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Funding to support vulnerable children in education

Six primary schools across Blackpool have received funding from the charity School-Home Support (SHS) to help get vulnerable children with low attendance rates back into education and ready to learn.

The money will finance three SHS practitioners who will work closely with pupils at Christ the King Catholic Academy, St Cuthbert’s Catholic Academy, Westminster Primary Academy, Stanley Primary, Gateway Academy, and Mereside Academy.

To ensure each school is fully invested in the programme, they will be asked to contribute 25 per cent of the funding. This support from the charity comes at a crucial time for young people in Blackpool, following the school closures throughout the pandemic.

Over the past 12 months, the demand for SHS Practitioners has quadrupled, seeing them work tirelessly beside the council to make sure families have received help.

SHS provided bedding, furniture, emergency items and school supplies to those in need, including computer devices and IT equipment to reduce the home learning gap.

Blackpool Council partnered with SHS in 2019. In this time, they have already helped 366 secondary school children with their attendance and behaviour.

Practitioners are now hoping to deliver similar results in primary settings.

A referral to SHS can be made for one of four reasons, including:

  • Risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream education
  • Risk of elective home education.
  • If the child is at risk of failing a managed move
  • If they are new to the area, a young person can be referred via IYFA (In Year Fair Access)

Once a referral is made, the outreach frontline experts step in and work alongside the children and their families on problems beyond the classroom, which ultimately affect the child’s ability to learn.

This can take on many forms, such as:

  • Raising the child and their parents/carers’ aspirations by introducing career pathways and useful skills for employment
  • Reducing the impact of poverty by delivering technology or making food bank referrals
  • Helping parents into employment with CV and interview support

As a result of SHS’s support intervention in Blackpool, 73% of the young people at risk of permanent exclusion have remained in education, while engagement in learning has improved by 85%.

This is a huge step forward in Blackpool Council’s Education Strategy and Vision 2020-2030. This aims to offer mental health support across all schools, reduce exclusions, and improve career pathways by lessening the number of children who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

girl in pink sweatshirt

Jennifer Markham, lead caseworker for Blackpool Aspire Academy who has worked closely with SHS, said: ‘As an Opportunity Area, Blackpool has been fortunate in securing funding for the Team Around the School project, which has benefitted Aspire tremendously by reducing the number of exclusions, improving attendance, and supporting pupils to learn in school instead of being educated at home.

‘The service providing the support for young people and their families: School Home Support, has improved outcomes for 60 of our young people who have graduated from the programme.

‘The service continues to support our 49 currently active cases through getting children to engage with attending school and promoting positive attitudes and helping build up resilience.

‘This improves a child’s progress in school helping them to achieve the best of their ability, also supporting the families with other issues regarding home-life, which has an impact on the children.

‘This service has helped so many families and encouraged parental engagement with the school and the children learning and school attitude. This is a service Blackpool has missed throughout the years and it’s been an outstanding opportunity to work with the team.’

One young person who benefited from the service is a girl called Hattie. She was referred to SHS for her behaviour in school. Hattie was struggling to control her emotions and found that she had few aspirations for her future.

Her mum was in a similar position and through SHS intervention, it was found that there had been domestic violence in their background which had badly affected the family.

The SHS Practitioner took both Hattie and her mum to a college open day which offered Hattie the chance to find inspiration and her Mum the opportunity to sign up for an NVQ Level two course.

They have also accessed support throughout the pandemic, with the outreach team providing food parcels for the family as well as collecting Hattie’s homework from school.

Her behaviour in class has since improved, and the family are now receiving the help they need as the schools reopen.

Cllr Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council and cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome three new SHS Practitioners to six schools across Blackpool.

‘The work they do has already helped hundreds of secondary school students and their families in the town, so it’s an amazing opportunity for us to expand this into primary settings. The earlier we can build resilience within families and maximise educational opportunities for children, the better.

‘We hope this support will turn around the lives of families in need – especially during such uncertain times following the pandemic. It’s crucial we do everything we can to ensure children and their parents are getting the help they require now to raise their aspirations for a brighter future.’

Photo Credit – Jonathan Borba

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