This statement has been written by Catherine Wilberforce, Assistant Headteacher Key Stage Three and is supported by Mr Andrew Bull, Headmaster, John Taylor, the Deputy Headmaster For Teaching and Learning and Jack Durant Assistant Headteacher for Inclusion.
The items listed below are key points in support of this application.
There have been historical, long-standing issues with the school being an all boy school 11-16 (with a mixed sixth form) and the amount of ‘soft skills’ the boys are exposed to. It used to be a very male dominant environment and as such had developed certain traits. As the demographic of our school has changed over time, so have our pupils’ needs. The school is moving in the direction of greater diversity and inclusion and there have been improvements to the pastoral system to reflect this; however we are still striving to improve our relationships with young people and their parents.
For students who have demonstrated poor behaviour or engagement with school we offer meetings, pastoral support plans and tutor reports/reflective logs as we want to foster an environment of support and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Notably it is of huge concern to us if they do at times, get sent home or taken out of lessons. There are clear repeat offenders and these are the young people we would like to work with further.
We have to balance the needs of the disruptive child with the needs of other students so it does become a necessity to repeatedly remove them from lessons, even though it directly affects their development. We recognise however that it rarely does the child ‘any good’ and does not stop them from ‘reoffending’ and usually starts them on the road to a reduced timetable or removal from the school, and of course directly affects their attainment.
The cohort has a poor attendance record due to several students struggling to get into school on time and either truanting lessons or having long periods of unauthorised absence. Parents are not always easy to contact and on the occasions where a child cannot return to school or normal lessons unless a parental meeting has taken place; can take several days. The poor attendance and attitude of many of the students has lead to poor outcomes in their end of year examinations.
Engagement in lessons has also been a major area of concern with continuous reporting of low-level disruption during lessons. Looking at behavioural logs on SIMS disruption often comes in the form of not being able to follow instructions, fighting or general lack of work engagement. There have also been significant issues with Year 8 students bullying the new Year 7s. The Year 8 students in particular seem to struggle with their physicality, are ‘awkward in their bodies’ and often display the incorrect emotional response to situations. We want to have a nurturing school and because we are small in size most children know each other as do all staff. It is therefore unusual to have such a large group of pupils involved in systematic bullying of younger students. There is also a significantly higher proportion of students with social and emotional problems in this cohort and we have many of the students already engaged in sessions with our school councillor. We are trying to change the culture of the school by addressing the above problems before they digress into long term removal from school but the amount of students causing concern is significant.
The CORE project offers us a way to work holistically with students, parents/carers and members of staff. This is very much the direction we want to take and is reflected in the hiring of new Head of Year staff this year who indicated this is how they want to work.
Historically we have had gaps in staff training in forming positive relationships with challenging students as well as problems with communication with parents. This was again recently highlighted through a questionnaire set up by our board of Governors. We seem to have a piece-meal approach to this and this does allow for situations to arise where not all parties are contacted and involved.
Having worked with Leo we are struck by his conviction, vast experience and ideas on strategies on how to reach our young men. We really do feel that this innovative project where Leo would be the key driver in something that could really help develop these young men. He has a way about him that is extremely engaging and calm and we believe that he will be able to develop a template that could turn around the life chances for these boys and cohorts to follow. We have really appreciated his hands-on approach within the project and are keen to see this project through to fruition.
We have already developed a positive working relationship with Leo and are fully committed to the project being supported and developed in our school in the way it needs to in order to work as designed.
At The London Nautical School we strongly believe that this could be the key to working with disenfranchised students who have extremely low self-esteem and are consistently making poor decisions. A fully immersive project such as this is something we believe could actually unlock these pupils and allow them to flourish. We currently don’t feel like we have the capacity (in terms of time and skills) to provide what these young men need and this frustrates and saddens us deeply. This project could be their last chance. The staff are willing and able and would be fully behind this type of innovative project. We have changed how we deliver English and Science lessons (the students get to choose their teachers), we offer ‘unlock achievement badges’ to help reengage students, we have an SEN department who gets excellent results of their GCSE cohorts and we feel this project would complement all these initiatives and help build on our fundamental desire to build positive relationships with our young people and significantly reduce our short and long term exclusion figures. We don’t want to fail the young men who need us most.
The legacy of this CORE project really excites us as we see it as a pilot scheme that we can build on and embed in our education offer for some of our most vulnerable students. It has moral imperative and Leo exudes authenticity and his passion for this project gives us the confidence to back it fully.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information.
Assistant Headteacher, Key stage 3
The London Nautical School