The Russett has a lot to be proud of

Northwich Guardian: MSI teacher Rachael Lewis with 11-year-old Kirsten Clearie MSI teacher Rachael Lewis with 11-year-old Kirsten Clearie

WITH state-of-the-art facilities and Cheshire’s only multi-sensory impairment unit, the Russett School certainly has a lot to shout about.

The school, on Middlehurst Avenue, Weaverham, now has more than 90 special-needs students, ranging right through from toddlers to 19-year-olds.

Staff understand how hard it can be for a parent to come to terms with their child having a disability, and that’s one of the reasons why its flagship ‘Family and Toddler’ group is proving so successful.

The group, which has been running for 18 months, offers families a place to go for support and guidance.

"We didn’t want to call it a ‘parent and toddler’ group as it’s not just parents who come,” said Helen Roberts, the school’s outreach worker.

“We have mums, dads, grandads, grandmas, aunties, uncles - you name it, we’ve had it.

“It’s a nice safe place for families to come with their children and gives them the chance to talk to people who are going through the same things.

“A lot of parents don’t know what they’re going to do and so it’s good for them to be able to share their experiences and get support from people who understand.”

Helen says the group is open to everyone - even if their child doesn’t actually attend the school.

“We’ve had parents come to the groups whose children have either stayed on at the school or have gone on to mainstream education.

"They still come along for a coffee and a chat though - it’s like a little community.

The Family and Toddler group takes place every Tuesday at 10.30am at the school.

AS well as young children, the school also caters for teenagers, with its specialised sixth form offering pupils a chance to learn some vital life skills.

Aged 16 to 19, the sixth form students follow a very practical functional skills curriculum which often finds them catering, swimming, car washing and performing.

Whether it be running a weekly café, or trying their hand at driving a tractor, students are able to get a real fee for working life with work-related learning embedded into their studies.

Other jobs include helping out in the school’s reception, and setting up and clearing refreshments for the weekly family and toddler group.

Work placements are also available for students thanks to The Bren Project, who have helped to source supported placements at the Anderton Boat Lift, Roberts Bakery and CLiC in Winsford.

This additional responsibility allows the sixth form students to thrive, showing them that they don’t have to be limited by their disabilities.

One of the school’s most impressive facilities is the multi sensory impairment unit (MSI).

Catering for pupils with either a dual sensory impairment, or a single sensory impairment which severely impacts on their learning and development, the MSI unit is the only one of its kind in Cheshire.

With onsite physiotherapists, mobility officers and speech therapists all on hand, the unit helps to improve the learning and development of those who may need that extra bit of assistance.

Rachael Lewis, team leader for the MSI unit, works closely with the pupils, developing individual learning programmes for each child.

These programmes, which are centered around the individual interests and motivations of each child, are designed to encourage the pupils to use their residual senses to explore and make sense of the world.

“We believe that communication is the key to our pupils’ learning and development and that’s why we use a total communication approach,” said Rachael.

“This includes using body signing, gestures, key words, communication aids, symbols, photographs and objects of reference.

“We also have access to a lot of great facilities including a hydrotherapy pool, sensory outside play area and a darkroom for visual assessment.”

*For more pictures, see today's print copy of the Northwich Guardian.

*For more information about the Russett School, visit russettschool.co.uk

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