Liz Rowbotham looks at how extended services have worked for one community college
Hengrove Community Arts College is a mixed school for students aged 11-19. It is located in South Bristol and serves one of the most deprived areas in the country.
Just over three years ago (January 2004) it went into special measures. At that time the key issues facing the college included to:
- improve attitudes and behaviour;
- improve standards of oral skills, literacy and numeracy;
- increase the proportion of effective teaching and learning;
- continue efforts to improve attendance and punctuality.
Results at both key stage 3 and 4 were poor with 27% achieving level 5 or above at KS3 and only 13% achieving five or more A*-C GCSEs. Attendance was running at about 72%.
At this time Hengrove Community Arts College had the opportunity to become one of the country’s first full service extended schools – a move that was welcomed by the lead inspector at the time that the college went into special measures.
The full service extended school plan was immediately refocused to show how it could support school improvement in engaging with other agencies (especially health and the youth service) and in making links with parents and community members/partners.
The plan became an integral part of the post Ofsted action plan and remains key to the current college improvement plan.
A link governor has acted as a critical friend to extended service development and ‘Pupil and Community’ committee receives regular reports and updates. No separate management structure was set up as the college sees extended services as a crucial part of college life and development, not as an add-on extra.
At Hengrove we have adopted the view that an extended school is one that ‘meets the holistic needs of children and families through partnership working’.
Extended services are wide ranging and reflect college priorities. Many, if not all, have been developed as a result of student input. Together they form a jigsaw of provision that culturally reinforces the college’s ethos of ‘choices and consequences’. The aim is to provide a gateway to ‘enjoy and achieve’ and opportunities for ‘out of the box’ experiences for young people and families that encourage them to make a positive contribution and broaden their horizons in terms of economic well-being.
Partnership is absolutely essential to our approach and, although true partnership is very hard to achieve, the rewards in terms of quality of support and experiences for young people more than outweigh the emotional ups and downs, both for our partners and us.
Partnership has freed teachers up to lead learning and has enabled young people to view school and education as a valuable part of their lives.
Extended services and partnership working have brought their own challenges, concerns and successes. Governors spent time considering issues such as quality, accountability and responsibility, governance and reporting, integral policies and procedures, legislation, and health and safety.
The college was working collaboratively with partners in a range of ways:
- joint or single agency delivery of services;
- referral work delivered within or after the school day;
- accessing students to services (on or off site).
Early experiences of these partnerships showed us that the college needed to keep overall accountability and responsibility, with the service providers retaining their own professional responsibility and accountability.
However, schools and governors are not necessarily expert on good practice within a range of disciplines and fields. To overcome this we have used a range of strategies to ensure acceptable standards and compliance with legislation. These include:
- using frameworks such as Healthy Schools Standards, Quality in Study Support, and QESS as a basis for service development;
- working with colleagues who are ‘expert’ in these frameworks;
- ensuring that the lead person has the necessary professional expertise;
- regular monitoring, feedback and evaluation;
- working with partner agencies who meet their own professional quality standards;
- using the knowledge, skills and expertise of governors.
All adults working within extended services have a CRB check and provide the college with basic personal details, which include medical conditions and next of kin contact details. Service level agreements ranging in size and complexity are in place for most services; it is often the discussion that goes around drawing these up that proves as valuable as the actual SLA itself. SLAs help to ensure that everyone understands the same thing! – which is not always the case – and they provide an opportunity to explore concerns in a non-threatening way.
Partnership working takes time and goes through many phases. We are now in our third year of extended service provision and have much more work to do. However, all of the indicators, evaluations and reports (including Ofsted in March 2006) indicate that extended services are making a real difference to college improvement. Services are being deliberately designed and developed to make an impact on the barriers to learning. The college came out of special measures in March 2006 and the figures now show 50% achieving a level 5 or above at KS3, 36% getting five or more A*-C GCSEs and attendance running at 89%.
We still have a distance to go and over the next year or so extended service development will focus on:
- Learning potential. What does a successful learner look like? What are the barriers to and enablers of learning? How do we design services to reduce barriers and enhance enablers?
- Parental involvement. How can parental involvement in the college have an impact on learning in the home?
- Partnership ‘bridges’. How can the work with partners bridge into the formal learning environment?
- Working with stakeholders on college improvement planning. Using a range of tools and techniques to integrate student, parent, partner organisations and community views into the college’s improvement plan.
Much of this work has started. Using a detailed evaluation of extended services as the basis, we are currently involved in a series of meetings, workshops and dialogue sessions with partners, parents, staff, students and governors covering:
- the characteristics of a successful learner;
- what we do now and what we could do in the future;
- a mapping of provision and gaps against the characteristics of a successful learner and Every Child Matters outcomes;
- deliberate service design to enhance learning using this information.
Examples of services developed through partnership working
- School-family link workers
Employed by us and seconded to all our feeder primary and special schools (a network of 12 SFLWs in total). Their work focuses on improved attendance, parental support and involvement and attainment at KS2, 3 and 4. Two in depth evaluations show that their work is having real impact, not least because all families are now receiving the same message, from a friendly face, about the importance of regular attendance at school and the value of education.
- A drop-in centre
Providing easy access to a range of specialist support services. The School Nursing Service takes the operational and professional lead on this (through an SLA). A wide range of professionals are involved in delivery and include the school nurse, CAMHS, public health, the youth service, Connexions, Brook and the voluntary sector. Student uptake has been high with, on average, 40-60 young people accessing it during a Monday lunch hour and the college has seen a reduction in pressure on teaching and other staff to meet students’ wide ranging health and social needs. Drop-in staff are now delivering aspects of PSHE, a move that is very much liked by students, and it is proving effective in supporting and increasing the skills of teaching staff.
- Holiday activity and study support programme
Over 100 children and young people a day took part in the summer holiday programme last year. Monitoring shows that those who subsequently join the college in year 7 have improved attendance, often higher than that at their primary school. They integrate into the school well and their parents become more involved in the life of the college. Study support is coordinated to form an overall programme – teaching staff can concentrate on content as all other matters are taken care of for them.
The basis for extended services
- Partnership work, building on what already works well and creating ‘win-win’ situations with mutually shared targets
- Prioritising parental and community involvement – developing this as a cross cutting theme through all our work
- A clear link to supporting improved learning
- Change at the heart of the college led from a senior level
- Student voice – opportunities for dialogue, active involvement and delivery
- Working across local nurseries, feeder primary and special schools
- Integrated referral
- A sustainable approach with action planning reinforced by a culture of evaluation
Developing and running the drop-in – how we addressed the ‘what ifs …’
- Healthy Schools Standards used as a framework to guide and inform development and decision making.
- Guidelines developed with all partner agencies. These are reviewed and updated annually and all partners sign up to them. They cover: - Background and ‘why this service?’ - Aims and objectives - Service provision - Relationship between the services and college objectives - Costing and sustainability - Recording data/outcomes/evaluation - Confidentiality and information sharing - Child protection issues - Sexual health issues - Mental health issues - Agreement/accountability
- Appendices covering scenarios, policies, paperwork and statements
- The use of scenarios to achieve agreement between service providers and to form the basis of clear and agreed practices and policies.
- Line management by a member of the college’s senior leadership team.
- Ensuring that the plans are not over ambitious and that all partners are comfortable and are working within their own competencies.
- A link governor.
- A series of SLAs.
- Training on college policies and practices, eg behaviour expectations, ethos and management.
- Initial consultation with a range of people – all students and staff using a simple questionnaire in tutor time; parents at parent meetings; through questionnaires and also consultation events in the community; potential partners and community members.
- Regular updates.
- Annual reporting and evaluation (to include students, college staff, parents and partner agencies).
Liz Rowbotham has been Full Service Extended School Manager at Hengrove Community Arts College since January 2004. She is a member of the college’s senior leadership team and is also a non-teaching staff governor. Her experience is wide ranging and based mainly in the voluntary sector, although she has run her own business. Her last post before becoming FSES Manager was as Early Years and Childcare Partnership Lead Officer in Bristol.