Hearing Resource Bases
The Hearing Impaired Resource (HIR) at Westwood Farm Infant and Junior Schools is a resource provision for hearing impaired children run in partnership with West Berkshire Council. It is an integral part of the main schools. Ten places are available across both schools. The resource caters for pupils in Berkshire who have either a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan with a primary need relating to hearing impairment and who need the intensive specialist support available in a resource provision.
Most children in the resource are severely or profoundly deaf. Children have hearing aids, cochlear implants or BAHAs to support their use of residual hearing and to maximise their access to spoken language.
Most children with hearing impairment have the potential to acquire a high level of competency in spoken and written language through appropriate amplification and opportunities to develop spoken language through stimulating interaction with parents and others, facilitated in recent years by early identification of hearing loss. On this basis, Westwood Farm is primarily an oral/aural provision and the base follows a natural aural approach to communication.
The natural aural approach is not a uni-sensory approach insisting on a sound only environment. Facial expression, body language and gestures are a normal part of human communication and play an important role in helping children to attach meaning to what they hear by giving importance to utterances and in conveying emotions. They are an essential part of a listener’s experience and add richness to communication. The children may use gesture themselves whilst communicating and this is not discouraged. We encourage all our pupils to sit in a position in class where they have the opportunity to see the speakers face and lip-read the speaker. While lip-reading is a helpful aid to communication it is not a medium for learning on its own as its ambiguities are too great.
Although primarily an oral/aural provision, Westwood Farm recognises that a flexible approach to communication is required to meet the individual needs of some children.
Children in the resource follow the same core curriculum as their mainstream peers, differentiated where appropriate so that they can access it at their level. The Teachers of the Deaf, specialist teaching assistants and mainstream teachers work closely together. Children are withdrawn to the resource base for speech and language therapy sessions, and for extra support with reading, spelling, language work, maths, pre- or post-tutoring, or other learning that requires 1:1 or small group work. The amount of time each child spends working in the base varies according to their needs. It is recognised that children’s needs change as they develop so each child’s timetable is regularly reviewed.
The infant resource base has a large teaching space with a further smaller teaching room and a sensory room. The junior base has audiology and office areas and four rooms for individual or small group work. All teaching rooms in the resource base and mainstream classes have carpets and acoustically tiled ceilings which lessen reverberation and make for a better listening environment. The classrooms and school halls also have sound field systems which connect to pupils’ radio aids.
Staffing ratios are two Teachers of the Deaf and 4 specialist teaching assistants for ten children. The exact level of support individual children receive is determined by their needs.
The number of pupils can exceed ten with the agreement of the school and West Berkshire Education Authority. Any extra child brings additional funding enabling additional staffing and other resources to be provided.
All current Teachers of the Deaf are fully qualified. The vast majority of teaching assistants have the Level 3 BTEC Sensory Impairment qualification. Any teaching assistant who does not already have the qualification is expected to attain it within 2 years. Staff are experienced in managing hearing aids, cochlear implants, BAHAs, radio aids and soundfield systems.
Staff have experience of working with pupils with additional needs including ASD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, sensory integration needs, behaviour difficulties , fine and gross motor skill delay, auditory processing disorders, auditory neuropathy, Mondini malformation, EVAS, Waardenberg Syndrome, CMV, CHARGE, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and diabetes. They also have experience of working with pupils with OT programmes and behaviour programmes.
To be considered for placement a child needs to:
- Meet the LA’s statutory assessment criteria for an Education, Health and Care Plan with a primary need of hearing impairment
- Have a significant, permanent, bilateral hearing impairment which has a significant impact on learning and development
- Have severely delayed language as a result of hearing impairment
- Have a hearing impairment and associated difficulties which affect access to the curriculum and require specialist teaching or support
- Have a hearing impairment which has a significant impact on social and emotional development
- Have a level of ability within the range expected in a mainstream school
- Demonstrate the ability to function within a mainstream educational setting with appropriate differentiation
- Require intensive, specialist teaching and support to achieve the outcomes identified within their EHC Plan, including a highly personalised programme to support needs associated with a hearing impairment within a flexible approach adapted to the needs of individual pupils