In 2001 Oldham Council embarked on a change agenda for young people in the borough with additional needs. The first stage involved merging the three existing secondary schools that supported our children which resulted in New Bridge School being established in 2004 as a 300 place state-of-the-art secondary special school, developed specifically to meet the needs of statemented pupils from the age of 11 to 16 at our Roman Road site and students aged 16 to 19 at our Learning Centre.
National recognition, together with curriculum awards followed and when the opportunity arose to convert to academy status, New Bridge was one of the first special schools in the country to take up the offer of becoming a Single Academy Trust. Over the next five years we looked at the available research and practice in work-based-learning programmes. We identified two large local companies we had already established some links with, The Royal Oldham Hospital and Manchester Metropolitan University. Through an effective partnership with them, we developed our innovative ‘Bridging the Gap’ supported internship programme which gives our students an excellent preparation for future employment.
In addition, we expanded our post-16 programme to include a choice of four excellent, dedicated vocational pathways known as:
- Lumenus – Performing Arts based course
- Hortus – Horticulture pathway,
- Activ8 – Sports pathway
- Digit4ll – ICT pathway
In 2014, again with the support and backing of Oldham Council, the organisation converted to a Multi Academy Trust to enable the sponsorship of a new build school for children on the autistic continuum. Hollinwood Academy opened in September 2015 following a procurement and build programme that took only 18 months to achieve.
In 2016 we were approached by Spring Brook School governors with a request to join our Trust and in December of the same year, Spring Brook Academy became the latest organisation to join our family of schools. Immediately after the conversion, work was started on the submission of a free school bid to implement a more appropriate vocational offer for young people with SEND in the town. This bid was successful and work is currently underway to open the Springboard Project Free School.
The latest organisation to join our family of schools in 2018 is Hawthorns School in Tameside. Hawthorns is located in Audenshaw and supports primary aged children from across Tameside who have an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) and complex learning needs. Hawthorns is also a nationally designated Teaching School and is part of the everyonelearning@ Teaching School Alliance. Our journey will be stronger with Hawthorns School as partners.
Since 2001 our vision has remained steadfast with the belief that all our pupils, students and young people, whatever their background or ability, will be successful and valued. It is encompassed in our original mission statement, “Learning together, learning for all, learning for life.”
As the school system travels through this period of significant change, our Trust is receiving requests from a number of schools. Each expression of interest is considered by Trustees with a clear understanding that every school will need to commit to the following shared intents:
- to develop schools at the heart of our communities and ensure that the contribution of every individual is valued
- to offer all our children and young people access to the highest quality, trained staff and to ensure our facilities are entirely fit for purpose
- to offer all our young people access to an extended year through holiday clubs and before and after school activities
- to ensure all our children and young people have access to an appropriate, challenging curriculum pathway with a clear aspirational destination.
We are aiming to build a thriving community of converting and sponsored academies and free schools and other trusts. We will maintain and support a family of autonomous schools that is uncompromising in its search for excellence. We focus on getting the basics right with an emphasis on innovation, collaboration and enjoyment. We believe we have considerable skills and expertise in supporting schools that work with young people who have additional needs. We see the value in being outward facing and believe that creating sustainable partnerships with like-minded schools encourages and supports continued improvement.