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Mr Barker’s Blog – 8.9.23

Hi everyone, my name is John Barker and I am the Deputy Head at the Learning Centre.

I am writing this blog as a very poor substitute for Miss Allison who is currently recovering very well from an operation in August. I hope you have had a lovely Summer break. It has been a true delight to welcome everyone to the Learning Centre this week. What a fantastic first week!

Mrs Keane has written about the training days that took place on the Monday and Tuesday-

“On Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th of September staff at the Learning Centre took part in a  ‘Person Centred Communication Workshop’ led by Alison Mathews and Emma Bekett from Total Communication Services CIC.

We began with an interactive activity where staff had to communicate some facts about themselves to a partner, without speaking or writing! Everyone had to get creative and although we weren’t supposed to be speaking, there was a lot of noise. This activity helped us to empathise with some of our students who find communicating difficult.

Staff watched a demonstration on sensory stories. Sensory stories can be used when somebody can’t access all the language in a story, the sensory experience supports their understanding.

On day two, we began with learning about Intensive Interaction. This is an approach that was developed to reach people who are not always happy to be in the company of others.

The aims of Intensive Interaction are:

To enjoy the wonder, joy and fulfilment of communication and relationships.

To ‘teach’ the fundamentals of communication.

To open up a variety of other experiences.

To reduce challenging behaviour.

Then we went on to learn how we can use objects of reference to aid understanding and as a means of means of communicating.  Staff had a session where one person had to communicate a destination to their blindfolded partner without using speech or signing. This was much harder than we thought it was going to be.

Staff looked at communication passports and how we can use them. The passports are a practical and person centred way of supporting young people who cannot easily speak for themselves.

The next part of the training covered using photos and symbols to communicate and how we can use visual timetables.  Staff were asked to draw their own symbols and we had a competition to see whose was the best and much fun was had assessing our drawing skills.

Next, we had a session on PECS.  PECS is a picture based augmentative system which can help some people to learn functional communication skills in social environments.

Finally, we learnt about social stories which can be used to share accurate information meaningfully and safely.

The two days were busy, interactive and informative for all the staff who attended and we are looking forward to the next sessions.”

On Wednesday, our year 13 and 14 students  returned excited, and I’m convinced the majority have grown a few inches over the summer break. Our year 12 students have been full of smiles. I’ve never seen as many wide grins on the first week back!

The students have very quickly found their feet and are getting used to the College feel at the Learning Centre, becoming familiar with new routines and making new friendships.

Staff teams are in contact with families to touch base, however, can I reiterate that the team are always here to support our families, so do call if you have any concerns or questions.

The new start can be a difficult time for students, so we have taken things at a steady pace this week, with the exception of Outdoor Education with Mr Taylor. Students have worked within their tutor groups whilst they settle in and begin to build positive relationships with their staff teams and peers. We hope our students are looking forward to starting their new timetables next week.

Hope you have a lovely weekend!



St Martins Road, Fitton Hill, Oldham, OL8 2PZ

School Hours

M-F: 8am – 4pm
Weekends: Closed

Phone & Email

0161 883 2402