Headteacher Bernadette O’Brien describes the core themes of extended provision at Priory School and Sports College
Priory School and the Borough of Barnsley
Priory School and Sports College is an 11-16 comprehensive school in Barnsley. The school has been nationally recognised for the quality of its highly inclusive provision (DfES, 2006) and received a good Ofsted report in 2006 that praised the school for its extended provision. Priory has a sustained pattern of school improvement as evidenced in over-subscription, high Key Stage 2-4 contextual value-added attainment (currently 1024; previous three-year average 1,037), improvements in pupil attendance, low levels of fixed-term exclusions and below average pupil mobility rates.
The area served by the school is characterised by significant levels of socio-economic disadvantage. Sixty-two percent of our students come from households classified as ‘hard pressed’ against a national average of 23% (ACORN data 2007). The decline of the mining industry in Barnsley has left a legacy of high unemployment and a culture of low aspiration. There is an enormous council commitment to continue to accelerate economic growth within the borough and, to this end, education is at the heart of the borough’s ‘Remaking Barnsley’ development. All secondary schools in Barnsley are now involved in a highly ambitious Building Schools For the Future project with a transformative agenda. It was necessary when developing an extended schools model to consider and respond to the BMBC Re-making Learning agenda.
Extended school provision
A fundamental aspect of our work involves signposting to existing provision. For this to happen, it was necessary to audit existing provision and form very good partnerships with other organisations working to support local people. Developing outreach provision was another central component of our model to ensure that support was available to all, including the hardest to reach. What we aspired to, through our extended school model, was parental engagement and participation in education; raised levels of pupil, family and community aspiration; improved levels of health and fitness amongst pupils and community members; pupils and families being supported to learn and academic achievement. Generating wider outcomes was also important and the delivering of Every Child Matters (ECM) outcomes was a key driver for us.
Supporting pupils and families
Support for pupils focuses very much on early intervention and prevention to overcome barriers to learning and prevent crisis. Poor health, for example, was recognised as a potential barrier for students and so we promote health awareness information in school. As a specialist sports college we also promote health and fitness through our wide range of out-of-hours sports and fitness clubs. For those students that are not fully engaging in education for health reasons, we can signpost to health-focused provision in the locality, or if necessary, to more specialist provision such as the children and adolescent mental health service.
Our community outreach service works positively with families. Feedback from families and multi-agency partners is testament to this. For instance, a health visitor involved in outreach support has discussed how it is the gateway to support services and is instrumental in increasing families’ confidence and capacity to access those services. Outreach provision has also been particularly successful in re-engaging families in learning. For partners involved, the relationship with Priory has ‘proved invaluable in securing the objectives of engaging with vulnerable learners and the provision of community based educational opportunities’ (feedback from a partner). Other partners have discussed the creation of a strong support network for vulnerable families which was made possible by establishing clear and regular lines of communication between partners.
Community sport and health
Much of our provision promotes health and fitness and is open to pupils at Priory and to the wider community. For example, we ran a Fit-for-Life club at all six feeder primary schools; have a fitness suite catering for users aged 16 and above; offer a programme of school holiday provision involving sports camps for all children in the local community aged five to 16; run a cyclical 10 week activity club with open community access for circus skills, gymnastics, taekwando, street dance; and operated a Saturday morning club where children and young people from the community could engage in fun games, sports and rock climbing. To assist the delivery of this strand of provision we recruited a community coach. Our community coach has also, via the use of our graduate teaching programme as a career progression route, enabled us to train high quality teachers of physical education who have secured posts in local schools.
The development of this strand of extended schools provision has greatly improved the number of children, parents and community members taking part in physical activity. Sustained extended links with primary schools and sports clubs resulted in taekwondo sessions being set up at one primary school and gymnastic sessions at many of the other schools. This evidences additionality which is something we are extremely proud of. Smoking cessation is also available to pupils at Priory and this programme has also proved a success, with the number of children known to be smoking having declined significantly. Holiday and weekend sessions are well attended and contribute highly to our learning agenda in relation to re-engagement, extension and fun. The 10-week activity programme has given learners tasters, which, in several cases, have been developed, at a higher level, through core school provision or via other providers.
We have seen an expansion of the school site as a basis for community learning and this has ensured that our physical resources are used to much better effect. There are now a wide range of lifelong learning opportunities delivered by external partners including core-skills classes in adult literacy and numeracy, European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), GCSE English and mathematics, and A-level art and English. In addition we offer taster courses in a variety of vocational and sporting areas which have helped the school to identify where community learners want to focus their time, and we have organised fun-based family/community learning events. These events have brought large numbers of community members into the school, provided enormous enjoyment for learners and stimulated interest in exploring other possibilities for learning. Holiday schools in dance, ICT, literacy, music, sport are also offered and have been successful in developing skills, providing enjoyment for learners and building a foundation for future progression. In several cases, participants have grown into peer mentors. Moreover, we have built a curriculum with appropriate progression routes and there have been rapid improvements in the number of pupils making positive post-16 choices for education and training (currently 93%).
The delivery of basic skill and vocational courses was deemed important to support local people to return to further education and/or work. The core-skills classes have ensured that participants have met English, ICT and mathematics accreditation requirements in relation to person specifications for jobs and entry requirements for post 16 provision. At the same time our A-level Art and English classes have secured appropriate academic progression routes into our structure, contributing positively to the aspirations of our learners. Additionally, the A-level teaching opportunity has provided staff with good professional development. There have been several success stories of participants accessing employment after completing courses delivered through the extended school. Some of these success stories would not have been possible had we not offered childcare, in the form of playgroup and crèche provision, for young children of learners accessing our courses.
For us, achieving a great deal has gone hand in hand with learning a great deal. The box below contains our advice to other schools in the initial stages of planning and delivery.
Planning for extended provision
We had sustainability firmly in mind from the outset. It was important our bursar should have responsibility for the strategic and operational lead on income generation for extended school provision. It was also helpful from the outset to be clear about which activities learners would be charged for, and at what rates, and to ensure that the charging policy clarifies the rationale behind this. We also incorporated into our financial management system a structure whereby staff delivering out of school hours provision could be paid for this work. If you decide to follow suit, it is helpful to clearly set out what additional work is paid for and at what rate. It may also be an idea to consult with professional associations accordingly.
To secure strategic and operational cohesion, it was important for us to embed all aspects of extended school provision into the core management structures, procedures and policies of the school and fully integrate it with other school initiatives. This aim was achieved in September 2006. Initially, our extended school staffing structure consisted of a multi-disciplinary team of three FSES coordinators with responsibility for early years, life-long learning and multi-agency collaboration, led by the headteacher with support from four other disciplines (educational psychology, social services, Sure-Start and the NSPCC). The specialism that each colleague brought to our early FSES work, securing the foundation for what was to follow, was invaluable.
FSES is now led by the senior management team (SMT) of the school with delegated responsibility to the deputy headteacher for life-long learning, the assistant headteacher pupil management for multi-agency development and the director of specialism for our sports-based community enrichment programme. The headteacher takes the strategic lead for FSES development, manages the appropriate budgets and represents the school on strategic community partnership boards. At an operational level, we have a first-rate team of colleagues who realise many of our FSES objectives: ie catering staff for delivery of our breakfast club and the nutritional focus of our after school Fit-for-Life club; our community coach who delivers an extensive range of fitness opportunities and our multi-agency learning mentor who provides much needed support for parents and their families aged five to 16. Integrating extended school provision into the SMT has enabled us to secure a good level of strategic and operational cohesion across all areas in relation to the core offer provision, and a sustainable staffing model.
As we move to our next phase of development, we recognise the need to develop a staffing structure that offers increased flexibility of working hours to staff interested in being part of extended school delivery. We will prepare a policy statement prior to offering flexibility so that the process by which colleagues are offered opportunities is seen to be both fair and transparent.
An effective staffing model must ensure that appropriate administrative, technical, site and security staff are available during extended hours as the availability and the quality of the support staff infrastructure is crucial to the smooth running of the provision. We budget for support staff costs at a very early stage and find this to be enormously helpful. Other issues we attended to included allowing for a senior member of staff to be on site, or immediately able to attend the site, during all school opening hours.
The journey to our current position has been both challenging and highly rewarding. FSES provision has massive potential for Priory and for Barnsley as a whole and we have great hopes for the future; we wish you well in your venture.
Collaboration with multi-agency partners is an integral component of our work and our commitment to working with other agencies that share similar aims has helped us build support networks and ensure that referral mechanisms are in place for the most vulnerable pupils and families. Our extended school Learning Mentor is a key member of staff in actioning swift referral to other services as appropriate, in addition to offering outreach support to families. We offer myriad multi-agency support including counselling offered by the NSPCC, and the co-delivery of a Family Welfare Association, “Staying Safe” group which offers support on drug and alcohol awareness, staying safe and bereavement counselling. Feedback from users indicates that our drug and alcohol awareness programmes are having a real impact and the availability of bereavement counselling has improved significantly access to this kind of support. We also benefit from an enhanced partnership development with South Yorkshire Police, currently extending to the possible introduction of Restorative Justice into the school, in addition to much improved links with Safer- Neighbourhood Networks to share information and work together towards supporting pupils with behaviour problems in both school and the community.
Our support really is varied, but all of it was developed to meet identified need and the proposed outcomes we set out for extended school provision. As I mentioned earlier, meeting ECM outcomes is something we strive towards and we regard wider outcomes around health and safety, for example, as important outcomes in their own right. In addition to the health promotion provision already outlined, we have set up external visits for pupils to participate in the Fire Service awareness programme and have introduced an enhanced multi-agency approach to sexual health in schools. Enriching the sexual health curriculum with specialists from other disciplines has enhanced the quality of provision available to pupils and supported our in-house training programme for colleagues who are keen to contribute to our Sex and Relationships Education programme.
It was necessary to attend to a variety of factors in order to promote and engage in effective multi-agency working. For instance, in encouraging other providers to use the school as a base, we also ensured that the staffing structure contained a designated contact person with time to liaise and look after this provider. We also recognised the importance of investing in time for key staff to be represented at and involved in community meetings which are a good way to network. Moreover, it is important to explore the opportunity to engage in service level agreements with other providers, thus buying in expertise as needed in a cost effective manner. Similarly, exploring the opportunity to act as a satellite provider for local colleges brings with it a wealth of benefits. Incorporating multi-agency collaboration into our outreach work in feeder schools was also essential and we have found that it aids the process of identifying additional need at an early stage and responding accordingly.
This work with key partners has been helped due to our involvement in piloting the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) and the delivery of follow-through training and support across the borough. Applying the principles of CAF and ensuring that information is shared with key partners has really made a difference. For instance, the sharing of information with Safer-Neighbourhood Networks has helped us to work proactively with individuals displaying anti-social behaviour. The learning from our CAF pilot was shared within the local authority as the CAF process rolled out across the borough.