News & Events
The Impact of COVID Absences
As you may be aware COVID cases are at their highest level nationally since the pandemic began. High case numbers and the resulting isolation periods have a significant impact on schools and their staffing levels. This issue is particularly difficult for a small school. When staff are told to isolate this removes them from our team. In ‘normal’ times we would be able to cover internally or alternatively employ supply staff to cover their lessons with support. Currently, employment agencies are not able to offer staff to us.
Sadly, this means that when staff absences reach a certain level we are unable to teach our full curriculum as we cannot cover every subject or class. Our current level of teaching and pupil facing staff daily absence is currently averaging over 40% on our Kingsland Campus this term and 17% on our Stotfold Campus. In this situation, we have to make difficult decisions about how we can teach our pupils and your children. Some of these decisions will cause disruption to their education which is the last thing we would wish. As always we are grateful for your support.
Isle Of Wight Trip
Earlier this term ten students along with Mr Bell, Mr Davis, Mr Middleton, Miss Mckenzie and Mr Greenwood went to the Isle of Wight for two nights and three days of adventurous activities developing an awareness of the importance of teamwork and communication skills while providing experiences never had before. During the days students got to participate in a range of pursuits such as abseiling, zip Wire, a giant swing, trapeze, kayaking and the Vertical Challenge and at night time there was a beach trip and swim and a visit to Sandown pier where everyone had time to enjoy time the traditional arcades.
Ministerial Visit to The ACB
We had the honour and pleasure to host Will Quince, the new Minister for Children and Families, and our local MP Richard Fuller at The Academy on 12th October. They toured our facilities and met with students to listen to their experiences of mainstream and alternative provision first hand. The Minister left "impressed with the attitude and ambition of the students" and grateful for the cookies made for him in our Hospitality and Catering commercial kitchen.
MacMillan Coffee Mornings
A successful coffee morning was held yesterday morning raising funds for Macmillan Cancer. Catering and Hospitality students baked treats in preparation for the event and served members of our local community in the first of three such events.
Netballers Make The Superleague
This term we were lucky enough to have a visit from Jo Trip, the Saracens Mavericks and New Zealand A team netball player. Jo is receiving sponsorship from the Heritage Netball League, Miss Butler-Smith's league, and is currently working with local schools. Jo spent an afternoon with our students teaching them netball skills, court craft and we finished off with a game. The afternoon was so successful for both Jo and our students that we have been offered a session every term for next year. This is an exciting opportunity for our students and teaches our girls that sport can be a lifelong experience if they wish. We are very grateful to have Jo working with us and hope that next year's activities prove to be as engaging for our students. We could have the next England Rose squad member within our school.
What Our Parents and Pupils Say
Some recent testimonials from our Parents and Students:
"There has been a calm that has come over the house in the past 10 days or so and I believe this is a reflection of the effort and time that has been put into (YP) by yourself and the other teachers at ACB over the past 18 months or so We loved seeing his progress the other morning and wish we could have stayed longer to see it all, he was so proud and we were so proud of him. Thank you so much. Thank you for investing in (YP) and believing in him." Jun 22, 2021 Parent.
"May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been working with (YP).He is really enjoying his time at ACB and this is the first time in his whole schooling that he actually wants to go to school and is actually giving me some feedback!" Jun 21, 2021 Parent.
"Thank you so much for the effort you have put into me and the opportunities you’ve provided me with words can’t describe the experience but I’ve loved it...I’ve never had someone care for me for this long so thank you again!! It’s been a good journey with plenty of ups and downs on the way but it’s always felt like a family and I love it . Please continue doing what you lot do best and I hope you help many more kids like me out for the last time thank you." May 28, 2021 Student.
"I would like say a massive thank you to everyone at ACB for all your help and making (YP) feel welcome, relaxed, and for taking the time to see the real (YP). Since Thursday there has been a huge turnaround in her, she is now so much more positive and enthusiastic about her future and education, she is so much happier and more her old self, I feel like I’ve got my daughter back, words cannot express my gratitude." May 4, 2021 Parent.
“I just wanted to send a quick email to say thank you for all your help and support whilst (YP) has been attending ACB. I know he has had some rocky periods however, (YP) doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone at the school and hopefully now he can go onto the success I know he is capable of back in main stream school with the help of his new provision. (YP’s) card was delightful to read and I myself and (YP) are very grateful. If you could please pass on my email and my thanks to all of the teachers and support workers involved with (YP) for the short period he has been in attendance and I wish you all the very best for the future.” Apr 27, 2021Parent.
"My life has been really difficult but things are much better since I've been coming here. I know when I get here in the morning all the teachers and staff just want to help from the minute you arrive." Apr 23, 2021Student.
AP Quality Benchmark Toolkit
The Academy has been consulting over the past year with The Centre For Social Justice, a Westminster based think tank, on the Alternative Provision Quality Benchmark Toolkit. This summary document was published on 14th May and the full report is expected in the year. It is intended to establish a framework which enables the development and quality assurance of AP on a national scale. The ACB is noted within the document as a contributor. The Centre for Social Justice are the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alternative Provision and Exclusions.
The summary document can be found here
Boxing Saves Lives
For the past 4 weeks students at the have accessed some onsite and offsite Boxing sessions through Boxing Saves Lives. Our students have represented the school exceptionally well. They started the first session with a warm up before moving on to some skipping and shadow boxing. The main part of the session was some work on the punch bags whilst the coach took people into the ring for some 1:1 pad work. The session finished with some conditioning and core workouts. The students worked extremely hard and were very grateful to have had the opportunity to go to a gym and experience the professional set up. Students are now accessing classes outside of school at the gym to improve their boxing ability and fitness.
More Than A Few Fairy Lights
A Key Stage 3 classroom has been developing the 'Environment as the Third Teacher' principal for English and thematically associated Humanities and PSHRE. It is based on the well established Emilia Reggio's early years approach that provokes learning by providing accessible supplies and learning materials within inspiring carefully laid out classroom space, it is also aligned to the shift for '21st Century Classroom' design.
The room offers flexible seating options, toned colour schemes, displays which demonstrate student learning journeys and celebrate their work, alongside lighting which impacts on mood. Covid restraints have sadly limited what has been possible particularly with regard to shared resources, collaborative learning, and interactive displays. The aim is to further develop space for Key Stage 3 based on the science of classroom design, on layouts and routines for atypical thinkers, and to offer nurture based opportunities for creative expression. This focus has proved popular with students.
We haven't been able to get as involved in community projects this year as we have in the past because of the COVID pandemic but our construction students were able to help a local resident with this project.
"Thank you so much for taking the time in the refurbishment of the sideboard. It is a complete transformation and looks perfect in my dining room. I couldn't believe it was the same one from when I dropped it off at the school!"
Outreach: SPOC Initiative
The ACB has been working with members of the Schools Policing Team, Youth Offending Service, Violence Exploration Reduction Unit, the CBC Access and Inclusion unit and the Safeguarding and Criminal Exploitation Coordinator to develop a concept created by the ACB. The ACB is to offer a service to the Upper and Secondary Schools within Central Bedfordshire as the Single Point Of Contact (SPOC) for the discussion of concerns related to the criminal exploitation of children.
The ACB Criminal Exploitation SPOC will be able to share with a designated point of contact within schools the current contextual factors within the catchment area of each school. This will detail active gangs and their related activity, along with other time sensitive relevant safeguarding information that will be shared with other colleagues and provide greater context for student information and behaviour. The ACB is in a position to offer this outreach service because of our excellent connections with our commissioning schools and our membership of a number of groupings on the topic of exploitation.
Inclusion at The Academy
Inclusion is at the heart of everything that ACB does. This crucial area is always being reviewed, developed and improved. There have been some significant developments in the identification of needs. The GL Assessment tool EXACT is now being used with every student who joins the ACB to help identify if they may have additional needs relating to literacy. This is in addition to the CAT4 and PASS tools from GL Assessment already being used. The range of diagnostic tools available continues to grow and be updated with the Diagnostic Reading Analysis (DRA) recently being added to our diagnostic toolbox.
Two members of staff, Miss Priestley and Miss Cockcroft, have had training in using the Boxall Profile with students. This is gradually being rolled out across the school with Key Stage Three being the initial focus and long-term this extremely valuable tool will be used with all students to identify personalised strategies to use to meet their needs.
Our system of SEND Support Plans is currently under review and this is likely to be completely redesigned to integrate a number of other documents and data into one comprehensive source of information on the needs of each individual. Our experienced SENCo Mark Norwood continues to work with a range of agencies within and outside of ACB including advising on the SEND Placement Panels held by Central Bedfordshire Council.
Quality of Education Update
3 years ago we started a research informed journey on metacognition and the range of strategies that can help our pupils become independent (and informed) learners. A series of training sessions have been organised regularly (once every half term) with the aim to inform all staff of the potential of such strategies in all areas of learning: academic; vocational, behavioural and during keyworker time. These training sessions included the following:
Introduction to metacognition: awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes. This session had the focus of giving initial metacognitive strategies to apply with our pupils as well as creating a classroom environment that encourages the learners to use, explore and develop their metacognitive skills.
Metacognitive strategies: A wide range of strategies has been shared and discussed with all staff. Learning journals, reading comprehension, self explanation and chances to make mistakes are only a few of the strategies that are now part of our routine lessons. In the course of the past few years we have seen a major shift in students being more independent, less afraid to make mistakes and definitely more aware of the way they learn.
Strategies for Dyslexia and Dyslexia awareness week: specific strategies that can be applied in the classroom and during virtual learning, memory challenges and processing breakdown, secondary effects of dyslexia were only a few of the topics discussed during this sessions. Students responded beautifully with great participation to the Dyslexia Awareness Week, contributing with their own personal experiences and recognising the support received within the academy.
Equity in Education: recognising that the pupil attending the academy are amongst the most vulnerable in society, an interactive session has been organised to discuss the different kind of social injustices we are dealing with when working with our pupils. The different aspects of equity in education (equal chances and opportunities as well as overcoming barriers) have been addressed with a focus on fairness and inclusion which are crucial in all aspects of education.
Metacognitive strategies for Life: research based revision strategies to help our students achieve the best grades in the time they have left within the academy. These strategies, including the Eisenhower Prioritisation Matrix, Avoiding Distractions, and the Frayer Model will be shared with all staff together with a bank of resources that can be applied within subjects but also to prepare our pupils for their post 16 life.
Since the implementation of these training sessions we have seen an increase in engagement and a decrease in behaviour criteria that is kept under constant scrutiny. We use these strategies as opportunities for our students to have a personalised and meaningful journey that will help them become independent and aware members of society.
National and Regional Recognition
Following the visit of the President of the National Association for PRUs and AP Schools last year the ACB has continued to engage locally and nationally with alternative provision strategy. The ACB were asked to present at a Westminster Insight conference on ‘Improving Outcomes, Building Partnerships and Navigating OFSTED’ to an audience of Local Authorities, Educational Trusts and schools from across the country.
As part of the relationship which the ACB has been developing with the Centre For Social Justice, a Westminster based ‘Think-Tank,’ we were also invited to join a round table discussion with Vicky Ford, Minister for Children and Families to discuss post-16 provision for alternative provision pupils and how this could developed to support the transition of pupils. This led to an invitation to the first meeting of the newly created All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Exclusions and Alternative Provision. The groups initial enquiry will be into the quality of alternative provision in the country which The ACB will be supporting.
The Academy has played a consultative role in the development of a forthcoming AP Quality Benchmark Toolkit which is designed to be a template for establishing national standards for alternative provision and we will be named as a participating organisation in the published document. The Academy has also joined a newly created national AP Research Group based at Leeds Beckett University and led by Professor Damian Page.
The ACB was requested to be a member of the East of Anglia OFSTED Headteacher Reference Group, the purpose of which is for the panel to provide a response to proposed governmental policy changes.
In February we were asked to present our work to reduce restrictive physical interventions by the British Institute of Learning Difficulties (BILD) as part of their Restraint Reduction Network, to 167 schools, organisations and individuals from across the country. The ACB has been invited to lead further presentations and discussions in this area. Feedback from this event was overwhelming positive:
“Use of real-life examples from the presenters to support the explanation of how behaviour data is used to inform decisions which will ultimately improve students' learning experiences at the school.”
“It is so good to hear education providers recognising and attending to relationships.”
“What an absolutely wonderful presentation. You had me hooked the moment you said about your environment being about learning not behaviour. You then said the ‘L’ word and spoke about your pupils as human beings. Inspirational. As a former teacher, this is the stuff that motivated me to work in the additional needs world. Thank you.”
The ACB has representation on the strategic board of the Violence Exploitation Reduction unit (VERU), the Organised Crime Group Partnership Board meeting and the Serious Youth Violence Panel, involvement in these groups allows the ACB to adapt it’s practice operationally and strategically to attempt to safeguard students from the risk of criminal exploitation.