News

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.

Fundraising Fun

Every year, the Events Committee at Falkland House School organises two fundraising events. One of these is our Wear It Pink Day, when the whole school is involved in a pink bonanza to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Now charity and the life-saving research projects they fund.

Once again, the day was a great success. The event is always a lot of fun and the pupils look forward to it every year. Their expectations were high and they weren’t disappointed!

The school’s assembly hall was awash with pink, and the pupils threw themselves into the spirit of things, donning everything from pink hats and wigs to sunglasses and tutus! The staff didn’t let the side down either, sporting various hues of pink too. With a small donation the boys could roll the penny, try their hand at Hoopla, take a hit at the piñata, guess the name of the cuddly toy or the number of sweets in a jar, browse the book stall or buy some delicious homemade goodies on the cake stall. And as always, the Tombola stall with its fantastic selection of prizes donated by staff and parents drew the biggest crowd.

Our thanks to everyone who helped us raise a total of £340 for this very important cause.

Click below to see our photo album.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1427437467370947.1073741846.278758555572183&type=3

 

Good Citizenship Award

Every year, a Good Citizenship Award is presented to one of the pupils. A selected panel from the school considers a number of guidelines before choosing the best candidate for the award.

Before presenting the award at this year’s ceremony, PC Whittaker explained to the audience the reasons behind the panel’s choice:

“Looking back at this school year we have seen this pupil grow and make some extraordinary changes. His aim was, like most young people, to try and do well at the school and make some friendships along the way. He has achieved all of this and much more. Along with his educational, sports and community attainments which have been mentioned earlier, there have been notable acts of kindness and empathy. For example, we observed him helping new pupils settle in when they arrived at the school, noticed him being polite and friendly when meeting people and giving up his own time to feed and take care of the school’s chickens even during the cold winter days.

He is a highly respected member of our school community because he thinks and puts others before himself. The effort and attitude that he has shown throughout the year and his enthusiasm to learning is remarkable.

Community Police, along with the school, would like to present the Good Citizenship Award to Bradley.”

Very well done, Bradley!

Wishing Ruairidh and Marcus all the best

With staff, pupils and their families gathered at FHS for Celebrating Success Day, this was the perfect occasion to salute two of our pupils – Ruairidh and Marcus – who are leaving the school at the end of this academic year.

Mr. Storrie looked back at their time at Falkland House School:

“There can be no doubt that Ruairidh’s time at Falkland House School has been a resounding success. Over a period of five years we have witnessed Ruairidh grow into a confident young man who has worked hard to earn his place at college and to live independently when he leaves the school.

Ruairidh did particularly well when he gained entry to the Computer Games course at Fife College two years ago. It is a particularly difficult course to get in to and requires a set of well-developed mathematical skills. Although a challenge, Ruairidh’s application and hard work ensured that he would be successful.

Ruairidh made the switch from school pupil to college student well, largely because he was settled and secure within his Falkland surroundings and had the support of a dedicated team of care workers to help keep him on track. A highly popular pupil, his infectious enthusiasm is apparent to everyone he meets.

We, at Falkland, wish him every success as he commences NC Level 6 in Interactive Design and Digital Technologies at Edinburgh College. An integral member of the Falkland Family, we will, of course, miss him though we fully expect to hear from Ruairidh frequently when he comes back to visit us and to anticipate further success when he eventually throws the books away and enters the world of work in the not-so-distant future.”

 

“Marcus is another of our long-standing students who, this year, makes the critical transition from school to college. Ever since Marcus took up a post on the school’s Grounds Maintenance Programme, he was set for a career in Horticulture. A successful in-fill at Perth College quickly led to the offer of an unconditional place on the Access to Horticulture Course and this year will see Marcus commence his journey towards a career in local authority environmental services, or with a private landscaping company.

Renowned at Falkland House for his fierce competitive spirit in sport, Marcus is a bit of an all-rounder and it will be no surprise if he distinguishes himself as a rugby player, runner, boxer or footballer in the years to come. We wish him every success and trust that he too will come back to visit us and help to inspire those younger pupils at the school he knows well to go on and achieve similar success.”

Throughcare at FHS

Over the last year, we’ve been developing the processes we use to support positive transitions for our pupils, and we can happily report that these developments have led to excellent results. When the new term starts in August, five of our pupils will be attending NC level 5 courses which will run alongside an academic programme in school, as well as ongoing independence development work.

The school provides the boys with all the support they need to engage successfully with further education. Coordinated by FHS English teacher Mr. Storrie, and working in conjunction with Mr Thomson of Skills Development Scotland, the boys use software and discussion groups to explore their interests and aptitudes. They then research options for education, training and employment. The school also offers them varied work experiences to allow them to make informed choices about future pathways, and organises college visits so they can learn about college life as well as find out more about course options.

A number of new courses have been accessed over the last few months, including some highly competitive ones such as the coveted NC 5 Music Course at Perth College. We are delighted that Hugh has been offered a place on this course after sailing through a demanding interview involving an individual performance, numeracy assessment and impromptu band performance.

Moreover, next term Kieran will be attending NC Sport and Fitness at Fife College Stenton, Lucas NC Business, Hospitality and Tourism at Fife College Kirkcaldy, Alfie NC Computing at Stenton Campus and Aaron Photography at Fife College Dunfermline.

The range of courses they’ll be attending is testimony to the truly individual and tailored support each pupil gets at FHS.

Our heritage heroes

Towards the end of May, staff and pupils at FHS were given a chance to connect with the past when they were invited by the Centre for Stewardship at Falkland Estate to take part in an archaeological dig on the East Lomond Hill. They unanimously agreed it was a great experience.

During the day-long dig, they learned a lot about the hills, local history and the archaeological heritage of the Hillfort and surrounding area. What’s more, they helped to unearth a number of important artefacts as well as the structural remains of a Bronze Age cairn which housed an ancient burial box called a cist.

The boys once again proved to be great ambassadors for the school, impressing everyone with the energy and effort they put into their trowelling, recording and sieving.

As a follow up to the dig, they then took part in a number of workshops held at the school and organized by OJT Archaeology and Archaeology Scotland. The workshops gave them a better understanding of what the working life of an archaeologist involves. Again, the activities were greeted with great interest and enthusiasm. The workshops allowed them to apply some academic skills such as map reading, mathematics and functional literacy to practical tasks like plane table surveying, map regression and monument recording.

These events have given the boys an insight into Scottish history, and hopefully piqued their interest in the heritage on their doorstep as well as further afield. Moreover, all those who participated have gained an Archaeology Scotland Heritage Hero Award at Explorer or Detective level.

 

 

FHS Ski Trip to Italy

In the early hours of Sunday the 5th March 2017, 8 pupils and 4 staff members from Falkland House School set off on the first foreign holiday undertaken by the school. For the last three years an annual ski trip to Glenshee has been on offer to the boys. This has been in preparation for our most ambitious excursion so far, a week-long trip to the resort of Pila in the Aosta Valley in Northern Italy.

To be considered for a place on the trip, the boys had to be in S4 to S6 and had to have previously successfully completed a ski trip in Scotland. The Ski Trip is provided by the School for a number of reasons. It creates an opportunity to deliver units of the Personal and Social Development Award which is administered by the SQA. This involves the boys considering their skills and abilities in a range of situations and setting targets for their personal development. It also provides them with the opportunity to practise a range of skills that we promote in the school related to independence and resilience. Moreover, relationships between pupils and staff are strengthened.

The boys have to make a personal financial contribution towards the cost of the trip. This can be done through engagement with the schools Contract Service Company which provides employment opportunities. In doing this we hope to make a connection between effort and reward.

And of course there is also the simple but no less important reason that it creates the chance for them to experience a fun holiday.

The boys each had tasks allocated to them prior to leaving which related to some aspect of the planning and organisation. This may have been preparing an equipment list for the group or searching for the best Euro exchange rate. They also had to take some responsibility for organising themselves, such as ensuring their passport was in order and applying for a European Health Card.  Moreover, they contributed to the risk management process and were involved in discussions about what to do if problems occurred and what they needed to do to stay safe. Whenever possible, all of the boys were actively engaged in the preparations. Regarding the trip to the Bureau de Change, for example, one pupil could have completed this task, but they all went so that they could learn what to do and where to do it.

The flight to Geneva left Glasgow at 08.00. We made sure that we were in Glasgow in plenty of time to go through check-in, again taking the time to explain each process to the boys. This did not prevent at least one lad trying to get some Irn Bru through security! Landing in Geneva we then had a two-hour transfer through France to Aosta via the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Often the transfer is considered something to be endured, but the scenery made the journey both enjoyable and memorable. The boys were excited by the fact that they had visited four countries in one day. Passing through the Alps, seeing and then traveling under Mont Blanc all added to the excitement and anticipation of the week ahead.

ski 1

On the approach to the airport over Lake Geneva

We arrived in Aosta in the early afternoon. Aosta is a town with a population of over forty thousand. The Interski offices and stores which are next to the cable car that leads to Pila are located in a fairly industrial and rather unattractive part of the town. This created a poor first impression. However, once we arrived at the Roma Hotel, any concerns we had were quickly overcome. The Hotel is situated next to the ancient Roman Wall which formed the town’s defences when it was first established as a community for retired legionnaires. Stepping through the wall transported you back in time. The town has beautiful architecture and a real sense of Italian style. The boys got to experience and enjoy the shops and cafes of the town and spent many Euros in the various ice cream parlours.

ski 2

Dylan and Miss Nicol outside Aosta Town Hall

Ski school on the first day involved the boys being split into three groups. Joe H made excellent progress on the first morning and he was quickly moved up a group. This meant that the boys were skiing in two groups of four for the rest of the week, each with its own dedicated instructor. Prior to our arrival and on the first two days of the trip it snowed in Pila, so 50cm of fresh snow ensured that all of the runs were in top condition. This was lucky because by our last day, Saturday the 11th, the temperature in the resort was 20°C.

ski 3

Day one and fresh snow

All of the boys exceeded expectations in relation to the progress they made in their skiing abilities. The environment was definitely an inspiration. When the snow cleared after the first two days, the skies were blue and we were able to fully appreciate the stunning views of Mont Blanc – or Monte Bianco as we were corrected by our Italian host – to the north-west, Monte Rosa to the north and the Matterhorn, or Monte Cervino to give it its Italian name, to the north-east.

ski 4

The groups got to experience skiing on a range of runs, from wide open red runs to tree-lined blue runs. The group made up of Kieran, Joe R, Hugh and Aaron progressed so well that their instructor proudly announced that they had skied every run in the resort, including all the black runs. This was something that he had never achieved before.

The days passed quickly and the evenings were filled with a range of après-ski activities laid on by Interski. The highlight was Pizza Night, which involved a trip to the old town and a visit to a traditional pizzeria. The boys could eat as much as they wanted, which turned out to be a considerable amount judging by the pile of empty pizza plates and anxious expressions on the faces of the waiting staff.

A presentation ceremony was held on the final evening. The instructors awarded the boys with a certificate and badge related to the level they had achieved throughout the week.

The last day was spent skiing before an early finish and transfer to Geneva for the homeward flight. The boys were genuinely upset to be leaving and some expressed surprise at how sad they were to say goodbye to the ski instructors and the team who had helped to look after them throughout the week.

Ski 5

The team and instructors on the last day

I believe that this first foreign trip was a great success, and it is a very clear expression of the school’s commitment to developing the boys’ aspirations, independence and resilience.

A full evaluation of the experience will take place over the coming weeks, and we welcome support from all in this process. Following that we will consider where to next ….

Mr. Graham

Here are some of the boys’ comments:

“I had never been on a plane before so it was a new experience that I enjoyed thoroughly” (LB)

“The high point for me was doing a black run” (AH)

“We stayed in Hotel Roma and the staff that worked there were very friendly even though they all spoke mostly Italian but they all had a really welcoming attitude towards us all and made us feel really welcome” (DM)

“The highlight for me was the food. I’ve never tasted food so different from what I am used to. I had pasta, soups, real ice cream and lovely stone-baked pizzas. It was brilliant” (HB)

“The skiing was a lot of fun, but nothing could beat at the end of the day when I got to take the boots off” (LW)

College Q & A with Lucas

Three of our students started college this term. Marcus is studying Horticulture at Perth College, Joe is attending The Prince’s Trust Course at Stenton College in Glenrothes and Lucas is taking a Professional Cookery Course (Foods of the World) at St Brycedale Campus in Kirkcaldy.

Lecturers have described Lucas as a “model student”. We did a Q&A with him to see how he is getting on.

Q: What was your first day at college like?
Great! Everyone was very friendly and supportive.

Q: Tell us about your tutors and classmates.
They’re all friendly and easy to talk to.

Q: What new skills are you learning on the course?
Cooking and admin work.

Q: Is it fun?  Hard work?
It’s a mixture of both.

Q: What has been the best bit until now?
I’ve found catering my favourite part.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge/most difficult bit?
Most of the admin work!

Q: Has it given you any idea of what you would like to do after this?
Yes, I’d like to continue the course at the next level.

Work experience with 4M Accountants

Pupils from Falkland House School will gain valuable work experience in 2017 thanks to a new partnership with FourM Chartered Accountants in Dundee, headed by Director Iain McBride.

One of the ways the school supports its pupils in making choices about their future is to provide them with work experience opportunities. These placements bridge the gap between school, college and work. They not only provide the boys with basic employment skills. By giving them an insight into the world of work and the challenges they will face there, they gain confidence from the experience.

HITACHI HDC-1499E

In recent years, FHS pupils have completed placements at the Scottish Parliament, Pillars of Hercules Organic Farm, Bells Sports Centre in Perth and the Falkland Estate, to name a few. The school is currently seeking other opportunities throughout Scotland that will offer the boys vital work experience and improve their employment prospects.

work experience 4

Based in Broughty Ferry since the original firm was established almost 30 years ago, FourM is actively involved in training school leavers and graduates towards professional accountancy qualifications in the context of a busy professional working environment. Every year for almost two decades, the firm has supported local schools by providing senior pupils considering careers in finance and administration with short work experience opportunities, as well as offering seasonal summer work to school and university students pursuing careers in accountancy or business.

Following on from this enormously positive and mutually beneficial experience, the FourM directors see the potential benefits that this new partnership will bring to Falkland House pupils, giving them a work experience and personal development opportunity that will help them build confidence outwith the school.

Awareness of Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and other related conditions is improving, and receiving increasing attention in the Press.

FourM Chartered Accountants is one of a growing number of companies and organisations recognising the skills and abilities that neurodiverse employees can bring to the workplace.