A student described by his headteacher as having “anger management issues and heading for a pupil referral unit” told the Evening Standard how he seized the opportunity to turn his life in the right direction by attending the school’s new inclusion unit.
Louis, 14, a year nine pupil at Duke’s Aldridge Academy near Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Haringey, said that last academic year he would “mouth off, get angry and get kicked out”, spending up to five periods a week out of lessons. “I was on a path to permanent exclusion but I have older siblings and one went to a PRU and told me, ‘It’s a bad place, don’t follow in my footsteps’, so I decided to give the new programme a shot.”
Louis was one of eight challenging pupils invited to attend Duke’s inaugural School Within the School (SWS) programme, designed to give disruptive students therapeutic support alongside the core curriculum in an eight-week intervention before reintegrating them back into mainstream classes.
Duke’s is part of a broader eight-school initiative funded by the Standard’s £1.2 million Excluded campaign, described by educationalists as a “potentially game-changing intervention” to drive down exclusions.
The campaign was launched in 2020 to support the creation of on-site nurture units and break the link between rising exclusions and increasing knife crime and is funded equally by John Lyon’s Charity and tech philanthropist Martin Moshal.
Each school has been given £150,000 over three years to create and staff their own unit.
Law firm Allen & Overy has recently donated an additional £50,000 for the purchase of capital items — to be spread equally among the four schools whose grants are managed by the London Community Foundation, the charity that looks after the Moshal donation.
Louis and his cohort — overseen by Duke’s SWS recruit Mark Franklin, a specialist in behaviour management — have been reaping the benefits.
Louis said: “I find Mr Franklin easy to talk to about personal things that I’ve never talked about in school. In instances where I normally lash out, I am learning to control myself, to think before I react and to have strategies to keep my cool. SWS has helped me turn my life in the right direction.”
Vondale, 13, another SWS pupil identified as having anger management problems and at risk of permanent exclusion, said: “I get top sets but I get angry over petty things and then I blow up, get sent home and put on fixed-term exclusion.
“Since I came to SWS, I am learning breathing exercises and other strategies to calm myself down. I live with my aunt and she says she sees a big change in me. This place has given me the support I need to make the best of myself and change track.”
Monica Duncan, principal of Duke’s, said the new SWS inclusion unit was working well both for students within it as well as the rest of the school. “If a student is blowing up all the time and the teacher has to spend 10 minutes every lesson dealing with him, he loses out and so do all the other students. The new unit allows us to give a struggling child proper support and also lets the rest of the class get on with learning.”
Asked about teething problems, Mr Franklin said: “Some parents needed convincing that SWS is not a punishment. The kids we chose to come have responded well. I had a difficult relationship with my dad and I share my story with the children to show you can still make something of your life. It helps the children open up and feel supported.”
We caught up with Mr Franklin a few months after completion of cohort one with cohort two under way.
He said: “The first cohort have gone back into mainstream and there has only been one exclusion, and that was for a day. So cohort one has been a big success.”
Mr Franklin continues to act as mentor for cohort one. While some of the eight chosen schools saw their inclusion unit starts delayed because of the lockdown, most have got under way and reported early successes.
Andrea MacDonald, deputy head at Beacon High in Islington, a school that had one of the highest exclusion rates in London, said: “Thanks to our new Pathways unit, exclusions are down 75 per cent.
Sixteen students have been through Pathways and these are students who can have a significant impact on the learning of others in the classroom. Now I see them engaging with the teaching. The rest of the school feels calmer.”
Matthew Godden, assistant head at Kemnal Technical College in Bromley, said their new inclusion centre started in September and led to a fivefold fall in fixed term exclusions, from 23 per cent to five per cent. “Sixty-two students have engaged with our centre. We are making real progress.”
Cresta Hurt, assistant headteacher at Kingsbury High School in Brent, said: “Our new Article 28 unit opened in September and there are 16 students who have engaged with our unit who would have had a fixed-term exclusion but haven’t because of it. It’s a small, calming, therapeutic space that allows time for reflection and support with issues around managing their emotional responses in preparation for their return back into the mainstream school.”