Case Study Two: Bryn Y Deryn

Brief Description of The Provision

Bryn y Deryn PRU (BYD) has been in operation for nearly twenty years, although in slightly different forms. It now caters for pupils throughout the County of Cardiff and has capacity for 44 key stage four pupils. It is based in a quiet residential area and students are transported to the site via taxi, or on public transport (with support). It is generally a long term, full-time placement. A couple of young people have been reintegrated into mainstream school, but this is not the norm.   There are two groups. One spends three full days at the centre doing academic work. The other spends two mornings at the centre doing academic work. The rest of the time they are at other alternative provisions with other providers. One young boy still attends his mainstream school one day a week.

Content and Delivery

The school day is from 8:55am-2:40pm. The young people start the day with free toast, fruit and squash. The have a morning break, during which a tuck shop is available, selling healthy snacks. The students cannot leave the site at lunchtime. They can either bring their own lunch or buy lunch, transported in from another school, on site. Board games and table tennis are available at lunch time. A member of staff is on duty every day during each of these break times.

The students are at the centre some of the week, and away with other AP providers for some of the week. This breaks the cohort up. BYD believe that it is important to offer an engaging and flexible curriculum with a variety of interesting opportunities. This flexibility might mean trying new subjects, recognising that some years some subjects work better than others. Accreditation is very important; GCSEs are important for those who can access them and achieve. BYD is concerned to ensure that students who cannot yet cope with GCSEs know that what they are doing is important and of equal value.

At the Centre:

Young people’s time at the centre is intended to be used to gain accredited awards (prospectus), and the focus is on more academic parts of the curriculum. The aim is for all young people to study for a GCSE in English, Maths, ICT and Art, although academic qualifications are also provided at BTEC and NOCN level. Staff fit the level of qualification to the needs and abilities of each young person and, as in a mainstream setting, some of the young people are not able to engage in the GCSEs. These young people are placed in the group which spends less time in academic lessons. These young people undertake alternative qualifications such as entry-level /level one literacy and numeracy etc. The students are also completing the Duke of Edinburgh award, have access to BTEC drama, NOCN Step up and opportunities to gain additional OCN accreditations. PSE is a part of the curriculum in the school and delivered by their tutor. Tutor time occurs every morning.

There is a maximum of six pupils per class, with one teacher and one teaching assistant. This provides “pupils with the opportunity to receive the support and guidance in every aspect of their learning” (prospectus). A mathematics lesson was visited during the research. The young people were attempting quite high-level mathematics (level 6 and 7), and BYD staff emphasised that they push the young people academically, and do not automatically equate exclusion from school with low ability.

The PRU are trialling a carousel of vocational options this year. Students do six vocational placements (half a term each) at different workplaces and this supports work towards a BTEC in vocational learning. Young people get to sample an array of different types of work placement providing them with more options at post-16. Having to only ‘stick it out’ for half a term avoids a situation where young people sign up to a one or two year course, decide they don’t like it, but then can’t shift to another course because it is too late, thus not achieving anything. Normally BTEC units have to be delivered through one centre, but Bryn y Deryn have worked with BTEC to create a system where each unit can be registered individually, and if all units are completed the young people will get a full BTEC in Vocational Education. There are also careers lessons where young people engage with a range of topics such as writing CVs, and applying for jobs.

BYD do frequent assessments of students’ learning, for example of reading, sentence reading, comprehension, spelling and handwriting. There is a strong focus on the development of social and communication skills, and on literacy. They believe that one of the causes of poor behaviour can be the frustration that comes from low literacy levels. Historically, for these young people, the focus has been on their behaviour. BRYN aim to shift this towards a focus on achievement – if the students are well-engaged and looking forward to lessons “it builds their self-esteem such a lot that you’ve got a better chance of managing the behaviour” (staff).

Staff report that when the young people arrive they can often feel that GCSEs are not for them, or they say that they do not care about qualifications. Over time BYD aims to alter these perceptions. BYD feel that historically APs have done small sit-alone qualifications that do not necessarily benefit the young people in terms of accessing post-16 options. They have just registered as a Welsh Baccalaureate school and will be one a few schools in Cardiff offering it.

BYD have tried various different approaches to using Teaching Assistants (TA) to support lessons. They have found the most effective approach to be one where a TA is attached to a teacher/curriculum area, rather than a group of students. This enables the TA to become specialised at supporting one area of the curriculum. The TA is able to administer assessments, and is aware of what the students are working on.

At the end of sessions students are treated with a short amount of ‘down time’ if they have worked well; they can choose their own activity for this period. This introduces rewards into the standard lesson format.

Off-site Providers:

As part of their regular timetable students attend other alternative provisions where they undertake accreditation such as Youth Achievement, OCNs, ASDANs and The Duke of Edinburgh award. .

Identifying Features of Quality

Mission/aims/purpose

BYD aims to provide a well-rounded alternative educational placement for young people, supporting their holistic and complex needs. Typically they do not aim to reintegrate the young people into mainstream school, rather they focus on providing a quality alternative path. Their offer includes educational components, alongside those which support future opportunities for work and further education. The latter includes appropriate learning and accreditation opportunities, and BYD prides itself on the quality of its accreditation and teaching and learning. BYD is also geared towards the social and personal development of the young people, enabling them to gain “greater awareness and understanding of their social, emotional and behavioural difficulties within the classroom and school environment” (Brochure). In some cases this element of their work is supported by appropriate external agencies.

Target Group

Most of the young people who attend BYD have been permanently excluded, or double permanently excluded from mainstream schools. One senior member of staff spoke of the impact of exclusion on these young people, as well as their complex lives:

“…they are so emotionally traumatised and damaged and they’ve got a really bad attitude towards school and learning because they don’t see themselves as learners and it’s really difficult to turn that around and make them believe that they can do stuff”.

A few students have been through a managed move process. 60% of the young people have a statement for BESD[1] but BESD is seen as the main need or difficulty of all of the young people. In some senses BYD is playing the role of a specialist BESD school, but it is called/arranged as a PRU.

In addition to safeguarding issues, some of the young people have learning difficulties and special education needs (SEN) which may make it difficult for them to learn. Thus, while the primary need of the young person is seen as behaviour, there are a diverse range of additional needs that have to be accommodated, including ADHD, dyslexia and autism. A large number of the young people have speech and communication needs. In the past BYD have had pupils with visual and auditory impairments. Staff often undertake additional training to be able to support a new student with specific needs.

BYD caters for young people with complex needs and home backgrounds. Over 50% are Looked After Children LAC or have safeguarding concerns. Our visit occurred during a particularly difficult week for the centre in terms of child protection issues.

Buildings and Facilities

BYD consists of one building, the size of a small primary school. There is a playground outside, and some surrounding fields. BYD sometimes use the surrounding fields in summer, but in general they do not use large open spaces which are difficult to monitor, as it can create opportunities for bullying. Security cameras cover the areas that the young people generally use. Young people are inside for lunch, which is only half an hour. Games are provided and overseen by staff. BYD’s building is situated cross from the building housing the LA educational psychology team. If staff need urgent support, they will often go over in person.

Recruiting

A senior member of staff, Mary (pseudonym), told us that having the right staff is crucial to having a quality provision. When recruiting new staff she looks for experience of, or exemplified interest in, working in this particular area. She then attempts to ‘tease this out’ through the interview questions. Mary looks for staff who do not necessarily need to be liked by the students but who are able to earn their respect.

Pupils are always involved in the recruitment process. The interviewee must run a ten-minute taster for students to see if they like the interviewee’s teaching style; there is a strong student-voice element to the selection process. Some of the staff are recruited from mainstream schools, but overall there is a variety of professional backgrounds. Mary ensures that teachers are specialised in the subject they are teaching.

Staff

There are teachers and teaching assistants based at the provision. All of the teachers have QTS and most TAs have degrees.

Staff structure:

Mary, a senior member of staff, has a long history of working in EBD schools. She previously taught English in an EBD school with about 100 students. She does not tend to have problems in her classroom and believes this is because she focuses on getting the learning right – this makes the behaviour easier to manage.

Glenda is also a senior member of staff at the provision and has teaching responsibilities. Mary said that Glenda is “amazing at pushing them and they know what they are working on”. Glenda retrained as a teacher in later life. Before her teachers training she gained some experience as support staff in a PRU, working with all of the key stages. This provided her with a wealth of experience and helped her to decide whether or not to go into teaching. After this she did her PGCE, and worked in a mainstream school for a couple of years. Glenda says that mainstream and AP schools are both difficult, just in different ways. In a mainstream setting she missed having quality relationships with fewer students. In mainstream she felt that she did not know the students well enough, and that she couldn’t

“give my best to every child and that really bothered me. I was used to getting to know them and I didn’t have that opportunity in mainstream so I was quite happy to get back into a PRU”.

Glenda finds the work challenging, stressful and varied but feels that there are lots of small opportunities for success “which provide a sense of achievement rather than just the GCSE results and that makes a big difference”. The work is more rewarding as the feedback is immediate. Glenda thinks that a combination of things are required for successful teaching in an AP setting – expertise and experience as a practitioner; a real willingness and desire to work in the area; the sort of personality and nature that allow you to work effectively in this setting. She thinks that being resilient, calm and flexible are very important traits.

Lesson Observation

One of Glenda’s lessons was observed. There were five male students and one TA in the classroom. They were working on improving their writing by using commas, full stops and conjunctions. The young people were well behaved and engaged well. One of the key differences to a mainstream environment was that they were able to accommodate how the young people liked to work, and to be much more flexible. Some preferred to work whilst listening to music. Some preferred to type their answers, some to handwrite. The atmosphere was calm and focused, once the young people had settled into the task. Glenda was supportive and encouraged the young people to be ambitious with their work. Those who had worked well got to finish five minutes before the end and were rewarded with five minutes spare/free time, where they chose to play cards. This was a strategy of positive reinforcement.

(from field notes)

As well as 5 teachers   BYD have 6 teaching assistants, an ICT/Exams coordinator and a secretary/admin assistant. Good TAs are seen as crucial to a quality provision. They have been fortunate, they say, to have had TAs with degrees who have stayed for a couple of years. BYD have tried different routines with the TAs and have settled for one where the TA supports a teacher/curriculum area, rather than following one group of students around. This is helpful because if the teacher needs to leave the room, they know the routines, schemes of work and where to find everything so things can operate as normal. TAs also run the class if a teacher is absent, and this continuity and consistency means that there is less disruption. Glenda reported that she discusses what she is going to do in the lesson with her TA and they bounce ideas off one another. Because the staff are all one-person departments, the TA is a crucial ‘go-to’ person for they staff. The TA may also notice things that the teacher has not picked up ; they are an ‘extra pair of eyes’ in the room.

There is ongoing training and development for staff. Glenda feels that she is well supported and able to develop professionally at BYD. If there is a new resource, idea or bit of training she will be able to access it as long as she puts a case together for how it would benefit the students. When she does additional training she will then run an inset for staff so that this feeds back into the provision.

The size of the organisation means that it is easy to stay on top of relevant information. The staff room is used to house relevant staff information – for example a quick point of reference on each students via a chart which monitored whether each young person had an IEP, a risk assessment, a statement/annual review, agencies involved in their case.

The emotional wellbeing of staff is seen as very important. All staff have one-to-one sessions with Mary. Glenda saw the environment as very supportive; “I need to support everyone else because I need them to support me”. She believed it was vital to have staff who learnt to accept the stress and emotion that comes with the role, and who did not take things too personally.

Communication

Communication is valued at BYD. They have a morning meeting every day. The staff team is small so there is always opportunity for everyone to speak during the meeting. They sometimes debrief at the end of the day if an incident has taken place. The size of the organisations helps them to share, and always be on top of what is going on so that they have the relevant information before going into a lesson. The staff have supervision with Mary. Glenda also mentioned how much she values discussions with her TA and the ability to share ideas with another adult.

Safety and Safeguarding

BYD have a child protection policy and Mary has overall responsibility for CP. A nominated CP management committee member “must ensure that the school has a child protection policy in place which is consistent with the All Wales Child Protection Procedures (2008)” (prospectus). Staff must follow these procedures where they are concerned about possible abuse. This is not a policy for hypothetical situations: BYD regularly deal with child protection cases and concerns (see ‘target group’ section).

BYD do not have a lock-in procedure at the school; only a lock-out procedure in case they need to keep out anyone who is a danger to a young person. They do not have a restraint room. They have only had one fight in four years and that was between two girls. All staff are trained in Team Teach[2] and the focus is on de-escalation and positivity. They have “become a solution focused school… we know what the problem is that these young people have and that’s fine but it’s not an excuse for bad behaviour and how we are going to help them solve their problems” (senior staff. BYD support young people to leave stressful situations, e.g. going for a walk, because missing half of a lesson is better that having a negative incident in the school. One of the young people noted that because there are more cameras around the school now he felt safe.

Rules and Discipline

There are firm expectations for good behaviour. Pupils are expected to adhere to the code of conduct. They are encouraged to make positive choices and think through the consequences of their behaviour on their own learning and the learning of others. The code of conduct includes the following:

  • We arrive on time for all sessions quietly and calmly
  • We follow directions when asked
  • We keep hands, feet and objects to ourselves
  • We listen and speak to each other appropriately and using polite language
  • We remain at our workplace and on task

BYD requests that parents do not provide children with “high energy/sugar drinks or snacks as this can impact on their behaviour” (prospectus), and that distracting electronic equipment, such as phones, are left at home or checked in in the morning. BYD have guidelines of acceptable and safe use of the internet.

Staff recognise that students have varying needs and levels of behavioural, emotional and social difficulties and will provide whatever support they can to help pupils to manage. However, if unacceptable behaviour is continually demonstrated there are consequences such as loss of rewards, limited time out of class to reflect on behaviour away from peers, calls home, detention, warning letter home, and in serious cases a fixed-term exclusion. Poor attendance can result in the loss of a place. Pupils are not allowed to smoke anywhere on the premises. Possession of any Illegal substances and hazardous materials or objects is referred to the police and may result in exclusion.

Monitoring of progress

Monitoring and evaluation ay BYD is organised, careful and robust. Learning and academic achievement progress is monitored as is behaviour and personal and social development.

Learning and academic achievement:

BYD ask for information on attainment levels from previous schools when young people are referred . They sometimes find that the information that comes is out-of-date, particularly if the young people have missed a lot of school. This may mean that young people have ‘regressed’ since their last school assessment, so attainment may need reassessing. Glenda does a WRAT[3] test when they arrive. This provides a standardised score on word reading, sentence comprehension, spelling and math computation which is used by teachers as a baseline for the young people. It also indicates where they are in comparison to students of the same age. The British Picture Vocabulary Scale[4] is also used to give an idea of how many words the young people know. Some young people

“come from homes and families where they don’t sit and chat a lot. They don’t actually watch a lot of television and they rarely read books or newspapers. So the limited amount of vocabulary that they’ve learnt can be experiential or it could be an indicator that they’ve got maybe some speech/language communication difficulties” (Glenda).

BYD also use a learning style assessment which is used: the preferred learning style is used if young people are having “a bad day” but in general a mixture of learning styles are used “because they need to learn them all”.

Based on this combination of assessments Glenda begins to produce a learning profile of each young person which is shared with all staff and fed into lesson planning. This allows for appropriate levelling of work and for targeted interventions. Lessons can be directed towards the parts of the curriculum that have been missed. Young people are re-assessed every six months and “nine times out of ten, there is significant progress because of the small classes and the extra support” (Glenda). These assessments may also highlight particular learning needs, and where students are below functional levels in literacy and numeracy. The results of these assessments feed into requests for additional support in exams. BYD believe that if they can identify needs they have a better chance of getting to the bottom of any frustrations and of supporting positive behaviour.

Student information is logged on a shared database which is colour coded; literacy and numeracy targets can be logged.

A positive marking scheme is used for academic work – staff use two stars and a wish so there are always positives and ways to improve the work next time. Stickers with the young people’s Maths and English targets are placed on each of their school books and folders. This helps the young people to know their targets. It also means that if a lesson is covered this information is accessible.

Behaviour and personal and social targets:

BYD opt for a positive behaviour management strategy whereby positive behaviour is supported and rewarded through a system of points and commendations.   Five areas of behaviour are monitored in each lesson, and these adhere to the code of conduct points discussed under ‘Rules and Behaviour.’ Up to 25 points are awarded in each lesson when pupils display behaviour that adheres to the schools code of conduct/rules. The young people write their behaviour targets out every morning and they are sent home every night. Points also are given for how well pupils meet their own personal behaviour targets. Commendations are given to highlight effort, encourage pupils who remain on task and reward those who engage positively with classroom tasks after some difficulty. Each young person is given a score out of five on each area at the end of each lesson.   Even if the student is struggling to meet their targets, if they do something good (e.g. are particularly polite) they can earn commendations: “so they might have a bad day and low points but, actually, they tried really hard to keep themselves together so we can give them some commendations for that. So it’s an opportunity for those who aren’t academically strong” (Mary).

This system generates a detailed behaviour profile for each student. Students carry their folder from lesson to lesson so staff can see ‘what sort of a day’ they are having and respond accordingly. If a teacher is concerned when they see a students’ folder they can ask the TA to go and gather more information. It also alerts the teacher to particular trends of the day e.g. inappropriate language or the use of mobile phones.

This system also often flags up when a student is having a particularly bad day and alerts the staff to problems outside of school. Monitoring shows ‘blips’ in behaviour which may prompt staff to look more closely at events in the young person’s life. Since the system provides a detailed tracking of behaviour over time, it also allows BYD to hone in on where particular problems may be, for example, a student may have difficult behaviour in certain lessons or at certain times of the day. The system thus affords targeted support, modified timetables and relevant targets. It also feeds into the students individual learning plan (ILP) where staff can write information about positive triggers and strategies to support the young person.

Daily points, positives, points of concern and strategies for each student are logged each day on a behaviour chart. A daily report slip is sent home. Every week a certificate and bar of chocolate is given to the student with the highest points score during an assembly. The points information feeds into the termly reports that are sent home. This report gives the percentage of the time the five rules were met, includes the targets the student had for the term, how often they met that target, and the new behavioural and educational targets for the next term. Each subject is given a grade for effort, a projected grade and a statement about the student’s capability. Reports also contain a written comment from the pastoral teacher and a section for pupil comments and achievements where pupils can rate how they feel they are getting on in school, and where they would like to be next term on a scale from 1-10.

Each student has an ILP plan which lists their positives, areas of concern and solutions for these. There are de-escalation strategies listed, and a place to document which of these have worked in the past, which should be tried, and which should be avoided.

Unauthorised attendance is reported to the Education Welfare Officer.

Students can be referred to Learning Coaches from the 14-19 network to support attendance at work based placements.

Inclusion

60% of the students are boys. 60% of the students have statements, in all cases BESD is the primary need. Over half of the students are LAC or have documented CP issues.

BYD have an equal opportunities policy and an ethos which rejects discrimination of any kind. This features in the PSHEE curriculum and in staff training. Pupils are encouraged to report bullying, this is always investigated. If necessary, a referral to the anti-bullying team will be made.

The maximum class size is 6 but there is a high level of differentiation in these classes as academic work must be very specifically tailored to each child’s needs.

“we would have the GCSE curriculum and tick off what they can already do and then teach the rest. So you might have a similar topic such as fractions but you might have somebody doing Level 3 work and somebody doing GCSE work. And then, in other lessons, you might have something completely different going on because you might have some people doing Pythagoras’s Theory and some people still working on money. That’s why we split the week so that, predominantly, most of the ones that are in this part of the week should be capable of doing similar work” (Mary)..

BYD cater for a wide range of needs, which can vary over time. The timetable is split so that they can cater for young people who find full days in the classroom too difficult. They can also provide a staggered return to three full days in the classroom where necessary.

To support those with SEN every student’s timetable is designed to ensure they access the breadth and balance of the national curriculum. Where necessary, students have additional support tailored to their needs. Some students are academically ‘behind’ because they have had unidentified needs. BYD has an Speech and Language teacher who comes in for two days a week to support dyslexic students to catch up. BYD believe this teacher makes a huge difference, as those students with a reading age below 12 would be unable to access the GCSE curriculum without this additional support. Before input from SPLD some students could only access level three but can now undertake the full GCSE.

BYD have some students who are not very literate and require a great deal of literacy support. These young people have academic lessons to try to get them up to a functional level, and spend the majority of their time doing practical activities including mechanics and sport.

BYD have had some students with highly complex needs. Glenda spoke of one student who had complex behaviour issues stemming from a difficult background, literacy difficulties, and a visual impairment. They have also had a deaf student. They had no control over the needs of the students they receive. BYD often need specialist knowledge to be able to support these students, and staff are offered specialist training. For example, Glenda has trained to support young people with dyslexia and with speech, language and communication difficulties. BYD provide training to all staff in cases where a student has particular.

Parents are not charged for any of the activities that are part of the normal school day. BYD manage the transport for the students. Some have taxis. This year they have introduced a “more robust travel to school scheme” whereby year eleven students will travel in on the bus with a TA. The aim is to support them in the transition to post-16. This does impact on the attendance of a few, but “the majority quite like that independence and so it’s been quite successful” (Mary).

Transitions

Young people come to the PRU via the local authority panel. Places are paid for via local government. Some of the students are dual registered. In the last few years BYD have tried to move towards an early intervention model so that the young people come to them before permanent exclusion. Young people can join throughout the academic year and the waiting list for the provision is long. Sometimes young people are referred in advance, for example at the end of year 10 ready to begin at the beginning of year 11. They have a year 9 transition summer group so that they can split the cohort into the right groups from the start.

The referral form that BYD use includes:

  • Contact and personal information
  • Reason for the referral and the desired outcomes
  • Parental details
  • School details
  • Attendance over past academic year
  • Exclusions
  • Description of pupils needs and functioning in terms of SEN status
  • Actions that have been taken by the school to support the student
  • Results of standardised assessments
  • Family and community care involvement
  • Social service input.

BYD expect referral information to also include ILPs, a risk assessment, and behaviour plan.

After reviewing the packs Mary always meet a prospective student with their parent/carer. She shows them around and decides which group they would fit best with. BYD can usually tell within a week or two whether and where they will fit in the school.

Mary breaks-down the information in the referral pack for staff so that they are well-informed before the stduent starts.

After the BYD assessment, the new ILP goes home and to the mainstream school.

Sometimes young people do reintegrate into mainstream school but this tends to happen in the lower key stages.

Post-16 transitions are important in BYD. During ‘careers’ lessons young people have sessions on a range of relevant topics such as writing CVs, and applying for jobs. They all apply for a hypothetical job that they would like to do in real life, and have a mock interview with the headteacher where she asks them questions specific to that position. In 2014 year the young people took part in a vocational scheme piloted by the school, and which has been recognised by The Welsh Government as a potentially innovative approach to engaging young people in the world of work. The young people do a vocational work carousel, where they undertake 6 different vocational placements (they spend half a term in each). These six short-term vocational placements add up to an accreditation, provide the young people with a wider range of experiences, and enable them to hone in on what they like (and also recognise what they don’t like).

Students engage in a range of vocational/work experience placements such as working in a butchers; a hair salon; a restaurant; a leisure centre; a local Football Club. Some of these have led onto further opportunities. The student working at the butchers now has an apprenticeship. One of the students volunteering at the football club, got another volunteering role through this and has been promised a job if he gets his qualification.

Students have support from Careers Wales specialist advisors who support them and their parents to plan for appropriate post-16 transitions. BYD have strong links with local colleges and training providers, and provide pupils with appropriate information,

Relationships with Students

Mary stressed the importance of consistency and of ‘keeping it small’. She sees 44 at the absolute maximum size. Keeping it small enables BYD to provide students with five teachers who know them really well, and understand their triggers. Staff are trained in team teaching and a range of strategies to diffuse difficult and challenging situations (for more notes, see safety and safeguarding section).

Relationships

Mary seemed to have an excellent relationship with pupils, with clear boundaries, a motherly affection and the ability to have fun. She had an open door policy and students would pop in to see her. There were similarly positive relationships throughout the school and in all of the classes visited. There was a very calm, focused atmosphere throughout. ((from researcher field notes)

“It is important to be honest and human with the student. It is okay to tell them when you are having a bad day too”. This builds trust and develops your relationship “you can be open and give them a bit of trust and then they will trust you as well” (Glenda)

Staff dress formally and students refer to them by their surnames. BYD want to get the young people used to the idea that you have a ‘professional’ persona that you use in work contexts. ‘Here you behave differently to how you behave in your private/social life.’

At the time of visiting, there were a number of current child protection cases at BYD and it was clear to researchers that staff went above and beyond their job description to support vulnerable young people. Mary had spent several evenings at the hospital during the research visit week with a student.

A student was tasked with providing the researcher with a tour of the building, and was clearly proud of his school.   The student who did the tour said that the staff “get us”, which was not the case in mainstream school.

“They like knowing that they are in a really good school because it used to have a reputation as a naughty boys school or whatever. Clayton got most upset when I showed somebody round once who asked me ‘oh do they do GCSEs here?’ And he was like ‘of course we do GCSEs here; we’re just a normal school except that big classes of thirty didn’t meet our needs and we need a bit of extra support’. I thought that was quite funny. Because they really value the school they want to come in and they don’t want to leave. Yes they all have little wobbles but it’s generally related to things happening outside school” (Mary).

BYD use surveys to glean the views of students towards school and learning. They do this when students arrive and find that the young people tend to have very negative views of school and teachers. They reassess this after a year.

Relationship with parents

Mary spoke of the importance of involving parents as much as possible. However she did recognise how challenging this was in some cases. BYD have parents evening once a term, they make regular calls home and include a large number of positive phone calls because, typically, these parents have not had a very good relationship with schools, and they regularly send reports home to the parents. A small report is sent home at the end of every day, and more detailed half termly reports.

BYD aim to have good communications with parents. Important information is circulated by letter, and is made available on the school website. Parents are sent daily details of achievements. They are invited into the school for particular events and celebrations. They are welcome to telephone the school at any time, and BYD are happy to set up email communication with parents if this is preferable. Parents can visit the school at any time, but it is preferable that they call in advance so that staff are available to see them.

Parents/carers fill in a pupil information sheet at the beginning of the placement. As well as contact, emergency and health information they are asked for information about any agencies that are involved with the family/young person, and whether they are eligible for FSM. On this form pupils must accept rules and procedures around internet use. Parents’ consent, or not, to photographs, visits, medical treatment, collective worship, positive handling, sex education, referrals to external agencies, and detention. BYD have a home school agreement which specifies what the school will provide, what the parent/carer will do and what the pupil will do. This is signed by all parties. There is a complaints procedure outlined in the prospectus.

Relationships between students:

The young people come from across Cardiff so they won’t necessarily know anyone at the school. The school support students to build relationships with one another, particularly at lunch time where games and activities take place for all students.

Resources and Networks :

Relationships with other Services and Agencies

BYD have a range of formal and informal relationships:

  • They share a speech therapist with another school, and plan to employ their own.
  • Some of their students are supported by Careers Wales
  • They report unauthorised absences to The Education Welfare Officer
  • Where attendance is an issue students can be referred to Learning Coaches from the 14-19 network
  • Referrals to support agencies may be made where illegal substances or hazardous objects are found.

Facilities

BYD was in a former primary school with classrooms. There were no specialist facilities.

BYD classrooms were clean, tidy and well-presented. Lots of learning aids and ‘best work’ were laminated on walls. The English classroom had one large table in the middle of the room, with a few computers around the edge. There was a shared stationary box in the middle of the table. (researcher field notes)

Finances

BYD has a school budget from the LA. Mary bills referring schools for the Pupil Deprivation Grant and the Annual Pupil Weighted Unit. BYD are often successful in winning grants and were recently awarded £15,000 which they are spending on taking the students to Spain. BYD are pleased with what they can offer the students, but are always looking for money so that they can offer them more. Those eligible for FSM receive them.

Well-managed, led and accountable

Staff fight tirelessly to get more for the students, whether that is more money, or a suitably qualified teacher. Mary has ensured that teachers are always a specialist in their subject as she believes that the students deserve this. She has ensured that BYD has access to the Local Authority 14-19 network[5].

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

BYD are part of a consortium which includes an amalgamation of several local authorities. Someone is sent on a termly bases to challenge the provisions on what they are doing. The Local Authority write a quality report for Estyn, The Welsh Ofsted,feedback to the school governors, and do Mary’s performance management, which is linked to the school’s targets and school improvement plan. The Local Authority monitor the school improvement plan. They are interested in triangulating evidence so the system leader will go in and observe a lesson alongside Mary to check her grading and that they picked out the same positive points and areas for improvement. Bryn y Deryn use pupil and parent questionnaires are used as a way of evaluating the provision.

All of the external providers they use are approved and quality assured. They “maintain close contact with placements and students to enable success” (prospectus). They visit the providers and do lesson observations. Because they have set up the BTEC carousel system the work is also submitted to, and monitored by, BTEC. The new IT technician has just created a tracking system so all of the providers and relevant parties can log into it and tick off the units as the students complete them. This new shared data base provides BYD with a way of monitoring what the students are doing each week. They also ring the providers every week and get a half termly report on behaviour, attendance and any qualifications the young people have achieved.

Key school level indicators are also tracked and reported. In 2012-13 every student left with a recognised literacy and numeracy qualification and all of those entered for GCSEs passed them. Some pupils achieved the equivalent of 11 GCSEs. “Every pupil had their own appropriate goals and predictions which they were highly successful in achieving” (prospectus). The brochure states that last year overall attendance at BYD was 83% and highlights that this equated to a huge rise in attendance for most of the young people.

Transformation (choice and autonomy)

BYD emphasise social and communications skills because they feel very strongly that poor behaviour stems from frustration. They believe that if young people can articulate what they want, they will have a better chance of having their needs met which is very important. BYD are paying for a speech and language therapist to support this aim.

BYD have been doing procurement interviews for the company that are going to deliver the counselling service for the whole of Cardiff, and some students were included on the interview panel. One year 10 girl participated one day, and a year 11 boy the next day. The young people took this role very seriously;

“but she was so appropriate and he was hilarious because he had proper interview sheets – as you would – and he was writing things down alongside the chief finance officer of the county council and he found it really valuable and he said ‘when I go for interview now I’ll think about it much more differently’” (Mary).

When BYD interview for new staff the pupils are always involved in the process, and the interviewee is asked to do a ten minute taster for the students to see if they like the teaching style; “So they’ve got quite a strong voice which is very nice” (Mary). They have a student on their management committee too. He volunteered and was voted into this role. They had a mini election in the school with a ballot box, posters and campaigns.

BYD are very aspirational for their young people, and they strive for them to take ownership of their grades and of what they need to do next. They have developed a GCSE tracker to support the young people to know where they are and what they still have left to complete. This is colour coded; green means completely finished, red still need completing. It tells them how many points they’ve got towards their GCSEs “so they are absolutely unified and focused”(Mary). Students are involved in setting new targets for themselves.

[1] Behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.

[2] http://www.team-teach.co.uk/

[3] The Wide Range Achievement Test is an achievement test which measures an individual’s ability to read words, comprehend sentences, spell, and compute solutions to math problems

[4] http://www.gl-assessment.co.uk/products/british-picture-vocabulary-scale-third-edition

[5] http://cardiff14-19.com/

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