MBQMA - Park School Teaching Service - The Bridge Nurture Provision

Park School is an alternative provision in Bolton for pupils whose physical or mental health prevents them from accessing mainstream education.

The invaluable work of staff at Park School Teaching Service has been recognised recently by the nurtureuk and the school has now been awarded the prestigious Marjorie Boxall Quality Mark Award for its Bridge Nurture Provision. The school as a whole strives to be a nurturing school with the core principle being ‘academic achievement in a nurturing environment’. To earn this award, the staff have endeavoured to meet the educational and emotional needs of every pupil at Park School and it is fitting that this award illustrates the hard work and dedication of staff.

Helen Stollery, the assessor for the award, complimented staff commitment and perseverance with the pupils in The Bridge. “Their calm, consistent, warm and genuine affection towards the young people was clearly evident throughout the assessment visit. I also witnessed an excellent rapport with the children as well as a sense of fun between all staff in the school and the young people they were working with. It was a privilege to observe them modelling a positive regard for each other, as well as the children, which encouraged the relationship between the staff and children to flourish. Staff go above and beyond the call of duty on many occasions and are an asset to the school.”

Pupils within Park School nurture provision have further demonstrated their successful journey and personal achievement through publication of their writing in the young writers series of books, namely ‘The Poetry Games’ and ‘Stranger Sagas’. Support from parents and carers has meant that the children have been able to develop and grow at their pace, without additional pressures. The focus remains on the needs of the individual as two parents’ comments affirm:

“Whilst attending mainstream school, [my daughter] found it very difficult to cope with the level of noise and the volume of people in the school and was constantly anxious about having to attend…I feel that the staff within The Bridge are totally invested in the emotional wellbeing of the children under their care and this has had an impact both inside of school and at home. [My daughter] is much more willing to interact at home and is becoming less and less reclusive. She has a better understanding of herself and realises that it’s ok to talk about our feelings. Also, due to the friendly and sharing nature of the staff, she is now able to relate to others well. She is developing well academically, and I feel that this is due to the learning being at a pace that she is comfortable with. The pressures of [the] mainstream curriculum previously made her very anxious. We are very grateful that [my daughter] was able to attend Park School in the last 12 months. She has developed friendships which we previously never thought would happen, communication skills that have enabled these friendships and the capacity to understand that there are people in the world that she is able to trust.”

“My youngest daughter has severe social anxiety issues which became worse as she transitioned to high school. Throughout year 7 and into year 8 she became more and more withdrawn and eventually we couldn't get her into school at all. We spent hours sat outside her school or with the pastoral care lead exploring different avenues that might make school more bearable but unfortunately the situation worsened.

“After missing several months of school [my daughter] was then accepted as a student in the Bridge last September. We were sceptical when we came for a short visit with [her] but we became tentatively hopeful when we were greeted by such welcoming yet professional staff. The overwhelming sense of calmness and security was very reassuring and [my daughter] quietly agreed to start attending for one morning a week.

“When her first day came I drove her to school but she was afraid to leave the car…Fast forward to this week where [my daughter] is now transitioning upstairs to Park School attending four days per week and using taxi transport alone for every journey which has also enabled me to go back to full time work.

“This change is absolutely phenomenal and all the credit must be given to the amazing staff at the Bridge. We have had unending support from the staff both practically and emotionally… I could not recommend the Bridge and its ethos highly enough and I am so grateful for the care and support that we have all received from the staff…”

The school strives to ensure that pupils are not left to manage their often difficult circumstances, but are encouraged to narrow the gap created by poor mental health. Staff not only focus on the pupils once in school on a daily basis, but ensure that pupils arrive safely and calmly through school transport or parent/carer transport. Pupils are personally welcomed into the building and escorted out by pastoral staff to ease the anxiety of attending an educational setting.

Every effort is made to engage pupils, be it from their home, through one-to-one sessions, while in hospital or small group teaching. Through having a pupil-centred approach to learning, each child is provided with an individualised timetable adapted to meet their specific needs. 

The aim of The Bridge nurture provision within Park School is to enable the most vulnerable pupils to access learning at their own individual pace in a caring, relaxed environment. Experienced staff assess learning, social and emotional needs and deliver whatever help is necessary to remove the barriers to learning. This includes a steady transition into education from home; building a trusting relationship between the child, their family and the school; and enabling the child to feel safe, secure and happy within their learning environment. All staff at Park School are specialist trained to recognise the varying needs of the pupils. They work collaboratively to engage pupils in education through the six key principles of nurture:

Pupils’ learning is understood developmentally:

The Bridge nurture provision of Park School operates through recognising that all pupils learning cannot be based on academic attainment alone, it is developmental. From the completed Boxall profile, staff recognise the pupil’s area of need, this develops into a Personal Learning Plan that becomes the main focus of the pupil’s development within the nurture setting. Each pupil is treated very much as an individual and any plan is centred around their individual need and their personal progress, however gradual, is celebrated.

The classroom offers a safe base:

All pupils within The Bridge suffer from anxiety, so it is vital that the environment that they enter is calm, organised and inviting. There are individualised timetables, pictorial timetables and clear routine. As well as academic lessons, pupils are encouraged to eat together at the table and enjoy their social time. Further activities include group enrichment activities such as cooking, Lego therapy and Art.

Adults within the nurture room are consistent and reliable; if pupils feel anxious or wish to leave the nurture room for time out, there is the ‘Bubble’ de-escalation room that provides a relaxing environment in which pupils can discuss any concerns on a 1-1 basis or simply calm down if they need to.

Park School and The Bridge is a ‘safe space’ that welcomes all pupils and excludes none. Promotion of acceptance can be identified through posters around school, pupils work in PSHE and Wellbeing on issues around race, gender and sexuality and the schools main ethos that we ‘all belong’.

Nurture is important for the development of wellbeing:

The Bridge promotes all forms of communication through group work, mood cards that help express pupils’ emotions and feelings and written work. All pupils are involved in the PSHE lessons that have a clear focus on social and emotional wellbeing.

Language is understood as a vital means of communication 

All pupils are encouraged to sit together and engage with each other. Although it is initially difficult for some, the clear structure begins to develop pupils’ communication and social skills. An extension of this is work through group play, social games and expressive art.

All behaviour is communication

All staff at Park School follow the nurture group principles and therefore recognise that any form of behaviour communicates a child’s feelings and difficulties. All staff are involved in parent/carer meetings, complete regular home visits and ensure the strong link between home and school.

Transitions are significant in the lives of children

The initial process of pupils coming into The Bridge provision is through a learning mentor starting to build the relationship within the child’s home. This could take weeks before the pupil feels comfortable enough to take the huge step of coming into The Bridge. Once they attend, the pupils have a part-time timetable that allows them to access The Bridge and engage in a variety of lessons, while still supported fully by staff on a one-to-one basis.

“To say that we are immensely proud to receive this award really is an understatement!” said Kiran Peart, deputy academy lead and head of The Bridge Nurture Provision at Park School.

Yvonne Monaghan, Head of Consultancy, Nurture UK