Brief Description of The Provision
The South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) in Northern Ireland includes five alternative education provisions (two in Castlereagh and one in each of Downpatrick; Redburn; Lagan Valley) which cater for around 100 young people. Young people are transported to centres from across the library board areas. A typical centre caters for 15-20 young people, 15 is the preferred upper limit. The two centres visited were housed in small buildings and cabins, and contained a couple of classrooms.
Content and Delivery
The young people arrive at a centre at 9:30 am. They begin the day with a breakfast of tea, toast and a chat. Staff find out vital information during this time about how the young people are doing, and what is happening outside of school. There are two academic sessions before lunch, when concentration tends to be better. After lunch there are two more sessions. Any group work or contact with external agencies takes place in the afternoon. The day ends at 2pm.
All learning is done in small groups; 5 per class which “allows for close supervision and support” (1). The curriculum includes English, Maths, ICT, P.E, Duke of Edinburgh and PSHEE. Students work towards Levels 1 and 2 in literacy and Levels 1 and 2 in Communication. If they are cope with these levels, they will be stretched with other subjects, for instance some students are doing Art or Psychology GCSE. The pupils have access to Occupational Studies level 1 and 2 at the Lagan Valley Centre which offers Catering, Joinery, bricklaying, Hairdressing and Beauty, Film and Television and Digital media. Students from the other four centres can attend the Lagan Valley centre to do occupational studies for one day per week, or if appropriate complete the course with their own school. The students also do work experience, for instance in catering, working in a gym, working in a special school, coaching etc. Students also work towards a COPE qualification as part of this (certificate of personal effectiveness). The centres use the Prince’s Trust XL programme and the young people have done sessions with a local university looking at how they learn. Staff conduct excursions and residential trips with the young people.
The Library Board promote the value of education and provide an opportunity for a new start in a “supportive, highly controlled and progressive service” (provision handbook), intended to promote pupils’ attendance and good behaviour.
ETI judged the teaching and learning at Redburn to be very good in the majority of lessons observed, and teachers have appropriately high expectations of students and plan thoroughly for lessons.
“The teachers work hard to identify the talents and skills of the young people…a young person with exceptional soccer skills attends an Irish football association soccer training programme whilst another young person receives guitar lessons” (provision handbook).
Curriculum and Accreditation
Young people study English and Maths at an appropriate level, which might be entry level/functional skills, or GCSE. As noted, pupils are assessed in literacy and numeracy and then engage in the most appropriate curriculum to their needs and abilities. Ongoing communication and a thorough understanding of the young person is recognised as a vital tool for appropriate decision. Additional educational psychology assessments may be requested in some cases. Having a curriculum that is relevant and meaningful to the young people is seen as a way of promoting their attendance and good behaviour.
- CCEA English (GCSE)at all levels.
- CCEA Essential skills Literacy (Entry Levels 1, 2 & 3) / Communication (levels 1 & 2).
- CCEA/ Maths (GCSE)at all levels.
- CCEA Essential Skills Numeracy (Entry Level 1, 2 & 3)/ applied application of number (levels 1& 2).
- CCEA occupational studies (Levels 1 & 2) Bricklaying, carpentry & joinery, Hair & Beauty, Hospitality & Catering, Painting & Decorating, Digital Imaging & Film
- OCR: ICT skills for life; ITQ award in IT user skills; certificate in IT user skills; Diploma in IT user skills
- ASDAN Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (Levels 1 & 2)
- Prince’s Trust Level 1 & 2 Certificate in Personal Development and Employability (QCF) XL Programme
- CCEA Level 1 Substance Misuse Awareness
- Duke of Edinburgh Award (Bronze)
- Work Experience and Careers support
- Physical Education
- GCSE: Art and Design
- GCSE: Psychology
The curriculum offer across the centres
In addition to accredited areas of the curriculum the centres also cover emotional skills building and PSHEE. For the students who are not accessing GCSEs, adult qualifications are offered. These are of more use to the young people rather than learning texts for an exam.
“We aim to work towards each young person’s strengths and try to provide additional qualifications and areas of the curriculum when appropriate” (provision handbook).
Identifying Features of Quality
The role of SEELB AEP is to engage the young people in an educational pathway with as many qualifications as possible. There is emphasis on careers, pathways for learning and work experience. In the SEELB student guide AEP is described as follows: “a fresh start; an opportunity for you to discover new strengths, a place where you will be helped to achieve your goals”.
More formally, the mission statement across the SEELB AEPs is to provide:
“the opportunities and support for our young people to succeed and potentially change their lives. Our aim is for AEP to be widely seen as a support service of excellence providing the highest level of support to enable young people to reach their full potential”.
The mission statement emphasises the importance of pastoral care. AEP aims to support the welfare and personal needs of pupils in all of the activities that they do.
- Academic: To provide a sympathetic and stimulating academic environment in which all pupils are encouraged to develop their intellectual and practical capabilities to the highest possible degree through the pursuit of a relevant balanced curriculum.
- Social/Personal: To create a caring and supportive environment in which all pupils can develop the social and personal skills necessary to play a confident and responsible role in society.
- Physical: To encourage participation in a range of physical activities, to promote a healthy lifestyle, and to help pupils derive personal satisfaction from the constructive use of leisure time.
- Vocational: To provide a balanced vocational guidance programme which will help pupils make informed choices and facilitate a smooth transition into the world of work or Higher Education.
- Aesthetic/Creative: To develop the aesthetic appreciation and the creative potential of all pupils and to broaden their horizons by offering a variety of cultural experiences.
- Moral/Spiritual: To foster a respect for spiritual and moral values and a tolerance towards other races, religions and ways of life.
- Environment/ Society: To stimulate an awareness and understanding of the effects of political, economic and social decisions on the environment and to enable pupils to recognise the needs of the local community and to develop a community conscience.
Pastoral Care: Aims To Maintain:
- An AEP philosophy of pupil care
- An appropriate system for pastoral care and discipline
- A programme which ensures the personal development of all pupils
- Appropriate record keeping systems
- To ensure that each pupils feels accepted and secure in the AEP environment
- To create in pupils a sense of loyalty to AEP
- To ensure that each pupil fulfils his/her academic potential by developing positive attitudes to academic performance and the acquisition of effective methods of study.
- To develop pupils’ social competence in interaction with each other and with adults
- To prepare pupils for major changes and decisions e.g. transition to Further Education; Work experience choice; Examinations/qualifications choices
- To explore with pupils areas of personal development appropriate to their particular age group
- To prepare pupils for life after AEP.
- To maintain close home/ school links and encourage parents to participate actively in the education of their children.
- To enlist, where appropriate, the co-operation of outside agencies.
- To regularly monitor, evaluate and review all aspects of pastoral provision (provision handbook).
Pastoral care at Redburn was judged to be Outstanding by ETI in their 2013 report. Their stated values are respect for one another; acceptance of diversity; understanding and patient of needs; high expectations for success; and optimistic and hopeful for the future
SEELB cater for around 100 young people from local schools. Typically students are in the equivalent of year 10 and 11 in England (i.e. 14-16 years old) but sometimes they are in the equivalent of year nine in England (i.e. 13-14 years of age). SEELB have an inclusive policy and are committed to providing all compulsory school aged pupils with a place in a mainstream school as “the preferred educational placement”, or in an AP where a mainstream placement is at risk. They see inclusion covering young people with a range of characteristics, e.g. SEN, LAC, and different ethnicities, cultures and religions.
Beth (senior member of staff) does a three day taster for all new staff.
The SEELB AEP centres are small and typically staffed with a couple of teachers, a couple of teaching assistants and a youth worker. There are also supportive administrative staff and Beth (senior member of staff) , regularly visits the centres and knows all of the staff and students well. When Beth started there were 16 members of staff. Now there are 42 across the provisions. Prior to Beth’s appointment, each centre had one learning assistant, and now they have two, and each will have either a maths or English specialism.
There are now 7 qualified educational psychologists each visiting centres for half a day. They provide Beth (senior member of staff) with a programme of work and report back to the whole service about the work they are doing.
Teaching staff have QTS and are often staff on secondment from mainstream schools. Secondments entice teachers into the sector to see what the role is like, without the risk of losing access to the usual school system. Beth herself is on secondment from mainstream school. She has a long history of teaching young people ‘at risk’, having worked in a secure unit, and with young offenders. She supported the opening of a PRU on site in the mainstream school where she is employed. She is three years into a secondment from this school in her current role. Beth is involved at a broader level too; she is doing an MSc in school leadership. As part of her course she is doing a project with an independent school, setting up and evaluating a student voice project.
Staff are paid a competitive, professional wage according to the national pay scale, plus 2 additional pay-scale points; one extra point for the nature of the role and work with challenging young people, and one extra point for an additional role e.g. being responsible for SEN (all of the staff have one additional responsibility). Youth worker pay is aligned with the naitonal youth worker pay scale, and support staff pay is aligned with the TA/School assistant pay scale.
All staff are supported through supervision. A youth worker support and supervision record is used to document supervision discussions, any additional training the youth workers would like, and any issues that they need support with. There are youth worker team meetings once a month. The staff at the provision have trained two of their own youth workers. All staff are invited to rate their own training and level of expertise in child protection so that any training deficits can be identified here. In addition there is an annual whole-staff audit of training needs, through which wider training issues are addressed. The AEP development plan (1) says that staff are “encouraged and nurtured” in the following ways:
- In school training
- a range of training courses
- With external agencies
- Yearly staff appraisals
- Taking part in projects, research and pilot schemes
Staff attendance is monitored, and a policy provides a framework for this. Staff wellbeing is nurtured. There are debriefs after difficult incidents and issues.
All communication between staff and with parents is recorded. There is a staff meeting every morning and at the end of every day where key issues can be discussed and any difficult incidents debriefed.
Health, safety and Safeguarding
ETI judged Redburn’s safeguarding to be comprehensive. Young people are supported to develop an awareness of safeguarding issues, how they can express concerns to staff and of what will happen once they have expressed concerns: “Staff will record and pass on to the relevant agencies all concerns, disclosures or suspicions they may have” (provision handbook).
There was an opportunity for young people to get missed vaccinations from the school nurse.
Rules and Discipline
The AP provisions have a positive behaviour policy, which is fair and consistent. Support, supervision, counselling, and a relevant and challenging curriculum are seen as key ways to promote good behaviour: “Clear policies will help to maintain a positive, supportive environment for pupils to learn and achieve” (provision handbook).
- Attendance: To attend every day, inform staff of reasons for lateness or absence
- Behaviour: “No long list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ – Respect yourself, other people and property; take part in all that is on offer; and work to the best of your ability”.
- Mobile phones: To be handed in at registration. They can be accessed at break time and lunch time, and retrieved at the end of the day.
- Drugs: Zero tolerance. PSNI ( Police Contacted)Counselling and education are on offer (provision handbook).
The provisions have a behaviour and consequences policy which is signed by the pupil and their parent/guardian. This outlines staff expectations, reasons for these expectations, how they will support young people to meet them, what counts as negative behaviours, the consequences of these, and methods of reconciliation.
Monitoring of progress
All of the APs base-line all of the young people when they come in, for example they do reading and spelling assessments in English.
“The teachers carry out effective baseline testing as part of the induction process to identify early the ability level and learning targets of the young people and to devise accurate and appropriate individual learning programmes” (ETI, 2013).
A report on each session is expected. Each young person has a termly report, with how they are doing in each subject, their progress and their grade. Beth writes a comment on all of these reports. There are also Evidence of Success forms, on which staff list the young person’s achievements and how they are doing at the provision.
The staff use a rewards system. Young people are awarded points each lesson and given a score each day. The boy and girl with the highest points each week receives a small prize. The pupil of the month gets a bigger prize e.g cinema tickets.
Each student’s attendance is closely monitored.
All of the young people in AEP have emotional, behavioural and/or attendance issues. Some young people have statements and others are going through the statement process. Each young person has an Individual Educational Plan, and these are reviewed annually in the second term by the referring school, a member of staff from the AEP provision, and representatives any other relevant agencies such at social work.. . A member of staff in each centre has responsibility for SEN. If statemented pupils are to be referred to the local authority panel which decides on statements of special educational needs, an up-to-date Educational Psychologist report must be completed.
The SEELB panel does not necessarily send the young person to their nearest provision – if there is a reason why the young person would be better off in a different provision the panel will cover transport costs.
“The work is highly differentiated to meet the needs of the individual young people” (ETI, 2013).
Where mainstream placements are at risk, the SEELB AEP panel meets to find a suitable alternative. Before this the panel must be satisfied the school has explored all other possible avenues, and the young person must be in agreement with being referred for AEP.
It is the responsibility of the referring school to fill in all relevant sections of the standard referral form, in consultation with others as required. The referral form includes personal contact and health information; attendance at school; reason for referral; strategies tried by the school; positive aspects of the current school placement; details of suspensions and expulsions; SEN details; involvement from other agencies; AEP preferences; transport needs. All relevant supporting documentation must be attached “to afford these pupils education and support tailored to meet their individual needs”. Young people remain on the roll of their mainstream school whilst attending AEP and progress reports are provided: “Schools are expected to maintain an interest in the young person whilst in SEELB AP”.
Schools are encouraged to submit referral information at the start of the spring term for placements to begin at the start of the new academic year. The referral information is then discussed at an SEELP AEP panel meeting. The panel meets three times per year and is headed by an Assistant Senior Education Officer and attended by:
- Head of AEP (Beth)
- Education Welfare
- Special Education
- Behaviour Support
- Education Psychology
- Other stakeholders, by invitation
The panel considers each of the referrals and makes a decision regarding placements. The school are notified of their decision and given time to arrange a meeting with all parties (including students and parents/carers) to discuss a plan for transition to AEP. The meeting is usually attended by Beth and the designated teacher. Beth also arranges a home visit to:
- discuss any worries and concerns and to talk through the transition process
- talk to the young person about the areas of the curriculum they enjoy
- discuss travel arrangements
- enable parent/carer to read through the various policies
- provide parents with a guide to AEP
- enable parents/carers to fill in medical forms and provide any other necessary information.
This visit is deemed to be particularly important for looked after children and “may need to be repeated several times to gain trust”(senior member of staff).. In general, the home visit is seen as a positive beginning to relationships with parents/carers, and helps to establish a clear understanding of the service. Other meetings may be necessary prior to the placement, particularly where other external agencies are involved. The young person visits the provision with the parent/carer, once they have been offered a place. Then they can choose whether or not to accept the place.
When the young people arrive they fill in a form with the following headings:
- things I am good at
- my interests
- my favourite subjects
- things i find difficult
- people closest to me
- things i’ve always wanted to do
Beth monitors the input from referring schools and documents the ways in which the AEP staff engage with referring schools. This includes inviting school staff to: coffee mornings, annual reviews, special events, graduation, school achievement evenings and other events, sports events, Parenting programmes, personal and social development days, LAC reviews and Case conferences. AEP also send schools reports on the young people and train schools to develop “a culture of capacity building” in this area.
“All of the young people appreciate the visits by staff from their schools and, in the best practice a senior teacher from each referring school visits their young person each term to monitor their pastoral care and academic progress” (ETI, 2013).
According to ETI,
“The centre’s data shows that most of the young people achieve accreditation in a range of appropriate subjects that enables them to transfer to appropriate further education or training courses upon leaving the centre” (ETI, 2013).
They staff also track the young people beyond AEP.
Relationships with Students
There is a strong emphasis on building and maintaining relationships with the young people. Them centres provide a gentle start to each day, with breakfast and a chat. Beth knows all of the students by name, knows their parent/carer and knows how they are getting on at the provision
Relationship with parents
SEELB AEP believe that it is important to link with the family of the young person in order to understand the types of challenges the young person is facing. Strong parental links are seen as key to encouraging attendance and wellbeing. Parents/carers are met as soon as a place is offered. Parents/carers are provided with a booklet of information explaining:
- what AEP is
- why a placement has been offered
- the values and aims of the provision
- the role of the parent/carer as “a partner”. they request that parents share relevant information, attend open days to review progress, and keep in regular contact with staff.
- the role of the young person
- IEPs explained
- expected outcomes and rewards
- policies on attendance; mobile phones; drugs; safe guarding and child protection; code of behaviour for staff and volunteers; complaints procedure.
- useful contacts
Positive links with parents/carers are a priority throughout eh AEP placement. This begins with the home visit. Initial visits and meetings are seen as key to gaining trust and establishing positive relationships with parents/carers and pupils. Throughout the placement there is dialogue with parents/carers, they are encouraged to communicate difficulties, reports are sent to them, and they attend annual reviews. Often parents have a negative view of the education system so they have to promote its value to them as well as to pupils.
There is a parenting group at each of the centres; these have good attendance. AEP pays for parent/carer travel. In the group, parents/carers decide what they want support with. They have for example made a scrapbook about their family, and their child, and then talked through the memories in the group. An external facilitator was paid to come in and run this session. Staff found that the parents/carers were more at ease about coming into the centres after this session.
Parents/carers are provided with a free text option so they can always communicate with AEP staff.
Parents/carers first fill in a questionnaire when they come for their induction meeting. They fill it in again at the Christmas coffee morning. This questionnaire includes:
- asking parents to rate how they feel their child has improved since attending AEP on a scale from 1-10 with reference to their attendance, attitude to school, behaviour, confidence and social skills.
- saying whether or not they are satisfied with the level of communication they receive from AEP staff
- answering questions such as: Do they know who to contact if they have any queries? Are they aware of the qualifications their child is completing? Are they aware of the policies on child protection, attendance, behaviour, drugs and mobile phones? Are they aware of the counselling service and do they think it would benefit their son/daughter?
- commenting on their general level of satisfaction with AEP
Resources and Networks :
Beth has a wider network of contacts through mainstream and AEP in Northern Ireland. She has forged links with two universities (see ‘Transformation’ section).
“The young people benefit from the good provisions of CEIAG with mock interviews, appropriate placements for work experience and discussions of appropriate career pathways during lessons along with good opportunities for vocational education” (ETI, 2013).
Beth provided us with a list of ‘research and development’ activities that have taken place whilst she has been in post:
- Beth gave a lecture to Stranmillis students as part of their ‘Working with Disadvantaged Children’ module.
- Allowing trainee teachers from Stranmillis University to visit the AEP centres for a day. Pupils from AEP are going to visit Stranmillis in the summer term to find out what ‘types’ of learners they are. There is a thank you letter from the university , where they say how valuable they found the input, “we would like to explore further the possibility of one or two students from this module spending their final year ‘school based work’ placements in your AEPs”.
- They are engaged in a project with Queen’s University Belfast to assess the effect of trauma on young people
- Beth is a member of a steering board at Queen’s University Belfast. Through her work at Queen’s University she has been able to get access to the trainee educational psychologists.
- Beth has listed all of the positive contributions the young people have made so far: litter picking on a beach; a community project collecting Christmas hampers for elderly people and delivering these at a coffee morning; a residential; young people completing a programme where they have been learning about team work (they produced the rap as part of this which warns teenagers about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse); volunteering at community allotments; completing a careers programme with an advisor.
Relationships with other Services and Agencies
SEELB AEP have an agreement form for their work with outside agencies requiring them to provide the following information:
- name, contact details, contact with student, number of sessions, dates and locations for sessions.
- aims of the programme and expected learning outcomes
- awareness of child protection policy
There is a de-brief sheet to be filled in at the end of every session where the agency rate the young person on their level of group participation, level of interest in the subject, behaviour and any unresolved issues.
The AEP staff strive to maintain relationships with schools and agencies who are invited to attend annual IEP reviews. Education welfare officers (EWO) support the centres with attendance and wellbeing issues. Staff have positive links in the community and with agencies such as volunteering organisations, anti-smoking services, in home counselling services and local leisure services.
A counselling service was introduced to the AEP provisions in the South Eastern Education and Library Board to support young people through particularly difficult phases of their life. Counsellors are members of BACP and must attend regular support and supervision sessions. Counselllors have regulated caseloads and the service is evaluated through student evaluations as well as an external evaluation.
Classrooms are well-presented and the units had a homely and inviting feel. Beth is working towards further improvements to the accommodation.
Before a new placement is agreed by the SEELB AEP panel the school must agree to transfer the age weighted pupil funds and there is a place for the headteacher to sign on the referral form) t0 this effect. This is how the provisions are funded.
However, Beth also strives to attract additional money to improve the service and offer more. Beth has employed over half of the staff in her centres. She applied for money from the DENI, and has used this to essentially double the resources available in SEELB AEP.
Well-managed, led and accountable
Beth has a wealth of experience in the education sector, and is clearly driven to provide the best possible education to the young people served by the SEELB provisions. Since taking up post three years ago she has attracted additional funding and used this to employ more staff and aligned all of the procedures and policies across the centres. The aims, vision, strengths and weaknesses of the provisions are clearly documented, and there is a commitment to continued self-evaluation and improvement.
Beth in an Associate advisor for ETI herself: she has inspected provision in some of the other Education and Library Boards, and she can feed this learning back into her own work.
“The head of service and the centre co-ordinator’s very good leadership provide a clear strategic vision for the work of the centre focused on the needs of the young people that is shared by all the staff” (ETI, 2013).
Evaluation and Quality Assurance
SEELB AEP are committed to continued self-evaluation and improvement. They use an ETI document ‘Together towards improvement’ as a basis for self-evaluation. There is a self-evaluation form (3) that is no longer used by ETI but Beth uses it as a framework for self-evaluation. The proforma is designed to assist them in auditing the provision. This form looks at three areas: Achievement and standards; the quality of provision for learning; leadership and management. This is linked to the ETI grading system for schools and educational provisions. “The centre’s development plan is comprehensive, and reflects well the key objectives of the centre and the priorities for improvement” (provision handbook).
There is an AEP development plan which is returned to annually by senior staff. The aim is to assist “AEP to audit need, to prioritize initiatives, to action plan, review, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of those initiatives” whilst seeking to “nurture a stimulating professional learning community” (provision handbook). All staff are involved in the annual review process. The aim is to use the annual review process to develop and make adjustments, but also to celebrate successes and good practice.
The annual review revisits the areas for improvement and targets, and progress against the stated targets is documented. From here, goals are set for the next three year period and challenges and opportunities are highlighted.
A student questionnaire is filled out once a term. This gathers information on:
- the young people’s prior experience of education
- how their current placement differs from mainstream school
- how things are currently going for them in AEP
- what their ideal school day would be like, what would be different, and what would the staff notice is different about them on this day.
- involvement with external support agencies and their views on this
- what support they need to succeed in AEP
- rating their behaviour and motivation to learn on a scale from 0-10 and comparing this to when they were in mainstream school
- their motivation to change and how this can be supported
SEELB AAP has had positive feedback from exam boards. They were praised for the standard of work learners were producing, their supporting internal records, clear documentary evidence of internal moderation, robust procedures, and good-practice in marking answer booklets
SEELB AEP takes “a holistic approach designed to challenge young people and make positive changes to their self-esteem and their approach to learning and their achievement” (provision handbook). The provision value the importance of the fitness and overall wellbeing of their students.
 The policies and procedures across these provisions have been aligned. Points referring to policies and procedures in this case study apply to all five provisions.