Bishop Douglass School, London, supports students with Special Educational Needs using the Dore Programme
Bishop Douglass in East Finchley has been a Specialist Science College since 2009. It is a Catholic school and has a very wide catchment area, attracting families from many different boroughs.
It is a fully comprehensive, diverse school and has a higher than average number of pupils needing support with literacy and language acquisition. Some pupils have started their education in another country joining the school part-way through their secondary schooling.
The school had its last Ofsted Inspection in October 2010 and it stated:
‘Bishop Douglass provides a good education for students with very wide-ranging and diverse abilities; interests and needs. The school is a well-ordered, purposeful and safe community with a strong commitment to ensure that all students have an equal chance to succeed’.
The ethos of providing a full range of support and interventions for their students led the school to explore solutions for helping all learners.
Isabelle Goursaud, Assistant Head Teacher for Inclusion, was keen to address the issues of literacy and organisational skills. Staff had found that some pupils were locked into a pattern of low achievement, lack of self esteem and poor motivation. The school wanted to help to break this cycle for its pupils.
Finding the right intervention
In 2010, a former participant of the Dore Programme gave an inspirational talk to the school about how it had helped him to deal with lifelong problems with dyslexia. Dore is a programme of exercises aimed at improving the function of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is thought to control balance, eye tracking and concentration, that lasts for 12 – 18 months.
Isabelle Goursaud commented, “We wanted to find early interventions to help students to overcome difficulties before they become discouraged. Dore seemed to be exactly what we were looking for so we decided to trial the Programme with a small group of pupils in Years 7, 8, and 9 who we felt were not fulfilling their potential. One such pupil in Year 9 had deep rooted organisational problems; it meant that she could not get to school on time, settle to class work, manage her time or complete coursework.”
Selecting the right pupils
Teachers drew up a list of pupils based on assessments and classroom observations. In the case of Year 7 pupils they looked at reports from primary schools too. Next, they sent a letter home to parents and identified those who were likely to be able to support the child and had time and the commitment necessary to make sure that the child complied with the Programme.
All assessments and reports were sent to Dore, where staff reviewed the information to ensure suitability for the Programme. Once pupils had been selected, the next step was a trip to the Dore Centre in Stratford upon Avon. The participants, accompanied by staff, had assessments for balance, eye tracking and a neurological examination from a doctor.
Head Teacher Angela Murphy was fully committed to the Programme. She provided a dedicated room and allocated two staff members, Nuala Singh and Rakhee Makwana, to the Programme. Their remit was to liaise with Dore Centre staff and organise the day to day running of Dore in school.
Every pupil now has two one-to-one sessions of exercises for 10 minutes each day between 8.00 and 11.00 in the morning and 2.30 and 3.30 in the afternoon. The school is keen to minimise disruption to lessons so sessions are timetabled to avoid the core subjects of Science, English and Mathematics and some children come in early to do their first session before school starts.
The school knows that the role of the parents is crucial because children have to work through the exercises at home some evenings, at weekends and during the holidays. In order to ensure parents understand the importance of their support throughout the Programme, the school and Dore staff engages with them from the beginning. The exercises are explained carefully to pupils and parents and further enabled by a unique, personalised online system that helps to monitor progress and allows participants to view video footage on how to complete every exercise. The online facility allows parents to continue the commitment during the holidays. The exercises change regularly in accordance with the progress of individual pupils but all are designed to strengthen balance, eye tracking and ability to focus both mentally and physically.
Ongoing commitment to the Programme is imperative for success. Isabelle Goursaud explains, "It requires a lot of discipline to turn your back on the sunshine and sea and spend 10 minutes twice a day on exercises but it is essential." The school is now busy devising a holiday pack to help parents keep their child on track.
The school has witnessed some very positive outcomes for the pupils since implementing the Dore Programme, even though the first cohort of pupils has not yet completed the whole programme. Parents and staff have all noticed a difference; one mother said, "My daughter enjoys being part of the Dore programme and feels more confident in expressing herself”, and another added, "My son is more confident and organised."
The staff at the school report that they are seeing improvements in concentration, confidence and self-esteem, balance and coordination and writing and organisational skills.
Most of all, the pupils are all saying that they are making progress. One participant comments, “During my time on the Dore programme I have achieved so much. I have been doing this Programme since November 2010 and before my reading and writing was bad. This Programme has helped me so much with my Maths, English and Science and it has also helped me with my balance.”
Angela Murphy is delighted with the results. She says, “I can really see the difference in the pupils and that is why I have committed to starting another group of children on the Programme.”