Reach Academy in Batley, West Yorkshire achieves Flagship School status for the second time.
Reach Academy is a well-established school for children in Key Stage 3 with Social, Emotional Mental Health (SEMH) and is part of Ethos Academy Trust (EAT) with Engage Academy and Ethos College. The school offers full time education for pupils on a short-term basis. However, this is flexible to meet the needs of all pupils. There are two main entry routes into Reach Academy; pupils access a placement following a permanent exclusion from their mainstream school or where they are at risk of exclusion from their mainstream school and are offered a time limited turnaround placement to provide intensive intervention to support individual needs. Additionally, pupils may be offered an assessment place if they have moved from out of authority and have already had some SEN needs identified, but where further assessment and intervention is needed to ensure a pupil is successfully placed in a long-term provision that can fully meet their needs. Additionally, EAT offers an Outreach service for pre-emptive work and also to support students returning back to mainstream from Reach Academy.
A Stimulating, Safe and Welcoming Environment
The Academy firmly believes that all pupils deserve the opportunity to be supported in their re-engagement with learning and school life through a stimulating, safe and welcoming environment where the curriculum is personalised to meet the differing needs and interests of all pupils. An ethos that resonates with the Trust’s mission statement, ‘Nurturing inclusive learning communities’ focussing on maximising the learning choices of all children in their care. Supported by their core values of: Leading with integrity; Thinking innovatively; celebrating achievement; improving continuously and encouraging freedom and responsibility. Staff pride themselves on offering a nurture-based approach and an educational offer that supports pupils and their families to ensure they achieve positive outcomes and are ready to move onto further success in their next educational setting. They work alongside a wealth of outside agencies and key professionals to ensure pupils’ needs are fully identified and addressed. Parental engagement is also vital to the work of the school and staff maintain regular contact with parents/carers, working in partnership to ensure pupils achieve success and become responsible citizens within school and their wider communities.
Supporting, Engaging and Raising Aspirations
It was clear from the evidence provided and from the conversations during the day that every staff member works tirelessly to support pupils who have struggled with conventional education, working very hard to support, engage and raise the aspirations of each of their pupils. It is due to the hard work and the ethos of the school in re-engaging the pupils in their care and their understanding of how to ensure that each pupil has their confidence and self-esteem rebuilt, so that over a short period of time they become responsible members of the school and that lays a much more secure foundation for their pupils’ futures. All staff continue to have the highest expectations of their pupils and provide superb nurture, care and support that enables them to make rapid progress and provides them with the challenge to begin the journey to achieve their potential, that has previously been denied them ensuring that pupils develop the skills to successfully transition to their next educational setting.
Sources of Evidence
Discussions with key members of staff was extremely useful in confirming that the Reach Academy continues to successfully address all 8 elements of the IQM Inclusive School Award. During the online review numerous meetings were held with staff to discuss key aspects of the school and its inclusivity that was supported by documentary evidence to enhance and underpin discussions. This included both factual written information/evidence and also photographic evidence showing staff and pupils involved in learning and a wide variety of activities that allowed a remote and highly positive picture of the school to be seen.
Plans for Moving Forwards
The initial in-depth, wide ranging and extremely interesting meeting with the Deputy Headteacher and IQM Lead and then the Headteacher set the focus for the review and looked at changes in staffing over the last twelve months, staff wellbeing, how the school has moved forward since the last review in terms of inclusion and included a thorough review of progress on their Flagship Plan as identified above over the last twelve months. This also include an opportunity to discuss how they had embedded nurture provision and plans moving forward that would be explored more fully later in the review. We discussed how they have been able to continue providing education for pupils during lockdowns and how they had successfully re-opened recently. The DHT shared the progress made since the last visit in revamping the building, where the school hall has been converted to provide nurture rooms and other more useable spaces for pupils and staff to use. This ensured they can better meet the needs of the staff and pupils, while also discussing the plans for increasing their outdoor learning provision with the addition of a Forest School area and the provision of Outdoor Gym equipment including outdoor table tennis tables, making the best use of their limited outdoor space and increasing opportunities for the pupils. We also looked ahead to discuss the proposed Flagship Project for 2020-21 and its outcomes.
Further meetings during the day continued to demonstrate the school’s superb inclusivity and although I wasn’t able to talk to pupils on this occasion, I was able to see them in action through the wealth of information provided by the school in terms of pictorial, video evidence and social media, from the school’s website. Staff actively and passionately engaged in meetings to discuss in depth their roles, the review of the previous Flagship plan and to talk about the Flagship plan going forward.
I met the Inclusion Manager and had an interesting and involved discussion about his strategic role, the new Behaviour Policy that was put in place after a full consultation process involving pupils and staff and a discussion about attendance and the fairly new role of Child and Family Engagement Officer that is having a very positive effect on attendance and family and parental engagement. It will be interesting to see how both roles have evolved at the next review.
The Nurture Lead and the subsequent meeting with the Senior Inclusion Worker for Nurture were able to give a detailed overview of the nurture provision that has been successfully implemented since the last review and they both talked passionately about what has been put in place and how the recent building improvements have had a massively positive impact on both pupils and staff ensuring that the environment is now even more inclusive than previously and supports the superb nurture environment that has evolved in a short period in the middle of the pandemic, that has also included training from Nurture UK around effective Nurture Groups in schools. They talked about the positive impact that Nurture Breakfasts have had on pupils where staff are seated at the table with pupils sharing breakfast but also modelling turn taking, conversations and symbolically recreating a family scenario. This has evolved to include other activities such as oracy and could include elements of yoga and mindfulness etc. It will be interesting to see how this has evolved at the next in-school review. There was a further conversation about pupils’ sensory needs and the use of bespoke sensory circuits that could be implemented, the setting up of a sensory room and an intervention room to support pupils, self-regulation and Zones of Regulation. The school was given the contact details of a school who have superb understanding of, and practice in, the use of sensory equipment, sensory circuits and sensory diets that may be of use at Reach Academy.
Passionate, Dedicated and Enthusiastic Staff
The final meeting with the DHT and IQM Lead focussed on a review of the Flagship project for 2021-22 and highlighted the school’s superb inclusivity. There was the opportunity to talk about the use of a Therapy Dog within the school that had come up in a previous conversation. The current SENCo has a registered Therapy Dog which she brings into school on a part-time basis and is extremely effective with pupils. We were able to have an interesting conversation about the use of animals in schools and in particular dogs and the positive effect they had on children in a wide variety of ways. It may be that the school will explore investing in their own dog in the future. It was a privilege to be involved in meetings with such passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic staff who see teaching as a vocation. Staff who are fully supported to achieve success and deliver outstanding support and teaching in a superbly inclusive setting. Everyone involved with Reach Academy should be extremely proud of what they achieve with their pupils and the emphasis placed on ensuring everyone is nurtured and included.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Want more information on the IQM Award? Click here to request your free IQM information pack