Topic Champions

Smiling girl
red haired girls

Welcome to our Topic Champions

At New Heights School KS3 we take the wellbeing of all of our staff and students seriously. It is at the forefront of our approach and delivery of support to our young people.

WE have developed a scheme which gives our LSA’s some performance management support and provides our Community people to go to should they need information on particular topics.

Meet them and read about the topics they have chosen.


Upskilling staff (learning is a key pillar in our emotional wellbeing) is important to us and providing opportunities to do this within our CPD timetable was key.  Throughout the year our LSA’s (Learning Support Assistants) will be provided opportunities to complete this task and develop their interests within their chosen field. This will be an ongoing programme on our CPD calendar.

The young people who join New Heights School KS3 have had a wide range of experiences before joining us.  Most display challenging behaviours which have caused them difficulties within the mainstream setting, with often no ‘route cause’ being identified.  

Challenging behaviour is often the expression of an un-met need, and the more we get to know our students, the more we can identify the potential causes of this behaviour, often finding it is potentially linked to undiagnosed neurodevelopmental conditions, mental wellbeing concerns, or traumatic events.

The Programme

All of our LSA’s were given the opportunity to identify an area they would like to find out more about, and given time and access to training opportunities in order to ‘upskill’ in their chosen area. With the support of our SENDCo, this year we have identified the following areas:

  • ADHD
  • Sensory Processing Difficulties
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Dyslexia
  • Pathological Demand Avoidance
  • The importance of exercise

Meet our Topic Champions

Our topics champions tell you a little about themselves and why their chosen topics are important to them.

Carl - sensory difficulties

Hi, my name is Carl and my topic is Sensory Processing Difficulties.

We use our sensory systems to understand the world around us, we process information through senses and decide how to respond to things we are experiencing.

Sensory systems that absorb information about the world around us are:

  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Sight
  • Hear
  • Touch
  • Proprioception (using muscles to understand body space)
  • Vestibular (how the body moves against gravity)

 The last 3 sensory systems – touch, proprioception and vestibular – help us to feel in tune with our world and feel grounded.

Learning how to process sensory-based information as it is received can challenge us all. We have to filter out what is important and what to ignore, e.g. when we hear our name being called, we respond to this, even though there may be other sounds in the room distracting us, but some children have difficulty with filtering this process.

At New Heights KS3, we create Sensory Circuits for our pupils to participate in which are short sensory motor circuits which prepare children to engage effectively with their school day. Behavioural clues such as fidgeting, poor concentration, excessive physical contact or lethargy can indicate a child may be finding it difficult to connect with the learning process.

Alongside our SENDCo I will be available to talk to students who are concerned about sensory processing difficulties.

Mental ill-health is when a person struggles with their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. For example, this may mean that they struggle to interact in communities with others, students struggling with exam pressure, athletes with the constant pressure of being happy in the public eye. Furthermore approximately 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year.

At New Heights, our ever-changing cohort means sometimes we have children join us who we suspect have mental health issues due to issues raised by their previous school. As a school, we often need to send referrals for these children to try and help them get the support they need.

People with a mental health issue will also have strengths and weaknesses like people without an issue. For example, somebody with anxiety may have problems with communicating in a big group but will thrive in an individual task. We treat every person as an individual and recognize that one day they may be struggling, and the next they may be thriving.  We are all individual.

As part of my continuing professional development, I have researched how to expand my knowledge and understanding of mental health to create ideas for young people with mental health issues to cope and use the issue to their strength. I have developed a resource with some strategies in the classroom to help young people with mental health issues i.e anxiety.

Ed - Dyslexia champion

Hi my name is Ed and I am the topic champion for Dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that mainly causes problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing.

Dyslexia occurs worldwide regardless of culture or language and affects about 9-12% of the population; 2 – 4% of the population can be seriously affected by it. Working at New Heights we have a constant wave of students coming and going, this means that children will come into New Heights with Dyslexia or will be tested upon their arrival so that they can be referred and we can help them and support their needs, which in turn can help them reach their full potential.

As a part of my ongoing development, I have started to research on how I and the school can further our knowledge on Dyslexia to help the student as best we can.

I will develop some strategies and resources for the pupils we have here with Dyslexia.

All the resources I will make you will be able to find in the staff room in the Topic Champion folder. Along with our SENDCo Lisa Kenny, if any pupils or staff have any questions they are more than welcome to come see me with any concerns or questions they may have.

Kathleen - ADHD topic champion

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behaviour.

People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. It is important to remember that ADHD can affect both children and adults. In the UK, ADHD is thought to affect between 2% to 5% of school aged children (Journal of Attention Disorders). 

ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability and can present itself with a set of behaviours that can make education difficult for students, but it is important to remember that ADHD does not affect intelligence. Students with severe ADHD can however have low self-esteem, develop emotional and social problems, underachieve at school and be at risk of school exclusion (O’Regan, 2014). 

At New Heights we have always had students with ADHD within our cohort and we have strategies that encompass their individual needs that can ensure they reach their full potential. 

As part of my continuing professional development, I have completed some research on how we can further our knowledge of ADHD and help students with ADHD in our school. I will develop some resources with strategies for helping students with ADHD in the classroom and this can be accessed in the Topic Champion folder in the staffroom. 

Along with Lisa Kenny, our SENDCo, I am available to talk with students about any questions or concerns they may have.

John - PDA

Hi, my name is John and I’m New Heights School KS3 Topic Champion for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance).

Pathalogical Demand Avoidance, PDA, is widely understood to be a profile on the Autistic spectrum that describes those whose main characteristic is to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. 

The condition was first identified in 2003, making it a very recent addition to the Autistic spectrum. As such, it is a complex, challenging and misunderstood condition that is often overlooked by professionals. It is therefore my belief that PDA needs to be recognised at New Heights School KS3.

As part of my continuing professional development I have conducted research on how we can better identify PDA and help those young people who display traits of PDA. I have developed resources and strategies to help these young people in classroom settings.

Along with Lisa Kenny, our SENDCo, I am happy to talk to children about any concerns they may have.

Joseph - the positive effects of Exercise

Hi, my name is Joseph and I promote the positive effects of exercise.

I have chosen my topic because there are so many benefits of exercise on our mental health and wellbeing. These include things such as; increased mood due to more endorphins produced in our brains.

Skill developments and learning new things, Better Social wellbeing / overcoming social anxieties and meeting new people from different backgrounds, our bodies are fitter and more able to manage illness/physical exersion which may result in less chance of body dissatisfaction, and lastly better quality of sleep and rest. All of these things are important in helping us be the best – both physically and mentally – we can be.

Along with our SENDCo I will aim to support people who would like to find out more about the benefits of exercise on our bodies and minds

Charley - ASC

Hi, my name is Charley and my topic is Autistic Spectrum Condition.

ASC is short for (Autistic Spectrum Condition, often called Autism) and it affects 1 in 100 children in the UK

Autism is a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterised by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thoughts and behaviour. Is a lifelong, neurological disorder often appearing before the age of three years old.

Autistic people may act in a different way to other people. They may find it hard to understand how other people think or feel. There are often sensory difficulties associated with ASC and people may find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable, or get overly anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events.

There are 5 main (but not exhaustive) characteristics of ASC:

  • Delayed language skills.
  • Delayed movement skills.
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills.
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behaviour.
  • Unusual moods or emotional reactions.

Everybody is unique and all of our brains work differently, no matter if we have ASC or not.  Along with Lisa Kenny our SENDCo, I will help support or direct to sources of information those of our community who want to find out more about ASC and the impact it may have on their lives.

Lewis - Mental health

Hi, my name is Lewis and my topic is Mental Health.

The topic I have chosen is mental health. I have chosen this because I know how much our mental health can impact our achievement and outlook, but also with the current crisis relating to energy bills, families are under more stress than they have been previously which could result in our students being more anxious which is not good for them mentally but also in terms of their ability to access their learning.

Mental ill health is when a person struggles with their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. For example, this may mean that they struggle to interact in communities with others, students struggling with exam pressure, athletes with the constant pressure of being happy in the public eye. Furthermore approximately 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year.

At New Heights School KS3 we get new students joining us almost every week, and for some we suspect they may have challenges relating to their mental health. Whilst some of these concerns will have been raised by their previous school, often all the schools have seen are shows of distressed/challenging behaviour. We work hard to identify and acknowledge these and support them through our in-house support network, or through referrals to outside agencies such as CAMHS/YPAS.

As part of my continuing professional development I have researched how to expand my knowledge and understanding of mental health so I can create ideas/resources for young people with mental health issues. Along with our SENDCo I will try to support our students to develop strategies to help themselves, but I will also refer them to our Mental Health Champion and Intervention manager, should I need to.