Window of opportunity for children and parents at Park Academy

A Blackpool school with a different and unique idea of reassuring parents of anxious children back in class after a long summer off.

Starting school isn’t just a nervous time for parents wondering how their offspring are getting on, it can also be an extremely anxious time for children, especially those with additional needs.

Gary Cattermole observes through Park Community Academys one-way window to see how his son, Connor, is learning

Gary Cattermole observes through Park Community Academys one-way window to see how his son, Connor, is learning

But one special school in Blackpool, Park Community Academy, has found a way to reassure parents their children are settling back into classes well after their long summer break.

The 260-pupil school, in Whitegate Drive, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, is using a one-way mirror so parents can get a glimpse of their children without having to disturb them.

It ran its first session on Tuesday, two weeks after the new term got underway. Assistant headteacher Victoria Heaney said: “The first weeks at school can be an anxious time for all parents, but at Park Community Academy we understand that it can cause increased anxiety for parents of children with special needs.

“Many of our children have speech and language difficulties, which means parents rely on the home/school diary, blogs, and newsletter to find out what is happening at school.”

Looking through the window

Looking through the window

Although the mirror was previously only used at the request of parents during counselling sessions, teachers now hope to use it for supervising classes on a more regular basis.

“We want parents to see exactly what it’s like for their child and to do this we use the one way window,” Victoria added.

“Parents can see their children in the normal classroom environment, interacting with their friends and teachers. It is also a great opportunity for parents to meet each other and share experiences.

“Today, we have also shared our [sign language] books with parents, to help children to develop their communication skills.”

Parents told The Gazette they back the informal coffee morning sessions. Bispham couple Carol and Gary Cattermole, who went to watch their five-year-old-son Connor, said they have seen a positive change in the youngster since he started at Park this month.

Carol said: “Connor has developed a really good sense of humour, and he enjoys building a rapport with people.

“He has also learnt to share. He’ll argue with Gary, but playfully, so it’s fantastic what the school have been doing so far and it is great to see him in class through the window.”

Gary also hailed the way the school communicates with parents. “I’ll ring up the school and I get a voice on the other end immediately, which is a great reassurance,” he said. “The facilities are superb and Connor loves coming to school.”

Kathleen Healey, from Mereside, was watching her four-year-old daughter Shania, the only child in the school’s reception class to have moved up from the nursery.

She said she has seen first hand how the school helps the children with her six-year-old son Kenzie who was previously in the reception class.

She added: “Kenzie has struggled with things such as his speech and learning.

“I started seeing a massive difference from November last year and his speech, confidence and his personality have improved massively.

“It has been great to see how much progress he has made and how amazing the school is. It is definitely well recommended.”

The school’s Ofsted report said its “values radiate from every memberof the school community”. It added: “The school’s work with its youngest children lays strong foundations for their future successes.”