EFS in Context: Schools’ Proprietor’s Vision
Thomas Keaney’s Vision as Schools’ Proprietor
My personal vision sees our schools as inclusive, thriving, socially and emotionally healthy communities. This vision is driven by my deeply held belief that human beings thrive in positive environments.
To enable this to happen, Essex Fresh Start School’s staff and pupils must be supported to own and deliver the Community and British Values of our schools and services, which are:
1. Very high expectations
2. Hard work
3. Mutual respect and tolerance of all
4. Authentic ‘real’ inclusion
5. Genuine pupil, parent and staff voice and participation
6. A ‘We never give up’ philosophy for our pupils and staff
EFS is part of TCES Group. Our social mission – developing our pupils as tomorrow’s leaders and maximising our pupils’ well-being and future opportunities, is more important than profits, which are reinvested back into the social mission and purpose.
This reinvestment includes high staff to pupil ratios of 2:6 and a substantial Clinical offer and Therapeutic Milieu delivered by a large team of specialist clinicians and therapeutically informed and supported staff.
The TCES Group has a Board of Directors who act as a traditional Board of Governors (not a legal entity) for EFS, distinctly different to any other School’s Governors. Our Governors are not volunteers but are full time and paid senior managers with substantial experience, qualifications and expertise in areas of Safeguarding, Education, Finance, HR, Facilities, Clinical and Social Work. This provides a significant element of expertise, professionalism and constructive challenge to the substantial support and strategic management that the TCES Group Governing Body provide to Essex Fresh Start School.
Pupil Voice and participation
At EFS we believe that by empowering pupils, who so often feel marginalised, they can actively shape their lives and ongoing education as citizens and take an element of control of their futures.
We do this in two ways:
• Pupils at EFS consistently achieve learning and accreditation outcomes that far outweigh the expectations they arrive with when they start at EFS. They leave EFS with meaningful learning outcomes and a clear understanding of, ‘what next’!
Our focus at EFS is to work out (quickly, as we only have some pupils for a very short time in Y11) what pupils like to do (and build accreditation around that), what their strengths are and what they need to enable them to move on to education, work or training at the end of their time at EFS.
• We believe that the often-unnoticed pathway to removing barriers to learning and increasing self-esteem and success lies within the pupils themselves. We have to allow our pupils to discover their own voices by giving them a real voice to begin with.
This challenge cannot be symbolically met by our school and organisation, but must be the central tenet of everything we do. Our pupils must feel empowered to have a strong voice and this voice must be listened to. Evidence of this voice must be seen in the full participation of our pupils in the running of the school and their involvement and full engagement in every aspect of school life.
EFS is using the vehicle of ‘Leadership Week’ to launch a new programme of Leadership Training for all pupils. We believe that the often difficult and sometimes traumatic upbringing of some of our pupils instil in them strengths and talents that if channelled properly will lead inevitably to different aspects of leadership. Developing leadership potential has benefits for the individual, their group, the whole school and their communities beyond TCES Group. Leadership development for pupils can shape the positive and promote harmony as well as promoting a strengths-based approach in relation to our pupils by all parents and carers, staff and stakeholders.
Parent Voice and participation
At EFS we recognise that the empowerment of parents through real parental voice and engagement can be a very effective channel for encouraging mass engagement and enabling our school community to be formed. As in many organisations, the active parents are not necessarily representative of the parent body as a whole, with the parents who the school needs to engage with often underrepresented.
Engagement Curriculum (Learning Programmes) for very vulnerable pupils
EFS offers an engagement curriculum and off-site learning programme for those pupils who struggle through their ASC or SEMH diagnoses inter-reacting negatively with a wide range of debilitating co-morbidities including anxiety, depression, ADHD, Fragile X, behavioural issues or other mental disorders. These pupils need to rediscover how to engage in small group education though a very personalised and bespoke curriculum which takes place in the community in the first instance.
Working 1:1 with an Assertive Outreach Tutor, pupils build rapport and are supported to develop secure attachments. This groundwork is essential to begin the process of enhancing their social, life, group and independence skills and to ensure that they are given both the opportunity and support to develop clear group-related career pathways. EFS provides significant additional resources for these pupils to benefit from our five part curriculum, including Therapeutic Hubs: local resources where pupils who are being educated in the community can work with school’s Clinical and Therapy Team and ‘touch-base’.
Our 1:1 Assertive Outreach Tutors also attend vocational curriculum and work experience placements with the pupils to ensure they fully engage. It is accepted that these pupils will need several years of on-going provision to counteract their significant gaps in education and their severe SEN disabilities.
Children’s lives today can be driven by gaming or television and have minimal connection to the natural world. Helping pupils develop and nurture an appreciation of nature is a fundamental element that not only safeguards our wildlife and environment but also generalises the nurturing approach we take to educating our pupils to the wider world.
Helping to educate future generations on the importance of engagement with the natural world and encouraging care-giving encourages awe and wonder, develops practical skills, empathy and practical, scientific knowledge-gathering.
By teaching children that every animal, all nature and people have the right to life, we encourage the development of a respect and appreciation of nature that mirrors the values-driven by our ‘in-school’ curriculum.
We recognise that timetabled and meaningful activity with organisations that promote animal care and welfare and teach in and about the natural world, have the ability to decrease vulnerability in those with a range of needs.
Vocational and work-like experience
EFS believes in the importance of offering every pupil, no matter what their barriers to learning may be, the opportunity to engage with meaningful and relevant work-like experience. To know what lies ahead in the world of work is an invaluable curriculum opportunity which contributes to:
Intellectual development – teaching how to think, problem solve and apply solutions in wider problems in other contexts
Personal development – increasing sense of self-worth, resilience and self-management through the positive experience of creating working solutions to real challenges
Wider understanding of the world – all aspects of human activity in the world of work are being constantly shaped and changed and pupils need to know what is required of them
Future employability – each pupil’s access to employment, leisure and life-long learning will be shaped by the knowledge, skills and understanding they acquire at this time.
Inclusion Quality Mark
TCES Group is uniquely driven by a vision and principle of real inclusiveness in our school community, where all pupils and not just the most able are a vital part of promoting diversity and the breaking down of all stereotypes that could create division within our school community.
EFS has a real focus around inclusion, which will result in applying for an Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM) in the near future. This essential inclusion work is done through individual relationship mentoring as well as group work with multiple groups including: Student Council, Anti-Bullying Council, Community Council, Group Process, Tutor Groups, Group and Celebration Assemblies, Leadership Group training and Group Therapy.