An award for young people with complex needs


Lynda Larke’s students get community minded.

Here at Langside School in Dorset, we have launched a new award for young people with physical or learning disabilities aged sixteen and over in their transition into adulthood. 

The students at our school have been trialling The OPT Award over the last year. Now students at the Northern Counties School in Newcastle, and Percy Hedley School in Killingworth are continuing trials and we are keen to get other schools involved from across the country. 

The OPT Award gives students the opportunity to complete three strands across three school terms: the Helping, Personal, Social, and Emotional Wellbeing and the 48 Hour Challenge.

The Helping Award gets students involved with something that will be of benefit to their local community such as caring for animals, fundraising and volunteering for different charities, or carrying out errands such as washing cars or helping to cook a meal. 

The PSE Wellbeing Award involves activities that come under the categories of Group Cooperation, Skill Development and Engagement in Physical Education, which can include activities such as hydrotherapy, kitchen skills, meditation, or sports such as ice skating. Like the rest of the award the choice of activities can be adapted to suit a particular school or student. 

The challenge element of the award is to take on two days of activities that the students would not normally experience plus an overnight stay away from home. Suggested activities include a high ropes challenge, a water sports experience or abseiling. Alternatively, the activity could be going for a sensory visit to a place the students do not visit regularly, such as a woodland or beach. The overnight stay gives the group an opportunity to experience a night away from their main carers. It could be away at a hotel or residential centre, or it could be a camp out at the school where you have all the equipment to hand. 

Students such as ours at Langside are rarely recognised for their achievements and abilities, yet face extraordinary challenges in their daily lives, both physical and mental. Students with complex medical needs often don’t have the same access to accredited schemes as those in mainstream schooling. That’s why we decided to introduce the OPT Award. I wanted to use the experience I have gained from over twenty years to create something that would benefit a wide range of students with differing needs and abilities. 

The children I have taught inspired me to create an accredited scheme that caters specifically for children with complex needs. I felt determined to create an award that provided opportunities to enrich children’s lives while enabling positive risk taking and personal challenges.

Lynda Larke
Author: Lynda Larke

Lynda Larke
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Lynda Larke is Assistant Headteacher at Langside School and founder of the OPT Award.

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