How this Custom House school is supporting PMLD children to learn from home

Royal Docks Academy pupils Alice with mother Madalina Necatu at home.

Royal Docks Academy pupil Alice Necatu at home. - Credit: Royal Docks Academy

Parents of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) have praised a school in Custom House for its remote learning provision during lockdown.

Most PMLD pupils at Royal Docks Academy have stayed home through the pandemic because of their complex medical conditions.

Their teachers and support staff - who provide specialist teaching, support medical interventions, therapeutic needs and help them to achieve their potential - have been finding ways to support them remotely.

The online lessons they are providing, from cookery and yoga to English and maths, have been well received by the pupils and their parents, who are learning about their children in the process.

Mohammad Abdul Mannan, whose son Saif Ullah is in Year 12, said: “What has worked well is that Saif can understand that he has not been forgotten as he is seeing his peers and teachers.

“It also gives us, as parents, a platform to discuss any matters or concerns we have with the teacher. We have learnt that Saif has the ability to learn online.

“I was worried that he might not take to it very well, but as soon as he saw familiar faces on the screen, he seemed very energised and eager to participate.”

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Shah Nawaz, whose son is also in Year 12, added: “Online learning is working well and Moeez is happy to be involved.

“Moeez has enhanced his communications skills and, as parents, we have observed how Moeez’s curriculum is taught and the interest Moeez shows during his learning.”

Younger children are also enjoying learning at home, including Madalina Necatu’s daughter Alice, who is in Year 8.

“Alice is very active during the lessons and she tries to do her best,” she said.

Alice, who is in Year 8, has been enjoying her online lessons during lockdown.

Alice, who is in Year 8, has been enjoying her online lessons during lockdown. - Credit: Royal Docks Academy

The secondary school in Prince Regent Lane is part of the multi-academy trust BMAT, which has provided laptops to families to make sure all of its pupils are able to learn online.

Year 11 pupil Mansoor Burhan was among those to receive a laptop from the school, which is “helping him a lot", according to his father Abdullah.

“Mansoor has the ability to listen and the skills to touch and feel things," he said.

“He is listening to the sound of his teachers and following them and listens to the music they play.

“I have learned that he enjoys us working with him, playing with him and he feels people being around him and giving him company.

“As a family, we support Mansoor by preparing the laptop for him and other materials that he needs in his lessons.”

The school’s PMLD unit head Zama Shozi and her team have been visiting families at home to make sure they are coping with the new ways of learning.

Mrs Shozi said “a high percentage” of the students are actively engaging in home learning.

“We have revised our curriculum to include topics we felt we could create resources for to send home, such as science experiments, cookery, yoga, maths and English,” she said.

“We have not given anything that will overwhelm our parents and teachers have been brilliant at providing simple steps for them to follow to support their child."

Head of Royal Docks Academy's PMLD unit Zama Shozi.

Head of Royal Docks Academy's PMLD unit Zama Shozi. - Credit: Royal Docks Academy

Mrs Shozi added they don't want to overburden the children when they don’t have their teacher or teaching assistant with them. 

They want to “strike the balance” in making sure learning is meaningful and enjoyable for the pupils.

“We want the relationship between parent and child to remain as a nurturing one and for the teachers to take the lead with remote learning,” Mrs Shozi said.

The PMLD team has also seen how the parents are enjoying the process.

“Our parents have been amazing,” Mrs Shozi said. “They are engaging with their children in ways they never have done before and it is building their confidence. We want them to realise how capable they are.”

Mrs Shozi admitted she would not have thought it possible a year ago to take the children away from the school and teach them remotely.

“Our children do not learn in the same way as other children and we have to take that into account,” she said.

“We are doing something we have never done before and rewiring our ways of teaching.”