Case Study Seven: the Hawkswood group

Brief Description

The Hawkswood group includes several AP provisions – KS4 therapeutic provision, a primary PRU and a complex secondary PRU. The group also commission, broker and quality assure the LA-approved AP providers in the borough, which include:

This case study focuses on the KS4 therapeutic provision, although some reference is also made to the wider group, where relevant.

The therapeutic provision is based in the borough of Waltham Forest in North East London. It provides up to full-time education for up to 32 Key-stage three and four pupils with significant emotional and mental health needs. This year, one student is staying into year 12, however this is a very special case and they do not have significant capacity for tis age group. The provision has existed since October 2011, born out of a reorganisation of the local PRUs.

Whilst some young people attend on the understanding that they require a term of respite away from mainstream school, others are enrolled with the intention of staying for a period of two terms, and for some young people it becomes apparent that they will not return to mainstream school, particularly if they join in year 11.

Content and Delivery

Apricot Online provide half of the lessons in the therapeutic provision. This includes English, Maths, Science, ICT and History. Online lessons are run on the interactive whiteboard as well as on the individual screen of each pupil’s computer. Lana said that this makes it feel more like a ‘normal’ classroom. The teacher in the room monitors the online lessons and provides feedback to the online teacher. Staff work to be innovative with technology, using it to grab the young people’s attention and to aid learning. Lana (senior member of staff) stressed that there has to be a pedagogical purpose behind the use of technology; they don’t just use it for the sake of it. Lana firmly agreed with idea that online learning could never be a substitute for face-to-face interaction, and that online is only effective if there is also a pair of eyes in the room.

While Apricot Online provide the rigorous academic side of the curriculum, the rest of the timetable provides a balance recognising that there are other curriculum areas that are particularly beneficial for this group of young people; art was specifically   praised in a recent OfSTED report. PSHE, psychology, P.E, art, drama, cake decorating, and personal development/therapy are conducted as face-to-face sessions. OfSTED has praised the combination of online and face-to-face lessons.

The provision believes in “demystify[ing] mental health issues” and has built in development sessions which look at what mental health issues are, how they manifest themselves and how different people deal with them. They are also keen on taking the young people out on a trip every term because a lot of them have missed out on this in school as they found it too daunting.

On Monday and Wednesday there are online lessons for the entire morning.. On Tuesdays and Fridays there are practical and active sessions such as PE and drama. The majority of lessons on a Thursday are face to face. With the exception of the GCSE group, young people are grouped according to attainment, rather than by age.

Each student has an individualised timetable. Students follow a range of exam boards courses. A student may thus require some one-to-one support if the majority of students are following a different exam board from them. Hawkswood is an examination centre.

Lana described the provisions as “a very dynamic service…we are always looking to open up different areas of provisions”. One example may be their decision to buy in a CAMHS therapist this year.


Lana (senior member of staff) feels that accreditation is crucial to the provision, particularly for young people in year 11. During the exam period young people sit their GCSEs as they would in mainstream school. All of the young people do English, Mathematics, Science and ICT as standard. They get to choose their other qualifications. There are students of all levels of attainment, but all of the year eleven students except one are sitting GCSEs in 2014 summer. If students are able, they will sit GCSE examinations in year 10, as they would in mainstream school.

The way I look at it is that if we are going to prepare these kids for the real world then they are going to need qualifications. The therapeutic is the reason they are here but there is still an educational aspect and we have an obligation to the pupil and to their parents to ensure that they achieve what they are able to achieve. So three of our lads have got places at college if they get five A to C” (Lana, senior member of staff).

Identifying Features of Quality


The aims of the provision are therapeutic – to support the personal development of the young people and to support their mental health needs – whilst still ensuring that they have access to the usual academic accreditation and learning opportunities.

Target Group

This provision is for young people with mental health problems that fall in the tiers 1-3 of the CAMHs categorisation.   Students are described by OfSTED at being “at the fragile and delicate end of the mental health spectrum, including self-harm, depression, anorexia and psychosis” (OfSTED report). These difficulties mean that the young people have had very challenging times in mainstream school. Many have missed out on a lot of school, for instance one student had not attended school for eight months of year eight. Students are typically several years behind where they should be in their learning, “some as much as five or six years” (OfSTED). Poor attendance and health issues are a key cause of this attainment lag.

All of the students have SEN as well as mental health difficulties. Some have statements, but most are at the ‘School Action Plus’ stage[1]. Young people’s needs include visual and perception difficulties, receptive language difficulties, ADHD and ASD. Lana said that often mental health difficulties mask a range of other difficulties which

have added to the stress of the mental health…we often find that when you start unpicking what is going on you find that there are other issues that haven’t been addressed which are leading to high levels of anxiety and depression”.

The school have supported some students through the statementing process and to get the help or resources that they need, once a particular barrier to learning is identified.

Although the provision has capacity for up to 32 young people the most they have ever had is 25, and even then the young people would not all be on site at the same time; some would be on reintegration programmes. At any one time they have 12-15 students on the premises, and Lana said “and that’s enough! It really is; because of the complexity of their needs”.

Most of the young people are dual-registered between the provision and their mainstream school.


There is a small staff team, with four permanent members of staff, and other commissioned or fixed-term staff and helpers. Lana spoke about each of them having to ‘wear different hats’ depending on what was required of them, with the following roles being accounting for:

Lana: Oversees the academic parts of the provision and does all of the pupil tracking. Lana has experience as an English teacher and as a manager of another PRU/AP.

The other staff include:

  • a staff member responsible for reintegration;
  • several instructors who lead in, and support in, sessions;
  • an administrator;
  • an attendance officer;
  • a CAMHs Therapist commissioned directly from CAMHs for the first time in 2014;
  • an apprentice: From a local apprenticeship scheme. This provides another person who can do in-class support, enabling them to target students who may be struggling in certain subjects.

Apricot Online have provided training to Hawkswood staff to help them to understand th experiences of the online teacher (i.e. the difficulty of them not knowing what is taking place in the physical classroom). This was designed to help the teacher physically in the class to understand the need to communicate with the online tutor in order to facilitate the best possible lesson.

Staff work as a strong, unified team and have a clear sense of purpose…there is a clear ambition amongst all staff to provide the best possible support and education to the students” (OfSTED, 2013).

Safety and Safeguarding

There are very particular health and safety, and safeguarding, issues when working with young people with mental health difficulties. Lana highlighted the importance of staff monitoring how much examination pressure they put on the young people this could be a prompt for anxiety and psychosis. OfSTED (2013) said “Students are exceptionally well looked after and are, therefore, very safe”.


OfSTED noted that the provision has more girls than boys and that it has students from a wide mix of ethnic backgrounds, with no particular majority. There is a relatively low pupil premium level compared to schools nationally.

Hawkswood are proactive about supporting young people through the statementing process, or to access additional support, if they spot something which has gone unnoticed in other educational settings. They have purchased specialist equipment for a student with a visual difficulty.

Staff at the provision have to differentiate in lessons. Like any school they have young people who learn in different ways – fro example, their exam revision programme was tailor made for for each young person, taking into consideration what worked for them. They expect and receive differentiation in the online lessons provided by Apricot Online. The online teachers will introduce the subject/task to all of the young people; they are then able to put students into different virtual classrooms where they do differentiated tasks before coming back together. The teacher in the classroom can monitor and support them in these virtual break out rooms (for more on this, see Apricot Online case study).

The minority of young people who initially have poor attendance are referred for home tuition so they do not miss out on their schooling.


Places are commissioned by schools, who pool funding to supply the additional money required for the Hawkswood group to run (see finances). Young people come from 16 secondary schools in the borough, via the Fair Access Panel. Some young people from Hawkswood may move to one of the borough’s other APs if this is considered more appropriate than a return to mainstream school. Any APs that the young people are referred to have to offer English and Maths qualifications.

A senior member of staff from the Hawkswood group speaks to the head teachers in the borough and ensures that the APs are meeting their requirements. A close relationship with schools assists the provision to get adequate information about each young person. This includes information about which exams they are sitting and with which exam boards as it is vital to reintegration that the young person continues to study for the same qualifications as their home school whilst they are at the provision. Staff take responsibility for chasing schools for the information they need, as schools have lots of young people to look after. There is a named school contact for each of their young people.

They provision has a member of staff as a designated reintegration officer. Once a pupil is referred they make contact with the home school, hold an initial meeting, assess how the student is settling in after two weeks. They thereafter meet on a monthly basis to discuss how the young person is doing. As the end of the young person’s placement – whether that be a one or two term placement – nears, they begin to discuss and, if appropriate, plan a gradual reintegration into mainstream school. They provision offers a six week reintegration programme during which a member of staff will go with the young person into the school with this support reducing over the six weeks. This reintegration programme was praised in the OfSTED report, which said that most of the young people make a year or more of progress in the one or two terms they typically attend the provision.

The provision is currently working towards having a specific SEN resource centre for secondary-aged pupils who have mental health issues. This would provide a more permanent placement for these young people.

Staff support the young people to move onto a suitable education, training or work opportunity post-16 (OfSTED report).

A teacher from Apricot Online praised Hawkswood staff for being committed to supporting online teaching.

Relationships with Students

When young people first arrive at the unit the aim is to make them feel comfortable and safe. OfSTED (2013) said that the unit achieved this by demonstrating an understanding of the young people’s special needs and mental health difficulties, and by providing effective support in this regard. They also seek to de-escalate situations and “calm things down” so that they can unpick the challenges the young person is facing and begin to support them with those.

The online lesson observed was being taught by a warm, friendly and supportive teacher. She sought regular feedback from the young person. A face-to-face psychology lesson with three young people was visited. The students had an excellent relationship with the teacher. The atmosphere was calm, friendly, mutually supportive and collaborative. Staff were referred to by their first names, and the teacher engaged with the young people on questions of how they wanted to be taught; e.g ‘do you prefer it when we do tasks like this’. These three young people all spoke positively of the provision and of their relationships with staff.

Lana said that trips were possible for some of their young people for the first time because at the provision they feel secure enough to go on trips. Elsewhere Lana spoke of the importance of young people trusting the staff to support them with their problems. It is only once the young people trust them that they can get to the bottom of some of the challenges that they face.

Lana has incorporated cake decorating into the curriculum because the students “really enjoy it”. They listen to the views of the young people and want to give them the opportunity to do things that they enjoy.

Students were very positive about the provision. OfSTED said that they “have every confidence in staff and speak very positively about how well they are supported”.

Relationship with parents

The CAMHs therapist sometimes does home visits. Parents/carers provided positive feedback on the provision to OfSTED inspectors.

Relationships between young people

Demystifying mental health issues supports the building of relationships between young people. They understand that each of them has a different mental health issue, and they get a chance to explore what this “may look like” and “what the world may seem like to that person” (Lana).

One student said he preferred the AP environment because there were fewer students. He found mainstream school too populated.

Students are adamant that there is no bullying in the unit and they see the unit as a safe haven…students get on well with one another and provide good mutual support. Differences amongst them such as race, gender and mental health needs are irrelevant. They are brought together by the difficulties they have encountered…” (OfSTED, 2013).

Relationships with other Services and Agencies

The provision have bought in an external service in the form of a CAMHs therapist.

Lana and Apricot Online work closely together to plan and develop the lessons young people are receiving and to quality assure this on a termly basis. Lana and an Apricot Online staff member watch lessons, compare notes and grading and discuss their feedback with the teachers. Lana praised Apricot Online’s development of the OfSTED grading criteria so that it applies to online lessons.


The provision building is currently situated in a former primary school set in a quiet residential area next to a large park/woods. Inside the classrooms are clean and well organised, with laminated student work displayed on the walls. Lunch is bought in for the staff and students. There is all of the necessary ICT equipment for the online sessions.

They buy all of the relevant text books and resources for each of the exam board courses. Where needed they have the scope for a member of staff to provide one-to-one teaching, for instance if a young person is working towards a different exam board or struggles to engage in online learning.

They are purchasing specialist software for a student who has just been diagnosed with visual communication difficulties.

It is to get a new purpose–built building. Apricot Online and IT specialists have been consulted in the planning process in order to ensure the right facilities for the ICT components of their provision.


The Hawkswood provisions get eight thousand pounds per pupil from the government. Schools in the borough pool together to commission them for the remainder of the budget required. There are arrangements in place to receive the pupil premium for students who are with them.

Well-managed, led and accountable

The headteacher provides good leadership to staff. She has managed without a deputy headteacher in recent months and has made very effective use of the skills amongst other staff members to help her to maintain good quality education within the unit” (OfSTED, 2013).

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

Because schools in the borough voluntarily buy into the Hawkswood group services, they are keen to ensure that they are meeting young people’s needs. Feedback from schools moulds what is on offer: “what are the schools telling us that they need and can we support that” (senior member of staff, The Hawkswood Group).

All teachers (including online teachers) are formally observed once a term to ensure quality.

The headteacher and executive headteacher monitor the quality of the unit’s work thoroughly. Instructional staff are given clear feedback on their performance and what they need to do to improve. Nearly all are working towards gaining qualified teacher status. This, together with the ongoing training and coaching staff receive, is contributing well to continuous improvement in the quality of teaching and learning and hence achievement of students” (OfSTED, 2013).

Transformation (choice and autonomy)

Young people are provided with a common room which they reported that they like. During their break times some chose to play on the Xbox. Young people are treated more like college students; they are given some ‘perks’ and freedoms that they might not have in mainstream school.

Lana (senior member of staff) highlighted the danger of young people feeling safe in the provision, but not being prepared for the “real” world which they will have to go back to. For this reason, young people tare taken off-site as often as possible – this also works against young people becoming institutionalised:

This environment can be too safe if we are not careful. Part of our job is to get that security but also to start pushing those boundaries for them so that they feel more confident about trying new things” (Lana, senior member of staff).

The Special Educational Needs context in England has recently changed. The current context is summarised here:


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