Visited the New Skill Centre today to see their SEN school and meet with headteacher Mark Winston. I visited their centre for adults the other week, and it was great to hear about all the work they do for young people as well at their school. When I visited, they were having a “Paws for Thought” day to raise money for the Blue Cross charity.
The centre only opened in September 2019, and their building, a former church, originally had no classrooms. They’re off to a great start. Since opening, they’ve grown enormously and have already got a good all round Ofsted rating.
The NSC supports students aged 11-19 with complex needs like autism, some of whom have been out of school for many years. They help many students who have suffered trauma causing social issues, not just those with SEND. Post-16 students do placements and often help teach younger students.
NSC has classes of about 3-4 students in a nurturing environment, offering a full GCSE curriculum. Within a short space of time, their students make progress in interpersonal skills and confidence. 95% of students’ places are commissioned by local authority, and they’re very strict on having only students suitable to the environment. They’re independent but subscribe to the funding structure for SEN pupils, giving them more freedom to manage the school and funding.
During my visit, I met James, a post-16 student who has progressed hugely and is now going for a work placement. After two years here, he’s off to Suffolk New College to study business. It was great to learn about how much progress he’s made and hear about his future plans.
I also got to see the design and technology workshops. They have a 3-D printer and CAD software, and I saw some of the impressive projects the students have worked on.
The school also works closely with parents, gives confidence and breaks down barriers. I met Emma Mirams, the assistant head who is also in charge of mental health and pastoral care, and learned about the kind of extra support they offer.
The school is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing them continue to grow and support more young people.