In this blog Rebecca Beveridge from Venturers Academy which is a specialist provision for autistic learners shares their journey and impact of introducing TEEP into the academy.
At Venturers Academy we specialise in delivering high quality education to autistic learners. Our students are some of the most vulnerable children in Bristol. We have a diverse range of needs within our cohorts including SEMH, challenging behaviour and many of our students have EAL needs. Our drive has always been to provide our students with the highest quality educational provision and develop their range of educational experiences.
Our journey has not been smooth sailing and as a school we epitomised the ‘Learners Journey as a true rollercoaster’.
The beginning of our TEEP journey at Venturers Academy coincided with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time this was a truly challenging undertaking for our staff, but in hindsight, beginning in this way really did improve Teaching practice.
As Early Adopters we had the privilege of putting ourselves into the same position as our students; battling technology, dealing with the inevitable overlap of home and work and balancing the stress of a pandemic alongside a challenging CPD opportunity. This allowed me to really understand how my students were learning during the pandemic, with this awareness alongside my developing knowledge of TEEP I made a decision to overhaul my teaching style.
At this time I was teaching a Life Skills class, an incredibly challenging class of teenage students with a vast array of behaviours that challenge, EAL needs, Sensory needs and cognitive challenges. On paper my students were not academic, their social and emotional needs were enormous and historically they had made little academic progress. This was a cohort who should not have thrived in a pandemic. TEEP allowed me the opportunity to reflect and begin to unpick the motivation behind their attitude towards learning but also reflect on my style of teaching. I recognised that I needed to become far more flexible and adaptable as a Teacher, my students find change hard – so I needed to adapt and change, not them.
I recognised that I needed to slow my teaching down, we are all guilty at times of rushing headfirst into achieving a result that showcases our students, but in reality I needed to embed the knowledge of my students and build a strong foundation. Their journey is not about a quick result, it is a marathon not a sprint.
As a school we subscribe to the Thrive Approach, I recognised that Thrive maps in so well with TEEP and that working in conjunction it creates the perfect educational environment for students to thrive.
I began small, focusing in the beginning on preparing my students for learning, focusing on taking the Thrive principles of creating a safe and calm environment and mapping this with high expectations.
A solid foundation to build upon
During the pandemic I made a radical choice to continue teaching the same timetable but virtually. I addressed the SEMH needs of my students, I entwined my new found love of TEEP with our Thrive practice and created a culture where learning was celebrated. We began to talk more about ‘ Constructing Meaning’ taking our knowledge and applying it into the context of our lives and my students loved it. The progress they made was astonishing, they were exceeding their annual academic targets, some making huge leaps in their understanding, but more importantly they were enjoying learning, for some, for the first time in their educational experience. The success my students found during the pandemic was simply the beginning of my TEEP journey but it gave me the firm foundation to bring this new love of learning into the physical classroom.
The progress my students all made during the academic year was phenomenal. Every student exceeded academic targets and surpassed all expectations, the comments from parents were focused around their surprise at how well their children were engaging with school and the shift in attitudes towards learning. It was evident that students were enjoying their time within the classroom, and they felt confident in understanding the purpose of their learning. This gave a solid foundation to build upon and they are continuing to thrive in their learning – my most disengaged pupil has just been awarded a Gold Award from ‘Engage in the Future’ a national award celebrating exceptional achievements. There is a sense of pride and confidence in students that wasn’t there before and ultimately that really shows how powerful TEEP can be for ASD students.
The benefit of TEEP was felt not just in Venturers Academy, but in fact all across the Venturers Trust. Developing shared language between colleagues in schools across the Trust, opening opportunities for collaboration and coaching. It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore how others have implemented TEEP into their practice and also further extending into the whole school ethos. This capacity for cross trust working has meant that links are built to support our students across the Trust and enables us to build links and share expertise. It has been a wonderful journey and I have expanded my knowledge enormously.
Whole school implementation
The implementation of TEEP within the whole school wasn’t smooth – many of my colleagues were initially sceptical of the programme and dismissed its usefulness within our SEND cohort. Many had undertaken the Level One training and had struggled with using the Online platform, combining this with teaching during the pandemic and personal fears; upon reflection the timing was wrong to launch TEEP into our school.
However, returning to face to face teaching and resuming a new ‘normal’ provided fantastic opportunities to explore how teaching staff felt about TEEP, there was a misconception that TEEP required additional workload and added pressure – once this misconception was addressed it was clear that many of our Teachers had simply misunderstood the purpose of the training – it is not reinventing the wheel but simply a tool to help aid reflection in how we are delivering our teaching.
Delivering high quality teaching and learning is the foundation of every school and by utilising TEEP we ensure there is a consistency between Key Stages and Phases. Our students thrive on routine and structure. It is recognised that change is not beneficial or welcomed by our students and the anxiety surrounding class moves and transitions can be challenging for most. TEEP is a wonderful tool to help students.
Coaching sessions and in-house training were utilised to identify what key areas, as staff ,we needed to focus upon and to provide a gentle reintroduction to the principles. There was a recognition that TEEP aligned strongly with our focus for developing a consistency between our three sites and the use of our ‘shared language’ meant that students were able to recognise their learning pathways and identify which learning stage they were in and were working towards. Following the TEEP cycle gives our students ownership within their learning – it allows them to recognise the steps they need to take to achieve, it also allows them the chance to unpick what helps them to succeed in their learning. The consistent use of reflection and review within each stage of the cycle meant that student misconceptions were picked up quicker and intervention sessions could be put into place quickly to address gaps. This is especially important for our learners after the turbulent learning journey during the pandemic.
Allowing for teachers to deliver high-quality teaching and learning
Our students thrive on routine and consistency, embedding the language of TEEP and understanding the TEEP cycle ensured that teachers were able to plan more effectively – ensuring that we were allowing students to explore their learning and develop deeper connections within their classrooms. Recognising the need for developing engaging and exciting lessons which exposed our students to all elements of the cycle meant that students were energised by their lessons, this in turn had a direct impact on their progress both academically and socially.
As a school we subscribe to the ‘Thrive Approach’ this trauma informed intervention works well in conjunction with TEEP as it identifies students who are not ready to learn and enables staff to embed interventions into whole class sessions. TEEP allows for teachers to deliver high-quality teaching and learning and Thrive helps us support the wellbeing of the students ensuring they are all able to have the same opportunities and access the same learning.
Our journey has just begun as a school and I am very excited to see where the future takes us.
Ultimately, TEEP has been a powerful tool for us as an ASD specialist school. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to explore our students’ capacity for learning, allows us a deeper understanding of how to impart knowledge effectively and recognition of any additional support students may require to succeed. The biggest benefit of TEEP implementation is the effect it has upon the students; learners want to be in the classroom and are proud of their achievements, they are able to talk about their learning and share their enthusiasm with others.
I am proud to teach my students and they are shining!