We got a new bus!!! We are so incredibly grateful to Variety - the children's charity and our sponsors, Mountpark. Read more about why this bus is so important to us.
Briarwood is a Bristol school committed to providing high quality education, care and life experiences for children and young people with Severe and Profound Learning Difficulties, Complex Needs, Autism and Sensory Impairment aged 3-19 years. All students have a SEND diagnosis, including Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Severe Learning Difficulties and Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, with three quarters communicating in ways that are not verbal, more than half needing specialist behaviour support and a fifth challenged by life limiting conditions. One in six of our pupils are in receipt of a Child in Need Plan and more than a third have an active Care Plan. Our student cohort at Briarwood is an especially vulnerable one. 47% of students live in the 10% most deprived communities in Bristol, with well over half of Briarwood’s pupils receiving Free School Meals and Pupil Premium funding. 45% of students have English as an Additional Language and three quarters identify as BME (Black Minority Ethnic). Briarwood School has five separate buildings across three urban locations. Having our own minibus enables us to enhance curriculum and enrichment opportunities for our pupils, particularly after the additional challenges of the last couple of years where the impact of Covid-19, combined with our pupils’ multiple vulnerabilities, has severely limited opportunities for pupils to integrate within the community. Additionally, the complexity of our pupils needs means they find it increasingly challenging to access transport facilities. We complete a range of risk assessments when planning trips and outings and the use of a minibus reduces potential risk factors e.g. supporting pupils in transitioning between school and the bus, teaching pupils about the importance of personal safety and wearing a seat belt, also timing trips with the need for sensory breaks. Use of a minibus enables the teaching team to make the absolute best use of Briarwood’s facilities, regardless of their location, so that classes from all three sites can access them. For example, the hydrotherapy pool is based at the Secondary school but the new immersive Gruffalo-themed library and soft play are on the Juniors site. Having our own transport means we can successfully provide more ambitious additional learning experiences for our pupils, such as Bikeability cycling lessons, performances at Bristol’s Old Vic theatre and Briarwood’s own whole school music festival. As our pupils progress through school we develop pathways for independence and life skills, based on individual learning maps for each child. Access to a minibus broadens these opportunities enabling us to make a wide range of off-site links with organisations, employers and work placements in support of our careers, employability and preparing for adulthood curriculum. The use of a minibus ensures we can carefully plan fun trips for our pupils that reward and celebrate their achievements, also broadening their life experiences. This includes visits to the library, shops, parks, sport centres, zoos, animal therapy sessions, museums, open spaces and much more, creating meaningful links between curriculum/life skills learning and the application of this to everyday life outside of our school context.