All Different, All Valued, All Equal

Communication Strand

What does communication look like in school? Have a look at our poster below:

Here are some of our pupils communicating:

How do we record progress in communication?

  • Phonics
    • We have Sounds Write phonics scheme in school.
    • 5 staff are trained to deliver this programme to specific identified students where appropriate. 
    • All staff have completed basic sounds (phonic) CPD
  • Signing  

    • Signing is used to both provide an expressive means of communicating and to aid understanding in addition to spoken language.  Many of our students need visual support to understand what they are hearing so staff routinely use signs to support what they say.  We also have some students who are deaf.
    • The signs used in Signed Supported English with all our students are British Sign Language (BSL) signs and are also available as a wordlist in ‘Communicate: In Print 3’. 
    • Staff have regular training in using BSL sign vocabulary as part of Total Communication and are enthusiastic signers
    • Please click to see the videos below of Oakfield Parks 50 Key Word Signs which are regularly used with all our students
York Villas.MOV .MOV
work.MOV .MOV
Where.MOV .MOV
Wasdale.MOV .MOV
Toilet.MOV .MOV

It has been agreed that a Total Multi-modal Communication Approach, which includes all modes of communication, is used throughout the teaching and learning process, where appropriate. This not only reinforces each pupil’s communication system but provides models of how each system can be used to communicate.  It also provides the teacher with an opportunity to assess which mode or modes of communication the pupil is able to receive and understand and other pupils learn how to communicate with the child using an alternative communication system. 

In order to achieve this we need to: 

  • Use the appropriate level of spoken language and play/social activities for each child;
  • Use signs supporting English, natural gesture and actions with songs, stories and everyday communication with the children in order to stimulate visual attention and to support development of understanding, not only through listening but also through visual channels;
  • Use objects of reference/symbols for class timetables, on displays, to label rooms etc. where appropriate;
  • Present appropriate visual material alongside any activities that are taking place.



Intensive Interaction 

‘To encourage pupils to express their likes, dislikes, feelings, emotions and preferences for different audiences, it is important to develop vocalisation where possible, whether spontaneous or imitative, and/or the use of a range of communicative movements and gestures’.  To develop the above skills an Intensive Interaction approach is used with pre-verbal pupils, with more complex needs, to facilitate learning.  

Objects of Reference 

  • Whole school objects of reference.

Each class has a set of whole school objects of reference which represent certain lessons and activities experienced throughout the school.  Some of the objects are also used to label certain rooms/locations in school to aid pupils’ understanding. 

  • Individualised objects of reference.

Some pupils have unique objects of reference which are chosen according to individual needs – taking into account sensory impairments, physical impairments and their preferences. 


Photographs are used with those pupils who are able to develop their skills beyond objects of reference (concrete) to a more symbolic form of communication.   

Digital cameras are available to teachers to enable them to respond to the pupils’ developing communication skills. 


Symbols are used throughout school  

  • To enhance comprehension
  • To provide means of expression
  • To augment speech that may be unclear
  • To encourage choice making
  • To encourage independence
  • To enhance organisational skills
  • To promote language development
  • To promote literacy
  • To minimise frustration when communicating
  • To facilitate social interaction with a wider network of people


It has been agreed that all symbols will be black and white unless it is felt that colour would better develop an individual pupil’s skills.  The text is to be under the symbol and the font used will be ‘Comic Sans’ in both Key Stage 3 & 4.  Post 16 may use a range of fonts to extend pupils reading skills. 

All classes have at least one symbol ‘Answer book’ and a set of large timetable symbols.  

A number of our pupils also use individual symbol timetables and/or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and, as such, have their own timetable symbols and Communication Books containing a range of symbols for choice-making, for example, snack items, activities, places etc.  

‘Communicate: In Print ’ and Clicker 5 is available on all computers to allow access to symbols by both teachers and pupils.   


Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) – See Inventory and Class lists. 

  • Individual VOCAs (funded by Oakfield Park School) – move through the school with the pupil 

Most non/pre-verbal pupils have been assigned a VOCA to aid communication.  This may be a BIGmack, Partner Two, Go Talk 4/9 or other suitable device for their own use in school.

  • Individual VOCAs (funded by other Agencies) – loaned to individual pupils