Essex BSF – Where Inclusion Means Just That
Inclusive teams up with RM to deliver forward thinking special needs provision.
RM has been chosen as the preferred ICT partner for the Essex BSF programme, one of the largest in the country. As part of the Skanska RM consortium, RM put together a unique and compelling vision for the future of learning in Essex. At the heart of this vision is provision for inclusion, which does just that.
Inclusive Technology and SpaceKraft, both part of the RM Group, and a number of key, inclusive-education, specialists worked with the consortia and the schools to ensure that Essex will have the most forward thinking special education needs ICT provision in the country. Indeed, two of the first four schools to be built under the programme will be Special Schools.
SpaceKraft is pioneering a new type of immersive learning environment, which extends multisensory learning opportunities for both special education needs students and mainstream students.
This unique immersive learning environment has been created with all of the schools in the first wave and will enable simulations to be created for specific school requirements. Scenarios include transporting students to places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the South Pole and the Tropical Rainforest, and simulating more everyday settings such as the barber shop, railway station and supermarket, to provide students with experiences, which provide stepping-stones to a more independent life in the community. Developed by RM, Spacekraft and Flasma the environment will allow schools to develop their own immersive content scenarios and so provide a sustainable resource that can be continually updated.
During the procurement, Essex challenged RM to deliver a truly inclusive learning platform capable of meeting the needs of all students including those with PMLD and SLD. RM went back to the drawing board and in collaboration with highly regarded SEN ICT experts, Inclusive Technology, designed a fully accessible and personalised online learning experience which will provide opportunities for all.
As part of the project RM’s expert team will work with Essex County Council to form an Innovation Trust. This will ensure early access, by the schools in Essex, to emerging technologies and so future-proof their technology lead. Similarly, the creation of an Inclusion Exchange to share a wide range of specialist accessibility devices across SEN and mainstream schools within the managed service will help ensure the students have access to the best services available.
Another key factor in the RM offering was the flextible furniture offered by RM group company Isis. Taking the time to truly understand the culture and aspirations of each school was how Isis developed its winning ideas for furniture and layout. Feedback from the headteachers complimented Isis on its flexible, versatile products that enable one space to support a range of different lessons types and learning styles. For example, tables that move and chairs that stack enable independent working, group collaboration or ‘face the front’ instruction in the same space. This adaptablity is particularly useful in SEN environments where students have wide-ranging needs to which their learning spaces need to respond.
Steve Willis, BSF Lead, Cornelius Vermuyden School and Arts College said, ‘Cornelius Vermuyden School and Arts College is delighted to be working in partnership with Skanska RM on developing our ICT provision. This partnership will help to transform teaching and learning at our school, and combined with our fantastic new facilities, will enable us to build on our success.’
Having given thorough consideration to each school’s aims, Isis developed furniture specifications that not only reflected the unique learning style inside each school, but also complemented the external landscape. For example, the arts specialism of the Cornelius Vermuyden school is reflected in its aesthetic with calm colours and natural wood, whereas Castle View, with its urban location, has a more functional, monochrome look. In Columbus School, each stage of education and its significance as a rite of passage along the path to adulthood and growing independence is signposted through its own colours and shapes whilst retaining a consistent functional approach.
‘We are excited about building a partnership with Skanska RM that will not only provide inspiring specialist learning spaces to complement those already available in our wonderful new building but also transform the way our students access a rich and stimulating curriculum through the newest technologies’, said Ian Davies, ICT Change Champion, Pioneer New Model Special School.
Commenting on the Essex BSF project, Terry Sweeney, RM’s CEO said, ‘Essex schools are going to benefit from the great vision for learning the Local Authority has. That includes a unique, and truly transformational, managed service with broad mix of computers selected by the schools based upon pupil requirements and educational needs.
'We’re also working with the schools to develop a comprehensive Change Management and CPD programme tailored to meet both school and individuals’ needs ensuring ownership of the process by the staff in schools and maximising the benefits offered. Add that to the design principles of our colleagues at Isis who believe in designing a school from the inside out I belive this is a truely excting new build programme.
'And what’s great about all the RM group companies working together is that we can collaborate to make sure furniture, ICT, inclusion and many other resources are all working together to make every inch of the learning space perform to the best of its ability. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Essex schools take shape.’