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We’d like to share with you the success of one of the projects the VVU has recently supported with funding. The Olive Academy in Thurrock offers alternative education provision for young people who have been excluded from secondary school. Schools can refer into the Academy. This is the only provision of its type in Thurrock that deals with permanent exclusions or supports those with medical conditions that effect behaviour which results in exclusion.

The Olive Academy can take a maximum of 96 children, currently they are supporting 75 young people and this number is expected to rise.

The VVU funds a specific outreach programme at the Academy. Through our secondary prevention workstream, we funded two members of staff who go off site to visit schools across Thurrock to support specific pupils to prevent them from being permanently excluded.

In the academic year Sept 22 to July 23 the outreach programme worked with 154 children who were either at risk of being excluded or had already been permanently excluded from mainstream education. This involved the young people attending an eight-week support programme for two days a week.

Out of these 154 pupils, there was an incredibly high success rate with 152 of these pupils going on to college, apprenticeships or back to mainstream education. Twenty seven of them began training in hair and beauty or construction – all the girls doing hair and beauty left with a level two qualification. Sixteen pupils were identified as needing more targeted support and as a result of accessing the outreach programme were provided with more focused one to one support package.

Out of the 154 pupils that the outreach workers engaged with, only two of them went on to be permanently excluded, one of whom is now in the academy fulltime and the other is working towards transitioning back to a mainstream school.

Part of the success of the Olive Academy is the way both the academy and outreach provision takes a whole family approach, involving and including parents and social workers – as well as the child – in any discussions and plans.

Most of the exclusions that the Academy supports are linked to violence and drug use, and young people not engaging with education.

Those who do get a place at the Academy, attend the school for 25hrs a week with the goal to get pupils back into mainstream education. For those who are excluded in Y7 and Y8 the goal is to get back into school within two school terms, for Y10 and Y11 the goal is within a term and a half.

The young people at the Olive Academy study a “normal curriculum” but also have extra subjects on offer such as animal care and food technology. Young people get opportunities to try new and exciting outdoor activities including team building, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and trips out to places such as the dry ski slope. There are lunchtime clubs such as gaming, football and table tennis.

Onsite therapists in areas such as speech and language and mental health can provide extra support to students. This is all part of the extended support and package of care to identify any issues that could prevent pupils returning to mainstream education.

The school provides a term time breakfast club, a hot meal at lunch time and snacks throughout the day.  This support is also extended to the wider family, described as almost a comfort blanket around the family, with coffee mornings, support to access housing support, food banks and financial advice. The school is also open during the school holidays, and a school uniform is provided for the young people attending – all small extras designed to make it easier for the family and young person to attend the school and access support.

The Olive Academy aim is to transform the lives of children and young people for whom traditional teaching methods have not worked, the results of the Outreach Programme show how successfully they are doing this.