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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

My five-day trip to Kailzie Bunk House

Joe is currently attending the Prince’s Trust Course at Stenton Campus in Glenrothes. The twelve-week personal development course improves confidence and motivation. Moreover, Joe is gaining valuable life and work skills as well as qualifications that will increase his employability or help him secure a place on another college course.

In February, Joe took part in a team building residential trip to Peebles. It was an activity-packed week, and another big challenge which he handled just as well as he handled his transition from school to college.

Joe described the experience to us:

I went to Kailzie Bunk House with eighteen people and we travelled by bus. The bunk house had four or five rooms, a kitchen, living room and four bathrooms. We cooked our own meals in teams. Out team cooked bangers and mash. I thought it was really challenging to cook for so many but we got there in the end.

On my first day we went food shopping to get provisions for the week and we also played games. The other activities we did during the week were a blindfold walk, walking in the woods, lava tile, rock climbing, kayaking and archery.

For me the best thing about this experience was the rock climbing because I had to overcome my fear of heights. The most challenging activity was walking in the woods because we had to cover eight miles.

I got on well with all my classmates and I got to know them better. At the end of the trip I felt amazed that I managed to complete the week, I was happy, thrilled and tired. I would definitely be keen to do this again.”

Principles of Good Transitions 3

Pupils at FHS receive on-going throughcare support and preparation to ensure a good transition from school and/or college to adult life.

The aim of the ‘Principles of Good Transitions 3’ pamphlets, compiled by the Association For Real Change (ARC Scotland) and the Scottish Transitions Forum, is to improve the experiences of young people with additional support needs going through transitions.

The publication was launched in January, and a number of our pupils appear in it. During a reception at the Scottish Parliament they were presented with a framed copy of their photo by Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt MSP.

Transitions 5Transitions 4

The photos used in the pamphlets are now part of a photography exhibition that has been touring Scotland and will continue to do so throughout 2017 to raise awareness about transitions.
Transitions 2

Transitions 1

Download the 7 principles plus Autism Supplement

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-1.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-2.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-3.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-4.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-5.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-6.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Principle-7.pdf

http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/files/2017/01/Autism-Supplement.pdf

 

Getting the right support – BBC interview

BBC Scotland education correspondent, Jamie McIvor, visited Falkland House School at the end of January to talk to former pupil Kieran, who spent six years at the school and is now at college. Kieran is a great example of what can be achieved with the right support. Kieran’s mum and the parent of another pupil currently attending FHS spoke to the journalist about the battles they faced to get their sons the support they needed. Click below to watch the interview and read the article.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-38768485

Putting learning into practice on an overnight expedition

The boys from Albany went on an overnight expedition recently. After lining their backpacks with waterproof sacks they were ready to brave the elements, and set off for Dunkeld with Mr. Graham and Mr. Morrison. Once at their destination, they walked about three kilometres until they found the best place to pitch their tents, by Loch Ordy.

The boys have been studying river features in Geography. This was a great spot for them to  witness first hand the environments they’re learning about in the classroom. Looking down on the River Tay, they could identify the features they had learned about in class and see how the river had shaped the landscape. They could also take a good look at the mountain features they’ll be studying soon. What’s more, they had the chance to practise their map-reading skills.

An experience of this kind is a great way to encourage cooperation between the boys and allows them time to adjust to new class groups in an environment away from the school. But just as importantly, it’s great fun!

Here are some of the boys’ comments about their experience:

“We were pretty much roughing it out in the wild like Bear Grylls only we had everything we needed. In my opinion it was like being in a 5 star hotel in London.”

“I enjoyed the whole time we were away and the fact we could explore where we wanted.”

“I really enjoyed the laughs and the mega marshmallows we got from Mr. Morrison.”

“I really hope we get the opportunity to do this again sometime but for now we have the ski trip to look forward to.”

 

Reducing the autism employment gap

 

Falkland House School has added its voice to the National Autistic Society’s campaign calling on the government to double the number of autistic people in work. In this letter published in ‘The Independent’, FHS Director Stuart Jacob recommends they start by providing employers with the resources and training they need for a better understanding of the condition.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters/more-needs-to-be-done-to-help-those-with-autism-get-on-the-career-ladder-a7385406.html

Sign the petition:

https://act.autism.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=10&ea.campaign.id=56776

 

 

Falkland House School ‘on the road’

FHS will be ‘on the road’ over the coming months speaking to additional support needs groups and services.

Over the last five years, we have been working towards improving our service and fulfilling our vision of providing top-quality education and care to boys with Additional Support Needs. Our key objectives were:

– to develop a 52-week provision;
– to create a primary education department;
– to gain Autism accreditation;
– to establish a structured self-regulation behaviour support model;
– to create an excellent transition process including vocational and academic experiences outwith the school from a young age.

We are proud to say that we have now achieved all of the above. Moreover, our progress has been recognised through 11 out of 11 ‘excellent’ ratings awarded by the Care Inspectorate.

If you would like to take this opportunity to learn more about what we do and what Falkland House School can offer prospective pupils and parents, please contact the school to arrange for us to visit.

Top marks from Care Inspectorate

FHS is celebrating its recent care inspectorate report success!

The Care Inspectorate continues to be impressed by the level of care and support pupils receive at FHS. Following an unannounced visit in June, we were again awarded top marks, giving us a grand total of eleven ‘excellent’ grades. This makes Falkland House School the highest-rated educational establishment of its type in Scotland.

The report praised the staff for their commitment and dedication and noted how the pupils “presented as happy, ambitious, confident individuals who had an extensive range of activities available to further their development”.

The school was also commended for its “very informative” care plans and for the strong collaboration that exists between the school, the pupils and their families, social workers and health professionals.

The report concluded that “Falkland House School were outstanding in the way they provided a caring service in which pupils of all abilities thrived and were supported to reach their full potential. They provided a wide range of opportunities for pupils to develop skills for life. Staff were knowledgeable about the young people’s individual needs and planned their care accordingly.”

Falkland House School Director, Stuart Jacob, said, “We are delighted that Falkland House School has again received top marks in this Care Inspectorate inspection.

“We strive continuously to provide an exemplary service and were pleased with the comments and grading, which again reflect the hard work of our staff.

“These are clearly great accolades for the school and we hope to continue to seek ways in which to make the service even better, building on the robust practices we already have in place.”

Read the report here:https://falklandhouseschool.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/InspectionReport-284876.pdf