Doubting blogger won over after visit to Burnt Mill Academy

Jules

EXTENSIVE work to ensure children with special educational needs achieve highly has earned Burnt Mill Academy national praise – from a blogger who criticised the school before seeing its work in action.

Jules Daulby, education leadership governor of national charity Driver Youth Trust, wrote a blog criticising Outstanding schools for “gaming the system” when it comes to achievement and not meeting the needs of SEND students – hinting that Burnt Mill, in Harlow, was doing the same.

She told how she had listened to a headteacher giving a talk and suggesting Burnt Mill had an “unofficial ‘no SEND policy’” and saying: “Let’s guess which school got the ‘outstanding’ grading shall we.”

On reading the damning blog, Burnt Mill Academy Trust CEO Helena Mills contacted Ms Daulby and invited her to see the work that does go on with SEND students – who make up 30 per cent of the role – at the school, to put the record straight.

Ms Mills said: “I was getting so fed-up of people making statements based on anecdotes. I felt it was insulting to all the outstanding schools which have large numbers of SEND students and do amazing things for them.

“I felt aggrieved for the students, for their families and for all of the staff who go above and beyond to ensure our large number of SEND students are successful.”

During the visit, Ms Daulby witnessed –
the nurture curriculum and the opportunities it gives the most vulnerable students
heads of faculty and lead practitioners teaching a curriculum tailored to meet the needs of students
highly differentiated resources and material used to unlock students’ full potential to progress

Elliott Tooley, SENDCo, said: “The visit from Jules Daulby gave us a great opportunity to celebrate the success of students with SEND and the above national average progress they make.

“We discussed a range of interventions which exist in our school, all catered to providing bespoke support for learning in many areas, including English, maths and social, emotional skills.

“The consistent measures we have in place were also commended, such as the robust planning for all SEND and teachers working on strategies and techniques for individuals.”

Ms Daulby was so impressed with the school, she sent a long letter of praise which said: “As a passionate believer that all learners can access a mainstream curriculum and flourish, it was pleasing to see so much evidence of this in your school.

“I had a tour of Burnt Mill, I saw nurture groups being taught maths and MFL, I met with your SENDCo and deputy SENDCo and, a particular highlight for me, was meeting with students and teaching staff over lunch.

“It was an absolute pleasure to witness students with SEND learning, accessing a rich curriculum and being taught by a range of qualified teaching staff.”
Ms Daulby said her main observations during her visit included –

Learners with SEND are valued

Leaners with SEND are taught by qualified teachers and often the head of department

Learners with SEND are taught MFL – “I can’t tell you how refreshing this is to hear. It’s a constant source of frustration to me that young people who would benefit from language learning are not given the opportunity to experience MFL.”

There are high aspirations for learners with SEND and a willingness to see other curricular activities may benefit them, theatre trips as an example
Decisions around SEND provision are given high status from leadership

Read the full blog, from July 4, on mainstreamsen.wordpress.com

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