Improving the engagement of students through a rich and varied curriculum

There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the close link between a rich and varied curriculum, and the attendance and attainment levels of young people. On any given day at our Oracle schools, students may just as well be kayaking, or orienteering as sitting in the classroom studying academic subjects.

This is because we believe there is a close link between a rich and varied curriculum and the attendance and attainment levels of our students. We have therefore developed a model which combines a standard curriculum with more practical enrichment activities, tailored on an individual basis, to ensure that we engage all our students. An important factor to bear in mind is that these are often children at risk of low attainment and poor outcomes, who may struggle within a traditionally academic setting, but whose aspirations can be boosted through activities tailored to their needs.

Within our two independent special schools located in Congleton, Cheshire and Silsoe, Bedfordshire, we at Oracle Care & Education cater not only for young people in our residential care, but also day pupils who struggle to settle in a mainstream school setting, most of whom have an education, health and care plan. With capacity for up to 35 students in each school, we have the flexibility to adjust according to the needs of the young people.

Tailored education constitutes one of the key areas of our Oracle Model, a framework we have developed which embodies our day-to-day practice and aspirations, as well as those of our young people. What we mean by tailored education is supporting the needs of our young people through bespoke, needs-led programmes, whilst acknowledging that non-academic progress is just as important as academic progress. Alongside academic timetables we offer a range of more flexible learning experiences, as well as facilitating vocational college placements for our older students. These activities may include for example:

  • Forest school - where students are exposed in a safe way to activities which may be considered dangerous, such as lighting fires, knife skills and orienteering;
  • Outdoor sports and activities such as mountain biking, fishing, birdwatching, kayaking and other water sports;
  • Music - including singing and learning to play a range of musical instruments;
  • Motor vehicle and bicycle maintenance;
  • Vocational work experience such as catering and nursery work;
  • Vocational college courses such as plastering, joinery, hairdressing and beauty.

These enrichment activities give children a better understanding of what learning means and demonstrate that learning happens everywhere and at all times both inside and outside a classroom environment. The benefits are wide ranging from learning life skills, teamwork, resilience and relaxation, to providing a better understanding and appreciation of conservation and the environment, through to developing self-esteem, confidence and respect. The young people in our care have experienced many adverse situations before coming to be a part of our community but whatever they have been exposed to they all need to feel safe and valued.

In our students' own words "It helps relieve your anger. You can chill out, have fun". "We've learned how to build fires, which trees are alive, which are dead, what woods they are - like birch or ash - and how to work as a team". One young person in our care has turned around his life completely from involvement in gangs and drugs and disengagement from education, to achieving a plastering qualification and studying motor vehicle mechanics. He now has 20 unit awards in employability skills and creative arts/leisure activities, which should greatly improve his future employment prospects. It is through the use of creative options to engage this young person that we have helped to facilitate a transition from a risky and chaotic lifestyle to a safe and stable environment.

Our tailored education approach not only benefits the young people in their social and emotional progress, but also provides evidential learning. In February, our Bedford school underwent a regulatory ISA Compliance Inspection, which was combined with an inspection of Educational Quality, and we not only met all standards under the eight areas of the compliance inspection, but also achieved the following results under the two key areas of focus of the Educational Quality inspection:

The quality of the pupils' academic and other achievements is good.

The quality of the pupils' personal development is excellent.

Underpinning our model is our ultimate purpose of Building safer lives and better futures and it is to this end that we encourage the holistic development of young people through an integrated package of care and education within a therapeutic environment.

If you would like more information about our schools and homes, or if you would like to make a referral, please contact us as follows:

Tel: 01260 296 790 (select option 1)

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