“Outstanding is the only word to use” – Lee Fazackerley, Headteacher at West Lancashire Community High School.
West Lancashire Community High School (West Lancs) is a special school based in Skelmersdale, Lancashire.
West Lancs’ special educational needs (SEN) provision caters for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), moderate learning difficulty (MLD), severe learning difficulty (SLD) and profound and multiple learning difficulty (PMLD).
The school’s ethos is to ensure that all pupils receive the highest quality of education, achieving the very best that they can in a supportive and vibrant school community.
Headteacher Lee Fazackerley explained the reasons why West Lancs initially considered an immersive space: “We wanted to add a specialist resource to support the development of our curriculum offer for our students and have a space that could engage with the WOW factor.”
“We were very aware that with the impact of the global pandemic, students did not have the same opportunities and experiences that they would have previously had, and an immersive room would give us more flexibility to broaden their experiences in a variety of contexts.”
For these reasons, an immersive space was the perfect option for West Lancs, as the room gives pupils a huge array of opportunities – not only for learning, but also for broadening their experiences and life skills.
Accessible for all, the immersive space is versatile and is used for a multitude of purposes. Lee stated that one of their main uses for the space is for sensory regulation and sensory circuits. An activity best suited for this is the particle playground, which allows students to interact with various exciting shapes and colours.
Lee explained that the immersive space is also used for well-being sessions and curriculum planned activities linked to specific subject areas.
Additionally, the space is used to “broaden life skills to develop wider community and world experiences.” The immersive space creates the perfect environment for children to take part in relaxing and therapeutic activities, such as yoga and team-building exercises.
Describing the benefits of the immersive space, Lee said “in a very short time since becoming operational, the uptake and use of the room has been amazing. It is used for all of the reasons stated above and has seen a significant impact in the engagement of students, in particular those on personalised timetables for sessions linked to their personal learning goals.
“We were clear from the outset that the room was not just to be used as a play space, but had to have either personal or curriculum links to learning or widening experiences.
“The use of the room as part of our morning engagement and regulation sessions has had a real positive impact on the students for the rest of the day. With regards to showcasing the facilities that we can offer to complement our curriculum in our school, this has created a real WOW factor when engaging with everyone who visits the school for the first time.”
Scenes that support regulation sessions include calming meadows, dark candle-lit scenes, as well as underwater scenes where children can relax and interact with the fish. Find out more about exactly how our spaces help SEN children here.
According to Lee, the most popular scenes amongst his pupils are the sensory interaction particles, solar system, tundra discovery, underwater discovery, Viking village, calming candles scene and the miniature railway. He remarked “we could probably list them all, as we have not yet found a scene that has not engaged some learners in some way.”
Immersive spaces can even be adapted to be used with your own specific content. West Lancs are currently planning to record videos of a restaurant, and various places of interest ready for a local school trip.
Many of their pupils, particularly those with autism, suffer from anxiety before visiting unknown places, and the use of specific, user-based content means that schools can show pupils those places before they visit them in real life!
Describing the standard of Immersive Reality’s service and training, Lee said “outstanding is the only word to use for this response. We could not have asked for a better service at any stage. Warren in particular has done an amazing job from the initial install and with regular updates and advice to support the future development of the use of our room. From our experiences from the initial proposal to date, we have had exceptional service from all of the staff.”
He gave his advice to anyone who may be interested in getting an immersive space installed: “If anyone is unsure if the room will add value to the establishment, just go and visit a local setting that has had one installed.”
“I would welcome any visitors to our school to talk about our experiences as there are lots of considerations that may be specific to your setting. For example, we had to organise our install around the requirements for a hoist in the space, and whilst this was not an area that Immersive Reality could include in the install, they liaised exceptionally well with our third party contractors at every step of the way, to the point where the school did not always actually need to be involved in the fine details.”
“Come and see ours in action and bring some of your students as they will tell you exactly what they think of it.” We can already guess what their responses would be!
Designed to inspire imaginations and shape senses, an immersive space is a valuable educational tool that allows pupils to experience learning in an accessible and inclusive way.
If your pupils deserve a room like this, contact us on +001 (866) 782 6063 or email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!
You can also fill out our contact form here.