Special Needs at The Moat

Specialist support is embedded in everything we do.   Unusually, not only are all our staff subject specialists but they are also post graduate Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) qualified.

Should staff join us without this level of qualification, they are required to undertake a Level 5, year-long training course for teaching learners withSpLD.  This extends to our Learning Support Assistants who are graduates themselves and hold a Level 3 qualification.   We believe in continual improvement to ensure our training is up to date. We initiate whole school training programmes such as L3 Success with Learners with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Specialist Therapeutic Staff at The Moat School

The Moat School is fortunate to have specialist therapeutic staff on board including two Speech and Language Therapists, an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a School Counsellor.   Our therapeutic staff provide small group and/or one to one support as well as team teaching so you will find our OT outside, working alongside our Director of Physical Education in Games lessons, for example.

Where possible we try to avoid withdrawing a child from a lesson; our preference is to scaffold and support no matter what the lesson.

A CReSTeD Registered Specialist School That Shares Best Practice

We believe in sharing best practice, not only with each other but also in the wider community.  Thus, each year we run free training events and invite professionals into our school to see what we do and learn from our teaching.

We have been invited to be guest speakers at national conferences as wide ranging as Dyslexia Action, Durham University CEM  MidYIS to the Independent Schools Association and the TES show. We have links with a number of training establishments such as Buckingham University and the IoE (Institute of Education) and frequently receive requests for placements from PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) Students.

We are a CReSTeD registered specialist school and a member of the Independent Schools Association.

Specialist Support

Context: All of the pupils attending the Moat School have specific learning difficulties, many are severely dyslexic.  The Moat school provides a total learning environment for pupils with specific learning difficulties.  The Moat has had a successful history of good academic and social progress working with pupils joining year 5/6 remaining through to GCSE.  Pupils leave after GCSEs are completed in Yr 11 and enter a range of both independent and maintained special and mainstream provisions.

Teaching: Our specialist support is integrated into all classroom teaching and all of the permanent teaching staff at the Moat have either completed an approved SpLD Certificate or Diploma, or undertake the course in the first two years of teaching at the school.  LSAs are also well qualified and have either passed or are undertaking the Level 3 course in supporting the needs of Learners with SpLDs. Every lesson throughout the day whatever the subject, is designed to a meet the needs of the Dyslexic and is delivered by a qualified Dyslexia teacher in a very small group, using specialist schemes and materials with a proven track record of success.

Teaching Groups: At The Moat, pupils experience “wall to wall” Dyslexia teaching in very small groups using multi-media and multi-sensory teaching methods throughout the day. A Year 7 student would join a form group of 10 or less pupils.  They would be taught all subjects, save Physical Education, in this small group except Technology which is taught in a group of 5 or less.  Later on in KS3 pupils are further sub-divided into smaller ability based groups for core subjects. Depending on the make-up of these English and Mathematics sub groups, for example, a pupil may be in a group of 4 to 8 pupils.

Specific difficulties are addressed in ‘Skills for Learning’ lessons which are mini-groups in order to stream children into the appropriate ability set for different learning aspects including reading, , spelling, comprehension, grammar, numeracy and social communication. Children may be in different groups, from 2-6 pupils, for each of these aspects which ensures work of an appropriate level is set and progress closely monitored.

Occupational Therapy is concerned with a person’s ability to perform the daily activities they need to do or want to do. A child’s occupational performance in these activities may be impaired by physical, developmental, sensory, or learning challenges.

The role of an Occupational Therapist at The Moat School is to identify how physical, psychological or learning difficulties affect your child’s functional skills and to help remediate these effects or develop compensatory approaches. Some children find it difficult to consolidate skills at an appropriate age and therefore enter secondary school with deficits in certain areas. Since all skills are interrelated, the delay in acquiring one basic skill will have a knock on effect for many others. For example, developing mature pencil grasp, requires good gross motor coordination, adequate processing of sensory information, efficient motor planning and fine manual dexterity.

The Occupational Therapist assesses each new child within their first term at The Moat school using both a ‘top down’ occupational performance approach as well as assessing underlying skill deficits including:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills including handwriting
  • Visual perceptual skills
  • Sensory integration skills
  • Functional skills
  • Posture

Collaborative consultation occurs with the parents and teachers to maximize the effectiveness of the therapy. The children are seen individually or in groups as appropriate. Pupils are observed regularly within lessons to make specific recommendations regarding environmental supports or targets such as handwriting recommendations. The Occupational Therapist collaborates with the Speech and Language Therapists regularly and will deliver Y7 Group Communication lessons together.

Every opportunity is sought to develop innovative and interesting ways of improving pupils’ Occupational Therapy skills during their first three years at The Moat School through specific skills practice, remediation and coping strategies.

Speech and Language Therapy is an integral part of the education provided at the Moat School.  We seek to meet the Speech, Language, Literacy and Social Communication needs of all pupils by providing individual, group or classroom based support, depending on the needs of the pupil.

Speech and Language support is provided by registered Speech and Language Therapists, Liz Nimmo and Yvonne Rowe, who both specialise in this area of work.  All new pupils undergo a language screening to assess listening comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, expressive language, verbal reasoning, speech sound processing and literacy skills.  Upon entry, further baseline assessments are carried out in order to help us to devise a programme tailored to the pupil’s needs.

Intervention is carefully tailored for the individual, and liaison with teaching staff in all subject areas is considered very important, in order to evaluate the main areas of need and to gain a holistic understanding of the pupil.

Overview of how pupils are referred

Upon admission, we identify whether pupils are likely to require individual, group or classroom based speech and language therapy support.

If there are concerns that a pupil requires additional support, this should be conveyed directly, or through the pupil’s form tutor or the SENCO.  We will consider referrals from pupils, parents, teachers or any other professional involved with the child.

How we work within the school

All Year 7 pupils have weekly Group Communication lessons which address confidence and self-esteem, speaking and listening, self-awareness, friendship, and social interaction skills.

Social Communication groups are also offered to pupils in years 8 through to 11.  The group activities are carefully tailored to the needs of the individuals in the group, through liaison with teachers, parents and the pupils themselves.

In addition, Speech and Language Therapists provide support in Skills for Learning lessons.  These lessons provide an opportunity for pupils to receive intervention to address language, literacy or social communication difficulties.  Pupils with similar difficulties are grouped together so that intervention can be targeted towards their needs.

The Speech and Language Therapists are involved in whole school initiatives, such as the ‘Word of the Week programme’ which was set up in order to support students who have limited vocabulary knowledge.   Abstract words, that are considered particularly useful to learn as they have cross-curricular links, are suggested by the teachers and pupils.  The speech and language therapists create posters and word maps to display around school, and provide additional vocabulary resources to assist Form Tutors and Skills for Learning Mentors to teach the meaning of the complex vocabulary.

Parents can meet with the Speech and Language Therapists to discuss their child’s needs. Progress is reported via the regular school reports as well as at Parents evenings and in Annual Reviews.  Outcome measures enable us to monitor the pupils’ progress and evaluate the effectiveness of therapy.

Please contact the Speech and Language Therapists should there be anything further you wish to talk about in relation to the Speech and Language Therapy provision at the Moat School.

Counselling is an integral element of our holistic therapeutic approach at the Moat.

Our experience has shown that pupils’ ability to have confidential access to an adult who is empathetic and non-judgmental is valued and effective.

Many young people have endured negative attitudes and lack of esteem in their school lives and we are available to help redress the impact of these effects in their time with us at the school.

Pupils are able to self-refer through different means of access, including email and a post-box. Teachers, support staff and other school therapists may also suggest a counselling approach. Parents are always welcome to discuss aspects of well-being at school and at home, with the school counsellor. The school counsellor offers therapeutic support which is especially beneficial for pupils transitioning either from Year 6 to Year 7 or from Year 11 to post 16.

We also work, at times, with small groups around relevant issues, including peer support, and always seek to engage parents in our process.
The school is exceptionally fortunate in being able to offer such an integrated service within the school day and on site. However, we are also able to consult with and refer to other professional agencies.

There are frequent meetings and shared perspectives within the school community which enables us to be connected and mutually supportive. This allows us to offer considered and collaborative initiatives for our pupils if and when the need arises.

Skills for Learning groups are small academic mentor groups of 2, 3 or 4 pupils who are grouped according to their specific needs. Each group is taught by a qualified specialist teacher and the lesson focus is on the individual and specific targeted areas of need including literacy, numeracy, language and social skills.  At Key Stage 3, groups are vertical, in that they could include Year 7, 8 or 9 pupils. At Key Stage 4, the groups are horizontal and consist of Year 10 pupils or Year 11 pupils only. Key Stage 3 groups meet three times a week and Key Stage 4 groups meet twice a week.

Therapeutic input is integrated throughout the academic curriculum and teaching informs therapy and therapy informs teaching.  Teaching staff have immediate and unrestricted access to specialist help in order to resolve difficulties, trouble shoot, differentiate and plan targets. Specialist Therapeutic staff regularly provide support and resources for Skills for Learning groups and attend each Skills for Learning group for a block of time as well as helping to plan sessions and liaising with mentors regularly.

Paired Reading for all pupils takes place on a Tuesday morning, with additional sessions timetabled during Skills for Learning lessons. Learning Support Assistants are paired with selected pupils and read with them on a one to one basis using the ‘paired reading’ technique. One to one numeracy lessons are also scheduled during this time for selected pupils. Paired reading has long been recognised as a very effective method of improving reading attainment and motivation. Research suggests that by pairing a weak reader with a stronger reader and by discussing the text and reading aloud independently, simultaneously or in tandem, reading will improve. This approach is based on modelling, prompting, encouragement and praise rather than on simply teaching words.

Research suggests that by pairing a weak reader with a stronger reader and by discussing the text and reading aloud independently, simultaneously or in tandem, reading will improve. This approach is based on modelling, prompting, encouragement and praise rather than on actively teaching words.

All Moat School pupils take part in the ‘paired reading’ technique with a member of staff or an older pupil on a weekly basis. Paired reading is also referred to as cross-age tutoring, shared reading and guided reading, and has been shown to benefit both the tutor and the tutee.

Paired Reading and Dyslexia

Paired reading has been shown to be effective with dyslexic pupils in the improvement of decoding and fluency.  It also encourages an interest in reading both inside and outside of the classroom. This benefits dyslexic pupils as they typically struggle to find pleasure in reading.  As a result, both the pupil’s interest in reading and their skill level increase.

Benefits for the weaker reader include:

  • Improved reading attainment
  • Increased interest in reading
  • The ability to work at their own pace
  • Increased socialisation
  • Increased self-esteem
  • A sense of responsibility and accomplishment
  • Improved reading attainment
  • Improved listening and speaking skills
  • Increased motivation to read outside of school
  • Increased sense of identity as a school community member

Benefits for the stronger reader include:

As pupils engage in paired reading, their self-correction, reading comprehension and confidence increase.  Research has also shown that paired reading correlated with a strong improvement in participants’ accuracy and speed. This is one of many techniques used to teach reading at The Moat School

Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can motivate, soothe and inspire us. It’s a way to connect with ourselves and to communicate with others. As human beings, music is a universal medium that helps us with a variety of skills such as concentration, confidence, awareness, socialisation and learning.

According to the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), “Music therapy is an established clinical discipline which is widely used to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability.” Music therapy is utilised in schools, hospitals and other organisations.  It has been applied for the purposes of education, recreation and healing from as early as 400 BC.

Music Therapy and Dyslexia

Music therapy has many benefits for students; particularly dyslexic pupils.  For example, studies show a link between dyslexia and timing deficits. Music therapy helps to develop auditory and motor timing skills, which promotes  linguistic and phonological development.

Also, by developing auditory and motor timing skills, music therapy helps improve language acquisition and spelling.

Other benefits of music therapy include:

  • Improvement in temporal processing ability
  • Improved emotional development
  • Development of communication skills
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Increased creativity and expression
  • Increased socialisation
  • Increased motivation
  • Stimulates physical movement and communication
  • Improves sensory integration

The Moat School’s music therapy sessions take place during the school day and can be offered on a one-to-one basis, in a group or with family or staff members present. Sessions are tailored to each pupil’s individual needs and can include:

  • Song writing
  • Singing
  • Musical acoustics
  • Playing instruments
  • Improvising
  • Listening
  • Rehearsing and performing

Overall, music has enormous benefits for the mind, body and brain.  We would be happy to discuss our music therapy programme with you further and answer any questions you may have.

In addition to the Dyslexia focused teaching methods and small group environment at The Moat School, pupils receive support in all lessons from a Learning Support Assistant.  Learning Support Assistants are also all qualified having taken and passed the Level 3 course in supporting the needs of Learners with SpLDs. LSAs work in a variety of ways to individualise strategies to assist students with personal organisation including resources, teaching materials and equipment. LSAs can also act as prompts, readers, scribes and offer confirmation and explanation of all material delivered in class. Nearly all of our LSAs are graduates and all teaching assistants are offered an in-house programme of training provided by the school’s own specialist teachers and therapists. The Lead LSA provides additional support and guidance to his team and extends the work of the therapeutic team.

Assistive Technology

The Moat School utilises a variety of assistive technology for classroom and home use.  We incorporate software and hardware that best helps students to process and integrate materials within the learning curriculum.

Types of Assistive Technology Utilised at The Moat School

The Moat School provides our students with laptops in which to record, organise and store work.  The laptops enable pupils to record their written responses clearly and successfully, while storing and saving their notes and assignments.

Pupils access a range of subject-specific software and use internet and email facilities for completing and delivering work to teachers.  All Year 7 pupils complete a touch typing course before being ‘awarded’ their laptop. Touch typing is encouraged and practised throughout The Moat School curriculum.

Types of Software Incorporated Into Lessons

Students are encouraged to use a variety of assistive technology during lessons. One method is called Texthelp Read & Write Gold, which helps pupils to read text independently, be it teacher-created resources or internet research. The Texthelp Read & Write Gold software reads blocks of text at the speed, volume and pitch of each student’s preference. This software is also approved for use in public examinations.

Specifically identified pupils also have access to ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’.  Dragon Naturally Speaking is voice activated speech-to-text software that we offer for extended writing tasks.  It helps students, when appropriate, to focus on the content of their work rather than the writing itself.

Benefits of Assistive Technology for Dyslexic Students

Both Texthelp Read & Write Gold and Dragon Naturally Speaking assistive technology can also be used at home and in the classroom.  These tools offer a dynamic learning approach in a diverse classroom of learners. Both types of software create the space for students to approach tasks enthusiastically; to keep pace with the exceptional ideas and abilities with which they are gifted.


What is SENCo?

SENCo stands for Special Education Needs Coordinator.  Each school has a Special Education Needs (SEN) policy that is based within the framework set out in Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014.  The SENCo arranges for additional support, as needed, for pupils with SEN.

Mr. Pinel is The Moat School SENCo and is responsible for the SEN provision of all pupils who attend the school.

Mr Pinel’s responsibilities as SENCo include:

  • Management of Annual Reviews
  • Preparing reports for statutory assessments
  • Preparing SEN register and Pupil Summaries
  • Liaising with therapeutic staff (SaLTS, OTs and School Counselor)
  • Liaising with external agencies including Educational Psychology Services, legal services, educational authorities
  • Taking an active role in the admissions process and screening prospective pupils
  • Taking an active role in advising on transition to post-16 education
  • Advising and supporting form tutors with regards to the needs of individual pupils
  • Promoting appropriate teaching in relation to our Statement Objectives
  • Attending Tribunals if school representation is required

Our SENCO’s Background and Experience

Mr. Pinel originally taught mathematics in a number of mainstream schools in Birmingham before joining The Moat School as a Teacher of Mathematics in 2011. Shortly after joining the school he became KS3 SENCo and since September 2014 has enlarged his role to become the school SENCo and member of the Leadership Team.

Throughout his career, Mr Pinel has taught pupils with a range of SpLDs, including dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, social communication difficulties and those with an outright fear of mathematics! One of Mr. Pinel’s main areas of interest has been developing a multisensory approach to teaching maths which includes visual representation, exploration, discussion, games, songs and origami.

Mr Pinel has the following qualifications:

  • BSc Computing and Mathematics
  • PGCE (Secondary) Mathematics
  • Masters in Education
  • Level 5 Certificate in Teaching Learners with SpLDs
  • National Award for SEN Coordination (completed by September 2015)


The Moat School offers a diverse and comprehensive range of GCSE subjects tailored to the individual cohort of pupils as far as is reasonably possible. In recent years, we have offered more vocational options such as the BTEC in Home Cooking as well as the more academic GCSE Food Technology. We have also introduced a Performing Arts GCSE in 2012 instead of GCSE Music and/or GCSE Drama which did not cater to pupils who were interested in areas of Performing Arts such as lighting and make up. This has proved very successful.

The GCSE subjects offered in 2016/2017 are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Additional Science
  • Further Additional Science
  • Art and Design
  • Business Communication Studies
  • Design and Technology: Food Technology
  • Design and Technology: Graphic Products
  • Design and Technology: Resistant Materials
  • Geography
  • History
  • Media Studies
  • Performing Arts
  • Physical Education
  • BTEC – Home Cooking

The Moat School Staff produce many of their own resources in concurrence with specific text books produced by examination boards to cater for the needs of individual pupils’ specific learning difficulties.

Access Arrangements are intended to allow attainment to be demonstrated. Some arrangements are permitted by the centre, others by the awarding bodies and must be approved by a certain date before an exam or assessment.

Access arrangements should not give that candidate an unfair advantage over others. The intention is, as far as possible, that all pupils should have an equal opportunity when sitting their exams, and not be placed at a disadvantage over others because of the means used to examine them.  A judgement must be made by a specialist assessor to show that the candidate’s knowledge can only be accessed properly through the employment of a specific access arrangement. The following access arrangements can be tested for by the school:

  • Reader
  • Computer Reader
  • Scribe
  • Transcript
  • Extra time
  • Rest breaks
  • Prompt
  • Use of laptop
  • Modified script – larger print

 We utilise the expertise of a team of our JCQ approved specialist assessors to individually assess each pupil at the end of Year 9.  In addition we consult and use any relevant data we hold such as up to date Secondary School EP reports.

Any access arrangements that we are granted by the Examination Boards can then be used throughout the 2 year GCSE examination period, where applicable.  It is important to note that both access arrangement information and pupil UCI are then given to any post 16 educational providers in The Moat School Leavers’ pack.

The Moat School is a specialist school that prepares SpLD pupils for mainstream examinations and tertiary education. We ensure that every pupil is fully prepared for GCSE examinations through a robust access arrangement system and an individually tailored study skills programme that is continuously monitored and developed throughout KS3 and KS4 (Years 7 – 11).

The Study Skills programme includes:

  • Ways of Knowing (different types of intelligence)
  • Memory skills
  • Problem solving
  • Presentation skills
  • Examination techniques, including key words and mind-mapping
  • Time Management
  • Mark Allocation
  • Organisational Skills, including planning
  • Preparing for Controlled Assessment
  • Research techniques
  • Use of ICT
  • Revision techniques
  • Examination analysis

Pupils take part in an annual Study Skills Fair, which introduces them to a range of helpful strategies and techniques for studying, revising and accessing the examinations. They then create their own Study Skills programme with their mentors and develop these skills throughout the year in their Skills for Learning lessons.

Click here to download our Examination Policy.