‘Our endlessly positive, ‘structured but flexible’ approach improves pupils’ behaviour over time’
The Nexus was established in 2008 to provide a much needed education for children from the South West of England who have been or are at risk of exclusion from an SEN settings because of their exceptionally complex behavioural needs.
The Nexus provides bespoke educational programmes and Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) for 13 young people who have severe and complex sensory profiles, learning difficulties and present with behaviours that can be exceptionally challenging. Most of our pupils also present with social and emotional difficulties and have history of recurring trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
The Nexus is overseen by Marilena Poulima. Marilena is one of our Assistant Head teachers who specialised in behaviours that challenge. She has a Masters Degree in Special and Inclusive Education from the University of Bristol, a Diploma in Sensory Integration Foundation and Neuroscience from University of Ulster, a Practitioner Diploma in Trauma and Mental Health with TIS UK validated by the Institute of Arts in Therapy and Education, training in Basic Functional Behaviour Assessment by BILD and is also an advanced Team Teach trainer.
Due to the continued success of the nexus provision Bristol City Council recognised the unique, highly specialised education we provide and its impact on the our young people lives and their families by funding a new building that was completed and opened in May 2019.
The Nexus is able to offer a unique, highly specialised and therapeutic level of education. The pupils are supported by highly trained, dedicated staff that support our young people on a 1:1, 2:1 or 3:1 basis. The Nexus staff receive training around; understanding sensory processing difficulties, ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), trauma informed practises, positive behaviour support (PBS) strategies and level 2 Team Teach Training. This wealth of training supports our staff to consider all behaviour as a form of communication and promotes an understanding of the function of behaviours as well as appropriate physical environments that meet the needs of the pupils.
Our mission is to provide a valuable education for our young people by offering an enhanced and balanced curriculum which addresses each young person’s individuality. We also aim to challenge our young people and provide them with opportunities to feel empowered to Enjoy school life, Engage with the community and educational experiences, and Learn to their full potential.
Difficulties faced by both families and SEN settings related to physical aggression, often result in requests for (out of county) residential placements. Our ultimate purpose is to provide our young people with the opportunity to continue the educational entitlement in Bristol and remain in their family home.
As a team we are committed to enabling every pupil to experience success by developing their strengths, celebrating their achievements and acknowledging their unique personalities. Our long term goal for our pupils is for them to be able to achieve full or part time integration into a suitable key stage setting in the main body of the school.
- To ensure all staff in the Nexus are committed to the philosophy and ethos of the school in order to provide a personalised, positive environment focused on proactive approaches
- To build relationships of trust and mutual respect and set high behaviour and attainment expectations
- To provide positive reinforcement that is clear and presented at a level that pupils understand
- To create intensive educational programmes which are adapted to fit each pupil and produce bespoke plans that support individual pupil behaviour
- To support pupils to regulate their sensory needs
- To work in collaboration with parents / advocates and authorities to ensure the highest standard of service is provided at all times
- Robust evidence based monitoring and reviewing procedures that directly influence the adaption of the plans and programmes
- To meet pupils’ needs in all aspects of educational life and independence and set achievable goals to ensure positive progress
- To meet each pupil’s educational, spiritual, emotional and physical needs
- To collate and analyse data regularly to provide information for measuring progress and evaluating the methods used at the Nexus.
At Briarwood Universal Support is provided to all pupils in the school through Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) approaches, proactive strategies and appropriate learning environments. Targeted support is provided to pupils that have been identified/referred for additional support.
The targeted support package includes increased staffing levels within the class setting and access to appropriate interventions that meet the needs of the pupil. Interventions are based upon the Intervention Team have successfully gained Trauma and Mental Health Practitioner Status through Trauma Informed Schools UK and BILD’s Practitioner Level 1A. These interventions will be timetabled in line with the class timetable and may be 1:1 with a pupil or small group intervention. The outcomes of our interventions aim to: decrease anxiety levels, support anger management and self – regulation, help build friendships, promote communication and regulation of sensory needs and develop secure attachments. All interventions are monitored weekly using formative and summative assessment systems such as behaviour data, teacher feedback and are utilised in order to measure impact and inform next steps.
Each day our students receive a high quality educational provision delivered through the immensely capable and effective hands of our staff through a highly functional curriculum providing the students with their pathway to a fulfilling life. We understand that each of our pupils is unique and so we do not try to fit them into what “we do” in nexus, we build their educational curriculum around them. By meeting their individual needs and making them feel valued and respected our pupils are able to re-engage with their learning access the community and reach a sense of achievement.
All pupils have and follow an individualised behaviour plan (OLM – Optimum Learning Map) and routine/ timetable which focuses on proactive strategies to support the management of behaviours, sensory processing needs, self-regulation and emotional wellbeing. The bespoke timetables are developed to provide opportunities for sensory breaks to support this process.
We are extremely proud of the huge amount of progress our pupils in Nexus are making and the very positive changes parents and carers are seeing in the social and emotional skills.
Interventions and Therapies
Nexus has a flexible education framework with a menu of activities and interventions that allows us to develop a bespoke and holistic package for each child based on their individual needs. This can include:
Trauma Informed Schools UK Interventions; Lego Therapy; Music Therapy; Play Therapy; Yoga sessions; Hydrotherapy – Swimming; Outdoor education; Animal Assisted Therapy; Equine Therapy; Equine Facilitated Learning; Speech & Language Programme within the school; Occupational Therapy (arranged through the local authority); CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services; CCLDT – Children’s Community Learning Disability Team; Gymnastics and Rebound Therapy; Farm Sessions; Bicycle Riding and BMX sessions; Sensory Processing Interventions; Emotional Literacy and Intensive Interaction.
In the Nexus a continually reviewed programme is implemented for every pupil consistency on a daily basis. We want to enable all our pupils to develop emotional resilience and social skills, both through direct teaching for instance e.g. PSHE, registration time and indirectly with every interaction staff have with pupils throughout the day. The care and well-being of the children we support are paramount and everything we do is to ensure that each child’s best interests are met.
Multi – Agency Working
The Nexus works alongside many multi agency professionals to create a sustainable support package for all pupils, such as: CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and CCLDT (Children’s Community Learning Disability Team), Local authority, Social Services, Educational Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Paediatricians, the Intensive Positive Behaviour Support Team (iPBS – LD). The programmes are developed with the input from key professionals and with involvement of parents/carers. Before accessing the Nexus pupils will be referred to an Education Psychologist for assessment and the Multi-Agency Consultation Group (MAC) as part of the early intervention support.
Pupil referrals can only be made by Local Authority by sending the relevant information (Statement of SEN, recent reports) to school. Papers will be considered to see whether our “Essential Criteria for Admission” (Severe Learning Difficulties, behaviours that challenge) are met. The Nexus works with boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 18 years old.
- Behaviour adversely affecting learning of individual students and/or class group
- Behaviour is posing significant risk to peers / staff in class
- Breakdown of relationships with adults / peers
- Risk of exclusion from SEN setting
- Exclusion from SEN setting
Re – Integration criteria
- Decreased severity and frequency of behaviours that challenge over an identified period of time
- Identified outcomes set by school and multi – agency professionals met and sustained over an identified period of time
- Successful gradual reintegration into suitable key stage class
- Increase attainment and engagement with learning
In extreme and exceptional circumstances a Nexus placement may no longer be appropriate for a pupil. The Head teacher may then need to exclude a pupil – this will be considered very carefully.
- Managed transfers to alternative provisions in consultation with the local authority may be in the pupil’s best interest
- A decision to exclude a student permanently from the centre will be taken only in response to serious breaches of the school’s behaviour policy, a significant risk to themselves or others or if allowing the student to remain in school would not be in the student’s best interest
- Where students are at serious risk of exclusion, the LA and all relevant external agencies will be involved and an urgent meeting will be called
- Exclusion will be the last resort after all other steps have been exhausted.
‘Young people who access Nexus have access to a brilliant educational resource. Nexus is a bespoke environment which is child centred and has staff with the brilliant skills to make the best use of the space. Nexus has great links with families and helps to implement a consistent approach across school and home. The input the Nexus gives children has had a major positive impact on their lives at home. In my role as a community LD nurse I have worked with children who attend Nexus and seen a big improvement in their behaviour at home as a result of the skills they are learning at school. This is a big part of preventing home breakdown which can be a high risk with children with this level of behaviours that challenge. Nexus is amazing!’
Andy James – Community Learning Disability Nurse
‘The provision of Nexus has complements well with the work that our Health Care teams (CAMHS – Learning Disabilities Team got involved and the Intensive Positive Behaviour Support Team (iPBS – LD) have been carrying out at home with pupils and the families. We have found the Nexus provision to be proactive and responsive. The Nexus has an individualised approach, due to smaller classrooms and higher staff to pupil ratios. The leadership at Nexus has embedded a drive for listening to advice and trying things out. We share the same vision with the Nexus about meeting the needs of the pupils and wanting to help the families in the most holistic and multi-professional way in order to enhance the pupils’ and the family’s’ quality of life.’
iPBS-LD and SSCLD Team contribution
‘We have always found working with the Nexus staff team to be a positive and productive experience. They have been open and welcoming and helped us understand the children’s needs and collectively develop behaviour support plans that are effective and consistent across home, school and other settings. The focused therapeutic support provided in the Nexus add to the range of provision in the school and enables when needed more person centred programmes to be delivered’
Dr Freddy Jackson Brown – Clinical Psychologist – Service Lead
Intensive Positive Behaviour Support – Autism (iPBS-A)
‘We are very appreciative of the Nexus facility at Briarwood because it enables our son to access a relatively normal school life, adapted to his very particular needs. The staff’s attention to detail has progressed Henry’s behaviours in the home setting as well as in school. The Nexus unit has given Henry opportunities to learn life skills too. In general the Nexus has improved all of our family’s lives. Thank you.’
‘K is a 13 year old boy with ASC. K had complex behavioural issues, which his previous school provision found difficult to manage. K moved to Briarwood Nexus in September 2018. There was an immediate change in his mood and subsequent behaviour. What was particularly noticeable was the calm, positive way that Briarwood staff work with the children and young people. They focused not just on the children’s behaviour but promoted the children’s interests; building their skills and confidence. For example; when I visited K in school just after he had started at Briarwood, I was told that K was very good at Maths and Art. This was something that I was unaware of as the focus had previously been on managing his behaviour. The Nexus has been an ideal setting for K and I would highly recommend the positive work they do’.
Simon Collins – Senior Practitioner – Disabled Children and Specialist Services
“I have been fortunate enough to work with staff in The Nexus for several years on-and-off. My experiences has been that staff within The Nexus provide a fantastic and highly effective environment for students who often have very complex and high-level needs. Staff are not only dedicated and hard-working, but are also very skilled and well-trained in terms of best practice for supporting their particular cohort of young people. This is so important because research shows clearly that a lack of appropriate skills within the workforce makes these students very vulnerable indeed, both in terms of educational development opportunities and in terms of suitable and dignified care. Bristol is very fortunate to have such a provision within the city”
Dr Duncan Gillard – Senior Educational Psychologist – Bristol Inclusion Service
Example of timetabled activities that may form each child’s individual timetable.
|9.00 – 9.10||Arrival – Relaxing||Arrival – Relaxing||Arrival – Relaxing||Arrival – Relaxing||Arrival – Relaxing|
|9.10 – 9.20||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work|
|9.20 – 9.30||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session|
|9.30-9.45||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||
|1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||
|9.40 – 9.45||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity|
|9.45 – 10.00||Learning Session||Learning Session||Learning Session|
|10.00 – 10.15||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work||Sensory Diet / 1:1 Work||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work|
|10.15 – 10.20||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity|
|10.20 – 10.45||Prepare a Snack / Snack Time||Prepare a Snack / Snack Time||Prepare a Snack / Snack Time||Prepare a Snack / Snack Time|
|10.45 – 11.00||Outside||Outside||Outside||Outside|
|11.00 – 11.15||Learning Session||Learning Session||Learning Session||Learning Session|
|11.15 – 11.30||Sensory Diet /1:1 Work||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work||Sensory Diet/ 1:1 Work|
|11.30 – 11.35||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity|
|11.35-11.45||Set up for Lunch||Set up for Lunch||Set up for Lunch||Set up for Lunch||Set up for Lunch|
|11.45 -12.00||Sensory diet / Reading Session||Sensory diet / Reading Session||Sensory diet / Reading Session||Sensory diet / Reading Session||Sensory diet / Reading Session|
|12.00-12.30||Lunch Time||Lunch Time||Lunch Time||Lunch Time||Lunch Time|
|13.00 -13.10||Relaxing / Settling in||Relaxing / Settling in||Relaxing / Settling in||Relaxing / Settling in||Relaxing / Settling in|
|13.10-13.20||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work||Registration / Independent Work|
|13.20-13.25||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session||Sensory PE / Trampoline / Sensory Processing Session|
|13.25-13.40||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs|
|13.30-13.45||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||
|Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity|
Rebound Therapy and Gymnastics Session
|Learning Session and 1:1||Learning Session and 1:1||Learning Session and 1:1|
|14.15-14.20||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity||Reward/ Choice of Activity|
|14.30-14.40||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||Reward/Choice of Activity||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs||1:1 Intervention linked to pupils needs|
|14.50-15.00||ICT Skills/ Sensory Story/ Interaction||ICT Skills/ Sensory Story/ Interaction||Assembly||Celebration Assembly|
|15.00-15.15||Quiz – End of day reflection||Quiz – End of day reflection||Quiz – End of day reflection||Quiz – End of day reflection||Quiz – End of day reflection|
Other Sessions offered within the Nexus Timetables: Lego Therapy, Recycling, Water Play, Shopping, Sensory Room, Work Experience (farm), Cooking, Gardening, Art sessions, Life Skills Activities – House Work/ Laundry, Community Trips, ICT, Play Therapy, Emotional Literacy, Intensive Interaction, Equine Facilitated Learning, Animal Therapy