The Reach Foundation are currently exploring the opportunity to bring the best practice within the Reach Children’s Hub and Reach Academy Feltham to support young people in the Youth Justice system.
Rebecca Cramer, Director of Education, has contributed extensively to the development of the Secure School policy and is leading our work to explore how we could contribute in this sector. We see huge synergies with the other elements of our work, as per the diagram below.
We see the following elements as critical to any setting we might develop:
Loving, boundaried and professional relationships
We believe that young people need love, boundaries and excellent role models. We use first names at Reach Academy and our behaviour approach is typified by ‘warm-strict’. We are trauma- and attachment-aware and work with staff to ensure that their own life experiences do not negatively impact their interactions with children. We have strong accountability systems to ensure that all staff hold each other to the highest professional standards. We offer clinical supervision for staff working closely with our highest need children.
"We believe that young people need love, boundaries and excellent role models."
High educational expectations
We teach in mixed ability groups at Reach Academy because we do not think it is appropriate to set children based on prior experiences. We see our role as understanding the barriers to learning which exist for each child and then, with them, removing them or helping them to overcome them. We set ambitious targets for all pupils which are personal to them. We also communicate clearly to them the importance of the big picture and clear pathways. We have outstanding internal and impartial career advice and guidance and the secure school would utilise these same resources and expertise.
Excellent behaviour management systems
We operate an innovative behaviour system called ‘Payslip’ which collates daily and weekly points and converts them into immediate, medium-term and long-term rewards. This system is computer-based, transparent for the children and easily communicable to families, who can see in real-time how their child is doing at school. We would modify and utilise this system within the Secure School to encourage good behaviour.
Quality staff with high retention
Our success is down to the quality of adults we employ. We have looked at and will learn more from excellent examples of secure provision for children in Spain, Denmark and other countries. There are some things which are transferable. In particular the professionalisation of the role of an employee in a prison via qualifications such as Social Pedagogy is key. We will blur the lines between teacher and carer and focus on every interaction with an adult being of the highest quality. We will use our links with Teach First and Unlocked to bring the highest calibre graduates and teachers into the secure school. We have an excellent track record of training and retaining beginner teachers and these skills are transferable to the secure school context.
Through the Gate Provision
We feel that this is the key aspect which will define whether or not the vision of the secure school is realised. Via thorough induction processes which focus on resettlement and backwards planning from an individual’s vision of success as an adult, we will expertly plan their pathway at the secure school with them to ensure that it is purposeful at all points. We will use our ‘Payslip’ system, the Reach Hub and the 2 schools to maximise the use of and impact of ROTL. We will utilise the provision across our two schools to make sure that all children access appropriate educational and vocational courses. We will have resettlement housing, resettlement support and would seek to have our own version of a Community Rehabilitation Company on site, which would sit as an enhanced part of our broader offer of support into adulthood for all young people passing through the Reach system. We would prioritise admissions into our schools for pupils leaving the Secure School and therefore ensure continuity of care, education and key relationships.
Nurturing home-like environment
Most children will not end up in a secure school having had a childhood free of trauma. The secure school must be a therapeutic and healing environment which equips young people to mature into adults who can meaningfully contribute to society and raise children of their own. The secure school needs to feel like a home. The young people need to be able to be childlike in that home and need to be able to explore issues which have brought them there in a safe environment. Security needs to be as invisible as possible in order to ensure transition to life outside the secure school is successful.
Nutrition, physical and mental health and sport
Food needs to form a central part of the school and meals will be eaten ‘family-style’. Catering provision will be kept to a minimum to encourage healthy life-long skills to be developed in the young people. We will focus on techniques to ensure lifelong resilience. We will provide therapies to heal past trauma and unlock the potential of the young people. We will play sport every day and ensure that all pupils know how to keep themselves healthy and strong for life.
If you would be interested in finding out more or in discussing our ideas further, please contact Rebecca Cramer, firstname.lastname@example.org.