Gill Bullock, Director and one of the founders of Burnley-based Aspire Behaviour Management Ltd, talks to Education For Everybody editor Victoria Galligan about working with children who are at risk of exclusion…
Can you describe what happens during the placements at Aspire, and during the transition period?
Children aged between three and nine can access placements at The Aspire Hub. All those children who come to us have exhibited Social and Emotional Mental Health and are at high risk of exclusion.
Prior to a child starting at The Hub we may have already been working with them in their school. A multiagency meeting is called so we can discuss the provision and the expectations of all parties working together to find the best outcome for all. If school feel that the child’s behaviour is too high risk to return from an exclusion school can use the Notices of Direction to Attend. School staff need to commit to see the child every week to continue or rebuild relationships, the child needs to wear their school uniform. Parents should attend stay and play and take part in the parenting support.
The day has a structured timetable giving children access to both structured times and free play. Children are taken out in identified small groups that targets their scores from the Beyond the Boxall. We believe that children are unable to progress with their learning if they have not been able to secure the foundation of life learning. Learning is recorded in the learning journey and progress is tracked using the Boxall profile.
The Hub has regard to the National Curriculum and the Early Learning Goals. We are aware that children in mainstream and other settings will cover more quantity of work than the children attending The Hub however, these children are currently unable to meet the developmental norms of the EYFS/NC. We believe that by revisiting early life experiences with the quality and intensity of provision help to build the foundations of secure learning.
We constantly review progress and every 4 weeks using a School Readiness Scale we can then consider if a child is ready to return to school. The readiness tool helps us to judge whether the transition is likely to be successful and helps us focus on the areas for further development. When appropriate the transition takes place, a timetable will be discussed with school and parents.
When a child returns we want this to be a fresh start, so the child will access the classroom on a phased return. School and Aspire will share strategies and identify appropriate provision and an action plan to ensure success. An Aspire keyworker will escort and support the child back to school. As school staff and Aspire will have both worked with the child in The Hub setting this helps for a smooth transition. Over a period the Aspire keyworker will step back, and the school support will take over if and were appropriate.
What happened at the Reducing Exclusions of Disadvantaged Pupils discussion at the House of Lords?
The discussion was hosted by the Earl of Listowel, Francis Hare, who takes a keen interest in education, families and communities. The event was held to launch the #AspireNotToExclude campaign by Nurture UK. The campaign seeks to promote the effectiveness to schools of adopting the six principles of nurture to help overcome behavioural challenges and thus prevent exclusions.
The event was attended by over 60 people representing policy makers, charities, the Alternative Provision and mainstream school communities, academics and treating consultants/practitioners.
First up was a presentation by Sir John Timpson CBE who, as well as owning a plethora of shoe repair shops, has (along with his late wife Alex) adopted 2 children and has fostered over 90 others. His insight in to the issues caused by attachment disorders and what, in his experience, is successful in supporting such children, was well received.
His was followed by a presentation from Yvonne Monaghan, Head of Consultancy at Nurture UK. Yvonne has vast experience of working with children at risk of exclusion and shared some of the success stories her intensely nurturing approach has delivered.
The final speaker was Drew Povey, Headteacher of Harrop Fold School in Little Hulton, and “star” (along with the children) of the Channel 4 documentary, Educating Great Manchester. Mr Povey recited the journey his school had been on since he took up the headship. At that stage it was “regarded” as the worst school in the country, in special measures, with a £3.5m budget deficit and in an area of serious deprivation. Change was needed! Under his leadership, the school effectively reinvented how to educate its children. Starting with the statement “we will not exclude”, empowering the whole staff team and creating a culture which ensured the needs of every child could be understood and acted up, it is a remarkable achievement that not one child has been permanently excluded from Harrop Fold since Mr Povey became Head. A true inspiration, and a shining example of what can be achieved with some vision and highly effective leadership.
There followed a series of questions and comment from the audience, and the discussion was rounded off by a passionate call to arms from Kevin Kibble, CEO of NurtureUK who inspired everyone we spoke to give wholehearted support to the #AspireNotToExclude campaign.
What can policy makers do to ensure children receive the best care and education?
The obvious answer is to provide sufficient funding so those children and schools who need additional support and expertise can obtain access to it quickly.
However, that is not the only answer, welcome though it would be.
In recent time education policy appears to have been motivated by the challenge of improving the UK’s results in international league tables, and indeed to that extent policy has been successful. It is clear however that mental health and behavioural challenges for our children and young people are rapidly increasing. Both have a seriously detrimental effect on a child’s ability to learn, and on exclusion rates. A narrow curriculum, constant assessment and the increasing pressures from exam changes do nothing to alleviate those issues.
Changing the lens on how a school can be regarded as good will help. What will help us to achieve this is, as well as measuring progress and attainment, that a school should be judged on its exclusion rates, the quality of its pastoral support, the effectiveness of the ability of staff to identify and deal with SEMH challenges, and the quality of Alternative Provision it accesses when necessary. Would a good school not deal effectively with these things? Should a school actually be regarded as good if it is failing its pupils in these key areas? This needs to be in relation to the demographics of a school, a school in a more deprived area can not be judged by the same standards as a school in a more affluent catchment area.
There is a mantra of “what gets measured gets done”. If policy makers were to put more emphasis on these areas, rather than simply the relentless pursuit of purely academic results, we say more children would receive the best care and education.
There are signs of steps being taken in the right direction. The School Exclusions Review led by Edward Timpson; Ofsted suggesting they may start to take into account the quality of Alternative Provision schools access in their judgement of schools; the Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper, all COULD start a transformative process which ultimately could deliver better care and education. To deliver, policy makers must think holistically, be visionary and prepared to drive real change and commit the funds.
What can schools for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties do to better support children?
We keep in touch with special schools in our area and exchange knowledge and good practice.
Everything starts from understanding the needs of the child, and always putting those first, however difficult that can be sometimes.
The most effective schools have a whole school approach to behaviour and pastoral support, providing children and young people with calm, clear and consistent instruction and support. They adopt a multi-agency approach, building good and effective relationships with the variety of agencies required to give appropriate support to children with behavioural, emotional and social challenges. This enables schools to provide children with appropriate assessment and interventions that they need at the time when they need them.
To find out more from Aspire Behaviour Management, see https://www.aspirebm.co.uk