In the Spotlight: Brighter Futures

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The Foundation Fund works closely with seven schools across the local area that have high levels of disadvantaged children on their registers. Through working with delivery partners, the Foundation Fund provides children with additional support with foundational reading, writing, oracy, and mathematics, as well as emotional and behavioural support. Our ‘In the spotlight’ series shines a light on the delivery partners who support our vision to improve children’s lives. This month, we sat down with Ed Harker from Brighter Futures.

Can you tell me a bit about Brighter Futures?

Brighter Futures provides specialist emotional and behavioural support to children across Bath and North East Somerset. We do this through a mixture of bespoke services including Education Psychology, assessments, therapeutic interventions, leadership consultation, counselling, staff supervision, Thrive Approach training and support for schools, nurseries, and other organisations.

Last year we were appointed as one of the Foundation Fund’s delivery partners with a focus on improving emotional and behavioural outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Since then, we have had a presence in all seven schools for at least one and a half days a week, helping to tackle any immediate concerns and working on building long-term capacity.

How has the pandemic affected the way you work with children and schools?

During the lockdowns we had to be as flexible as possible in the ways we work with schools, moving online where appropriate and creating activity packs to be shared at home, but trying wherever possible to maintain direct contact with the children and staff we work with.

The longer-term impact of the lockdowns is now becoming apparent through the rising emotional, behavioural, and speech and language needs of the children. This impact is disproportionately affecting children from vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

The pandemic also continues to affect staff who are off sick due to Covid or related illnesses, and it’s proving incredibly challenging for schools to secure the staff cover they need; senior leaders are often having to cover lessons. It’s now more difficult to recruit Teaching Assistants and Learning Support Assistants: jobs which are crucial in providing front line 1-1 support for vulnerable children. All these factors are increasing workloads for everyone, putting a big strain on the whole school system.

The Foundation Fund’s work has started at a time when schools most need this support and we’re making sure we adapt our services to meet their developing needs.

How are you working with schools supported through the Foundation Fund?

We worked with the seven schools to create a core offer that’s consistent across all schools, but flexible enough to meet their very different needs.

Our core offer is a blend of several approaches; consultancy from a Brighter Future Co-ordinator, working closely with the school’s senior leaders on short, medium and long-term strategies for emotional and behavioural development; a Thrive Practitioner working with individual children or groups; an enhanced educational psychologist offer, enabling schools to use EP expertise to address issues they wouldn’t be usually be able to tackle due to a lack of capacity; relevant professional development; and weekly forest school group sessions. These outdoor sessions have been particularly popular as children respond well to being in a different environment using different learning techniques.

The Thrive approach is at the heart of much of our work and is used in most BaNES schools. It’s based on neuroscience, attachment theory and child development and helps us to profile children and classes and create action plans to work with them to best support their social and emotional wellbeing.

What are your key objectives/ what are you trying to achieve by working with the Foundation Fund?

Our overall goal is to help improve emotional and behavioural outcomes for disadvantaged children across the seven schools. This can be measured in a variety of ways, including rates of exclusions, and attendance levels.

As well as improving children’s immediate outcomes, we want to help build the schools’ overall capacity, so they have the infrastructure in place to be able to effectively support emotional and behavioural development beyond the Foundation Fund support. We are actively looking for ways to build and share good practice across the schools, creating a supportive network for this type of work.

 

Values of kindness, courage and trust are embedded in the history of St John’s Foundation and we champion these, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion. This June, as well as throughout the year, we support members of the LGBTQ+ community in Bath and North East Somerset.

We celebrate people coming together in celebration and are committed to empowering unity and solidarity in our community

In February 2020, St John’s Foundation launched its ambitious ten-year strategy, alongside the creation of its new Foundation Fund – a fund established with the specific aim of narrowing the key stage 2 attainment gap for children living in Bath and North East Somerset.

The Primary Empowerment Programme is one of the Foundation Fund’s workstreams that is focused on providing  children with additional support with foundational reading, writing, oracy, and mathematics, as well as emotional and behavioural support. This programme is working with seven schools across the local area that have high levels of disadvantaged children on their registers. In 2021 by working together, the schools and St John’s identified six delivery partners who could provide additional support to these disadvantaged children.

Our spotlight series shines a light on the delivery partners who are working alongside the Primary Empowerment Programme schools to provide readers with an update on the work being delivered to improve children’s lives.

This month, we sat down with Cerys Stevens, Teaching and Learning Consultant at Bristol City Council.

Can you tell me a bit about Reading Recovery?

At Bristol City Council, we believe all children can learn to read and write. To make this belief a reality, we run a literacy intervention programme for children aged around six experiencing the most difficulty in literacy learning. The aim of the Reading Recovery programme is to help each child reach their age-related expectations for reading and writing within 12-20 weeks. Each programme we undertake is bespoke to the child we are working with, and specially designed to meet their exact needs. We have high expectations for each pupil enrolled on the intervention and we use careful observation and highly skilled teaching to ensure the programme’s success.

Our teachers become expert literacy intervention teachers through an on-going professional development programme. The investment for schools is a fantastic opportunity as it supports those children who have slipped through the net and are struggling to catch up. The expertise of the Reading Recovery teacher is a valuable resource for the whole school.

How did the pandemic affect the way you reach children and help them with learning?

This is a big question, with a few different answers. As we know, during the pandemic, the gap between disadvantaged children compared to their better off peers, widened.  The time spent by disadvantaged children in school is crucial. There are now more children for whom  Reading Recovery should be treated as essential.

That’s why we did our best to continue our work with our children, in person.  Many of the children we teach were still at school every day. For those that couldn’t come in and were learning at home, our teachers delivered lessons remotely. This wasn’t quite the same as our face-to-face lessons, but everyone did their best.  In other cases, our Reading Recovery teachers invited pupils into schools specifically for just their lessons.

It is essential the programme is prioritised as it is resource intensive, so there is a strong desire on the part of the school, the pupils, and us to minimise wasted time. For some pupils this is their chance to access the help they need to learn to read and write.

Why are you working with the Foundation Fund?

The vision of the Foundation aligns closely with our own. We work with children who need the most help and support, which is exactly what the Fund has been set up to achieve.

Because of the long term nature planned for our intervention, we can evidence with data the progress we make with each child and the development they’ve made. We have many case studies demonstrating the impact Reading Recovery makes to a child’s happiness and wellbeing. For example, one little boy who was enrolled on the programme found it difficult to be in his classroom due to his frustrations. After 12 weeks of Reading Recovery he was able to join his classmates, and he considered himself a learner. It was wonderful to see and hear. Although the intervention’s main focus is ensuring children meet their age-related education expectations in reading and writing, seeing the wellbeing of children simply improve is so meaningful.

Eight out of every 10 children who complete the intervention catch up with their classmates. The programme has been running in the South West for 20 years which has enabled us to learn lessons from the past and sharpens our awareness and monitoring of the present, to fine tune our efforts.

When I heard about the Foundation Fund through my colleague, we reached out and shared our data and were lucky enough to be awarded a position as Delivery Partner.

How will you be working with the Fund?

We are working with the Foundation Fund in a few different ways. The schools within the programme are already engaging so well with us.  The teachers we started training in September are already halfway to gaining their qualification. This means that when they are qualified their school will have a Reading Recovery teacher in it permanently to work with children who are struggling.

Secondly, we’ve been busy observing children in school and carrying out reviews of reading provision. We want to understand the attainment and progress of pupils, and how we can best provide provision to them in learning to read. From here we will be supporting the best possible way for each school on its own journey.  This will be by providing professional development opportunities for staff to support their pupils in the area of development that is most important to them at this time.

What are your key objectives/ what are you trying to achieve by working with the Foundation Fund?

Our key objective is to get the children we work with reading and writing in line with their peers. How hard or easy this will be depending on the starting point of the pupils, which is why our programme is bespoke to each child’s strength and needs. I have seen children make up to 2 years progress within the 20 weeks, which is such an achievement.

The Reading Recovery programme has gone from strength to strength with 8/10 of our pupils meeting their age-related expectations within 20 weeks. I wanted to share some feedback with you from children in the programme.

Teacher: “How did you feel about reading when you first started with me?”

Child 1:  “I was shy, I was not that good at reading. I feel good about reading now. I can read now. I get better when I read with you.”

Teacher comments: “It’s so nice that Child 1 can access the intervention now.  It’s taken a barrier away from their learning.”

Teacher: “Do remember how you felt about reading before we worked together? What did you do when you were asked to read?”

Child 2:  “I felt cross.  I used to run out the door.”  This is true.  Child 2 was finding school very difficult to manage.  They had very low self-esteem and would bang their head with their hand and regularly shout ‘I can’t do this’.  They were also regularly running out of class.

Teacher: “How do you feel about reading now?”

Child 2: “I feel good about the reading. I can read books now.”

Child 2’s teachers have noticed a vast improvement in their attitude to learning.  They have also been working hard in class to help them see themself in a more positive light.  There is a lot more positivity in them and they haven’t run out of class for a month or so now.

 

In February 2020, St John’s Foundation launched its ambitious ten-year strategy, alongside the creation of its new Foundation Fund – a fund established with the specific aim of narrowing the key stage 2 attainment gap for children living in Bath and North East Somerset.

The Primary Empowerment Programme (one of the Foundation Fund’s workstreams that provides children with additional support with foundational reading, writing, oracy, and mathematics, as well as emotional and behavioural support) is working with 7 schools in the local area with high levels of disadvantaged children on their registers. Working together, the schools and St John’s have chosen six delivery partners that will most support disadvantaged children.

Our new spotlight series will shine a light on the delivery partners and schools that the Primary Empowerment Programme is working with and provide readers with an update on the work being delivered to improve children’s lives.

This month, we sat down with Caroline Hamilton, Managing Director of White Rose Maths.

Can you tell me a bit about White Rose Maths?

White Rose Maths is made up of a passionate group of maths experts (we’re all maths teachers at heart). We support the education sector by producing schemes of learning, assessments, and resources to help teachers and provide training to help better their approach to maths teaching.

For the last 12 months we’ve also been part of the National Tutoring Programme, working directly with disadvantaged children across England to make up for the learning time lost due to the Covid-19 closures.

How did the pandemic effect the way you reach children and help them with learning?

When the pandemic started, we had to react very quickly, switching our attention to home learning. We made all our ‘home learning’ lessons available for free online and every lesson came with a short video showing parents how to help their child complete the activity successfully.

Our approach was incredibly successful, reaching a huge number of children and our reach was like nothing we had experienced before. We had 70 million views and were in the top 1% of Vimeo users.

We were so successful in our approach that we won the Bett Covid Response champion award and the Best Covid-19 Community Award for our response and were shortlisted for another two.

How did you hear about the Foundation Fund?

St John’s reached out to us and raised our awareness of it. There was such a synergy between our work and the Fund that we went through the bid process to apply to be a delivery partner.

Why do you think it’s a good match?

White Rose Maths has various initiatives that help disadvantaged children which is why so much of our content is free. When we heard of St John’s and its Foundation Fund, we thought it was the perfect fit. Although we are a global organisation, having such a localised area of focus is a new approach for us and working with deprived or ‘opportunity’ areas gives us a specific goal to achieve results.

How will you be working with the Fund?

So far, we have met with all the seven schools individually to understand exactly what they need. We wanted to provide bespoke training based on the information we gathered so we worked with the headteachers to understand what they needed. Since those initial meetings, we have advised on action plans.

One common theme that emerged from all schools is that they want to upskill their Teaching Assistants so that they can lead on our tutoring packages. This will reduce costs in the long run and prove more beneficial to schools – their training begins at the end of February.

What are your key objectives/ what are you trying to achieve by working with the Foundation Fund?

We have a few key objectives to achieve. The first is, our early years focus and wanting to see key improvements in continuous provision and teacher questioning. The second objective is to upskill Teaching Assistants. We want to give TAs access to the National Tutoring Programme, which helps pupils make up lost learning time during Covid.

Aligning our initiatives with the Foundation Fund helps both White Rose Maths and St John’s reach a higher number of disadvantaged children and have a greater positive impact on their lives.

Exciting British Artist Dan W Griffin today announced ‘Dignitastic! Where Art Meets a Terminal Lung Cancer Diagnosis’, an exhilarating new art exhibition at 44AD Artspace Gallery in the beautiful Roman Spa City of Bath.

To celebrate, he is gifting the city’s Royal United Hospital a unique work created exclusively for the staff and patients of the Oncology Department. The presentation will take place at the hospital in August at a time to be confirmed.

A LIFE TRANSFORMED; FIRST BY A TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS, AND THEN BY THE ONSET OF A DEVASTATING PANDEMIC & LOCKDOWN

Diagnosed in January 2020 with an ultra rare form of lung cancer, Dan, a filmmaker, had barely begun to come to terms with the finality of his existence when the Covid pandemic struck and the nation entered the surrealism of lockdown. “It had crossed my mind that the Apocalypse was upon us” Dan said, “but I had thought the same thing when a corrupt orange sociopath and former game show host was elected to the US presidency. I didn’t know what was going on with the world, I just had an impulse to paint. And so I did.”

Dan’s work is greatly inspired and influenced by the natural world and the elements, consistently reflecting a parallel between his own stark reality and the raw, brutal power and stunning beauty of the Earth. “My artistic mission is, and has always been to fill my life with colour. Not all cancers are terminal, but each and every diagnosis is, for patients, their families and their friends, dark and often frightening. It’s not much, and I wish I could offer more, but I hope my work can introduce a little colour to the darkness; perhaps a little optimism, a dash of positivity to us all.”

Dignitastic! Where Art Meets a Terminal Lung Cancer Diagnosis is Dan W Griffin’s first ever public exhibition. It opens August 24th at 44AD Artspace Gallery at 4 Abbey Street in the beautiful Roman Spa City of Bath for five days. Private and One-on-One Guided Views are available. For more information or to apply, please contact the gallery, or visit the website.