Video link for pupils of special unit

PUPILS too anxious to walk into mainstream schools will soon be talking to their teachers in Ipswich, via live video links from the other side of the world.

By Tracey Sparling

PUPILS too anxious to walk into mainstream schools will soon be talking to their teachers in Ipswich, via live video links from the other side of the world.

A major expedition to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is planned, and school phobic pupils are already making the most of their new video conferencing centre.

Spanish, Italian and French can now be studied, via a live link to a language tutor in North Wales.

The facility is part of a new range of high tech equipment – including two interactive whiteboards – at the Parkside learning support centre.

The centre in Spring Road caters for about 30 young people with deep-seated emotional problems, as featured in the Star this month – and has now been recognised by OFSTED as unique in the country.

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Headteacher Stuart Bailey said video conferencing was an ideal teaching medium for such pupils, encouraging the shy and anxious ones to express themselves.

He said staff set pupils often simple targets, like making eye contact or saying hello, and added: "We have young people who dare not come through the front door at first. One young man came in and shuffled along the wall, looked through the window of the classroom and would only enter if it was empty.

"To see pupils change as much as they do when they come here, is quite humbling. It's almost like magic dust when they come here –there's something about this place – and that's due to the staff's caring approach."

He said: "Video conferencing is not just about 21st century gadgets. It actually helps by developing cross curricular skills, and the youngsters love it.

"They find they have the confidence to talk to somebody via the television. The medium of the video link builds the confidence for them to talk one-to-one."

He said the equipment will be used before, and during, the trip to Australia, and said: "The pupils will be able to beam back to us, as they work in Australia – it's mind-boggling really. It's an amazing and exciting opportunity for pupils who, for whatever reason, cannot attend mainstream school."

Lessons at Parkside are now full time and there are established links with local businesses, Suffolk and Otley colleges and NACRO. Connexions has also helped greatly, with improvements to the facilities.

Community education teams, an outreach co-ordinator and a counsellor help pupils, some of whom recently performed in Pulse at the New Wolsey.

Mr Bailey added that Parkside was going from strength to strength, in the wake of a glowing OFSTED report, a special achievement award, and an Investors in People award.

There is a huge demand for places, and Mr Bailey added: "I could fill this place many times over.

"The recent developments are a springboard into the future for us.

"We provide young people with the opportunity to succeed, and why shouldn't they have that opportunity?"

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