Abbey Hill School & Performing Arts College has always endeavoured to be a forward thinking school, a place where every child really does matter. Abbey Hill prides itself on providing quality education, support and care for all its pupils. The staff always try to go "the extra mile".
Abbey Hill is held in high esteem by parents and the local community and it is their aim to be even better! Independent accolade from OFSTED inspections, confirm this; "From low starting points most students make rapid progress in all subjects" (Ofsted 2014), "The sixth form is outstanding" (Ofsted 2014).
"We have approximately 230 pupils on roll, with over 40% having Autistic Spectrum Conditions. In our new build, we were keen to develop a range of sensory rooms to meet the wide age range within our school, 3-19 years."
Our aim was to be able to use the space for:
We wished to create spaces where we could promote communication and interaction, and therefore opted for a number of control boxes to operate the equipment in each room. Pupils enjoy using the sensory rooms and find them a pleasurable experience, and are therefore in a more relaxed state which is conducive to learning.
We particularly love the vibrating waterbed and the large rocking chair. The sales team who talked to us about the rooms and trained us on the sensory equipment was very pleasant and helpful."
Julie Cartwright, Deputy Head Teacher
Activate - Discover, Create, Inspire!
Activate is a truly inspiring facility and the result of over 12 years of unwavering and dedicated effort by the Chief Executive Officer, Vivienne Guy, to provide effective alternative education programmes.
Activate is based at the Bracknell Centre, Kirby, Liverpool and is a fully accessible integrated community and education facility for young adults with learning difficulties and the local community. It is deemed to be the first of its kind in the country as it incorporates social enterprises, education and community services to ensure sustainability. The site itself boasts a range of facilities such as a small animal care centre, on site café, horticulture base, SpaceKraft Sensory Pod and community room.
Activate's aim is to provide a facility that promotes inclusion and integration between disabled and non-disabled individuals and help break down some of the barriers that their students face in society.
"We have 6 young people who are regularly using the SpaceKraft Sensory Pod (these are our PMLD/high need students) but have over 50 students accessing the Bracknell Centre site each week for education and employability activities. We chose to have a sensory space incorporated into our specialist high needs facility to aid with ongoing development for our students. The requirements for the sensory space were that it was fit for educational purposes for 19-25 year olds with complex needs.
We were able to gain a small pot of funding to contribute towards the funding of the sensory space however; this covered only 1/3rd of the costs. We were limited with what equipment we could install because of the funding. The decision to use SpaceKraft was based on price and the personal service from the sales team who helped design the right solution within our budget.
The finished solution has certainly met my expectations. I think the combinations of the sensory equipment within our specially designed POD is a great combination, I don't have a favourite piece of equipment because my favourite part of the space is the whole room! Parents/carers feel that the space (including the whole high needs specialist area) is a 'grown up version of school'.
I would recommend SpaceKraft to others, I think that throughout we have had good communication and worked well together to find solutions to any issues."
Award winning Multi-Sensory Rooms in Cardiff.
Spacekraft's largest project to date is the Ty Gwyn Special School, in the Ely area of Cardiff. Ty Gwyn is a local authority day school catering for children and young people from 3 to 19 years who have profound and multiple learning difficulties, including some on the autistic spectrum who present with severe challenging behaviour. Long established at an ageing former hostel building in Penylan, the Ty Gwyn pupils and staff recently moved into the remarkable new £16 million purpose-built school building with state-of-the-art facilities for 150 pupils from the Cardiff and South East Wales area.
Funded by a School Buildings Improvement Grant provided by the Welsh Assembly Government, planning for the new school building began in 2007 and took three years to reach fruition, finally opening in September 2010. As various multi-sensory elements were to form an important part of the new school's facilities, Spacekraft became involved at a very early stage, initially only drafting proposals for several sensory areas and a hydrotherapy pool. Ultimately, however the multi-sensory aspects of the project became far more ambitious, leading to one of the biggest design and installation projects that Spacekraft have ever undertaken.
A key requirement was a common set of equipment across the entire school, with a sensory provision in all of the new classrooms in addition to specialised sensory developments in seven separate areas. Working closely with Cardiff County Council's Projects Design & Development team and building contractors Cowlin Construction, Spacekraft designed and installed portable sensory corners in each of the 22 classrooms, as well as creating 14 calming rooms (with softplay walls and sensory lighting) and eight withdrawal rooms (with softplay walls and soothing music) adjoining the classrooms.
In addition, Spacekraft also designed and installed a splashpool, a multi-sensory hydrotherapy pool with computerised sound and lighting, and a large Softplay room fitted with a ballpool, trampoline and Softplay geometric jungle. A separate sensory room incorporated a wide variety of interactive lighting equipment including projectors, infinity tunnels, fibre optic wall carpets and LED touchwalls. The school's main hall was transformed into a spectacular interactive music and drama theatre with Spacekraft's Sensory Theme Studio technology, enabling the pupils to control the environment with wireless switches and create a vast array of stunning digital backdrops for performances and events. The result was an award-winning development which has proved phenomenally successful with carers and pupils alike. The Council's Executive Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, Councillor Freda Salway said; "Ty Gwyn is a magnificent facility that truly is second to none. We are extremely proud to have such an outstanding provision in Cardiff which is a fantastic asset for vulnerable children and their families, providing them with high quality surroundings to meet their needs."
The 232-pupil school which specialises in Autistic development but cares for children with a wide range of conditions, collaborated with SpaceKraft on the development of two Softplay Rooms and two Multi-Sensory Rooms.
"We knew from experience at the original site the kind of products we really liked," explains Deputy Headteacher, Lesley Love. "We had a very good understanding of what we wanted before we came here."
The Softplay Rooms which encourage mobility and expression, are now established as a vital and extremely popular resource at the school and used for a variety of functions; "We use the rooms as a way of teaching children to communicate," says Lesley. "The rooms are highly motivating for the children and they're particularly encouraged to ask for the things in the rooms that they like. It really helps develop their communication skills."
The Softplay Rooms provide a safe environment for children with physical disabilities to perform mobility exercises and are used extensively in the one-to-one communication development of Autistic children. It's this flexible, multi-functional ability that is at the heart of the project's ongoing success at the school.
Not that the Softplay and Multi-Sensory rooms are beneficial to the children alone; the rooms provide the school's teachers with an ideal starting-off point in which to develop and expand on the school's 'Learning Through Fun' philosophy. In putting this philosophy into action, the rooms have been placed at the very core of Treetops' developmental activities.
Although all parts of the rooms are used by the staff and children, Lesley herself singles out the Multi-Sensory Room's 'Bubble Tube' as an especially indispensable resource, claiming this innovative piece of equipment has even spurred some children into their first attempts at speech; "The children love it so much," she tells us. "Some of the children at the school, their first word has been 'bubbles' because they're so motivated to ask for them. If I had to choose a favourite thing in the room it would be that."
With Treetops caring for children between 2-19 years old, developing separate multi-sensory environments was essential on a basic level - after all, as Lesley points out, a 14 year old running about is rather different to a 2 year old. Sometimes age segregation is a very practical necessity!
Although older classes might enjoy more group work with the Multi-Sensory Room's UV lamp and frequently use the mirage projector, the rooms still function in a similar way for all ages; "The general aim is to get the children, whatever their age, to communicate better and to develop better relationships with other children. If older children have similar needs to the younger children, they use the equipment in a similar way - learning to have fun with people and learning to ask for things is key."
Indeed, part of SpaceKraft's initial collaboration with Treetops saw them working very closely alongside Lesley in the development of a whole new product. Lesley's 'Tumble Rocker' is a half-sphere which children can sit in and be rocked. "Children love to be rocked," she explains. "They're rewarded with rocking if they make better attempts at clarity of speech. It's brilliant - it's a really good piece of equipment."
With SpaceKraft always keen to work closely with customers, Lesley is already looking at developing the Multi-Sensory rooms further; "I'd like to look at hanging things from the ceiling for vestibular work - swings for example - that's definitely a future project.
Late in 2006, SpaceKraft completed work on a major four-year project to design and install an extensive array of multi-sensory equipment across 20 separate areas of the new purpose-built Bridge Special School in Telford, Shropshire. The implementation of SpaceKraft's multi-sensory environments as a major part of the school's ongoing inclusion programme has proven so successful that in November 2007, the school won the 2007 BECTA Award for Excellence in ICT Practice in the Inclusion (Primary) Category.
Originally based at sites in Brookside and Stirchley, The Bridge School was relocated in January 2007 to the Hadley Learning Community (HLC) Telford. This is a £70 million PFI (Private Finance Initiative) project which has created a 21st century learning campus incorporating three schools within a single, modern building on a 39-acre site. The campus consists of a primary school, a secondary school and The Bridge Special School, a centre for children with severe and profound learning and physical disabilities which provides places for 162 pupils aged 5 to 19 years.
SpaceKraft became closely involved with the Bridge School section of the HLC project from its inception early in 2004. Working alongside head teacher Una Van-Den-Berg and deputy head teacher Heather Davis, together with Andrew Jones from the Interserve building group, SpaceKraft developed the design and specification of 20 sensory areas that would become a vital part of the school's curriculum.
Heather Davis explains, "All our staff were very heavily involved in the design of the new school, really thinking through the needs of the pupils now and what was going to be an effective provision for them in the future. We had to project into the future because the school has been built with an expected 25 to 30 year lifespan as a PFI building, so we had to thinking about the changing needs of the changing population that we can see coming through early years, and think about how that will effect educational provision much further down the line.
We had worked with SpaceKraft before at the old school sites, so we had already established a professional relationship with them. Because of this, we were able to go to SpaceKraft and say 'This is what we are trying to achieve and this is what we feel the children really need - what have you got that will help us to do that?'
SpaceKraft designed and installed five multi-sensory Whiterooms and five multi-sensory Blackrooms equipping each with a wide range of suitable interactive sensory products. The Whiterooms also incorporated SpaceKraft's exclusive Sensory Show Magic interactive sound video and lighting system. SpaceKraft developed two different Softplay rooms for the school and fitted the school's hydrotherapy pool, Music Room, Music and Drama Hall, and a science classroom with Sensory Show Magic interactive sound and lighting.
Deputy head teacher Heather Davis explains, The facilities that SpaceKraft have provided are fantastic tools for encouraging a meaningful social interaction between our pupils and the mainstream community."
A recent move to new purpose-built premises was the perfect opportunity to upgrade the existing facilities for the staff at the Pioneer School in Basildon, Essex. The new Pioneer School is a Model Special School catering for 90 children in the age range of 3 to 13 years and 80 pupils in the age range of 14 to 25 years with SLD, PMLD and ASD. SpaceKraft designed and installed a dual-purpose sensory room with an unusual sunken waterbed in the floor and also equipped the school's new swimming pool with Sensory Show Magic interactive sound and lighting.
Sensory teacher Helen Carpenter explains how plans for the sensory room developed. "At our old premises we had a room that had some SpaceKraft lighting in it but we didn't actually have a full White Room. For the new building we decided to install what is technically three sensory rooms: a tactile room, a teaching sensory room and a relaxation sensory room. What we decided to do was bring all our old equipment from the other site and put it in the teaching sensory room.
Because that room is for teaching cause and effect it was important to keep it to the basics, light and dark and so on, and the existing equipment was ideal for that. What that enabled us to do was to spend all the money we had allocated to us for the new site on a complete new fitted room from SpaceKraft which included three bubble tubes, a fibre-optic curtain and the waterbed. SpaceKraft fitted everything before we moved in here so there was no disruption to the school during the installation."
Within the limited space available for the main sensory room, SpaceKraft developed an effective dual-purpose room which doubles as both a tactile room, providing a variety of sensory stimulation effects, and a chill-out room, which provides a calming and relaxing environment. One unusual aspect of the room was prompted by a structural feature of the new school building, as Helen explains. "Because we've got overhead ceiling tracking in all our rooms, we have no mobile hoists at all, so therefore we didn't need any space under the waterbed to put mobile hoist legs. So we sunk the waterbed into the floor and now we've got no risk of the children falling off."
In the months since the new Pioneer School opened, the dual-purpose sensory room has proven to be a highlight of the new building, popular with both the children and the staff. "It's all working out really well and the kids really love it in there," says Helen. "Our old bubble tube at the previous site was just a market-bought one and it was very small, so coming here and having three big bubble tubes - one with bubbles, one with beads and one with balls - is something completely different for them."
In addition to the sensory room, SpaceKraft also designed and installed their Sensory Show Magic interactive sound and lighting system in the new swimming pool. "Our previous swimming pool had a perspex roof so it was very, very light during school hours and you couldn't have music in there because you just couldn't hear it," Helen recalls. "We knew at a very early stage that SpaceKraft would be coming in and setting up the Show Magic system in the pool, so it was built into the planning of the room that we would be able to darken it so we'd be able to have the coloured lights on and have a proper sound system in there.
"For our less able children, it adds another sensory dimension to swimming. Since we've been in here it's all been working out really well, particularly for those who are wary of swimming pools and water. A lot of those kids are the ones that have got sensory impairments but they're used to the lights, so that's been able to calm them enough that they're not then having the fear of the water and being in the pool. They love the fact that they're moving around more because they can chase the light spots moving around the pool and it creates a very calming atmosphere. Being in the water with the lights and sounds also stimulates them in a way that isn't possible for them out of the pool, and we can also do physio exercises in the pool because the warmth of the water relaxes the muscles. So by having them relaxed and having the lights, which they enjoy anyway, you can do more exercises with them without them really noticing that you're exercising them more - they just seem to relax and function better."
The dual-purpose room and Show Magic pool have been so popular with the pupils that the school already has plans for expansion of the sensory facilities. "This coming summer we're going into a second phase with the building and we're already planning to have a music room put in and a musical floor with different squares which light up. So we shall certainly be considering using SpaceKraft again in the near future because they know the building and we're very happy with the work they've done here."