Alternative outcomes

Local students defy negative perceptions

All photos credited to Gerry Robinson

By Gerry Robinson, Executive Headteacher, Haringey Learning Partnership

It was just an ordinary Friday afternoon a few weeks back when we posted a video on Haringey Learning Partnership’s Twitter account of one of our Year 11 students performing William Blake’s haunting 18th century poem, London, to a solemn backing track which he had heard for the first time just an hour earlier.

We regularly celebrate our students’ work on social media so we didn’t quite expect the response it inspired: over 22.4k views, and more than 200 positive comments and likes. Needless to say, the student was bemused but pleased to see so many people commending him for his excellent work.

As incredible as the reaction on Twitter was, it did remind me that perceptions of alternative provision do not typically encompass the idea that students, even in the midst of a pandemic, are committed, engaged, hard-working, bright young people with aspirations, just like any of their peers in mainstream education.

It is unsurprising that perceptions of alternative provision are so poor, however. Nationally, only 4% of students in alternative provision pass GCSE English and Maths, compared to 64% of students from mainstream schools. Meanwhile, the most recent pre-Covid attendance figures averaged 64.7%, compared to 94.5% in mainstream settings.

Then there are the various news headlines featuring young people involved in serious youth violence and the horror stories which are often shared of ‘out of control’ young people running amok in classrooms.

In reality, this simply isn’t the case at Commerce House, just one school within Haringey Learning Partnership (HLP), or indeed, at any of the fantastic alternative provision schools we have been developing since we formed in September 2020.

Our approach at HLP is part of Haringey Council’s ‘Model for Change’ strategy to redesign alternative provision in the borough and to reduce exclusions, particularly for pupils of Black Caribbean and Mixed Black Caribbean and White heritage, who are three times as likely to be permanently excluded than their white peers.

If a young person is involved in alternative provision – whether that be our outreach services, a respite placement or attending one of our schools, it should be clear from the outset that this is a step in their educational journey and not a final destination; our aim is always for students to be supported to return to mainstream education, wherever possible.

In addition to social media, something which we have found to be particularly useful for changing perceptions of alternative provision in Haringey, is engaging with the community on a variety of projects and programmes. With the support and guidance of incredible local organisations such as Hope in Tottenham, Bridge Renewal Trust, Tottenham Grammar School Foundation, Bernie Grant Trust, Visual Marvelry, Haringey Play Association, Deep Black, and Collage Arts (to name but a few!), our students have taken pride this year in being part of, and contributing to, our local community.

HLP students have so much to offer and are among the most inspiring, conscientious, community-minded young people I have ever worked with. Though we don’t know what form GCSE exams will take this year, our Year 11 students still spend their lunchtimes voluntarily catching up on revision and homework. Attendance at Commerce House, which has historically had the poorest reputation in the borough, currently stands at 94%, with the vast majority of students attending school on site every day, even throughout lockdown. Not only this, but there have been no fixed term exclusions across the whole of HLP since the start of the academic year, and in the first half term alone, 13 of our students were reintegrated back into mainstream education.

Despite incredibly challenging and unsettling circumstances because of the coronavirus pandemic, all but one of these students has successfully completed their reintegration period and are now permanently enrolled in their mainstream schools.

It is important to us that we continue to build our partnerships within the borough so that our students are given the opportunity to show everyone who they really are and what they’re capable of.

For more information: Twitter @HaringeyLP

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