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It takes a village to raise a child: a positive future for Norfolk’s young people

While it's up to a school to help young people achieve, it's down to the wider community to help them thrive says Philip Hinchliffe, Head Teacher of Catch22 include Norfolk.

02 May 2018

Did you know that there are 36 children excluded permanently from UK schools, every day?

That children excluded from school are four times more likely than the average child to be born in poverty, and seven times more likely to have a special educational need?

Despite their clear need for additional support, 99% of excluded pupils leave without 5 good GCSEs including English and maths.

We need to do better, and this starts with better alternative provision schools.

As an independent school Head for young people who have mostly been excluded from mainstream provision, I know that there are three things that make up a good alternative provision school: the right people around the young person to build emotional wellbeing, a place of learning that stretches the young person academically and vocationally, and a purposeful destination for the young person to progress into.

Firstly, the right people around the young person, supporting their emotional wellbeing.

The current system of permanent exclusion, moving from school to school, (if one can be found) for an uncertain period of time does little for a young person’s self-confidence. The sooner a student is back into permanent specialist school, and surrounded by the right people is paramount to positive outcomes. Our cohort needs additional support. A mainstream school environment doesn’t work for them, and mainstream school staff simply aren’t trained to deal effectively with their additional SEN and behaviour needs. Our schools are moving to have a therapeutic professional for our young people to work with alongside their studies.

Secondly, a relevant academically and vocationally stretching environment.

The key word here is ‘relevant.’ The curriculum offer must push the young people to achieve, include relevant subjects like GCSE English and Maths, but be flexible enough to support vocational qualifications. Any curriculum must be delivered by high quality teaching staff who can also provide strong pastoral support.

Thirdly, a purposeful destination for the young person to progress into.

I worked for many years at HMP Norwich. I know that the prison is full of young people who were excluded from school, without a positive destination to move into. A positive transition into a post-16 placement is key. For this we need to work closely with the FE sector, and build local business links for work experience and apprenticeships. I am working closely with City College Norwich to address this for our students’.

With this in mind I was very happy to receive our local MP, Chloe Smith into our Norwich school on Friday 27th April. I was heartened by her appetite for doing things differently, for supporting every young person in Norwich to achieve their potential, no matter where they started. We had a very positive discussion along with Jerry White, Deputy Principal at City College Norwich and Kim Breen from Norfolk County Councils school admissions team about the issues facing Norfolk mainstream Head teachers, the options for the young people who do get excluded from school and what can be done to improve the current system.

We discussed the school, and how businesses and mainstream head teachers in Norwich can support our cohort more robustly as they move through our school system and into post-16 options. Two year 11 students’ also talked to us about their experiences. It was a proud – but sad – moment for me hearing their story that before they were settled at Catch22 they felt unwanted, pushed from one provision to the next without anyone seeming to really care.

I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. For our children, we look to wider Norwich to consider their role. Businesses, FE colleges, teachers, employers all play a role in helping our learners thrive. We must unite to improve the education opportunities for those young people for whom the mainstream model doesn’t work.

I am optimistic about the direction we move in together and look forward to working collaboratively with Chloe and her team to bring together Norwich, to offer the best provision and pathways so young people can flourish and succeed.