Craig Y Parc School

Using SwitchIT.

Established in 1955, Craig-y-Parc is part of the Charity SCOPE and provides education and residential care to children and young adults aged 4 - 19 with cerebral palsy and related conditions in a purpose-built school attached to a 17th Century manor house near Cardiff.

The school provides access to the National Curriculum for pupils who have a wide range of needs and abilities. Each pupil is assessed by a multidisciplinary team including teachers, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and care staff and personalized learning pathways are created to enable him or her to progress educationally, physically and personally.

The emphasis is on finding forms of teaching and activities, which are appropriate to each child. Riding, hydrotherapy, sport and the school's nature trail and sensory room all play a part in encouraging the children to become mobile and independent. The school is a Centre of Excellence for move and provides Conductive Education and Sensory Motor support.

ICT plays a key role in supporting and enabling children to gain access to the curriculum and to develop the ability to communicate effectively both in social and academic settings. One of the aims of the school is that the skills developed are generalised by the young people in other settings and as such the young people access the wider community to develop these skills in a wide variety of social settings.

The Assistive Technology Manager, Mr Peak works closely with the pupils, teachers, parents, and staff from a variety of agencies including SALT and Occupational Therapy within the school to facilitate access to curriculum resources. A system has been set up in the school where Mr. Peak looks at the unique access method that an individual child would need to access learning. He creates resources then transfers them into a format that enables the child to access and develop their independence. This helps everyone to work together to meet the shared goals of all the agencies involved within the school.

On admission to school, Mr. Peak undertakes an assessment of the best way for a child to use ICT to aid computer control and communication. He then identifies products and techniques, which can best aid the child. This information is put into packs, which enable the class teacher and support assistants to tailor resources to the needs of the individual child.

The school wanted to provide opportunities for the children within the school to work together in structured situations to develop their communication skills. The use of interactive technology was seen as the ideal way to get the children to develop both their communication and ICT skills to help them access both the curriculum and to develop the skills that they will need through the school and later in life.

The Assistive Technology Manager, Mr. Peaks identified the use of touch screen interaction with engaging software as being something which could facilitate such activities. It was though kept in mind that the interaction of the children would need to be supported by teachers or support assistants who would need training to use both the technology and the new software that would accompany it to get the best out of the sessions.

The school purchased two 50 inch Interactive Plasma screens which solved many of the accessibility problems associated with many white boards when used with children in schools. These Interactive Plasma Screens were mounted on height adjustable stands which enabled children who require wheel chair access to be able to get up close to the board and be able to interact by touching it whilst also enabling the screens to be moved around the school as required.

Additional software was purchased to accompany the interactive screens which made use of the interactivity features that they presented. The screens were used with products such as SwitchIT! which enabled children who could not control the interactive screen with touch to still use the software using wireless infra red switches which could be used with the activities to control the software.

The school has trained teaching and non teaching staff in the use of the screens and the new software within the school and staff are confident in using the technology. The quality of the activity though is enhanced by the interaction between the adult in the setting and the children during the activity to model language and pose questions to the children for them to respond to.

The children and young people enjoy using the technology and software and are really keen and motivated during the activities. They quickly grasped the control elements using either the switches or the touch screen itself to interact with the program and each other be it through responding to questions posed by the support assistant or prompting their partner to click their switch or touch their part of the screen.

Without the height adjustability of the screen though there would be limitations to the use of the plasma screen as there are children and young adults in the school from the ages of 3 to 19 who have different requirements in terms of access to equipment and so without the ability to change the height of the board they would not be able to use the technology.

The quality of the interaction between the children has improved through working together on the activities that the different types of software provide and the school is looking to make further investments in this area in the future.