There was an abundance of pride and emotion among the attendees of the Essex Fresh Start (EFS) Y11 graduation ceremony, held at Anglia Ruskin University on Friday 8 September. They included pupils’ family members, Local Authority representatives, staff from EFS and the TCES Group head office, and most important, the pupils themselves, each one deserving to feel immense pride in their achievements.
Ruth Sturdy, Essex County Council’s Lead School Effectiveness Partner for Inclusion, Standards and Excellence summed up the event, “It was an honour to be invited to the EFS graduation and a privilege to hear about and meet the young people who had clearly made so much progress in both their academic skills and subsequent qualifications, but also in their self-belief and confidence. The foundations of positive future lives are being built at EFS through an approach to education which is personalised to each young person and is aimed at ensuring that they are prepared in the widest sense for a positive future.
“The dedication of staff was manifest throughout the event and was reflected in the positive relationships all the young people had developed with them. To see so many proud parents, carers, young people and staff was a fantastic way to spend a Friday evening.”
Head Teacher of EFS, Cheryl Rutter, welcomed everyone before handing out special ‘record of achievement’ booklets to the Y11 pupils, each containing an impressive number of certificates marking their achievements. She confirmed that every Y11 pupil had ended the academic year with accreditations to take them forward in education or employment – with an average of six awards/qualifications each.
There were also special awards presented during the evening for academic, most improved performance, most improved behaviour, attendance and contribution to the Student Council.
Cheryl said, “Young people referred to EFS have often had negative experiences in education, arriving with low self-esteem and little or no aspiration to achieve. On average, they’ve missed 18 months of schooling during their educational lifetime.
“Therefore, all the pupils here this evening should be congratulated, not only for their academic achievements but for the progress they have made in overcoming the barriers they faced prior to joining us. Tonight is not about what has passed but the success they have achieved and their focus on the future.”
Cheryl also thanked the staff for their dedication, saying, “They never give up and are quite tenacious in their efforts to help our young people learn, while supporting and teaching them the social skills they require to be successful in college or employment as well as in society.”
Following the awards ceremony one of the Y11 pupils commented on how nervous and embarrassed he had felt about going up to the front of the room to collect his certificates. However, afterwards he agreed that it was OK actually doing it and, like others he felt a huge sense of pride in his successes.
The mother of one pupil was bursting with pride and said, “I’m a very proud Mummy. I always knew my son was capable and am thrilled with his achievements. He’s grown into an amazing young man and we owe it all to the efforts of EFS. I can’t thank EFS enough. He’s loving every minute of it and has discovered a love of music at the school. This has been an absolutely amazing evening and we’ve been overwhelmed to see what all the pupils have achieved, knowing what difficulties they have.”
Another mother added, “EFS is fantastic. We don’t know where we’d be without it; there should be more schools like this. The staff need a medal. We’re really proud, we never thought he’d get all these awards.”
Representing Suffolk County Council, Out of County Special Needs Officer Nicky Fisk concluded, “I’m so proud of everyone and their achievements. I’ve worked with the school for a number of years and think it provides a wonderful opportunity for these young people who are collecting their awards this evening.”