The majority of children who leave Arc School Old Arley go onto mainstream colleges – a very important achievement as this means the children who join the school, after having painful and unsuccessful experiences in other schools – can access the fullest range of courses and stand a higher chance of accessing employment opportunities in their chosen field.
Key to this achievement is the role of Behaviour Lead Mat Dymeck, whose been in his current role for five years and worked at Old Arley – like many of the leadership team – for over a decade.
“Behaviour isn’t about being ‘good’ or being punished – which is a surprise to some of the children and even their parents when they start here. For us behaviour is about accessing learning and achieving academic potential. Behaviour’s about learning the social skills to be successful in life.
“Many of our children suffer from trauma, which we know has lifelong impact on brain development and behaviour. Others have autism, which can make social interactions more challenging.
“Whilst academic theories are interesting, and I keep up to date with research and, crucially, the work of others across the Kedleston Group in other schools, the key to my job is listening to the kids, finding out their wants and likes, and making sure we deliver what they need in order to be able to get more insight into their own behaviour and manage it better. Schools are there to serve children, and need to adapt, and that’s something we are very good at here at Old Arley. We’ll look at a range of strategies – movement breaks, sensory items, 1-2-1 time out, reward systems and compression items under clothing. It’s problem solving.
“Getting children to understand why they did something that they did, exploring what’s happened at home, all of these are part of our work and the changes we see in pupils over the weeks and months is a fantastic reward for that work. Whether it’s seeing one girl recently bring in sweets for her whole class and happily share them, when she had found relationships with peers very difficult, or a child who has been let down by his Mum and is in care, learn to manage the disappointment so it doesn’t affect their relationships or learning at school…there are so many little rewards.”
The school hosts an awards evening every November for returning Year 11 pupils, and the success and happiness of pupils is also the subject of emails from parents long after children have finished their time at Old Arley. Mat says:
“I want every Year 11 leaving us to have a toolbox of strategies that they can use to communicate their needs, understand what drives their behaviour.”