Reaching Out an Effective Use of Learning Outside The Classroom to Impact Behaviour, Attitude and Achievement in Burton PRU
At Burton Pupil Referral Unit, many of our students arrive with a history of social, emotional and behaviour difficulties. These students are often very challenging in mainstream settings. Our students often arrive, after their permanent exclusion, closed down and guarded against further failure by refusal to engage. Student’s behaviour difficulties often meet the definition of a disability and they are therefore entitled to the protection and support afforded to them by the Disability Discrimination Act DDA (2001). At Burton PRU we have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the curriculum in order to facilitate our student’s educational success. We have gone one step further and instead of fitting the student to our curriculum we have designed the curriculum to fit each individual student.
Reaching Out helps to provide motivation to students to achieve the targets set in lessons and daily key worker sessions, all students attend the Reaching out days held once a week, these sessions enable student access to exciting, challenging outdoor and indoor educational opportunities that include, skiing, willow weaving, jewellery making, indoor climbing, white water rafting, sailing, canoeing, go karting, falconry, felting and museum visits.
One aspect of our individualised curriculum was the development of our excellent [i] Learning Beyond programme into a new, Lottery funded, Reaching Out provision. The focus of Reaching Out is listening to our students, in the many ways they communicate; identifying what they want to achieve and what motivates them. Once agreed each student is provided with a keyworker who celebrates success and identify areas of challenge and focus improvement based on the student’s daily performance in lessons.
Reaching Out is not just the provision of fun off site activities; our main focus is on the preparation and post activity sessions that concentrate on the learning outcomes for each student and the use of positive coaching techniques to set individual targets. Reaching Out is at the heart of our child centred curriculum also providing the opportunity to gain accreditation through BTEC PE and supporting wider accreditation opportunities such as GCSE Science. The programme supports the development of positive and caring relationships with students, staff and their families.
Reaching Out was introduced to Burton PRU in September 2008 and evolved into the formal framework used to structure our Learning Outside The Classroom (LOTC) activities initial programme had a focus upon adventurous outdoor activities and initially took place on a Thursday, this choice of day ensured that students did not consider the activity as an end of week “Reward Trip” but rather an integral part of the working week. The choice of Thursday also ensured that we could get better value for money from suppliers as demand for their services is less. During 2010 the day was moved to a Friday and budgets were reduced to ensure value for money was being achieved. This resulted in a narrower group of staff participating in activities and some students reported a desire for a broader range of activities.
In June 2011 it was decided that LOTC activities were to be delivered by all staff with a focus on a wider range of more inclusive activities and our Learning Within project was piloted. The focus of Learning Within was cooking, art, team sports, gardening and group activities within the school during Friday’s lessons.
Early in 2015 with a successful Lottery grant of over £7000 we started to implement the Reaching Out framework. Reaching Out built on the lessons we learned from the two previous LOTC structures and sought to involve the wider school community. The LOTC day was moved to a Thursday in order to ensure that Friday could be used for associated academic and follow up work, all staff were involved in activities, parents invited to participate in selected lessons and expectations communicated to all stakeholders.
At Burton PRU the staff are required to grade the performance of students during each lesson in terms of behaviour and attitude at five set points in each day. During the period when the formal Reaching Out sessions took place (from September 2008 to June 2014) student behaviour in all lessons was described by Ofsted and staff as at least good and often outstanding [ii] . During our Reaching Out sessions the student’s scores rarely dip below 100% excellent attitude and behaviour.
Since the introduction of the structured Reaching Out lessons in February 2008 only one student has been permanently excluded from the PRU.
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that a high quality highly structured LOTC framework involving all staff and students in its planning, delivery and evaluation has a significant impact in a school wide and week wide context and is therefore cost effective in terms of student progress both in the academic and Social Emotional Aspects of Learning contexts.
2013 inspection report http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspectionreport/provider/ELS/134880