Settling Back in Room 12

We have been getting back into the swing since returning to school.

One thing we have enjoyed is our Wednesday yoga sessions. Here we see one of our young people really enjoying the one to one yoga with Hannah who understands the needs of our class perfectly. One of our class always greets her with “Namaste”, now without prompting!

We have been choosing what we would like to do in class time. This can be through use of symbols, pictures, signing, verbally or in the case of this picture, by switch. Here, one of our pupils is choosing the song he would like to hear.

Celebrating Star Wars Day in Room 16

Room 16 have been celebrating Star Wars day! We made a google form questionnaire together to find out what everyone’s favourite Star Wars character is. We showed our results using bricks to represent the number of votes for each character. We then ordered them from the most popular character to the least popular character. Chewbacca is officially Orchard Brae’s favourite character!

Orchard Brae Kiltwalk

A few of our pupils and staff are participating in the virtual Kiltwalk at the weekend and we wish them the very best of luck!

To support, the rest of us are doing our own Kiltwalk activities in school this Friday and we would encourage pupils to wear a touch of tartan if they can – anything goes!

We will be dancing and walking on Friday and will share photos of our activities with you next week.

Room 19 Return to School

Our return to school after the Easter break has been pretty hectic.  There has been lots of giggles as we all enjoyed being back in a bigger group.  The pupils all worked hard with Google Classroom and Google meets last term.  I am so impressed at the communication skills and confidence the pupils developed during virtual lessons.  We still enjoy conference calls with peers at home as well as live music lessons online.  Here are a few photos from our first week back in school, playing “Headbandz” and mindfulness.

Reconnecting in Secondary

We’ve been very happy to see the majority of our secondary pupils returning over the last couple of weeks. Pupils have enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with staff in school and see some of their friends again. Staff have been delighted to welcome pupils back and to return to some semblance of our normal routine. We do hope this will continue after the holiday, but as detailed in the letter from our Chief Education Officer, we have to await further guidance on next steps.

We’ve been very busy in the time that we’ve been back in school. Here is a selection of what we’ve been doing:

Learning Outdoors

We’ve been making the most of the good weather and enjoying learning in the fresh air. Some of us have enjoyed local walks and outdoor play.

Others have been busy in the grounds with gardening and litter picking. Room 14 particularly enjoyed the litter pick.

Health and Wellbeing

It has been great to see so many of our young people observing the safety rules around school. We’ve all become increasingly independent in maintaining good hand hygiene. Target work has continued and we have also been working on our ASDAN units. We’ve also had lots of fun!

Working Hard

We’ve been delighted with how well our pupils have settled back into their routines. Lots of learning is taking place, with good use being made of games and technology.

Who could fail to be happy to return when learning is so much fun?

If you’d like to engage in some messy activities at home our advice is:

Take it outside OR get your child involved in the tidying! It’s never too early to work on independent living skills.

Qualifications in the Senior Phase

Our senior phase pupils have continued working towards their ASDAN and SQA qualifications and we thank everyone that has supported in this during our period of remote learning. Room 19 have been successfully working on SQA Science: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. They’ve created some beautiful instruments.

Happy Holidays!

While some pupils have just returned to school, others have been supported throughout the lockdown period. We’ve had lots of learning going on remotely and thank all parents, carers and staff for supporting our pupils with this. In speaking with families, I know that there have been differing levels of engagement for a host of reasons, and we would like to thank all of you for the support you’ve given during this challenging time. Google Classrooms will remain ‘open’ should you wish to make use of activities during the holidays, but please do take a break if you can, relax, enjoy time outdoors, and focus on well-being.

Kiltwalk 2021

On Friday 23rd April, Orchard Brae will participate in some fun Kiltwalk activities. Pupils and staff will be dancing and walking, along with potentially other fun activities. Pupils can wear something tartan to school that day if they wish. There is no expectation of fundraising or donations.

However, if anyone is keen to fundraise, Friends of Orchard Brae still have Kiltwalk places available for both adults and children to help raise money to further develop our Outdoor Learning Area. Registration for these places is free and if interested please e-mail:

All money raised through this year’s Kiltwalk will be topped up with an additional 50% from The Hunter Foundation.

Rights Respecting School

Orchard Brae are beginning the journey to becoming a Rights Respecting School. In line with our vision and aims (, we aspire to be a school where children’s rights are at the heart of our ethos and culture, to improve well-being and to develop every child’s talents and abilities to their full potential.  Moving towards summer we will be working to put together an action plan to allow us to progress this work with pupils taking the lead as we go forward, our aim being to gain Rights Respecting School Awards through Unicef UK in recognition of sustained practice in this area.

Unicef UK is the world’s leading organisation working for children and young people and their rights. In 1989, governments across the world agreed that all children have the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and earlier this week the Scottish Government reached agreement that the UNCRC will become be incorporated in domestic law. These rights are based on what a child needs to survive, grow, participate and fulfil their potential.

Pupils and staff will learn about children’s rights, with staff supporting children to access their rights every day. Rights and respect will be modeled in all relationships, supporting our children in developing their awareness of good citizenship.

We really hope that you will be able to support our school on the journey towards becoming a Unicef UK Rights Respecting School. Further information sessions will be scheduled for parents and carers next term.

A user friendly version of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) can be accessed here:

The full UNCRC convention can be found here:

For further information about Rights Respecting Schools please visit:

We look forward to sharing our learning with you as we move forward together at Orchard Brae.

Futures: Senior Phase

In previous years we have been successfully hosted a Futures Event alongside our work experience partners and providers of post-school provision. The purpose of these events is to share information on the curriculum offer at the Senior Phase (S4-6) and to allow young people and parents the chance to consider life beyond school. Sadly, due to restrictions this year we have been able to do this, so instead have been given some information to share virtually as an alternative.

If you have any questions around this, please feel free to raise them with your class teacher, Elaine Thomson (Head of Senior Phase), or Clare Russell (Principal Teacher Secondary).

Senior Phase Presentation

Delivered by Elaine Thomson (Head of Secondary), this presentation gives an outline of the curriculum and opportunities that have been enjoyed by pupils during their Senior Phase, particularly focusing on their final year in S6.

Social Work Transitions Team

Pupils are referred to the the Social Work Transitions Team when they are in S5. The Transitions Team have recently reviewed their processes and have sent updated information on how they are working as we move forward.

North East Scotland College (NESCol)

Some of our pupils attend the NESCol Link Course in S6. They are supported in attending by PSAs from school. Information on the Link Course has been shared by Catherine Stollery, our college contact.

Moving on from school, pupils who are independent in their learning and working at National 2 (or above) may be able to access the Preparation for Work course.

Project Search

The transcript below accompanies the attached slides kindly shared by Shirley from Project Search. There are links in the final slide if you wish to find out more about this option.

Project SEARCH is a transition to work programme for people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions in their last year of Education.  It effectively takes the classroom into the premises of a local employer and teaches Interns employability skills on-site in a real workplace environment. 

The programme helps the Interns to learn real job skills that will prepare them for work by rotating them through a variety of different work placement experiences.  This work-based learning is then supported by classroom activities each day alongside the provision of constant feedback throughout the programme. 

Project SEARCH originates from the USA, where it began in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1996.  The Director of the Emergency Department felt that, because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities, it made sense that they committed to recruiting members of staff from this group.  She came up with the idea that it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high turnover, entry level positions in her department. 

 Project SEARCH has now spread to 521 sites across the world – there are sites in every state in the USA, as well as Canada.  In Europe, there are 50 Project SEARCH sites – 47 in the UK, 1 in the Netherlands and 1 in Portugal. 

Our programme is delivered in partnership with North East Scotland College, Values into Action Scotland and Skills Development Scotland.  We have previously partnered with Inspire PTL and Aberdeen City Council.  We are currently working closely with Aberdeenshire Council and also enjoy close links with the DFN Project SEARCH Foundation

Our Interns are registered students with North East Scotland College for their one year on Project SEARCH. Each year, we recruit up to twelve Interns, who receive support from our on-site Job Coach (Shirley) and Tutors (Andrew and Ann (IT)) to undertake 3 work placements within the University, whilst studying to attain a vocational (City & Guilds) qualification.

Work placements available across the University include :

• Groundskeeping – Estates and Cruickshank Botanic Garden
•IT Services
•Administration – Music Department, Business School, Suttie Centre
•Catering Assistant – kitchen/barista/customer service opportunities at various coffee shops and stations around campus
•Maintenance Assistant/Trades Mate
•Childcare – Nursery Assistant in the Rocking Horse Nursery

We also have external Internship opportunities available with :
•NHS Grampian – Groundskeeping and Physiotherapy Department
•Aramark Catering – based at North East Scotland College
•Business & Community Development Team at North East Scotland College – admin/office role
•Aberdeenshire Council – grounds and administrative placements

Project SEARCH is based on our Old Aberdeen campus. In 2017, the University made a significant investment in the programme through the development of a new classroom in the Butchart Building on University Road.  As you can see from these photographs, this classroom provides our Interns with a high quality learning environment, including the provision of technologically enhanced learning through an internet-connected white board and Skype facilities through which they can connect with other Project SEARCH sites in Scotland and beyond.

The primary aim of Project SEARCH is to move our Interns into paid employment upon graduation from the programme and I am delighted that so many of our graduates are in work.    Indeed, some of them have even progressed their career further into new jobs with different employers since leaving us. 

And, despite a very challenging local jobs market and economic climate, I am delighted to report that 68% of our graduates are now in work in a variety of organisations across the Grampian area. Four of our graduates who left our programme last year are now in work in a range of organisations including NHS Grampian, Instant Neighbour, a café in the centre of Aberdeen and a primary school.  So far this year, one of our Interns will be leaving us in the next few weeks to take up a role as a Support Assistant in a Care Home.

Recent statistics have highlighted that 16,000 school children and young people in Scotland have learning disabilities and 26,000 adults in Scotland have learning disabilities and need support. In Scotland, young people with a learning disability have only a 7% chance of being in employment, but the national average rate of youth employment is 82%. 

We also have to remember that here in the North East, our local economic climate is very challenging to all jobseekers – between 2009 and 2017, overall youth employment in Aberdeen City fell from 75.6% to 54.6%.  Yet the Project SEARCH University of Aberdeen success rate for our graduates is 68% – that is nearly 10 times above the average employment rate for those with a learning disability who do not enter any type of post-school programme.

The ultimate goal of Project SEARCH is, of course, for our Interns to find and sustain paid employment that makes best use of their skills and enables them to make a recognised contribution to their employing organisation.

The success of a project like ours is dependent upon the engagement and support of our colleagues in the local business community. Therefore, it is important that those of us who are involved in developing and delivering the programme are aware of the needs and expectations of the wider world. 

Our Interns undertake an exciting journey within the University during their time with us and I know that they can benefit local organisations in so many ways. 

You can see one of our graduates in the photo behind me – this is Owen, who embarked last year upon a Groundskeeping Apprenticeship within our Estates & Facilities Directorate.

One of our graduates from the class of 2018 is now employed by the University in our IT Services department and he has joined Owen and three other Project SEARCH graduates from previous years in making a valuable contribution to the work of the University – employment gained through proving they were the best candidate for their respective jobs in an open recruitment process.

Success stories like Owen and his colleagues who have graduated since 2013 are the essence of Project SEARCH – young people who have grown, developed and flourished as a direct result of spending a year with us on our programme and who have now embarked upon a successful career in the local community.  This is the future of Project SEARCH – I hope that everyone here today will be able to encourage other organisations in the local region to provide this type of opportunity to our young people.

I appreciate that employing young people, particularly those with a disability, may seem daunting to many employers, particularly smaller and medium size ones.  However, we have been working hard to try to dispel some of the myths and overcome some of the obstacles facing our Interns in achieving meaningful employment that will enable them to make a contribution to our society and local area. 

To encourage local employers to hire our graduates, we developed an “Interns into Employment” toolkit, which is available as an online resource through our website.  It sets out the types of support that is available to employers who are interested in recruiting an Intern – sources of funding to provide them with financial support, the support available from our team to integrate and coach their new employee etc. 

Our aim is to continue to deliver a sustainable pool of talent from which local organisations can draw future employees. However, we are acutely aware that many of our Interns may find it challenging to display the full range of their skills and talents through a standard 1:1 interview process.  Therefore, our guide gives some ideas for alternatives to the traditional interview, including practical skills tests, work trials (where an Intern comes into your organisation and actually does the job for a period of time ranging from a day to 4 weeks) and other hints and tips.

Further information about our project is available from a number of sources – I have listed some of the key websites and am happy to make these slides available to you for circulation after today’s presentation.

As I mentioned before, our project cannot succeed without the support of people like yourselves in our local communities with links to so many of our local political, health, education and business sectors.  We regularly hold ‘Meet the Interns’, employer engagement and fundraising events and I hope that I will be able to welcome you to our classroom to join us at some of our future events.

In the meantime, if our presentation today has inspired you to think about how you could become personally involved as part of our Project SEARCH family (or our “Business Advisory Council” as we call it), there are plenty of opportunities available, either in helping us to identify where there is high turnover/difficulties in filling vacancies that we could assist with, by delivering workshops to our Interns or by becoming a mentor to one of our young people.

I hope that this presentation has inspired you to think about how you, on either a personal or professional level, can celebrate the successes and achievements of young people with a learning disability, spread the word of how valuable they are to our local community and influence decisions that will ensure Project SEARCH has a sustainable future in Aberdeen.  Project SEARCH is a wonderful worldwide example of how young people with a learning disability can be encouraged to shine.  We all have a part to play in supporting them on their journey.