Herons Dale School caters for pupils with a diverse range of needs, including PMLD, CLDD, SLD, MLD and ASD. We believe ‘Communication is the key’ to success and everything we do is geared towards developing communication and language skills. We strive to ensure all pupils master functional communication and beyond. We ensure this by using a ‘Total communication’ approach.  We empower every pupil to be confident that their ‘voice’ matters and is always heard. We believe providing a language and literacy-rich environment that enhances our pupil’s learning experience.

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Herons Dale School aims to provide its pupils with:

Happy days filled with learning
A happy and relaxed child will be able to engage in CLL learning.

Experiences which develop a fit and healthy lifestyle
A variety of strategies and approaches in the delivery of CLL ensures that this is the case facilitating access to and understanding of a wide range of physical and practical activities.

Relevant, broad, balanced, creative and inclusive curriculums
Herons Dale teachers use a range of curriculums to ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop skills in communication, language and literacy skills and use them in a practical meaningful way.

Opportunities to be part of the community
Educational Visits provide opportunities for pupils to Use & Apply their knowledge in a wider field e.g. expressing their needs, enquiries or feelings in a positive way to the wider community. Volunteers are encouraged to read with our leaners, allowing them to share their skills and learn from members of the wider community. We ensure all our learners learn to write for different purposes and audiences and share this within our school and our wider community.

Nurturing relationships
Achievements in CLL are celebrated together and where appropriate, our pupils are encouraged to work collaboratively and reflect on their learning through sharing work and experiences. We come together every week in Star of the Week assembly to celebrate achievements including but not exclusive to CLL.

Stimulating learning environments where pupils feel safe and secure
Herons Dale offers an environment which is rich in communication styles and opportunities. It is a language and literacy rich environment allowing promotion and modelling safe practice and healthy options

Diverse and personalised approaches to learning
An environment which enhances communication, language and literacy (CLL) learning and encourages children to Use & Apply their knowledge, consolidate concepts, rehearse skills and use CLL in a functional way.

All-encompassing communication
Herons Dale teachers are keen to make our children aware of the importance of functional communication by using a ‘Total communication’ approach to empower every pupil to be confident that their ‘voice’ is always heard.

Life skills development
We always strive to ensure that pupils are able to generalise the skills they have learnt, at a pace which supports the development of confidence, in order to help prepare them for their future. We support the understanding and use of Total communication with parents, carers and transport staff to allow application in real life situations.

Encouragement and support to have respect, confidence and resilience
We always strive to ensure that pupils are able to generalise the skills they have learnt, at a pace which supports the development of confidence, in order to help prepare them for their future. We support our learners in multiple ways including using our Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog to build the confidence of hesitant readers.

The Curriculum

The school’s curriculum is based on the National Curriculum, the Early Years Foundation Stage (modified and expanded to greater meet the needs of our pupils on all possible learning pathways) and is supplemented by Equals. The writing continuum, an in-house resource generated to support teachers to choose approaches and strategies, supports the teaching and learning of writing. Teachers also have access to other curriculums to ensure that the needs of all of our children are being fully catered for. In situations where other curriculums are being utilised, this will have been rigorously planned for in liaison with the Senior Leadership Team.

Other curriculums which we use include:
• NCCA Ireland Curriculum
• Penny Lacey

Staff plan together to help ensure continuity and progression and they meet regularly to evaluate the curriculum on offer and to update the school’s policy documents on each curriculum area. All teachers work closely with Speech and language therapist, where the need is identified, to ensure therapeutic communication and language targets are supported as an integral part of the pupils learning experience.

We ensure that we maximise each child’s learning opportunities and that they have access to a broad and balanced curriculum. Our Schemes of Work ensure that our pupils are introduced to a wide range of CLL skills across the following areas:

• Communication; Listening and attention
• Communication; understanding
• Communication; speaking
• Spoken language
• Listening and understanding
• Reading; word reading
• Reading; comprehension
• Writing; transcription
• Writing; composition
• Writing; vocabulary, grammar and punctuation

Pupils are given opportunities to explore and develop CLL concepts and skills in a practical and meaningful way. We always strive to ensure that pupils are able to generalise the skills they have learnt in order to help prepare them for adult life.