Connecting with Our Friends at Home

Beatrice Tate School share their project as part of I Am Festival 2024.

12 March 2024

Beatrice Tate School is a secondary special school in Tower Hamlets for students aged 11 to 19 with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties. A significant proportion of our learners have additional sensory and physical impairments. We have 122 students on roll across KS3, KS4 and our 6th Form.

A number of our students are not currently able to attend school because of complex health needs, including physical and mental health needs, or have barriers to attending because of other individual factors. These students are visited weekly in their homes by our Outreach Team Teachers; to support them to develop their communication, interaction and independence skills through creative and sensory activities, stories, movement and massage, and other learning tasks.

For this project for I Am Festival, we wanted to develop and improve the link between the young people at home and their peers who are at school. We wanted to build up those connections, to let those who are learning at home know that we SEE and HEAR them and they are part of our school community, even though they are not physically together in the same building. We had 4 young people at home as a part of this project, linked with a 6th Form Music class.

We had originally planned to do a series of Zoom sessions between homes and the school class but with timings and other factors including session cancellations due to illness, this was not able happen. However, we were still able to make connections between home and school by talking with the young people (and their families) about their peers, and sharing short videos and photos between the two settings. Families and the young people at home were really happy to be a part of these discussions, and their families were very grateful to know that we were thinking about and were “seeing and hearing” their child, even though they were not in school.

As a part of this project, we also planned to make some boxes that would include items that the young people at home would enjoy. We spoke in our Music Lesson about all of the exciting sensory and creative activities and learning opportunities that we have every day at school, and the students thought about all the things that they really like about school. They also got to know the interests, likes and dislikes of the young people at home, and thought about what those young people might like to have while they are at home.

A box with a piece of paper placed on it. On the paper is text reading: At school, we have lots of fun and do lots of different activities. Some of our friends cannot come into school. This parcel will help to make a connection with our friends at home so they can feel part of the school community. This will help our friends to know that we see them and hear them while they are at home. Enjoy!

For the class at school that has been working on this, and especially for three young ladies in the class in particular, this project has been a really powerful experience. These three sat down with me a few weeks ago and did the brainstorming and then the shopping for the boxes. They were really tuned into what their peers might like and enjoy to help them while they are at home; really thinking about items that might help them be seen and heard.  Since starting this project, I am often asked by these students about their peers at home - "How is X? Did I see X today? Did they play music with you? When do they get their boxes?" This has been really lovely. 

It has also been a positive experience for the young people at home and their families.

Year 7 student, J, responded really well to us talking about his peers at school. He looked with intent at the photos of his peers. He made facial expressions and movements as we chatted and I explained to him that friends at school had asked lots of questions about him, and were really interested to learn more about what kinds of things he likes and likes to do. It was my absolute pleasure to bring J his box this past Monday morning. He was very pleased with all of the treasures that his peers had selected for him, including some sensory exploration objects, a sound book with music from Mozart, Spiderman talking books, and two Spiderman toys that he could squeeze with his hands. J gave a small smile each time another item was unwrapped from the tissue. His father was really happy that the students are thinking about his son, even though they hadn’t met him in person. I felt really wonderful sharing all of the items with J, knowing the thought that had been put into them by his peers at school.

E, a student in the 6th Form, also received her box on Monday morning. Her mother commented that the items in the box were perfect for her daughter and was very thankful. E’s box contained a baking kit with unicorn baking liners, pastel and unicorn themed craft supplies, a stuffed unicorn, and a pink glitter microphone. She used the stickers and card from the craft supplies to make a thank you card for the class that had put the box together. She was very excited about the items that she had received and she wanted to play and do everything right as soon a she opened it. Her face was beaming as she used the microphone.

Two more students will receive their boxes this week or early next week and we imagine that they will have equally positive reactions to the sensory treasures that have been selected by their peers at school.

Though the project did not go as we had initially planned, we are really happy that we were able to develop and support the connections between those young people at home and those at school. We will continue to have the conversations, and share photos and videos between the two settings, to ensure that our young people and their families at home are SEEN and HEARD.

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