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Trust switch will strengthen skills at special school

Posted onPosted on 24th Apr

A Kirkby special school has joined a leading multi-academy trust in a move that it said would strengthen skills and knowledge, and nurture existing relationships.

Bracken Hill School — rated good by government inspectors Ofsted — has become the latest school run by Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, which consists of 13 academies across the East and West Midlands.

Many of its pupils have special educational needs and/or disabilities, or are disadvantaged. Other schools in the trust include Bennerley Fields School, Ilkeston, and Holbrook School for Autism.

Bracken Hill headteacher Catherine Askham said: “We have been exploring our options around joining an academy trust. Esteem has specialist staff who will be able to help staff at Bracken Hill.

“It will be great to strengthen skills and knowledge, to share best practices that work well here at Bracken Hill, too, and to also learn from other special schools.

“We have worked hard to create an environment where children are encouraged and celebrated. We have an open-door policy and the relationship between school and parents/carers is fantastic.

“There is a real community here at the school and everyone has a sense that they belong.”

Bracken Hill School, which has 168 pupils on roll, caters for young people between the ages of four and 18.

Catherine added: “We have high expectations of our pupils. There are a lot more opportunities for young people with SEND once leaving school these days; that is why it is important to nurture relationships with external organisations.

“We have found that our pupils also learn better if they can get a hands-on experience with the topic they’re studying, before they start learning about it.

“For example, we had a giant space dome set up in the school hall for those studying space, and we also took part in a Spirit of the Stone Age workshop at the University of Nottingham, which really helped the pupils take this knowledge into their lessons.”

Older pupils are given opportunities outside of school, such as studying small animal care over 12 weeks at Nottingham College to support their work-related learning, whilst the school also runs a residential trip for students every other year.

Catherine said Bracken Hill is constantly evolving to cope with the changing demands in special education.

“We upskill our members of staff to meet the growing needs of pupils; they go above and beyond,” she added.

“Mrs McLoughlin, for example, is our community liaison officer and plays an important role in helping parents with referral applications for their child, if they need additional help, and working with local charities and food banks.

“It’s an important role and I don’t think the school could function without her.”