Being a Trust is such a refreshing way to work. Our partnerships are good and are broadening our perspective of what is happening in England and also further afield. As a Multi Academy Trust, we want to remain quite small, working as collaborative partners sharing what we do whilst learning about what our partners do and growing together. It is very much about people wanting to join us, rather than us imposing ourselves on anyone.
We are in the process of putting in bids to start two new schools. The first of which is a special school for children at risk of permanent exclusion and those who this has already happened to because their families have had a really tough start. This could be for a range of reasons that mean perhaps parenting skills have been a challenge. The focus is not to blame anyone for what has happened, but just to appreciate that not everyone has the same start and this is something that we are going to try and put right.
A few years ago I did a leadership programme and was partnered with Wandsworth prison. Following conversations with some of the lifers there, it became apparent that they had all been permanently excluded from primary school at a young age and they felt like they had remained permanently excluded from society.
The alternative provision is about making these children academically resilient. Many children are behind in their learning not because they have learning difficulties but because of behaviour issues which have prevented them in lessons where they may get sent out or excluded and miss vital progression stages. One emphasis will be on bringing learning up to expectation through giving the children the best opportunities. Additionally, we will support them with learning behaviours, play behaviours and social skills and support parents to develop skills, including language, housing help and general life skills to enable them to be proactive and take ownership of what they want.
One of my favourite phrases is that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child.’ I think this means having a multi-agency approach in a child’s upbringing, which I believe is especially important with early intervention. Working with children when they are very young is a lot easier than when a child has grown up and less easily influenced, so we promote parents and children working and growing together.
Our key aim is for children to feel emotionally fit to go back into school, ideally by Year 5 and to stay there in mainstream school and to go on and be successful.
The other exciting project is starting up an All Through School from age 3-18. It has been a growing concern that secondary schools and even Universities are finding that their students arrive unprepared and without the skills to be successful at that level. A 3-18 school will take away the problem of children having those ‘gap’ years where they ‘cruise’ and have new starts. We are hoping to open in October 2017.
So from next February onwards there is potential for massive change in the work pace for the Amaya Trust. It is a really exciting time for us and we should hear back before December whether our plans will progress. We are looking forward to this exciting next stage.