The Willow Tree

About us

“Students’ self- esteem and confidence is boosted very effectively through the supportive and encouraging environment... student’s behaviour in the centre is excellent”. - Frank Price, March 2016

The Willow Tree Centre provides a safe and stimulating working environment for learners and all staff ensure students experience a rich and exciting curriculum tailored to their specific needs. Staff ensure a multi- sensory approach to learning, they provide a Total Communication Environment to facilitate communication for all, and they follow strategies as outlined in individual student Behaviour Support plans or ASD plans. Students are encouraged to be as independent as possible in their learning by establishing routines and schedules. They are empowered in their learning through the negotiation of an individual success criteria, adapted to each student’s level of understanding.

We believe that the most important factor in the development of students is the relationships between staff and student.  Therefore students are always spoken to with respect.  All students are consistently treated with respect and dignity. Students are praised and encouraged for good behaviour, real effort and for making positive choices. This is always modelled by staff interactions.

The Willow Tree Centre opened in September 2015 and previous to this the majority of students were educated at The Bridge Special School. The transition for the students was very successful due to the bespoke design of the building alongside the employment of familiar staff from The Bridge School. The Local Authority commissioned a staffing structure to include a Head, Deputy Head, Learning Facilitators and Learning Support Assistants (LSAs). All staff receive extensive specialist training prior to undertaking their roles to ensure they can meet the individual needs of learners. Specific training includes; MAPA, Manual Handling, Risk of Aspiration/ Dysphagia, Makaton, Level 2 Food Safety, AAC, PECS and TEACCH. Statutory training is also undertaken by all staff e.g. PREVENT, Safeguarding etc. Additional training is undertaken by identified staff (Specialist Learning Facilitators) to safely administer medication as appropriate to student need and provide emergency first aid. All training is refreshed as appropriate.

The students are taught one to one or in small groups with a high staff/student ratio. They are taught in small groups or one to one contexts as appropriate to individual needs and their individual person centred curriculum.  The Willow Tree was designed to include additional bespoke classrooms which provide a highly specialised and personalised approach for some learners in response to their needs. Specialist resources/ approaches are used in these classrooms and the staff have consistent access to members of the Management Team throughout the college day.

For more information contact:
Head of Willow Tree Centre – Sarah Jones

Aims & Values

Preparation for Adulthood

We strive to ensure our students progress and leave as young adults who are as independent as possible, at home, in the community and potentially in the work place. We aim to facilitate opportunities to enable our students to participate actively and make meaningful contributions to their local communities and wider society.

Promoting Independence

With an understanding that some of our students will never be fully independent we strive to teach them to be as independent as possible. This will help ensure they live as full a life as possible and also build on their self-esteem and confidence.  Independence is promoted with very small step progressions and skills are ‘over taught’ to help students maintain their progress going forward. Students are fully supervised during all their activities to allow for staff to give guidance when required and to ensure their safety.

Age Appropriate Learning

Our curriculum recognises learners as young adults. Content reflects the priorities of post 16 age groups and begins a shift from main school curriculum models and towards preparation for adult life. Core areas such as Numeracy, Literacy and ICT are all still covered but through a more age appropriate and functional style of delivery. There is a shift away from the linear model that targets the teaching of new concepts towards recognising existing skills and providing meaningful ways of enabling application of these in functional, everyday contexts.

Personalised Learning Programmes

Developing each student’s bespoke person-centred programme starts with a six-week initial assessment period to identify student’s requirements.  The assessment includes information from schools, families, carers and other agencies such as physiotherapists and speech and language therapists. Students take part in a variety of sessions in different settings. In this six week period, the students explore different aspects of the course, students and parents share their aspirations and preferences and are supported to choose their options and develop an individual timetable. During this assessment process potential barriers to employment, independence and/or social integration are discussed.  In order to ensure the student remains at the centre of the decision making process, staff hold person centred reviews with the student, their family, carers and other professionals to discuss progress and targets and changes to the individual timetable if necessary.