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creating possibilities for disabled children

Pupil Voice in Primary Complex Needs Learning

The Brief

A number of aims for this project were outlined during the initial stages of development – the Head Teacher, Drama Lead and Teaching Staff were keen to explore and establish:

  • Ways of nurturing “Pupil Voice” and encouraging independent communication rather than all interaction being adult initiated.
  • Ways of making the learning environment totally inclusive* and making the best use of that environment.
  • Building on existing observation skills amongst staff so that staff can make the most of spontaneous opportunities to enhance and extend the learning experience for pupils.
  • Ways to develop learning activities further so that they don’t stop just because a target has been reached.
  • Ways of facilitating communication amongst students rather than exclusively between staff and students.

*A learning environment that can accommodate anyone’s learning whether they appear to be passive or whether they are actively participating – with a focus on the attitude of the adults in the room. An environment where “less can be more” in terms of inclusivity – rather than overloading students with too much facilitation – it is a place where pupils are “enabled” rather than “acted upon”.

The desired outcomes and indicators for success were identified as:

  • The establishment of a totally inclusive learning environment with a recognised and shared learning ethos.
  • The recognition and development of “Pupil Voice” – where communication is observed and built upon and learning is not exclusively adult initiated.
  • The opportunity being given for engagement, interaction and communication between students as well as between an individual student and members of staff.
  • Improved use of the physical learning environment.
  • A “best-practice” folder with reference information about all the work that has been done as part of the project.

The Project

Bamboozle worked with four teachers and their class groups; there were four phases to the project:

  1. One-day residency week – exploring the creation of a multi-sensory environment and how to use it as well as introducing Bamboozle’s Approach.
  2. Performances of Bamboozle’s Meadow Land – a production for audiences with PMLD.
  3. A series of eight consultancy sessions with each class group.
  4. Mini-residencies – Lady Zia Wernher staff worked with Bamboozle to create immersive experiences for their class groups – this was the consolidation phase of the project which drew on the work that had been done in phases one and three.

In addition to this there were two INSET sessions – one a twilight session for support staff and the other a full day session for the teaching staff.

Each of the consultancy sessions involved a hands-on practical demonstration (with some or all of the students in a class group) of a creative technique alongside Bamboozle’s behavioural and linguistic strategies. Each practical session was followed by a breakout discussion session with the teacher, and sometimes the TAs, from each class group. The practical sessions and discussions were then written up to provide reference documentation for the staff teams.


“The Bamboozle Approach has been liberating! I feel I have now got the freedom to teach the children in the way they need to learn. I would like to explore the approaches further and develop these in the coming term. I have been surprised at how simple it is to adapt an existing topic/idea into a Bamboozle-style activity. Although I met with some resistance from the staff initially, they are getting used to the approaches and are observing much more. The progress of the children has been wonderful to see and the opportunities we have had to allow them to contribute have been much more. Thank you!” Class Teacher, Lady Zia Wernher School.

At the end of project review the senior leadership team and teaching staff felt that all of the success criteria for the project had been met and they highlighted a number of areas where significant improvements had been made to the teaching and learning environment:

  • Pupil Voice – the recognition and acceptance of the idea that everything a child does is the potential manifestation of that child’s voice.
  • An inclusive learning environment – founded on the quality of the adults’ attention, the withdrawal of judgement, letting go of the need to get specific results, meaningful learning activities, minimal language, shared activities and differentiated learning opportunities.
  • Observation – everyone felt that their observation skills had improved and that pupils were responding more as a result.
  • Development of learning objectives beyond targets – pupil targets were being reached and exceeded without the Lady Zia Wernher staff or Bamboozle facilitators focussing on achieving specific targets.
  • Communication – one of the key elements of staff observing a greater depth of communication from pupil was adults using their own voices less and observing more in order to respond in meaningful ways.

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