The Ridge Academy, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, part of the Academies Enterprise Trust, has achieved Flagship School status.
High but Achievable Aspiration for All
In the past year, the academy has expanded so that there are now sixty-five pupils aged 6 – 11, taught in six classes. This has resulted in the expansion of the staff team and the need to adapt and review the curriculum, use of the classrooms and learning environment. The high expectations and ambition to ensure every pupil succeeds and a positive personalised therapeutic and learning pathway, through an attachment and trauma-sensitive approach, is the overarching ethos of the academy. Much has been achieved in the past year despite the challenges of the pandemic and increased pupil numbers.
Doing Remarkable Things
Pupils attending the Ridge have been unable to engage within mainstream settings. Sadly, because of the pandemic, The RidgeAcademy has seen an increased need to re-create relationships and good learning habits. The Academy undertook a project to revisit the five key drivers of their curriculum, looking closely at each dimension. With a vision for the pupils to ‘go out to do remarkable things,’ the academy worked very hard to re-set and enhance its previous curriculum offer, to create a more holistic curriculum tailored to better meet both pupils academic and emotional needs. A great deal of work has therefore been undertaken to enhance and adjust the curriculum to meet the increasing number of pupils who have arrived presenting complex emotional needs, but also to ensure that the curriculum enables those pupils, who are now more emotionally self-regulated, to make accelerated academic progress.
Inspirational and Effective Provision
As a result, the curriculum now includes even more inclusive learning opportunities specific to SEMH. The addition of a Pathways dimension of the curriculum, on one afternoon a week provides wider experience such as ‘survival skills’ music, and animal care. The timetable now allows for interventions within the class, for example, and with a built-in assessment system, the progress of the ‘whole child’ is monitored. The information produced is used to further adapt provision and accelerate progress. All this work is based on age-related expectations with the intended aim to support more pupils to successfully transition back to mainstream education.
Detailed transition screening now includes a new Occupational Therapy (OT) screen to understand children’s sense of self, and for example, their core strengths. All the information gathered is then used to create personalised intervention programmes and adapt the physical learning spaces to better suit pupils physical, emotional, and developmental needs. In some rooms, for example, a few tables have been removed to provide alternative solutions for those pupils who find it easier to write and learn in other positions. While other pupils have sensory movement breaks or ‘tummy time’ built into their daily timetable.
Positive Mental Health Initiatives
The leaders have worked incredibly hard to embed the changes and further develop staff expertise. New staff, and especially those new to teaching or working with SEMH pupils, greatly value the high level of support and professional development provided. Inevitably, working with very troubled young people, whilst rewarding, can equally be extremely stressful and challenging. Consequently, there is a very strong focus not only on CPD delivered by experts such as the SALT, but also on staff health and well-being. In addition to a variety of different forums and mechanisms for staff to be supported, each day now ends with a 15 minute debrief. Initially an opportunity for staff to share any concerns and talk through issues, this is now developing into a ‘solution’ session rather than a ‘problem sharing’ session which fits in with the academy’s RJ approach and ethos. However, the session always ends on a positive note.
The Ridge staff foster very strong, nurturing relationships with pupils and their families. No stone is left unturned in supporting families via calls, meetings, Dojo, coffee mornings and workshops. Increasingly they are harnessing technology to develop online support to offer online training, support and share key information.
Transforming Pupils Lives
The Ridge Academy is highly ambitious, fully inclusive, outward-facing and determined, through earnest and comprehensive effort, to transform pupils’ lives. The Principal and Assistant Principals work tirelessly to use cutting edge research and external expertise to enhance their skills and the quality of its provision. Likewise, the skilled staff teamwork equally hard to create a learning environment that is personalised but underpinned by high expectations. It is no wonder that The Ridge is the ‘go to’ place for SEMH education within Gloucestershire.
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