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Award-winning week for our LIFE Programme as team scoop National SEND Award and now shortlisted for a second gong

It’s been an outstanding week for our LIFE Programme (Leadership, Independence Skills, Future options including Employment and Empowerment), having been recognised as the Most Innovative Special Needs Intervention in the country in the 2021 National SEND Awards. The Programme has also just been shortlisted in the PSHE category for the prestigious Children and Young People Now Awards, with winners announced later this term.

LIFE, a growing feature of all TCES schools since 2017, has been developed entirely by teachers and other professionals working within our schools. The intervention gives children, who often join us disengaged and de-motivated having been excluded from other schools, the space to build their self-esteem. We offer them opportunities to be recognised for what they can contribute, to take on new responsibilities such as peer mentoring and have a timetabled space to explore their dreams, goals and aspirations.

Richard Daniel Curtis, Chair of the National SEND Awards said: ‘The judges felt the embedding of peer mentoring as personal development opportunities for pupils who have so often experienced failure was a very innovative approach and one that has been well thought out as a progression route for their young people.’

It really is an absolute honour to be recognised for this national award because we know what a difference our LIFE Programme makes to our pupils, and how much hard work our staff put into creating opportunities tailored to each and every one of them.

For most pupils our LIFE Programme provides the very first opportunity they will have had to gain a strengths-based perception of themselves as someone who can lead change, support others and contribute their talents for the benefit of the whole school community.

Where possible roles and responsibilities within the LIFE Programme are linked to qualifications so that pupils build up a portfolio of skills and experience to take through their school life and out to college and beyond. For example, at our TCES East London school, 32 pupils gained English Speaking Board qualifications in Debating and Interviewing Skills and Communicating with others in the last academic year. A further seven pupils completed Anti-Bullying Ambassador Training with The Diana Award.

One of the aspects of our LIFE Programme that judges were particularly impressed by was our Peer Mentoring work. At TCES East London, for example, we now have five Level 2 trained Peer Mentors who have timetabled sessions each week with their own mentees. Through their sessions our Peer Mentors have been able to re-engage other children in their learning and bring about improvements in behaviour and friendships using a combination of their lived experience and professional training.

In early 2020, as some of our first Peer Mentors reached the end of their time with us, we could all see how much more they still had to offer their near peers. Later that year we offered our first permanent employee Alumni Learning Mentor role to Nick who is now working at TCES North West London providing mentoring and using his specialist sports skills. In 2021 we recruited our second Alumni Learning Mentor, Maison who is working as part of our marketing and communications team alongside his mentoring role at TCES East London.

I’m going into the weekend feeling elated, and keeping my fingers crossed that a win in the Children and Young People Now Awards will give us even more reasons to celebrate our exceptional young people.