational. In the New Year we will be introducing collegiate working groups which will focus, amongst other things, on the development of a social and emotional curriculum, whole school literacy and numeracy and interdisciplinary learning.

For the Education Team, this will involve further investment in technology and improving the aesthetic and functionality of our environment with Autism in mind.

We have reintroduced our Skills Development Scotland worker with a return to face-to-face interviews and group work. We will hopefully have more opportunities to allow our senior pupils to experience college and work experience. Two of the boys have taken advantage of the opportunity to receive work experience in the kitchen. Full thanks should be given to Mr Fearful and Mrs King, our School Cooks, for their help in making this a very positive and fruitful experience.

As we approach the end of term, we look forward to a slightly low-key Celebrating Success Day when compared to previous years. However, there are still lots of academic, whole school and personal awards to be received by pupils.

I finish by recognising that there must be a blanket praise for the fact that our young people have all navigated an uncertain and inconsistent year, which will no doubt impact upon everyone’s collective memory for years to come, but will hopefully highlight the freedoms that we all cherish but sometimes take for granted.

Paul Morrison

A letter from Mr Graham, Principal

As we approach the end of another challenging academic year, I have been reflecting with some pride on the continued successes of both Pupils and Staff at FHS. We have all experienced difficulties in the past year associated with the Coronavirus and the impact it has had on daily living.

It has meant that we have had to be creative in our approaches to the support and learning that we offer. Some of the development initiatives that we had been working towards have had to accelerate as our usual partners and venues for activities have not been available.

I am particularly proud therefore of the progress we have made in introducing more Outdoor Learning and activity to our children and young people. Particular mention must go to Mr Shaw for the work that has gone into providing the initial Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition experiences, a steep learning curve for all involved, with many of the boys showing great resilience in trading their comfortable wi-fi enabled bedrooms for a night under the stars.

Another very successful initiative has been led by Mr Robb as he has introduced the Young Leaders programme. This involves some of the older pupils working with Mr Robb to develop the skills they need to support him in delivering outdoor learning to the younger pupils. It has been hugely encouraging to witness some pupils we thought might never tear themselves away from the computer screen approach Mr Robb and ask for inclusion in the project. A huge well done to Mr Robb, the initial trainees, and the boys asking to join the process. I look forward to this initiative expanding and being even more inclusive.

By the end of the school year our new playframe will be complete. Located on the rear lawn, the play frame, designed in consultation with Climbwired the main contractor, provides us with a much needed resource. The playframe has been designed to meet basic sensory movement needs, as well as lend itself to team development, but most importantly it will provide some simple fun for children of all ages.

As a Senior Leadership Team we have created some time to consider our approaches and the culture we aspire to. The start of this process involved consideration of the school’s Core Community Values. Through a process of consultation and reflection we have agreed on the five values below, which will underpin and inform our practise and behaviours over the coming years. These values will support our discussion with the pupils, but are also a charter for the children to hold all staff to account. I thank everyone who has engaged with the agreement process.

  • Respect
  • Resilience
  • Kindness
  • Positivity
  • Aspiration

This is an important part of the developments we have made in our behaviour support policy which has been rewritten during the course of the last academic year to reflect a key message of relationships before rules.

It is my sincere hope that next year sees a return to ski trips and activity weeks, cinema trips and swimming – all of the things we had taken for granted, if we can’t, however, I am confident that we are much better placed than we were a year ago to offer the boys fun, rewarding experiences in and around the school.

We wish you all a relaxing and safe summer and hope that we can return to hosting physical events in school next year. As ever, if you would like more information on anything mentioned or to suggest ideas for further development and initiatives, please feel free to contact me.

Kind regards

Kenny Graham

DofE award activities underway

The Duke of Edinburgh programme is now well underway. The twelve students involved have embraced the programme and impressed us all with their determination and perseverance during recent training and practice expeditions. 

As part of their training the boys have covered map reading and route planning, rucksack packing, cooking safely outdoors, choosing a site, setting up a tent and clearing the camp ground afterwards.

For some of the boys, the practice expedition was the first time they had experienced camping, let alone hiking and outdoor cooking.

Duke of Edinburgh coordinator, Mr Shaw, has commended the boys for their excellent performance on the hiking segment of the expeditions despite the adversity of carrying 65 litre backpacks containing all the necessary equipment for an overnight camp. Some of the boys surprised themselves by what they were able to achieve.

All the boys did well setting up camp and enjoyed making their own dinners on a gas burner -with mixed results. As Mr Shaw rightly pointed out, at least with outdoor cooking, there is no need to worry about setting the fire alarm off!

For almost all of the boys, the overnight camp was the most challenging part of an experience which placed them well outside their comfort zone. Mr Shaw is hopeful, however, that once they reflect upon their adventure, they can build upon this experience and rise to the challenge.

We’re still in the training phase, but the next step will be the expedition assessment, which will take place after the summer holidays. The five boys working toward the Silver Award will cover approximately 22 miles over three days/2 nights camping, and the seven aiming for the Bronze Award will cover 15 miles over two days walking/1 night camping.

Good luck to all those taking part!

 

End-of-year excursion to Blair Drummond Safari Park

FHS English Teacher, Mr Stewart, reports on the whole school, end-of-year trip to Blair Drummond Safari Park

Following a year of restricted opportunities, we finally managed a whole school outing to Blair Drummond Safari Park on June 9th.

By 9:15am all boys and staff were ready to depart, armed with snacks, drinks and Mr Melville in charge of the money.  The weather was overcast but a few staff and pupils were optimistic, having decided upon shorts, t-shirt and sunglasses.

The journey through was so uneventful that one of the boys remarked “I’m disappointed by the lack of cows in the fields.”  Despite the earlier optimism regarding the weather, it started drizzling as we neared the Park.

Tickets sorted, we drove into the “wild”, stopping to see a rhino at close quarters. Some of the boys noticed a sign that read if the rhino starts walking towards you, you should drive away slowly.

This caused a bit of a panic in the Juniors’ car as the rhino started to walk towards them and their car couldn’t go forward due to the car in front of them not moving! They were very relieved when the rhino changed direction!

We moved on, deciding that our vehicles would be no match for it, and headed for the safety of the lions. Some were sensibly sheltering under trees while others showed they were true Scottish lions as they braved the drizzle.  We continued our drive through the animal reserves, seeing bison, antelope, monkeys and camels before stopping for a snack in the car park.  It was at this point we realised this was Scottish drizzle; the kind that soaks you right through! 

Undeterred by the weather, the boys headed off to enjoy the park.  Some opted for some “teacher bashing” on the dodgems, delighting in bumping into each other but mostly bumping into Mr Stewart.  The mighty fort adventure playground was enjoyed by all and the paddle boats were also a great, if wet, success.

Although there were certain areas of the animal park not open due to Covid restrictions, there were still lots of animals to see, ranging from giraffes, elephants, penguins and monkeys, to more domesticated animals in the petting zoo.  Dinosaurs roared and moved, delighting the boys as they moved round the Dinosaur Safari.

By 12:30pm the weather had improved and the boys dried out over lunch. They were able to pick from food stalls selling pizzas, burgers, wraps and sandwiches and they also had the opportunity to sit down in the restaurant to choose from the menu there.

To finish off the day, the boys had ice cream cones or ice lollies before heading back to school in extremely quiet cars! Overall, it was an excellent day, with the boys representing themselves, the school and their families well.

Blesma Workshop and Fundraiser

Mick and Owain from the Blesma Community Programme held a Making Generation R Workshop at FHS on Thursday, 21st March.

The programme aims to help young people become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges, big and small. it exposes them to the stories of people who have had to deal with and overcome great adversity, and encourages them to find coping strategies to deal with both everyday issues and bigger hurdles.

RAF Police Veteran Mick’s account of his experiences as an Arms & Explosives Search Dog Handler and of how he lost a limb following an injury in Afghanistan in 2011 quickly captured the pupils’ attention and prompted a lot of good questions from them afterwards.

One of the many meaningful messages he communicated to the boys was how important it is  to find the right strategy to cope with adversity. He described to them how finding someone he trusted to talk to helped him to deal not only with his injury but also with PTSD, and advised the boys to use this strategy themselves whenever they find themselves in difficulty.

During the workshop that followed Mick’s presentation, Owain discussed with the boys hypothetical struggles young people might face at school and at home, and encouraged them to think about good choices people in those situations could make, again getting a lot of positive feedback from the pupils.


In recognition of the amazing work the Blesma team do, our pupils did a sponsored walk on the Falkland Estate after the workshop and raised £215 for the charity, which supports injured veterans. Thank you to everyone who donated and to Mick and Owain for their truly inspiring visit.

The FHS Cabin Project

The FHS cabin project was set up to create a holistic learning experience for our pupils. The venture helps the boys develop important technical skills in areas such as maths, construction, woodwork, planning, ordering materials and PPE awareness, as well as essential life skills like problem solving, decision making, working as part of a team, and communicating effectively.

The cabin is being built in the school grounds, as far as possible using local resources.  This year we have been fortunate to have expert support from Marek and Laura from ‘Simple Shelters’ who have joined the boys and staff at Falkland House School to continue the building work.

Firstly, the boys had to think about who would be using the cabin and what it would be used for. This led to them producing ideas for a floor plan. They then took these ideas into the cabin to see how well they fitted into the actual space.

This process is known as developing a Design Brief. This is what they came up with:

To design a space for the pupils to hang out and spend time in

(approx. 6-7 boys at a time)

 It must have:

comfy seats like a sofa and bean bags

a projector to watch films and play games

a table with chairs to sit, work and eat at

a platform with a bed for staying over

a second door or hatch for a fire escape

a stove for heating and sitting around

a small fridge for food

a separate room for hammocks that also has sensory features 

The Floor Plan:

Over the past year, the boys have worked on the decking, handrail, window and door fittings, membrane fitting, circulation, batons, cladding and insulation, performing their tasks with enthusiasm and self-confidence.

Click on the link below to see the most recent photos.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Falkland-House-School-278758555572183/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1904893799625309

 

FHS Munro Challenge

Five of our pupils and two staff members will be scaling a Munro on October 2nd to raise money for charity. The boys were asked to select a charity of their choice, and they unanimously agreed that Save the Children would be a very worthwhile cause.

They’ve been busy walking hills and forests over the past few months to prepare themselves for bagging their first Munro.

In this short video, three of the boys taking part in this challenge explain why your support is so very important.

The FHS Munro Challenge

We've had a fantastic response to the FHS Munro Challenge in aid of Save the Children! Many thanks to all those who have already so generously donated on our Just Giving page. In this short video, three of the pupils who will be tackling the climb on October 2nd explain why your support is so important.

Posted by Falkland House School on Monday, September 17, 2018

 

Towards independence and independent living

Falkland House School’s shortlisting for a TES Independent School Award is thanks to the success of its innovative independence programme, which focuses on teaching pupils the skills they’ll need for independent living.

Having autism or learning and attention issues like ADHD can make it difficult to acquire certain basic skills that we commonly believe are simple enough to be learned without direct teaching and guided practice. Mastering these skills bolsters our pupils’ confidence and their willingness to try new experiences, increasing their chances for future success in all aspects of life.

Over the last year, the school has taken a number of steps to develop its independence programme, including appointing two independence development workers whose task it is to work with class groups and individuals, planning and delivering learning experiences linked to the FHS independence programme.

Pupils, parents, keyworkers, teachers and associated professionals are all involved in determining where individual pupils require support, and in setting short- and long-term targets for them. Thus the programme is personalised and focuses on specific areas that are relevant to each boy’s needs and requirements.

The independence skills are split into 12 areas:

  • Domestic
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Job Skills
  • Life Management
  • Managing Money
  • Nutrition
  • Safety
  • Self-care
  • Social Media & Internet Skills
  • Time
  • Travel
  • Miscellaneous

Skills are learned in real life situations where more than one skill may be needed to achieve a positive outcome. Problems and difficulties are introduced in a supported setting to eliminate meltdowns and develop self-regulation.

Over recent months, the pupils have looked at the following topics in class:

  • Internet safety
  • Learning about the facts and harmful effects of alcohol and smoking.
  • Raising awareness of anti-bullying week.
  • Treating others equally regardless of their gender, race, culture, religion or sexuality, whilst learning about how discrimination can affect people.
  • Encouraging pupils to have the confidence to voice their thoughts and opinions on topics whilst listening to their peers and being respectful of others’ views.
  • Learning about the background of the Poppy Appeal.
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Learning how to take turns and be good team players.

Meanwhile, beyond the classroom and on a more practical level, the boys have been busy with the following projects:

  • Independent travel.
  • Budgeting skills and shopping trips, developing their ability to manage money and increasing confidence in their interpersonal skills.
  • Planning a trip to the pantomime, which has involved researching suitable dates and times, restaurants and menus, travel and purchasing tickets, then making telephone calls to make bookings and reservations.
  • One of the pupils has applied for his provisional driving licence; he has been studying for the theory test and achieving good percentages.
  • Planning the next school ski trip to Glenshee in March 2018. This has required them to research and price transport, accommodation, ski equipment hire etc.
  • Learning about food hygiene and nutrition whilst working on developing their cookery skills. This has involved researching recipes for healthy balanced meals whilst sourcing the ingredients within a set budget, then cooking the meal and cleaning up afterwards.
  • Learning how to do their own laundry, including using a washing machine, reading labels, stain treatment, hanging clothes to dry, using a tumble dryer, ironing, folding and putting clothes away.

The independence development workers commented on their role:

“The Independence Programme focuses on building confidence and resilience in the pupils and it is rewarding to see them progress in a variety of settings both in and outwith the school. Our role is to encourage and support the pupils to complete tasks and deal with situations they will encounter when living independently. It is very satisfying to see them managing situations outside their comfort zone, whilst also developing practical skills they will use throughout their life.“

Here are some of the comments they have received from the pupils:

“We are learning life skills in fun and practical ways”

“I have become more socially confident”

“I’m looking forward to learning to travel independently”

“I can’t wait to go on the ski trip that we have been planning in class”

TES Independent School Awards 2018

The shortlist for the TES Independent School Awards was announced last Friday, and we’re delighted that Falkland House School is on that list!

The awards recognise outstanding examples of best practice in the independent sector, and a total of 97 schools from all over the UK have been shortlisted across 14 categories, with Falkland House one of only two Scottish schools to reach the final stages.

This is the third time in four years that the school has been a contender for a prestigious TES Schools award.

This year, the school has been commended for its innovative Independence Programme, and is one of four finalists for the Special Needs Initiative of the Year Award.

The school’s director, Stuart Jacob, said: “Research has shown that one of the most important predictors of positive outcomes in adulthood is the mastery of a variety of self-care skills. With this in mind, Falkland House School has developed an independence programme which runs alongside the school’s Personal & Social Development curriculum and offers an innovative approach to daily living skills and preparing the pupils for their future. The skills taught bolster the boys’ confidence and their willingness to try new experiences and, as a result, increase their chances for future success in all aspects of life.”

Winners will be revealed during a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 8th February, 2018.