Local offer

About WESC Foundation and criteria to access the provision

WESC Foundation is a leading national visual impairment centre for the education  and care of children, young people and adults, aged 5-25, based in the south west. We cater for all levels of sight loss and a wide range of complex needs. Our aim is to challenge and encourage each learner to be as active and independent as possible, whatever their ability. Our friendly and supportive environment promotes positive relationships and the development of a positive self-esteem. From this secure foundation children and young people are equipped to thrive and achieve as young adults in the future. WESC Foundation is SEND compliant.

What special education provision is available at our setting?

WESC Foundation run individualised programmes of work for children and young people who have a visual impairment. WESC Foundation provides an individualised curriculum for young people and adults with visual impairment (VI). They offer an adapted National Curriculum for school learners and accredited academic and vocational courses for college learners.

WESC offers the following curriculum options:

  • Specialist VI or Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) curriculum for all learners
  • The Exe Programme, including National Curriculum Level 1/Entry 1 and above, for school and college learners with Moderate Learning Difficulties
  • The Dart Programme for school and college learners with Complex Needs and Learning Difficulties
  • Adapted accredited academic and vocational courses at WESC Foundation or at partner colleges e.g. Exeter College, Bicton College etc.
  • Outreach VI Services for learners and teachers in mainstream schools, colleges and HE providers.

Whatever curriculum the young people will be studying WESC Foundation has a wealth of expertise and experience in providing individualised programmes that cater for the young person’s specific needs.

WESC teachers work closely with a range of other specialists including therapists, mobility/habilitation specialists and residential staff to ensure the delivery of an integrated approach to meeting their needs is consistent. Parents and carers are considered to be key partners in the process of both educational and care planning.

How do we identify the particular special educational needs of a child or young person?

Every child or young person wishing to attend WESC Foundation will be invited to come and undertake a comprehensive two-day assessment. This assessment will cover every aspect of an individual’s strengths and needs, including therapeutic and health needs, with regard to them functioning in an education and, if appropriate, residential setting. If after this assessment the child or young person, with their parents, wishes to apply for placement at the WESC Foundation then their application will be reviewed by the WESC admissions panel who will contact the parents with their decision.

Placement options available

There are a variety of placement options at WESC to suit the individual need:

  • full-time day or residential placements for 38 weeks of the academic year
  • all-year-round residential placements (52 week provision)
  • part-time day or residential placements
  • outreach services – offering support in mainstream and specialist schools, colleges and universities. Opportunities for split placements are available
  • supported internships in our social enterprises
  • short respite breaks in our residential houses for young people and adults who currently access education
  • supported living with education opportunities
  • adult day services.

Curriculum for school (pre 16) and college (post 16) learners

The Exe and Dart Programmes are both based on meeting the aspirations of the learners. This is achieved by agreeing long term outcomes and by setting individual targets around the five identified areas of development within the Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP):

  • cognition and learning
  • communication and interaction
  • social and emotional well-being
  • sensory, physical and/or mental needs
  • social care needs.

The Exe Programme

The Exe Programme is designed to meet the needs of young people with visual impairment and Moderate Learning Difficulties. Young people on the Exe Programme predominately work at National Curriculum Level 1/Entry 1 and above.

Every learner will have an individualised timetable that addresses their needs as a whole; supporting and promoting self-confidence, independence and well-being throughout their learning and in their preparation for transition into adult life.

The Exe Programme for school learners offers a National Curriculum based thematic model with discrete academic sessions working towards AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) Entry Level Maths, English and Science but with additional learning embedded in activities or projects incorporating ICT, arts, sciences and humanities. School learners at Key Stage 4 will be introduced to college course options including: Art and Design, Design and Technology, Drama, Horticulture, Music Technology and Radio production, as half termly afternoon sessions in preparation for post-16 vocational courses.

The Exe Programme for college learners includes core skills, vocational studies, work experience, independent living skills and a range of enrichment activities. The college offers:

  • Maths and English Ascentis stepping stone unit qualifications leading up to Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE grade C)
  • NCFE (Northern Council for Further Education) vocational courses
  • work experience opportunities both on and off campus.

WESC learners have specialist input from the mobility/habilitation team and for any identified therapy needs which will be built into their timetable as discrete sessions and embedded into all aspects of their programme.

Young people who have specific academic or vocational aspirations can access a full General Further Education (GFE) curriculum with specialist support from WESC at our partner mainstream colleges e.g. Exeter College, Bicton College,Somerset College, City of Bristol College and Cornwall College.

The Dart Programme

The Dart Programme is designed to meet the needs of visually impaired young people with Complex Needs and Learning Difficulties. It is developed around four distinct ‘landscapes’ within which learners acquire skills that support them in their preparation for adult life.

  • Creative (enrichment skills) – art, dance, drama, literature, music, radio, resonance boards, sensory exploration
  • Daily Living Skills (independence skills) – community/home-based
  • Physical (orientation and movement skills) – ball/parachute games, cycling, multi-gym, rebound therapy, swimming, walking
  • Social (participation and work skills) – community engagement, supported on/off-site voluntary work.

Learners are able to negotiate these ‘landscapes’ through the structure of their timetables. The Dart Programme encourages appropriate measures of independence and autonomy and organises educational experiences around the medical and therapeutic needs of the individual.

The day commences with self-organisation which encourages learners to engage for themselves in the transition between their residences and the school and college setting. This might involve the collection of items they need or independent travel between locations.

The main element of the day consist of Creative, Daily Living Skills, Physical and Social Skills, as described above. The day ends with self-evaluation which gives the learners an opportunity to consider their experiences and identify successes ahead of the transition back to their residences.

Timings are approximate with individuals themselves determining the pace or otherwise of their progression between the various elements of their programme.

Where appropriate, individuals may achieve accreditation via the OCR Life and Living Skills scheme.

How can we adapt our curriculum for children and young people with special educational needs?

We have a wealth of expertise and experience in providing Braille, Moon, Large Print and other alternative format materials for those who require them. We run one-to-one touch-typing and access technology tuition as well as formal training in a wide range of assistive technology such as screen magnification/screen readers and Voice Output Communication (VOCA) devices.

How will we ensure we get the services, provision and equipment that children and young people need?

WESC Foundation has a team of qualified therapists which includes: Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Speech and Language therapists and a Music therapist. There is a mobility/habilitation department with qualified specialists of mobility and independence who work with children to help them gain a better understanding of their environment and how they move within it. Young people and adults at WESC Foundation have access to a number of services including:

  • General practitioner
  • Consultants e.g. paediatrician
  • Ophthalmologist, optometrist and orthoptist clinics
  • Dietitian
  • Audiometry
  • Orthotic
  • Wheelchair

Health appointments can also be made off-site. The nurse and therapy teams work together with the young people and other staff to develop independence and encourage them to take responsibility for their own health and well-being.

How do we support and improve the emotional and social development of children and young people with special educational needs?

We run a comprehensive Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) programme in the school and college and have a highly experienced clinical psychologist on hand to address any specific concerns or worries any young person may have.

How do we support children and young people with special educational needs moving between phases of education and preparing for adulthood?

All young people moving onto the next stage, whether in education or into the community, require careful, well communicated planning and sharing of documentation. All WESC students have their destination reviewed annually and all work towards achieving this ambition. Through the WESC life skills programme (SKIP), work experience students are prepared for greater independence and contribution to their chosen destination whether in paid employment or in the voluntary sector. Emphasis on preparation for appropriate housing, management of finances and work becomes a key focus in the latter years at WESC. Parents and students are invited to attend a Transition Day where providers of possible future placements promote their services and supporting agencies are on hand for advice, as well as workshops and speakers on related subjects such as Mental Capacity Act (MCA), benefits and the various housing options.

How do we assess and review progress towards agreed outcomes, and how parents and the young person are involved in the process?

When a learner starts at WESC they have a baseline assessment completed to determine their long-term outcomes and accompanying yearly targets. Further key targets and objectives for all areas of study or support are then identified (these include: education, care, therapy, mobility and orientation, access technology and Braille specialisms). The young person’s legal documentation (Statement of SEN/LDA or Education, Health and Care Plan [EHCP]) is reviewed at an Educational Annual Review (EAR) meeting where progress can be checked against agreed outcomes and targets and any new needs of the young person identified. All contributing staff feed into the EAR meeting through ‘preview meetings’ and ‘learner-centred meetings’ which occur termly.

WESC Foundation works with learners, parents/carers, local authorities and other stakeholders on the compilation and review of EHCPs.

Learners who are new to WESC have a ‘placement review’ in their first term to evaluate whether the level of provision determined at the initial assessment is still appropriate for the young person’s needs and to make any amendments to the programme as necessary.

How do we assess the effectiveness of our special needs provision?

WESC follows a monitored and robust internal quality improvement plan. This is verified by a number of external moderators and inspectors, including Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted for care and numerous external awarding body verifiers.

What extra-curricular activities are available for children and young people with special educational needs?

Enrichment activities such as trips to the beach, Duke of Edinburgh Award, wheelchair dancing, WESC Factor, tenpin bowling, horse riding/riding for the disabled (RDA), Jubilee Ten Tors Challenge, sailing and residential trips aboard are fun and enjoyable and young people are encouraged to use these opportunities to develop skills and knowledge. Facilities at WESC are accessible to all and include: swimming pool, hydro pool, trampolines, adapted cycles and trikes, sensory garden, gym, sensory playroom and many other activities linked to their individual programme of development and mobility. Braille and access technology support is available during the day as well as evenings and weekends.

How do we ensure that teaching staff and other staff have the expertise needed to support children and young people with special educational needs?

WESC ensures that continuing professional development (CPD) is given a very high priority in meeting the needs of all staff at WESC and that staff are equipped to provide a high quality service to the children, young people and adults. Teachers undertake the mandatory qualification in visual impairment (MQVI) as a condition of appointment and other mandatory and specialist training is incorporated during the year as part of the annual WESC training and development plan. This includes a full internal staff development programme scheduled in on a termly basis as well as specific mandatory and non-mandatory training days for all staff. Training may include BSL (British Sign Language), Makaton, NAPPI (Non-abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention) training, First Aid, Braille, Safeguarding, Manual Handling, Level 3 Diploma for the children’s and young people’s work force, Equality and Diversity etc. All new staff are fully inducted into awareness of the implications of visual impairment and are encouraged to keep a training portfolio to register all training undertaken during their probationary period and beyond.

How are parents involved in the setting?

Parents and carers are formally involved in their child’s decision making at their Educational Annual Review (EAR) meeting. But parents do not have to wait until the EAR meeting as they can contact us directly and have an ongoing dialogue with tutors and keyworkers about their child’s educational and social developments. Parents are communicated with via Parentmail and also a parents and carers newsletter is sent out every term. In addition, we use social media and our website to regularly update parents on events and news.

WESC has a parent representative on the Local Governing Body which is responsible to the Board for the performance of the education, care and outreach departments within WESC Foundation.

How is this provision funded?

If approved by the WESC Foundation admissions board, a funding breakdown will be drawn up using the needs analysis from the two-day assessment and this will be sent to the appropriate funding authority.

How we support learners in mainstream settings

WESC Foundation supports WESC learners and non-WESC learners in mainstream settings. WESC seeks to work in partnership and to fully engage with the community through their Outreach Services provision, including VI advisory service to schools, FE colleges and universities across the region. WESC provides training and advice for pupils and students in independence skills, mobility and orientation, Braille, ICT and Access Technology, and training for staff in visual impairment awareness and the delivery of the curriculum to pupils and students with visual impairments and additional difficulties. The aim is to support both staff and pupils and students to achieve the best possible outcomes.

How is WESC preparing young people for the world of work

WESC Social Enterprise department has a portfolio of on-line and high street retail outlets. These outlets are designed to meet the needs of VI learners, managed by trained staff who provide WESC college learners with real work experience that builds on self-confidence, while maximising abilities and social skills. Each learner has an individual vocational learning plan that is designed to meet their full potential. With the focus on independence, our aim is to ensure that all WESC learners will leave full-time education with real employability skills that enable them to contribute to society through employment or supported voluntary placements. WESC Foundation has excellent links with a number of external providers which gives learners a wide choice of organisations to gain their work experience, including Dawlish Garden Trust, Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, Devon in Sight and Cancer UK. Ofsted reaffirmed this in their 2014 inspection highlighting “exemplary practice” in working in partnership with external providers.

Research and Development

Education for the visually impaired has traditionally been all about eye integrity and eye efficiency, but we now know the brain plays a much more important role in perception and sight.

This knowledge has deepened and broadened our understanding, by providing insights into the relationship between the brain and sign.  Central to our philosophy of education is a commitment to keep our knowledge in line with the latest international research and development.

We believe in securing the most technologically advanced hardware and software for us with our learners, and training all staff effectively in new thinking and technologies.

Among our current areas of expertise are:

  • Sensory Integration Therapy, which is a way of working on the individual’s ability to process sensory information effectively
  • Neurological Visual Impairment.  We have a neuroscience based approach to curriculum and timetabling and a range of other techniques to which we are currently applying an action research approach
  • Low Vision Aids (LVA), which support learning and lifeskills.  These include magnifiers, task lighting, and reading aids which enhance near and distance vision