Ms. S. Graham
The Primary Department at Horizons Academy offers a time limited intervention programme, “Primary Refocus”, for pupils who are either permanently excluded or at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream schools. Its aim is to reduce permanent exclusion through the opportunity for schools to access this programme as an early intervention where behaviour clearly indicates that the child is potentially on the road to exclusion in the future. Where possible, schools are advised to refer to the programme where behaviour is escalating rather than waiting to crisis point as interventions are likely to be more successful and sustainable where early intervention is used.
Pupils are taught in groups of 8 and follow a primary curriculum with a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy to take account of any time missed from school previously or poor engagement in learning in the past. The academic curriculum is embedded in a cohesive cognitive approach which encourages children to think about their responses to different situations, reflect on their behaviour, gain a better understanding of themselves and, from this, to begin to make the right choices. This forms the basis of the restorative approach which is embedded in the way behaviour is managed and the language used by staff in supporting pupils in learning to manage their own emotions.
All children who come to Refocus must have an agreed exit route. Pupils on the programme will return to their home school, pupils on an agreed managed move with intervention through Refocus as an intrinsic part of their journey will go their new school (if the move fails, they return to the original home school) and permanently excluded pupils are immediately referred to the local Primary Fair Access Panel where a new school is identified. Horizons is not a special school and its role is to work with the pupils and their parents / carers in addressing the reasons for risk and potential exclusion and support them in overcoming these. For parents / carers, this may include participation in Multi-Family / Parents Groups as part of the agreed programme. The length of each placement may vary slightly but always starts from the basis of being 14 weeks in length and any reduction or extension is made in agreement with the home school on an individual basis. This does not mean that the pupil can stay long term with Horizons, but that the reintegration programme is designed to work in conjunction with the home school and the needs of the child. Any extension is generally for a couple of weeks to fit in with the next steps for the child.
It is not expected that pupils return to school “fixed” but instead on the right road with progress being made in relation to behaviour and learning. Reintegration support is key to success with the home / reintegrating school being an equal partner. It is therefore vital that schools work in partnership with Horizons throughout the programme to identify potential risk factors, plan for progression and identify staff within their own schools who will be facilitators in ensuring success when the support from Horizons is ended.
Close communication and joint planning for reintegration is expected with clarity around the programme for return to school being very much bespoke and responsive to the needs of the school and the child. Although some pupils may return on reduced programmes, it is expected that this will move on rapidly to ensure the pupil is in full time education quickly and is fully involved in the whole school day. Since pupils do not cope well with the conflict between two sets of expectations in different environments, it is in almost all circumstances expected that pupils will not return to Horizons as part of their reintegration programme. Historical evidence indicates that this is not a successful strategy for reintegrating pupils. The support package is for 6-12 weeks with some flexibility around end dates related to term dates, special events in school and response to reintegration support. However, it is not possible to extend the reintegration support beyond 12 weeks. All reintegration support is bespoke and jointly agreed between the outreach service and the mainstream school with clear exit strategies and planning for transition fully to the school support systems.