Making a World of Difference: Greenwood School Case Study
"We can't speak highly enough of what Academy21 has to offer"
Tom is the assistant headteacher at Greenwood School in Southampton. He has responsibility for learning outside of the classroom, which includes overseeing alternative provisions. Tom works closely with Michelle, who leads their GOLP programme (Greenwood Offsite Learning Provision) using Academy21.
We were keen to speak with Tom and Michelle about their experience of working with Academy21 to meet the diverse needs of their learners.
Three years ago, Greenwood started working with Academy21. They were looking for high-quality learning provisions to support students who were unable to access traditional learning for various reasons.
Greenwood supports students who have behaviour issues, while others are finding school too overwhelming and perhaps feeling unsafe in their setting. Some learners are medically unwell, physically or mentally, so are unable to attend school.
There are also pupils with special educational needs (SEN), perhaps with education and health care plans (EHCPs) who are awaiting placements in special schools. Some students have disengaged with education altogether and have an attendance rate of zero per cent.
Greenwood School also supports feeder schools as part of its wider outreach provision. They had previously been using tutors to provide one-to-one sessions with learners outside of the classroom. This approach limited the number of pupils they were able to support and, as the number of learners in need of alternative provision grew, it became harder to fulfil that need.
Easy-to-access learning yet personalised opportunities in the core subjects were needed for all these pupils. A provision that could support children’s mental health and wellbeing, and build their confidence or faith in education, was required – all while catering to individuals’ academic needs and learning styles.
In Tom’s words, “Implementing the Academy21 provision for learners is incredibly easy!”
Most of the students at Greenwood school access their learning from home, with Greenwood providing laptops for those who need them. Each learner is assigned a key worker, who liaises with the parents and students to assist them with getting started. These key workers visit weekly to check on the learners’ wellbeing, their levels of engagement with the learning and to speak with them about the pitch of the lessons, as well as discussing and exploring the barriers the students have in accessing mainstream education.
Tom and Michelle say that flexibility and good communication are key to the successful implementation of online alternative provision. Students’ needs change, and their learning programme needs to adapt to those changes.
Responding to learners’ needs, Academy21 has been able to get students set up with online learning programmes at lightning speed – in some cases, overnight – in order to get children back into education.
If a learner with medical needs can’t attend lessons at a certain time Academy21 will structure their timetable around to take their other commitments into account.
Michelle tells us that a student experiencing high levels of anxiety might re-engage with education by initially participating in only one of their four weekly sessions. As their confidence grows, the number of lessons per week can be increased. Overtime, a student may also add in a second or third subject as well.
Modifying the level at which a student is working is another real strength that Tom and Michelle cite about Academy21. A student who is referred to Greenwood’s GOLP programme may not have the most accurate attainment data, meaning adjustments are needed to pitch learning appropriately.
“We’re so lucky to have two really strong contacts at Academy21; Kris and Paula bend over backwards to do whatever we need. We can ask them anything, however small, and they’ll accommodate us. Those things might seem small, but they can make a big difference to a student’s education.”
Of course, no one could have predicted three years ago that the pandemic was just around the corner, bringing with it heightened anxiety and lost learning for so many young people. The legacy of the lockdown and the impacts of COVID-19 continue to be an issue. The number of children and young people who experience emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) has dramatically risen, and offsite learning provision is in greater demand than ever before. As Tom states, “A lot of learners lost a lot of learning time and are comfortable at home now, so it’s not an easy cycle to break.”
“Academy21 provision reinstates routines children have missed; it gives children a timetable and some structure, providing a school-like experience even if they are unable to be in school.”
In some cases, the positive impact of alternative provision is almost immediate. One Year 11 pupil with significant medical needs which prevent him from attending school has been able to get back on track with his studies after just a few weeks. He can complete learning online at times that fit around medical appointments, and he was delighted to learn that his goals of sitting and passing his GCSEs can still be achieved.
Another learner who had been out of education for a long time made great strides in his maths progress using Academy21. He moved up two maths classes. Tom adds that this made a huge difference to his overall outlook on his education.
“Academy21 has been a lifesaver for our learners. When we have visited learners in their homes, we’ve seen how grateful they are for the support and the opportunities that have been opened up for them.”
Learning with Academy21 directly impacts Greenwood and its feeder schools’ attendance figures, particularly for EBSA pupils. A six-week cycle of lessons for a child who isn’t attending school at all can be a total game-changer. Routines are re-established and the student is often then able to go back to school full-time.
Greenwood also use Academy21 as a reintegration tool. For a child who’s been out of school for several months, it can reinstate those routines and mindsets necessary to prepare them for moving back into school. Academy21 lessons can continue in the school setting until the pupil is ready to fully rejoin classroom lessons with their peers.
Why We Continue to Use Academy21
Quality of Teaching and Learning
Academy21 supports learning at a range of levels – not just GCSE – and offers more than English and maths. One student who was struggling with her science was able to access online provision in Entry Level Science to build the foundations of learning, suited to the level at which she was working.
Tom says that student feedback on the lessons is very positive. If a pupil is struggling, Academy21 adapts to their needs. Pitching the level of learning is essential, but Academy21 teachers know when to go above and beyond to engage individuals.
“We had one boy with Special Educational Needs working on the Academy21 programme, who really struggled with his maths. We worked alongside Academy21 to implement a reward system centred around his big love – Pokemon!”
The teachers build a great rapport with the learners; students at Greenwood often comment on how friendly the teachers are, how they check on their wellbeing and progress and how they make them feel at ease during the online sessions.
Reporting and Monitoring
The lesson-by-lesson feedback from Academy21 teachers about pupils and the reports that are produced weekly provide Tom and his team with information about students’ engagement levels and attainment. The graphs that are produced are a really useful measure of how a student is getting on, especially since Greenwood staff are often not present during live lessons.
The half-termly reports are detailed and informative. Michelle shares these with the feeder schools, and together they are able to assess progress and plan the next steps for individuals.
Value for Money
Greenwood School also uses Academy21 as part of its wider outreach to support their feeder schools. They can now more than 30 students with the ability to easily increase capacity, whereas their previous home tuition model would have only been able to support five or six learners.
“Through Academy21, we’re now helping all of our feeder schools with students that they’re struggling with, which we may not have been able to do without that service.”
Tom states, “We’re happy with the value for money Academy21 provides: the cost of Academy21 provision is in line with the funding we receive for the students, meaning we can offer, for example, an English and maths package (which a lot of students are on) using the funding we have received for them. Reaching a larger number of students is what makes it cost-effective.”
When it comes to safeguarding, communication is key. Academy21 contact Greenwood School immediately if they feel there is a safeguarding issue.
Tom says, “The Academy21 teachers do an incredible job of letting us know if they have any safeguarding concerns. We can then follow this up with the student’s key worker. The weekly face-to-face meetings between the key worker and the student then allows for follow-up checks to be carried out and concerns can be addressed through our school process accordingly.”
Mental Health and Wellbeing
The positive impact on the wellbeing of the individuals who are supported by Academy21 is clear to Tom and his team.
“Academy21 builds confidence where there was no confidence. It builds back positive relationships with teachers, as well. Students are aware that their Academy21 teacher actually genuinely cares about them.”
In terms of mindsets and expectations, Tom tells us that Academy21 opens up possibilities for learners but also helps change the mindsets of some parents. Parents may be disengaged with education, too and may have lost faith in their child being able to achieve academically.
Working alongside Academy21, Greenwood School is changing mindsets, opening doors and restoring self-belief in their learners.
“We can’t speak highly enough about what Academy21 are able to offer.”