15 Feb

GrahamI really can’t believe it’s half term! Yet again we are halfway through a school year.

I have spent quite an amount of time this week working alongside our local authority colleagues to understand the profile of children and young people within our boroughs.

What is becoming increasingly clear is the fact that we have a growing number of children. There is a huge growth in the populations in both Oldham and Tameside. Oldham, in particular, has a very youthful population. What is also a fact is that our children are coming from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to the children a decade ago. Children are also presenting at school with very different needs to those a decade ago. The numbers of children and young people who are on the autistic continuum or have social and emotional needs appears to be very much on the increase. This statistic may be the result of improved detection and understanding.

We are also seeing a significant rise in children who are educated at home. Many of the families of these children and young people are asking for an Education, Health and Care plan to support them. There has been an increase in EHCPs, in Oldham in the last 4 years, from 1160 (in 2015) to 1842 (in 2018). There has also, in the same time period, been a significant shift as to where these children and young people are schooled. Almost half are now in the specialist school sector. Now when you think that, in Oldham, the only new school we have built to support this growth is Hollinwood Academy (originally designed for 140), you can appreciate the scale of the issue.

I have spent time with our local authorities looking at these trends and trying to understand the whys.

More importantly, we have tried to predict the next 4 or 5 years.

A number of the senior team, governors and trustees are working next week to further investigate creative solutions.

We are going to ask ourselves questions along the lines of:

  • How do we need to support our mainstream colleagues?
  • Do we need to develop resource centres/bases?
  • Do we need more specialist schools?
  • Do we need more free schools?
  • How can we use technology, more creatively, to support our children?
  • Can we extend existing provisions?

Doing nothing is not an option – we need to think our way through the next few years.

I’d like to finish this week’s blog with a few ‘well dones!’ Well done to our amazing Digit4ll group whose enterprise (yet again) won the North West best company award for their recyclable bag initiative – Sea Clear. Also, well done to Abu, who gave a wonderful speech to the group about the value of paid work.

And finally, to Lauren, who in her own inimitable way made me chuckle yesterday when she told John Holland that he was letting the standards (in the New Bridge Group) drop as a result of his casual dress sense. As you can imagine, the conversation was much more animated and ‘colourful’ than I can outline here!! You need to be on TV, Lauren.

Have a great half term everyone. It’s the Bury vs Oldham local football match next Saturday – now, more than ever, I’d better be careful what I say!

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here