First of all, can I apologise for not publishing a blog for a week or so.
One of the benefits of working across a number of different local authorities is that it allows me the opportunity to take my “leave” at slightly different times. So last week myself, and family, visited Florida for a whistlestop tour of Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Seaworld. I must admit scraping the ice off my car windscreen this morning came as quite a shock!
Anyway, on to matters relating to the Trust and Group.
Sometimes when I have a brief time away from the usual hustle and bustle, it allows me the space to reflect on our schools and post 19 organisations. We’re now half a term into the new school year and I’m absolutely delighted (for you, Lauren) with our drive to constantly improve our offer. So, to each individual organisation:
At Hawthorns Pierre and the team have worked tirelessly to, at last, get a commencement date for our external building works. We have had real challenges with the accommodation at Hawthorns. When the school was originally designed it supported around 70 children. Our numbers are now well over 100 with a predicted further growth. We have to be “on the front foot” to ensure the accommodation is fit for purpose. The 1:1 project is really starting to embed and I’m pleased we have now started to explore the extended school offer.
At Hollinwood we have had a similar issue with buildings! The 8 classroom extension is now almost complete and will allow us the space to accommodate children and young people that are already in the school! As I write they are completing the cladding and decorating the inside. Families from across the North West are desperate for places at Hollinwood. Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate any more children. We really need more schools in neighbouring authorities to replicate Hollinwood.
At New Bridge they are also in the middle of extending the building. Because this is at the back of the school the extension has gone (relatively) unnoticed. This will allow the New Bridge School children improved both indoor and outdoor learning spaces. The 1:1 iPad initiative has been rolled out across all the sites within New Bridge and I am aware that the school is looking at becoming a regional technology demonstrator school. At the Learning Centre and Medtia there have been some really exciting developments relating to careers and work placements – the latest project being the TEAM M8s.
At Spring Brook we completed the internal building works over the summer!! At the lower site our numbers have never been higher. We now have well over 40 children. Many families are seeing the work we do and are wanting places in the school. The 1:1 iPad project has really taken off at the lower site and has certainly enhanced teaching and learning. The changes we have made at our upper site will take a few months to embed but we are all really pleased with the start the young people and staff have made.
At Springboard, touch wood, our start could not have been better. Despite the government’s preferred ICT provider going into administration (leaving the school with only the basics of IT equipment), the young people and staff have responded incredibly positively with the move to the town centre. I’ve been informed of improved attendance, greater engagement and a revised purpose and energy in relation to the curriculum. I’m a huge believer in the transformational power of appropriate curriculum and purposefully designed buildings. It gives our young people the best opportunity to succeed.
Our Teaching School, everyonelearning@, continues to operate albeit under significant uncertainty from central government. A number of years ago outstanding schools were all encouraged to become teaching schools. Now the Department for Education looks like probably changing this strategy with, no doubt, a significant period of uncertainty and confusion. I find this really frustrating as, last year, our teacher training offer provided our schools with graduate teachers who had actually been trained to work with children and young people with additional needs!
At Horizons, John is supporting more people than ever. To think we started Horizons with only 6 young people. We now support well over 100 on a weekly basis. Our intention in setting up Horizons was never to replicate the adult services day care model and, last week, I was overjoyed that Daniel was able to share the news regarding our new partnership with the Guinness Group. Along with our Team M8s strategy it will allow our adults the opportunity to experience work placements and the world of work. So, Lauren, you might be making me a sandwich soon!
From a central perspective the teams have been hard at work exploring a revised accountability strategy, developing our training and development model, continuing work on our “dashboard” assessment model, investigating an internal alternative provision offer (for those young people that require a “different from school” offer), supporting other schools and PRUs in Tameside and Bury and researching the setting up of social enterprises to allow the young people to set up their own companies.
Nationally I have been involved with quite a number of different groups. I still chair Special Schools’ Voice (SSV) who work directly with central government. I was really pleased that in one of the Chancellor’s latest briefings he acknowledged that the funding system for children with additional needs required both increasing and then, revising. I am certain that our lobbying over the past couple of years has made a difference here. I have continued to work alongside Ofsted as they roll out the new framework, the Education Inspection Framework (EIF). From a personal perspective I have loved the relationship our trust has developed with Apple. The transformational effect technology will have on our curriculum(s) is so exciting. Our teams are actively working on Apps (and QR codes) that will help organise young people’s days, exploring how young people with physical limitations can access iPads, devising a training App that allows all staff to see what training opportunities are available to them and exploring how we can better use technology to keep families informed of their children’s successes.
So, all in all, a busy 8 weeks. Standing still is never an option.
For those of you where it’s applicable, have a great half term break.
You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here