Youngsters rise to the challenge as Jigsaw sets up first school council

Jigsaw school council members
Jigsaw school council members

A Cranleigh school for children with autism has set up its first school council, giving a group of eight pupils of all ages from nine to 18 the responsibility of representing students’ views on issues ranging from the curriculum to school facilities and activities.

Jigsaw is a specialist day school committed to educating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Based on Dunsfold Park, it is one of only around ten schools in the UK to use Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) as its teaching methodology.

It exists to improve the lives of children and families affected by autism through education, training and research. Jigsaw was recognised as ‘Outstanding’ at its two most recent inspections. Also on Dunsfold Park is Jigsaw+, a day service for adults with autism.

The overall purpose of the council is to support Jigsaw’s aim of ensuring that the school is a happy, safe and inclusive place for everyone to learn and grow as unique individuals. Council members will be encouraged to think about the curriculum and put up ideas and suggestions for change or improvement.

They will be invited to join in the selection process for new staff, and will get involved in showing new pupils, parents and visitors around the school.

They will make recommendations on school facilities: in fact this was one of the tasks at the first meeting, when the Council chose items to buy with the 8,000-plus Sainsbury’s Active Kids tokens collected recently, and voted on where to hang a Peter Rabbit collage made during the History Week focus on Literary Greats.

The meeting also heard from a student who presented his class’s suggestions on the science curriculum, increasing the number of holidays and adding Legoland to the list of possible outings.

Members were each presented with a special school council enamel badge, now worn daily with much pride by many of them!

Meetings are being facilitated by two school council link teachers, who will keep staff informed of the members’ discussions and decisions. The Council will typically meet every half-term, or when an issue needs discussion.

School council link teacher Maria Sanchez said: “We naturally aim to make all Jigsaw pupils as independent as possible, and the creation of the school council gives the members the challenge of taking on the extra responsibility of taking decisions on behalf of the entire school. We’re certain these pupils will rise to that challenge.”

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