Case study thirteen: The Bridge AP Academy

Brief Description of The Provision

The Bridge AP Academy is one of four secondary provisions in the Tri-borough Partnership (TBAP), a multi-academy trust established in 2013. It is based in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Prior to academy status it was a PRU. Over a ten year period it has moved from satisfactory to outstanding in terms of Ofsted judgements.   Learners do a minimum of 24 hours per week; there is no part time placement. 120 pupils were enrolled at the school at the time of the research.

The TBAP Trust includes 4 secondary and 1 primary AP Academy. These include:

  • Latimer AP Academy (Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea)
  • Beachcroft AP Academy (Westminster)
  • Octagon AP Academy in Haringey (recently joined the trust; primary and secondary combined)
  • Courtyard AP Academy (primary)

The boroughs involved are Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Haringey.

Content and Delivery

There is a breakfast club and free lunch for all students. Staff have lunch free of charge if they sit with the students and undertake lunchtime duties. There is tutor time every morning.

On Mondays many of the young people access online lessons (the content of which is currently being reviewed) and the staff use this time to develop work for the online sessions.

KS3 learners are taught the core subjects alongside a thematic curriculum. At KS4 learners can access up to 13 GCSE subjects as well as a variety of vocational subjects including construction, bike maintenance, mechanics, hair and beauty and horticulture. There is a strong emphasis on literacy, to support all learners. They use an on-line programme to support the development of literacy and communication and plug existing gaps in these areas.

The development of learners’ personal integrity, self-esteem and citizenship is central to all work. In addition to more formal aspects of the curriculum, they have enrichment trips, outdoor activities and residential trips.

There is a therapeutic department which includes music therapy, art therapy, and healthy touch. Education is tailored to meet individual needs. There is a time out room where young people can go to speak to someone. They also have counselling and mentoring, but this is not their starting point. The starting point is teaching and learning.

A team of learning support professionals work with students to minimise barriers to learning. All students have an academic mentor. They meet twice a term, once formally and once informally. A proforma is filled in and linked to SIMs. Information is fed back at the school meeting. The focus is academic. This is separate to pastoral support, such as the tutor system.

Where there are identified issues they will have interventions with a teacher who is an expert in that academic area. They have intervention days where all students in a particular year group are off timetable. On these days the young people will attend the subjects that they need particular support with. The core subjects are prioritised here, but other subjects are involved. It enables really focused support.

Other Work: The outreach team go into schools to do work to prevent exclusion. Commissioning and School Support provides interventions in schools across the three boroughs to support the inclusion of learners whose behaviour is causing concern or preventing them from achieving. Teacher consultants provide a range of interventions aimed at the individual, classes, groups, teachers, support staff, whole school staff, parent groups and projects, in both primary and secondary schools. The Student Services team provide CPD to schools on behavioural issues. TBAP commission services from the third sector and from independent AP providers. They QA services that schools use, and have a list of approved providers.

Plans for the future: TBAP is planning a sixth-form provision for those who show academic promise. This provision will run A-level courses.

Identifying Features of Quality

Mission/aims/purpose

TBAP support learners who are experiencing difficulty with mainstream schools. They begin from the principle of educational entitlement. A board is on display in various places and in every classroom across the sites, which details the learning entitlement of the young people, and what they should expect from their teachers and school.

‘Everybody has the right to learn, to feel safe, to be respected and to be fairly treated’.

Communication:

Pupils can expect that their teacher will meet them at the beginning of each lesson ready with something interesting to do, that their teacher will tell them how to be successful during the lesson, and that they will know what level they are currently working at and how to move on from that.

Investigation:

Pupils can expect to be regularly assessed and for this to be shared with them so that they can see the progress they are making and share this with others. Pupils can expect the classroom they are working in to have a positive atmosphere for learning, for both staff and learners, and that their teacher will work assist them in reaching their potential.

Achievement:

Pupils can expect the lessons to include varied activities which are both familiar and more challenging. They can expect their teacher to guide and support them as they develop skills for independent learning.

The Bridge aim to improve young peoples’ life chances, to support reintegration into full-time education in either school, further education or employment. They aim to give students a normal educational experience, that is, where they have the range of learning experiences that would be open to them in a mainstream school. Staff are however aware that these young people may fail at this many times before they get it right.

Target Group

At the Bridge AP Academy every learner has some kind of additional need, and some have very complex social, emotional and/or educational needs. The proportion of young people eligible for the pupil premium is well above average.

Recruiting

The Bridge find that the strength of the TBAP brand enables them to attract very good staff. They use TES, twitter, email, blogs and the website to advertise the jobs as widely as possible. They ensure that all appropriate professional documentation is available for those that want to see it.

A senior member of staff reported that part of the appeal is that the academy is an interesting place to work. The TBAP model means there are opportunities to move around and to be promoted. The model also means that they are not separate to, but part of, the “educational establishment” (senior member of staff) both locally and nationally. The academy offers private health care and it is now a teaching school. These aspects of the provision attract good staff.

In staff they are looking for three key things: quality, resilience, and the ability to form positive relationships. The staff selection process includes a formal pupil panel. The young people have pre-written questions. The Bridge staff hope that one day the pupils will do most or all of the recruitment process. Applicants are set a range of tasks appropriate to the role in question. This might include an in-tray exercise, or getting them to do a presentation (sometimes planned, sometimes they are only told on the day). There is also a formal panel interview with senior staff.

Staff

The Bridge have trained four of their own teachers this year. The training programme includes a mainstream placement. Staff are also supported to undertake the headship training scheme.

TBAP Trust is good at attracting quality staff and their retention is excellent. There are 170 staff across the 4 sites. At the Bridge site there are 23 teachers and 23 support staff. The organisational structure includes senior and middle leaders.

During the research we spoke with one new member of staff. He had worked in mainstream schools for 10 years, 4 as an assistant head. He was attracted to the TBAP Trust because of the OfSTED outstanding rating, the vision of staff, and their ‘exciting projects’.

The size of the organisation, and its multiple sites, provides flexibility. Staff can be freed-up to cover posts and duties as required, e.g. for supporting the improvement of the Haringey provision and to cover maternity leave (head teacher’s report, p. 4)[1].

In their 2013 report Ofsted said:

Staff show tremendous commitment to learners and also to the institution itself. Many say that they are proud to work there despite the challenging nature of their work. They are held to account by the leadership but also given strong support to enable them to develop their expertise…all staff have clear targets for developing their work. These are based on the identified needs of the academy as well as supporting the professional development of staff” ( p. 6).

The Bridge have the Investors in People Kitemark, silver award. The senior leadership team are all undertaking specialist training in behaviour management, which they will then be able to offer as training to mainstream schools.

Communication

The staff handbook is provided digitally, on a USB. This includes all of the policies and procedures, the aims and priorities of the academy, the strategic management cycle and plan, and the TBAP development plan.

SLT have a meeting every morning at 8:30. The head of school, assistant head teachers and directors of learning, access & inclusion and student services attend. They look at cover, duties, inductions, and positives and negatives from the previous day. They make decisions about any action that needs to be taken. This is then fed into the whole-staff meeting at 9am.

All events are diarised at the beginning of the school year so that other things do not get in the way. A senior member of staff told us that it is very important to keep a structure so that things do not get neglected and so that change and improvement can continue.

TBAP also have are extended SLT meetings across the whole provision.

Safety and Safeguarding

There are cameras throughout the building.

Rules and Discipline

A list of what students can expect from their school and teachers is on display in classrooms across all TBAP sites. There is another a list of expectations of students.

Be Ready to Learn: This includes being on time; dressing appropriately; eating and drinking in appropriate places; using mobile devices appropriately.

Be Respected: This includes using appropriate language; listening to others and expecting to be listened to; keeping hands, feet, objects and personal comments to yourself; staying for the whole session; looking after the building, displays and equipment

Be Safe: This includes following the rules for health and safety; being in the right place at the right time.

The Bridge: expectations of students

Young people at The Bridge have a uniform which they helped to design. The academy believes that it is important for them to be on the bus looking like any other student on their way to school.

A behaviour protocol is used – students are: given a reminder, then a warning, then time out of the classroom and an opportunity to talk about their behaviour. The Bridge use Team Teach strategies and only use restraint if the young person is a danger to themselves or someone else.

The Bridge has comprehensive data on any fixed term or full exclusions that have been given and the reasons for these. They also document when restraint has been used, racist incidents, and police enquiries.

Monitoring of progress

During the initial two week induction young people are ‘baselined’. This includes CAT tests, Pupil Attitudes about Self and School (PASS), SEN diagnostic assessments, and assessments of literacy and numeracy. This information is put onto one marksheet so it is readily available for all staff. Based on these assessments “challenging targets are set and learners are immediately expected to start working towards them, so achievement starts to rise immediately and rapidly” (OfSTED).

SIMS Management Information System[2] is first used during the induction process. A profile is created for each student, including their baseline data. Three levels of progress ar are expected across 2 key stages. Using this formula Bridge staff work out how each young person should be progressing each term.

All students have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which is reviewed in six-week cycles. Staff collect data on how each student is performing across their subjects three times a year.. They colour code the data with red, amber and green, to signify how close the young person is to meeting a target.

One report is sent home to parents in the autumn, and one in the summer. Where reintegration is a goal schools also receive these reports,. The Bridge aim for all of their students to achieve some form of accreditation before they leave.

The Bridge operate on a points system. Young people can acquire points for good behaviour in each lesson. If they get to 100 points they get a prize. Positive and negative behaviour is reported on SIMs. This provides a detailed picture of how each student’s day is going. Data on behaviour from the previous day is analysed at the SLT meeting every morning . The Bridge have developed a culture where all staff use SIMs; if an incident has not been logged on SIMs it will not be discussed.

The Bridge staff undertake both short and long term analysis of how students are achieving against planning. “Progress and achievement far exceed that often found in similar establishments” (Ofsted, 2013) Attendance and progress is also recorded on SIMs. Attendance is monitored for students and across different sites. Across the four secondary schools whole-school attendance falls between 78% and 89%.

Inclusion

The Bridge has an inclusive approach and believe in giving every learner many chances to succeed. The evidence on attainment suggests that this is an inclusive school, with no differences in achievement according to key indicators such as gender, ethnicity or pupil premium eligibility.

At the last count in March 2014, 75% of their students were boys. The provision has a diverse intake in terms of ethnicity. The proportion of young people from minority ethnic backgrounds was reported to be well above average by OfSTED in their 2013 report.

Transitions

The parent/carer comes for an interview to begin with. Then young people join a “rigorous, two-week induction using age-related on-line assessment enables staff at the academy to gain a clear and detailed picture of every learner’s current levels” (OfSTED, 2013).

TBAP don’t necessarily place the young people in the provision that is nearest to them, but in the provision that is best suited to the. The induction process is designed to help make the placement decision. The induction takes place in pleasant surroundings so that the young people “don’t think it is the end of the world”, and are reassured about an alternative education placement.

Hammersmith and Fulham refer pupils mainly via managed moves. A senior member of staff said that this was preferable to permanent exclusion because managed moves are in the best interests of the child and the school. Across the 4 TBAP secondary schools, out of 258 reasons for admission, 138 were managed moves.

The Bridge do reintegrate where appropriate: “There is a strong commitment to helping learners return to mainstream schools when they can and local headteachers speak in extremely positive ways about their links with The Bridge Alternative Provision Academy” (OfSTED, 2013).

Young people that stay in the provision to completion gain recognised qualifications and have planned post-16 routes into college (some do A-levels), training or employment. Work experience operates in years 10 and 11 and is a formal part of some students’ timetables.

Relationships with Students

OfSTED report favourably on the quality of relationships at The Bridge.

Young people learn to work together well and support each other. … Outstanding teamwork supports and engages learners, who develop obvious trust in the adults they meet daily…There is enormous expertise about how to improve behaviour within the academy, both among staff and on the Board. This is used to excellent effect to transform learner’s negative attitudes” (OfSTED, 2013).

Relationships with parents

The learning support professionals provide individual and family support so that learners who experience wider difficulties can be given support alongside their family members. Parents spoke highly of the provision during the OfSTED (2013) inspection.

“Links with parents and carers are exceptionally strong and huge efforts are made to engage widely with families” (OfSTED, 2013).

Resources and Networks:

A senior member of staff is part of several wider networks (see discussion in ‘Transformation’ section).

Relationships with other Services and Agencies

The Bridge AP Academy is supported well by external support agencies ensuring that students get appropriate assistance when required.

“The academy works extremely effectively with a range of external agencies such as social services, adolescent psychiatry and psychology services and with a range of therapists and other organisations” (OfSTED, 2013).

They will commission other AP for one of their students if this is required.

Facilities

The size of the TBAP organisation has obvious benefits, for example, there are central ICT, HR and administrative facilities.

The Bridge has chickens and a mini allotment outside.

They are working with architects to design a new building – the TBAP hub school, alongside the TBAP teaching school and TBAP central team. They are moving away from paper or key staff dependent systems wherever possible and are investigating digitally based HR and finance systems for all TBAP schools.

Finances

The move to academy status brought financial benefits. LA run PRUs are potentially vulnerable to funding cuts, whereas academy status makes funding more secure.

Well-managed, led and accountable

The TBAP Trust is led by a board of directors. The board has strategic responsibility for the governance of all of the academies. The directors and advisors have diverse experience. The quality of the support and guidance offered by the board was noted by OfSTED in their 2013 report. The Academy has been praised for having “inspirational leadership” where “leaders at all levels show an outstanding commitment to the academy and the learners who attend. This enables teachers to work effectively and to show how good teaching of the highest quality can turn young lives around”(OfSTED 2013).

Evaluation and Quality Assurance

In 2010 The Bridge AP Academy was judged by OfSTED as Outstanding, and in 2013 as outstanding in all areas.

The Bridge self evaluates its priorities. All TBAP academies are a part of Challenge Partnership, a school-led school improvement process.   They are subject to an annual Challenge Partner’s review where the impact of each priority is judged. TBAP expect all AP academies to achieve an Outstanding or Good Judgement from OfSTED.

Priorities for The Bridge AP Academy, and wider TBAP Group (paraphrased from head teacher’s report 2014)

Achievement:  The Bridge aims to ensure that high quality and robust data are used to provide interventions that narrow the gap, deliver reintegration, raise achievement and aspirations and support all learners through a personalised curriculum which offers an entitlement of a minimum of 5 GCSEs or equivalent in the secondary phase . Staff aim to achieve 100% accreditation, with at least 85% of learners gaining 5 or more GCSEs or equivalent. The provision aims for all TBAP leavers to have secured a post-school destination and for all learners to have improved their literacy and numeracy levels above national expectations by the time they leave.

Teaching: The aims of the provision are to deliver outstanding academic, social and emotional learning which enables young people to becomes successful and thoughtful lifelong learners who are respectful of alternative viewpoints and ideas . Senior staff want all teaching to be judged as at least Good, with most being Outstanding, and for support staff to be provided with appropriate training to be able to deliver outstanding support for learning. Senior staff are seeking to achieve Teaching School Status and want all NQT’s to be trained in TBAP schools.

Behaviour and Safety: TBAP senior staff aim to ensure a safe and stimulating learning environments across TBAP and using robust systems of behaviour and pastoral support to deliver effective wellbeing for all. Staff are putting in place a shared behaviour management strategy and system across the TBAP schools, and are developing strong links and clear examples of multi-disciplinary working with external partners and organisations including Health and the Police. All students across the TBAP provisions have robust targets for attendance and personalised targets for improvements in conduct linked to defined interventions

Leadership and Management: TBAP senior staff aim to build and support the capacity of TBAP provisions to raise standards of care, support and learning by developing and sharing the skills, knowledge and experience of staff. Leadership seek for all TBAP provisions to be judged as Outstanding, to be able to recruit and retain outstanding staff, and to create a new AP Academy.

Learning walks are used as a tool for overseeing the quality of lessons. These are conducted two times a week and all members of staff in the school conduct lesson observations. Behaviour, learning, SEN and mentoring are seen as the responsibility of all staff at the school, including administrative staff and site staff. They also use work scrutiny processes where they look closely at a sample of student work.

The academy’s view of its strengths and areas for development is accurate, detailed and effective; this is an institution that knows itself very well. This enables it to prioritise areas for development and, despite the very high standards, the academy is always looking for ways to improve itself, focused always on outcomes for learners” (OfSTED, 2013).

Each staff member is observed formally. Blue Wave Swift[3] school improvement planning system is used to record all CPD. CPD and lesson observations are linked to the wider school plan. If a lesson observation does not get at least ‘good’ the member of staff will be provided with coaching.

The Bridge have introduced performance related pay. If a teacher gets two outstanding lesson observations (i.e. for the year) and meet all of their other CPD targets, they may go up two points on the pay scale. This practice has been enabled by Academy status.

Learning is at the heart of the Academy. The Bridge senior staff see the Ofsted criteria as applicable to their work, but some of the learning might ‘look different’.

The quality of teaching is excellent. Teachers have the highest expectations and work extremely effectively with other staff in the academy” (OfSTED, 2013).

The Bridge staff are involved in quality assuring other AP providers for schools across the three boroughs. They have given a ‘quality mark’ to 30 APs. They do a quality visit to other alternative providers against a a QA framework they have developed.

Transformation (choice and autonomy)

TBAP has a set of strategic development aims:

  • To establish a network of outstanding cross-phase alternative provision academies that are world leaders in achieving the best possible outcomes for young people using the highest quality leadership, teaching and support in 21st century learning environments.

To this end TBAP sponsors Haringey PRU. As an outstanding provider, the government state that TBAP has a duty to sponsor a failing school. On page 1-2 of the head teacher’s report improvement plans for the sponsored school are discussed; these include sharing resources and projects, and collaboration between staff and students, as well as staff training and curriculum redesign.
TBAP are considering applying for a 16-21 Free School which will target learners, from the AP sector in London, who have academic potential. This provision would teach A-levels and support young people with Russell Group University applications.

  • To develop transferable leadership, delivery and infrastructure models for the delivery of learning in AP that might be appropriate in Secure Colleges and other organisations (provision handbook).
    A senior member of staff is involved in discussions about raising the profile of education in the youth justice system, and about sharing best practice from the AP sector.
  • To develop income through the trading of services such as knowledge, resources, training, support and expertise to other schools and organisations (provision handbook)
    Visitors are charged to come to see the school and for consultation on specific areas such as behaviour management. TBAP had a stand at the Academies Show and at the PRUs AP Conference where a senior member of staff also delivered a seminar. A Senior member of staff is chairing a seminar at the Youth Justice Board National Conference.

There is a strong emphasis on learner voice at the provision. A young person generally welcomes visitors and answers their questions, as Bridge staff feel that the young people can give visitors a unique insight into the academy. Learners are consulted on key aspects of academy life..

A good education is presented as an entitlement to the young people. In every classroom there is a declaration of what learners can expect from teachers.

The academy is high profile. The students are very proud of it. It gets lots of positive exposure and it will be featured in a BBC television documentary in January 2015. The BBC has been filming in the school for a year.

A senior member of staff believes that changing to academy status has played a positive part in raising the profile of the school. As a DfE-approved academy sponsor, they sponsor PRUs that require improvement to become AP Academies and have the capacity to support converter AP Academies wishing to join the Trust. They have had over 77,000 visits to their website from more than 83 countries. They have 1,167 twitter followers. They have appointed a local PR company to act as their press office.

In 2013 TBAP staff held a vision day with all staff and selected students from across the three sites. Everything on this day was shaped by the attendees – the goals for the day, setting the agenda, with different people volunteering to take the lead on different parts of the agenda. Their vision came out of this day.

A senior member of The Bridge staff is involved in wider AP work at the government and inter-agency level. He is speaking at a conference in October 2014 and is sitting on the panel at the School Leaders Summit at BETT 2015. He co-chairs the AP reference group that has been set up by the Department for Education. This group meets every four months and in 2014 were invited to a reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister at which ‘Excellence in State Education’ was celebrated.The Bridge and Latimer are both finalists in the Pupil Premium Awards.

Staff are “working with Challenge Partners to develop a bespoke SEN and AP review tool and to develop a research based, nationally recognised assessment data standard for use in AP and Special schools” (head teacher’s report).

 

Notes:

[1] The head teacher’s report provides data on the characteristics and achievement of pupils in the school, evaluates the school and discusses future plans and events.

[2] http://www.capita-sims.co.uk/

[3] http://www.bluewaveswift.co.uk/

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