Enabling children to succeed in an area of high deprivation and unemployment

Jon Tait, deputy head at Acklam Grange School, explains the services and curriculum designed to give students the skills, values, experience and qualifications they need

In the increasingly difficult climate of education, we want to ensure our school remains a caring and supporting environment, which is also a pleasant place to study. We want to ensure students leave us with the appropriate skills, values, experience and qualifications to succeed in modern Britain.

Our Middlesbrough school is in an area with double the national average unemployment rate, at 3.9%. The proportion of jobless youth is even higher, at 5.2% compared with the national average of 2.3%. Middlesbrough has also more deprived areas than any other local authority in the country, with almost half of its 42 neighbourhoods among the poorest 10% nationally.

As a school we have addressed this issue with two highly successful programmes: ARC services and a PRIDE curriculum.

Preventing and removing barriers to learning to ensure our students are healthy, happy and resilient is at the root of everything we do at Acklam Grange. ARC (Achievement, Reintegration and Care) gives students universal services and personalised support packages before, during and after their time with us.

ARC also promotes equality and values diversity, acknowledging that all students, regardless of background or ability, are likely to require support of varying natures throughout their schooling. The support they require may be academic, social, emotional or behavioural, or indeed a combination. Our main priorities in delivering ARC are:
• Identification: for students to receive the appropriate support for their needs, swift and accurate identification of needs is required.
• Communication: staff at all levels require appropriate knowledge about the needs of the students they work with, to enable effective working relationships and support.
• Provision: students must have access to the best provision for their individual needs. We strive to ensure in-house services are well planned and optimise the skills of our staff. We also work closely with a wide variety of thirdparty professional services when needs require a more specialist approach.
• Respect: all students and their families are entitled to respect, and their views are taken into account at all levels.
• Diversity: every member of our community is different and deserves recognition for their individuality. We are privileged to have such a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and faiths within our school community, and we advocate that true inclusion is only possible when such diversity is positively acknowledged and celebrated.
• Balance: students are entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum. We recognise that, to achieve this, additional advice, support and resources may be necessary.
• Accountability: all teachers are teachers of students with additional needs and/or with SEN, so there is a whole-school responsibility for ARC.

PRIDE (Perseverance, Respect, Initiative, Direction, Expression) acts as a constant reminder of our core values and mission to prepare our students for life in modern Britain. This is important for us at Acklam Grange because we expect all students to strive to be the best that they can be by developing the pride they show in their work, their school and their community; and the essential characteristics that they need to be successful in life.

This is also important for local business and the future of the Tees Valley economy because employers say they want to see these characteristics in young people to increase their employability; and business leaders confirm that people who present these characteristics will be successful in the real world.

Form tutors deliver the PRIDE lessons each cycle to give our students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes required to thrive as individuals, family members and members of society. From making responsible decisions about alcohol to succeeding in their first job, the PRIDE curriculum helps students to manage many of the most critical opportunities, challenges and responsibilities they will face growing up.

PRIDE Pledge in year 7, projects in year 8, and events in year 9 represent individual and collaborative challenges undertaken in extended and PRIDE curriculum time. Led by form tutors, My Pride Pledge is an extracurricular enhancement which aims to challenge students to involve themselves in activities which will improve their confidence, wellbeing, competitive edge, and ultimately their life chances.

Honorary badges are awarded to those achieving their pledge. Students can personalise their curriculum by completing a simple questionnaire which relates to their wellbeing and the challenges of being a young
person today. The PRIDE curriculum is built directly around the results of My Pride to meet the prioritised needs of each year group.

Points are awarded to acknowledge achievement and effort both in and out of the classroom. Celebrations at the end of each half term acknowledge students’ success in relation to PRIDE points, behaviour, effort, attendance, punctuality and academic achievement. An annual awards ceremony for students and parents celebrates achievements in all aspects of the curriculum and beyond.

This article, which supports SSAT’s Fighting for Deep Social Justice campaign, was originally published as a series of case studies which explore how schools are working towards achieving deep social justice for their young people. Learn more

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