Dickens Heath Community Primary School

Enabling every child to be the best version of themselves

About Us - 'The Willows'

The Willows Tour

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Our Willows Vision


An alternative, specialist provision, that nurtures and develops children on the autistic spectrum along a personalised journey to become confident, independent, responsible, self-aware and emotionally resilient young people.


Our Willows Purpose


To enable and support children on the autistic spectrum to integrate into a wide range of opportunities alongside their peers in mainstream school and to learn as part of a community.


Our Philosophy for Learning


Our underpinning philosophy for learning aligns with the principles of the SCERTS model and recognises that before we can enable children to enter the world of learning and unlock their true potential, we first need to improve their ability to interact, play and form meaningful, reciprocal relationships with trusted adults and peers, alongside teaching them the skills to communicate effectively, understand the language they use and regulate their emotions.


Once these fundamental basic skills are truly learned, then we can begin to engage and ignite children’s interests in the world around them, supporting and encouraging them to acquire new knowledge and skills.


Our approach

The fundamental need of every child is to feel that they belong, therefore our approach to teaching, and our vision for the learning culture we create, is based upon the key principles of: valuing and recognising children’s individuality and worth, acknowledging that children need a safe space to learn, ensuring that there is consistency in our expectations as adults, as well as providing an appropriate level of challenge, so that children develop and make progress both personally and academically.


In order to guide our thinking and shape our provision for autism, we use and refer to the Autism Education Trust framework. Alongside this framework we use visual cues and aids to develop children’s language and communication skills; we use TEACCH to support and develop levels of independence and engagement; we use ‘Attention Autism’ and Lego Therapy as approaches to developing children’s focus and social learning behaviours; we use the ‘Zones of Regulation’ and an ‘Emotion Coaching’ approach in order to help children identify and regulate emotions, as well as using a multi-sensory approach to teaching and a range of sensory integration strategies such as Sensory Circuits, for aid sensory and emotional regulation and managing anxiety and controlling extreme surges of emotion, that can interrupt, or become barriers to learning. In addition to the identified frameworks for learning, we make use of Social Stories to develop children’s personal targets for socialisation and positive interaction.


To ensure that there is consistency for children throughout the week, we follow a carefully planned daily routine. Some aspects of children’s timetables include: a soft start approach at key transitional points to ensure children are ready to learn; planned time for check in’s, reflection and regulation; community time, independent personal learning time, targeted teaching, class integration opportunities, structured and free social time and frequent opportunities to celebrate successes.