Case Study Four: Core

Brief Description of The Provision

Core is an organisation that has a long history (17 years) of providing ‘wrap-around’ packages for young people in foster care. This includes providing foster carers, but also therapy, and educational support for the young people. Core moved into alternative education only recently; they have been providers of AP for the last eighteen months. Their provisions for under 16’s are for young people who are struggling in mainstream school. They also have some severely autistic children who come to them on an LA personal budget.

At the moment, Core provision is demand led. When contracts for AP go out to tender they apply for them. This means they have slightly different provisions in different parts of the country; it depends on the remit. Core’s aim and preference would be to replicate their Farm and outdoor learning model across the country.

Content and Delivery

This case study makes reference to the content, delivery and accreditation offered at two separate Core provisions.

Coventry: The main focus is on Maths and English, although some time is also spent on the particular interests of individual students, or dedicated to researching post-16 options.

There are five students on roll with capacity for one more. All of the sessions are one-to-one five days a week. Students start the day with a drink and a chat – an opportunity to get things off their chest. The day runs from 10-2 with a lunch break and a couple of other short breaks. There are about three and a half hours of one-to-one learning in total each day. The focus is on breaking the work into bite-sized chunks to make it more manageable. Core support students to gain adult literacy and numeracy qualifications.

In 2013-2014, one student didn’t complete their placement, one went back to school and the others all gained level 1 or level 2 ALAN qualifications. Most students work towards functional skills qualifications, though some do GCSEs, and Core are considering working with Apricot Online to offer more GCSE provision. However, functional skills are appropriate in many cases because of the length of time some of the young people have been out of school. They have missed and/or forgotten a lot of prior learning.   The qualifications on offer at Core are designed to re-engage the students and develop their confidence so they progress into other education and training routes.

“The students spoken to were proud of the progress they have made while in the placement and were considering positive destinations” (LA QA report).

LandEd:

LandEd is in Redditch. It is based at a farm-park. They provide a free pick-up service for the young people at a designated point in Redditch. They pay for this as they see getting the young people to the provision is one of the key barriers they need to overcome.

Young people attend for up to four days per week and have varied timetables. Some young people do only attend for an afternoon a week. However those who attend more will typically have classroom based lessons for half of the day and then spend the other half engaged in outdoor tasks and learning. There are a range of animals at the facility, including farm animals, reptiles and insects.

They have groups of 5 or 6 students with one tutor and one learning support worker. A senior Core member of staff thinks that there is something about the influence of the animals that has a good influence on these young people; they rarely act out and take their caring responsibilities very seriously.

Core Redditch offer ABC qualifications: Level one in practical countryside skills and Level two in practical animal care. If students want to go onto level three they have to go to a specialised provision/college. They also do GCSEs and functional skills qualifications in Maths and English. The curriculum is modular so there are regular opportunities to celebrate successes, and to feel pride and achievement.

Other Work

Core also do some attendance work outside of their AP provision with an academy chain. They run an eight week programme for young people at risk of poor attendance/disengaging. Often this includes working with the family. Because of the origins of Core (in social work and foster care) there is a strong focus on, and understanding of, the impact of the family. Core believe that the majority of things come back to the home environment; for example, they found that one boy was not attending school because mum had a new boyfriend and the only time he got to see her on her own was in the day time. Core explore these issues and try to work through them with the family.

Identifying Features of Quality

Mission/aims/purpose

Core’s specific aims vary slightly from programme to programme, but overall they are focused on re-engagement and confidence building, supporting young people to gain appropriate accreditation, and supporting appropriate post-16 transitions.

Target Group

Coventry Provision: This mainly caters for year 10 and 11 students, although there has been an increasing number of year 9s. These are students who have usually had poor attendance and have missed significant amounts of school. Other experiences included: being permanently excluded from schools, damaging school property, behaviour issues, suspected ASD, concentration difficulties, difficulties with literacy, lethargy/late nights, very poor attendance (months out of school). One of the young people had even been asked to leave a vocational AP course for bad behaviour. He however felt that he wasn’t treated well by the tutors. All teaching is one-to-one because these are young people who have all had difficulties in group situations.

LandED: They support young people who would struggle to go into a large college either pre or post-16. Many students have difficulties interacting with others. Some young people who come pre-16 stay on post-16 until interaction and social skills have improved.

Staff

Core seeks staff who are qualified teachers or who at least have the minimum teaching qualifications, such as PTLLs[1]. They advertise and interview with set questions, and they go through interviewee’s safeguarding checks and references. They seek staff who have a good rapport with the young people, can think on their feet and are not put off by working with young people with behavioural difficulties.

They still have a lot of casual staff due to the infancy of their AP work, but this is slowly changing. They also have highly skilled specialist staff, some of whom prefer to be on zero hours contracts. All staff, including casual staff, have mandatory training, for example, in disability and education needs.

Anyone who works regularly for Core is included in a ‘learning matrix’, the staff learning, development and training process. The learning matrix includes monthly supervisions by one of the provision managers or Dawn, a senior Core staff member. This is part of their quality assurance process, and it ensures that staff have a designated person to speak with if they are having problems.

Coventry

There are typically four regular tutors at Core Coventry. Core looks for staff who have experience in educational work There is a wider bank of Core casual staff that can be drawn on if necessary, for example if one of their regular members of staff is off ill..

The provision is overseen by an education officer who is a qualified teacher and works there two days per week. At the time of visiting she had been in post for 18 months. She reports to Dawn, the senior Core staff member who also visits the provision regularly.

As Core Coventry is focused on one to one tutoring of Maths and English they require staff who can make these subjects engaging. Staff must be imaginative as they have to keep a young person engaged for up to five hours per day in an academic, classroom based situation. Each young person works with one tutor for a whole day and generally works with a couple of tutors across the course of a week.

LandED:

LandED has instructors and learning support assistants all of whom are skilled in farming and animal care. First and foremost this is their specialism. One is a trained horse-riding instructor who used to teach in a college. Another is a farmer and farm manager The newest member of staff has a degree in animal biology and has previously run teaching groups of young people at the West Midlands Safari Park. Another staff member used to work for Core in the foster care area and has moved into the educational division as a learning support assistant. She brings knowledge of the needs and contexts of the young person rather than the outdoors/animal care. The staff each draw on their strengths and specialisms in their roles.

Dawn often helps out and doesn’t have these skills herself, and she says that this can provide great learning opportunities for the students; because they know more than her they can teach and guide her, which is a big responsibility. Some of the staff from the farm park also assist with occasional sessions because they have a lot of knowledge and experience and are able to organise practical tasks for the young people.

Safety and Safeguarding

Rules and Discipline

Coventry : At the beginning of the placement students and staff sign up to a behaviour agreement. Mobile phones are off during sessions.

LandED: The young people are asked to turn off their phones during sessions, but are allowed to use these at lunch time.

Monitoring of progress

At the Coventry provision, the lead teacher creates a plan for student including targets and strategies based on information provided at referral. This includes information about courses, syllabuses and books they have been following/using. The plans are used by staff and regularly evaluated. Targets start with a focus on engagement and building routines and relationships. They become more focused on academic aspects as the placement progresses.

“student’s folders show a good coverage of work, with clear progress from the beginning of the placement…they demonstrated good progress…often from a low starting point” (LA QA report).

At the end of each day a progress sheet is completed by the education worker and the student; this covers the work attempted/completed and attitude to learning. A progress tracking sheet (progress towards stated objectives) is also completed daily and individual student plans are regularly evaluated.

SAT assessments are used with young people to get an idea of their levels. Student progress is good. Attendance is good overall, and in some cases is excellent. Some young people have 100% attendance. For many students there has been a significant improvement in their attendance. In 2013-2014 one student didn’t complete the placement, one went back to school and the others all gained level 1 or level 2 ALAN qualifications.

The provider clearly records and tracks student attendance. If a student is absent, the provider will phone home to establish a reason”(Local Authority Quality Assurance Report)

If staff cannot contact home they record this absence with the referring school, and on the Collaborative Learning Manager (CLM) system so it can be monitored.

LandED: when the young people arrive an ILP is done and this is then checked and reviewed once a term by a senior instructor.

Inclusion

The majority of students are in years 10 and 11. The boy-girl split is about 70-30. The ethnic mix depends on the area where the provision is based. They do see young people from ethnic minorities in Nottingham but in other areas, e.g. Worcestershire, this is not the case. They support a number of young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) , particularly autism and emotional and behavioural needs. They cater for any young person who requires AP, including Looked After Children[2]

Transitions

Relationships with commissioners are either managed by a senior member of staff at Core or by the manager of the local provision. Because Core have found regional variances to be very important , where there are existing strong relationships between managers of provisions and local commissioners, they continue to take the lead on this. Core thus works in diverse ways with different LAs and commissioners.

Under 16 programmes are usually commissioned by a school, or by the local authority because students are already out of school. Some students come to Core provisions from PRUs.

Core work hard to ensure that they understand what commissioners want from their programmes. They agree key learning outcomes and priorities for each learner and agree how they can positively contribute to a child’s overall aspirations and goals.

Core won a contract in 2014 in partnership with Cambrian Training, a Welsh organisation, to deliver a Jamie Oliver qualification.

Coventry Core:

Warwickshire LA is divided into four areas, each with a behaviour coordinator who oversees schools. Core referrals come from the area behaviour coordinator or from schools directly.

The LA QA report says: “At the point of referral the provider collects academic information about the students and information relating to their behaviour. The provider also insists on a risk assessment relating to each student it accepts – this is good practice….The provider keeps schools and coordinators informed about issues through phone calls and emails. It also provides reports to schools, coordinators and parents half-termly”.

The reports provided to researchers contained comments on the progress of the students and their attitude towards learning. They were detailed and carefully written, providing good quality information about student’s development.

Although it didn’t have responsibility for the destination of 2012-2013 pupils, Core Coventry has kept track of them. Almost all went onto college. In 2013-2014, all who are leaving have positive destinations planned – they will go onto college to do a vocational course, Mathematics and English. If this happens this will be a real achievement in terms of reengagement of these young people.

Core LandED:

A senior member of staff at Core emphasised the importance of ‘buy-in’ from the young people. They invite all young people to a ‘taster day’ on the farm before they agree to attend. They don’t want young people to be forced to attend; it is important that it is a choice, otherwise it spoils the dynamic of the provision.

A few young people have been given opportunities to pursue work experience opportunities through the farm, for example working in the farm shop or becoming an apprentice butcher.   Core are looking to formalise this process so that all of the young people have the opportunity to volunteer (either in café, shop, farm tours, butcher) with the aim of this potentially turning into an opportunity for paid work. The staff think that this is particularly valuable because it sends out a positive message to the students; someone thinks enough of them to give them a chance.

Relationships with Students

Core Coventry:

Young people start the day with a drink and a chat; staff report seeing moods change once the young people are listened to. They don’t take a confrontational approach with the young people. They are not checked for uniform etc.

The young boys are, we were told, “treasured”. They get a lot of attention, are treated more like an adult, and the staff regularly banter with them. They gradually stretch expectations and goals.

Core were praised in the Coventry LA QA report for their consistency and quality of relationships: Staff are “clearly committed to the students they work with and are pleased to see them progress…relationships were good”.

Core LandED: The staff felt that their specialist knowledge was crucial in terms of earning the respect of the young people.

Communication

Relationship with parents

Coventry and LandED provide detailed half-termly reports to parents with comments on progress in learning and attitudes to learning. We were shown carefully written texts which provided quality information about student development.

Resources and Networks :

The LandED provision has a partnership with a local college which sends their Maths and English tutor to the site for a day and a half a week. For some of the young people, this is preferable to them attending sessions in a large college environment. This is the only ‘outsourced’ aspect of the programmes at present; all other instruction and activities are provided by Core staff.

LandEd: When Core took over the care farm they brought it into the Core assets group. It now comes under all of their policies and procedures and benefits from their HR policies and “everything that a big organisation has got but it’s still got that little feel to it”.

Relationships with other Services and Agencies

Facilities

LandED is based at a farm park. The provision makes use of a small cabin where lessons take place and young people interact with a range of animals housed in several fields and an indoor barn.

The LandED provision benefits from being attached to a farm park, which provides opportunities for work experience and employment (see notes under ‘transitions’ section).

The importance of good facilities.

“I think there is a perception that if you put these kids in a nice building they’ll wreck it but it is actually the opposite in my experience and I’ve worked in a place where there was no heating and only one porta-loo outside on the ground and it was absolutely freezing so how could the kids even begin to start concentrating and they absolutely wrecked it: if you put stuff up on the wall they ripped it down because they just didn’t care about it. They thought ‘well you put us in this shit hole so that is how we are going to treat it’. Whereas at Core everything is lovely and I’ve never seen graffiti on a desk or anything like that…Just to shove a kid in a place that has a horrible carpet and a crappy pen – it’s just not nice. But don’t get me wrong at the farm the classroom is a porta-cabin for now and it’s filthy because everybody is coming in in muddy boots and stuff but there’s stuff on the walls and we’ve got a charity that provides exotic replies in the corner and there is a nice kitchen for them to eat their dinner and in the summer it’s beautiful. It’s a fantastic space. And in the other offices we’ve got nice rooms like this to do the one to one support in. Because if you put children into a bad space it’s almost like we’ve judged them before they are even there, if you know what I mean. We’re not dealing with animals, are we?”. ( Dawn generic title)

Core’s aim is to replicate this land-based provision across the country where there is demand for it, or perhaps to run it in partnership with another care farm[3] not yet offering AP. A senior member of staff at Core has been charged with trying to find as many farm sites as possible so that they can roll out their farm provision. They are looking for existing care farms which they can rent space from. This is an opportunity for the care farm to make money too.

 Finances

There is a central tender unit at Core. They bid for work and have won small contracts in several places in England and Wales. Typically their provision costs about £100 per day, but if qualified teachers are involved this could be up to £140 per day. Contracts are usually for one or two academic years, then they have to re-bid.

Prices for Core services do differ across the country due to regional variations:

“In the north east they’ve got a charity that provides alternative education and you pay four hundred pounds and the young person can go for as much as they need. Nobody is going to pay fifty-five pounds a day unless they are desperate so really our difficulty is getting that one contract, doing a really good job and then showing the outcomes”.

Well-managed, led and accountable

The senior member of staff at Core responsible for AP, Dawn, has experience of working in delivery and management of APs. She is passionate about this area, and enjoys seeing the young people prosper. She has a vision for how she wants the Core AP to be, and she has a lot of faith in the LandEd model. She thinks it is equally important that the young people get qualifications, improve their self-esteem and understand why they may have difficulties with aspects of their lives. She believes that the students deserve a high quality provision and good quality venues in which to learn. It was Dawn’s idea to have a learner forum to access the views of their students as part of the evaluation process.

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

The QA and systems are standardised across Core AP. Core is developing and implementing an overarching quality assurance system of audits and visits across all regions. Core have developed a quality checklist, which is used when they do quality visits. The checklist is informed by the Ofsted framework and by Dawn’s previous work in 14-19 year old AP.

Core offer an electronic tool kit to their local providers. This includes guidance on referral, induction, introduction to the programme on offer , required information and reviews, consent forms, risk assessment, health and safety induction, and ILPs. They have set this up so all providers have it to hand, and to ensure systematic processes across the provisions. Core provisions all monitor attendance and attainment; these follow common processes developed in 2014, so they are still in their infancy.

Dawn has developed good relationships with all of the local provision managers “so they are comfortable saying what they think and we will change things accordingly”. This is important in terms of taking account of regional variations and their different types of provisions.

Where Core are commissioned by LAs, QA checks automatically take place. LAs usually inspect policies and procedures; staff training; quality of staff; buildings and facilities; staff-pupil ratio etc. LA officers also speak with the students to find out what they are learning.

Coventry:

There is both external and internal quality assurance.

Core provided the research team with a copy of the written report based on a local authority quality assurance visit: they were inspected by the quality team and a teacher. The initial inspection was in December 2012 when the provision had just opened. The same inspectors came back which enabled them to see progress. Core will also be included in a larger anonymised quality report of all of the AP used by Warwickshire.

Internally there is :

  • a Learner Voice forum, where pupil views are collected and used to inform changes in the service.
  • Informal staff observation by the lead teacher. She sits in various classrooms throughout the day with her own work.
  • Regular checking of student progress. At the end of each day a progress sheet is completed by the education worker in conjunction with the student, which they use as a tool to evaluate how the day has gone.

Landed:

Core have documented outcomes for students on the LandED provision for the 2013/4 academic year. They monitored pre 16 students to see how many completed the course, how many achieved the level one vocational qualification and how many are returning to the provision next year.

LandEd notable achievements

  • We mentored two young ladies for one afternoon per week as supplemental enrichment to their mainstream education, one of which has now been inspired to enrol for a full-time college course in land based studies.
  • One student with complex, special educational needs, attended LandEd using funding from his personal budget allowance and achieved his Level 1 qualification.   He is currently working as a volunteer at The Stables Farm Park, one day per week and will be returning to us in September to take his Level 2.
  • 5 of our students who completed their Level 1 qualification, and 1 who completed their Level 2, on our programme in partnership with New College Redditch are returning in September to complete the next Level of accreditation (Interview Notes).

Transformation (choice and autonomy)

The education team at Core emphasise the link between family circumstances and educational difficulties, perhaps due to the origins of the organisation. They suggest that whole family support interventions are often worthwhile, and they have been commissioned by some academies to undertake this work, paid for via the pupil premium. They would like to offer this as part of their regular AP but are prevented by a lack of funding.

The learner voice forum offers the opportunity for young people to have a say. :

“…rather than just coming and they do the course and they go, just to find out why they are coming and ask them what they think of the provision and what could we change etc. And even perhaps have a little committee or representatives for the students because not everybody wants to speak, do they? And they could collect information and that is something where we could measure outputs as well” (Senior member of staff at Core)

They publish the outcomes of student feedback by putting up a poster saying ‘you said this, we did this’; “I think it’s good for their self-esteem as well and for them to feel important and responsible” (Senior Core staff).

 

[1] http://www.cityandguilds.com/qualifications-and-apprenticeships/learning/teaching/6302-preparing-to-teach-in-the-lifelong-learning-sector-ptlls#tab=information

[2] Children under Local Authority Care.

[3] http://www.carefarminguk.org/

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