employment opportunities for students with SEN, West Lea also provides Supported Internships for pupils aged 16-25 across Enfield, which some of our KS5 pupils access. We work with many local employers to provide this programme which involves four days a week in the workplace, with the support of a West Lea Job Coach. This has been hugely successful in helping our students to realise their potential, reinstate belief amongst themselves and parents that there are plenty opportunities out there for them, and that they have the right skills, attitudes and expertise to make a valuable contribution to society.

Have you noticed a difference in student engagement and outcomes? Our supported internships for students from 16 up to the age of 25, have been hugely successful. Instilling belief and independence in students from the start of their journey with us has transformed their outlook and outcomes, and it’s really exciting to see how much of an impact it has on their engagement and aspirations. When we first piloted this with the upper

demonstrate the right skillset and experience, and this process can be even more challenging for those with special educational needs. That is why our teachers and staff work diligently to ensure that we aren’t simply hand-holding and promoting learned helplessness amongst students, but instead, driving a culture of independence, so that when the transition to college or work arrives, our students know what to expect and are fully prepared.

What do you do to help students build these skills? Our curriculum is built around literacy, communication, numeracy, ICT, independence, health, creativity and confidence, but above all, we ensure that those coming through the West Lea journey are as fully equipped as they can be for the real world. We use the passports alongside this to motivate the students in their learning and continual development as well-rounded individuals. This starts at primary level in Meridian Campus.

Here we embed basic travel training and cookery skills and take the children out every week to visit the shops and teach them how to handle money and budget accordingly. By the time they reach Haselbury Campus (11-

14-year olds), a number of them have learned how to travel to school independently, and many go on residentials, after-school clubs and trips. It’s important for students to build the confidence to take risks in learning, engage in activities and interact independently both within school and when out in the community. This can then be extended even further during

their time at our ‘Learning for Life’ Campus (14- 25-year olds). Here, our focus is to solidify the preparation for work and put everything they’ve learnt and the skills they’ve acquired into practice. For example, all our KS4 students take part in work experience and visit college for the day to help them experience college life and prepare for their next steps. Encouraging them to go out and experience higher education and the ‘working world’ helps them to gain a greater understanding of what to expect in the coming years, which lessens their anxiety around transitioning. In order to bridge the gap when it comes to

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school, 90% of our students ended up with jobs, and are still in employment currently. In the last academic year, we doubled the cohort that went on to securing internships and 75% are in employment, and now our numbers have gone up even more for this year. In a context of low employment rates for those with SEND, this is an incredibly pleasing outcome, as it shows we are contributing towards a changing perception, and helping society uncover the talent these children have to offer. It is so important for us to build partnerships

with organisations to not only help provide our students with these opportunities, but to challenge the status quo and get these organisations to support and champion our efforts. We’ve been working with organisations in the local area including the Local Authority in Enfield, Tesco, Nando’s and M&S, to give our students the best possible opportunities and exposure to a real-life working environment. In turn, these organisations have gained from the benefits that our students have to offer and are fully supportive of the programme.

What has been the feedback from parents? It’s just as important for us to engage and challenge parents from the start of their child’s journey too. We hold coffee mornings, host briefings and set expectations from the start; understandably, a lot of parents find it hard to let go, and often shield them as a result. However, it’s important to give students the space and time to make mistakes, understand how they learn best and use that to identify solutions. Imparting that trust, and encouraging independence is embedded across everything we do and we will help parents carry that over to home life through various strategies and resources as well. Our Ofsted report included feedback from

parents who said that although they were challenged initially, it was undoubtedly for the best and have since seen the difference and benefits it has brought their children. We have parents who are understandably anxious about their child doing work experience, but when they see their children working full-time, they can’t believe it. They come back and say how grateful they are – sometimes it just takes a bit of encouragement and persistence in order to see 9 the results and reap the rewards.

Why is this way of learning so important to West Lea? Lots of young people are incredibly under prepared and we want to make sure that those coming through the West Lea journey are as fully equipped as they can be for the real world. We try and get our students used to change

and risk so that when they go through key points in their life or experience a big transition, it’s not as overwhelming because they’ve already been exposed to it from a young age. It’s important for us to not only build skills in

the classroom but help students put it into practice. Whether this is taking them to use the local library facilities, visit the gym, go to the supermarket, learn how to book an appointment at their doctors’ surgery. It needs to be threaded throughout the whole curriculum, so that it becomes a holistic way of learning and a seamless transition as they move through their educational journey. It is in everything that we do, and we want to

be able to build aspirations and opportunities that they would never otherwise have had to broaden their horizons and help them realise the amount of opportunities out there for them and the confidence to know they can do it just like their peers.

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