Thursday, 28 August 2014

Last Chance Academy


Last night on BBC1 was the show Last Chance Academy, a touching and inspiring insight into a school dedicated to excluded and disruptive students. And when I say dedicated, I really mean it. Those teachers don't give up.

Baverstock Academy have a promise, to get 100% of their students 5 C's at GCSE level, a seemingly impossible task. This is made especially difficult by both OFFSTEAD (who expect students to be present at school for a minimum of 25 hours a week) and by recent government education policy (which decrees that all students must achieve a pass in both Maths and English or face studying them again at college until 18).
For many of these students, attending school for two hours a day was a huge improvement on their previous situations, let alone focusing during this entire time. In 2013, 3900 students were permanently excluded from UK classrooms, so 2 hours a day for many of them was a near miracle. So Baverstock allowed them individual schedules, based on what they were capable of, not on the national minimum. So because of this flexibility from the school combined with achievable goal setting and personal support, they were getting students back into classes everyday and for increasingly longer periods.

Even with figures such as that 3900 students (given up on), the government in recent years has been increasing the weight of exams in the UK, particularly in the 3 R's (reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic), and decreasing funding and support for more practical and vocational courses. But what about engaging students like this through more practical courses, teaching them that they can achieve first and then helping them pick up English, Maths and Science on the way. In many cases, I'm sure students avoid engaging in those 'scary' subjects because of the overwhelming importance that the government puts on them and therefore the overwhelming pressure there is on students to achieve in them.

But even with the odds that Baverstock were faced with they were keeping their promise. They had some failures and missed some targets for sure, but they kept their promise with their pass rate. 100% of students received at least 5 C's, even if that wasn't enough for the government. And this was because the teachers and management of this school were so, so committed to their students. Even when 5 boys ambushed and heavily assaulted another boy, normally an inexcusable offense for any school, the staff worked out a way to keep these 5 boys in the system in the hope of breaking the cycle they were in. So what did they do? The teachers stayed after school to teach those kids after normal hours.

Absolutely inspiring and impressive, Baverstock has shown Britain that it is possible for any student to achieve, as long as you never, ever give up on them. We need more places like Baverstock, and maybe all schools can learn something from them when it comes to disruptive and underachieving students.


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