New centre for excluded pupils opens in Irchester

Education and training director Nicki Henman in the nursery at the centre with "virtual babies"
Education and training director Nicki Henman in the nursery at the centre with "virtual babies"

“IT’S about inclusion, not exclusion,” says Lore McIntyre, director of Torch Learning Centre (TLC), which has opened in Irchester, to provide a support environment for 14 to 16-year-olds temporarily excluded from school.

In the latest statistics released for Northamptonshire (2009/2010) there were 107 permanent exclusions from the county’s state secondary schools.

An additional 4,519 were put on “fixed exclusion,” otherwise known as “temporary exclusion”.

The newly-opened centre hopes it will give schools a chance to refer pupils to them, as they try to avoid temporary exclusions turning into permanent ones.

Lore McIntyre, director of complementary education and therapy at TLC, said: “One of the biggest differences we provide is the level of support we offer.

“We are addressing not just learning, but also offering counselling and support, in a small, supportive environment we hope they can thrive in.”

TLC hopes it will help to fill the gap left for pupils on temporary exclusion by the closure of Springboard referral unit last year, which also helped pupils on the verge of exclusion.

“They do have some support in schools, but from working in schools I know that they are very limited to what they can do.

“It is only if they are permanently excluded that they get individual attention and we want to avoid that,” said Lore.

“What we can do is to try and deal with the individual needs of the child.”

TLC will offer two-day provision for the pupils, while the student remains on the school role. It will also offer a choice of vocational courses, such as hairdressing, and work on functional skills such as maths and English, and practical parenting.

It plans to deal with the deeper problems children might have.

Wajiha Mohammad, counsellor for traumatised children at TLC, said: “We help them to reason through things and to help find solutions.”

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Provision for pupils on the verge of permanent exclusion is managed by the schools themselves. Schools have in-school provision and they often commission alternative education from external providers, either as individual schools or collectively through school behaviour and attendance partnerships.

“There are about 20 alternative education providers operating in Northamptonshire offering a diverse range of full-time and part-time education programmes for pupils.”

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Provision for secondary school pupils permanently excluded from school, and school-age mothers, is offered through the Northamptonshire County Council-managed Complementary Education Pupil Referral Unit.

It was visited by Ofsted in March 2011 and received an ‘outstanding’ judgement.

Nationally the school has outperformed similar schools in its latest GCSE results with five or more pupils gaining A* to G grades.

Headteacher Roberta Kelly said: “All the young people take GCSEs and the expectation is that they are able to achieve at least one GCSE but some may get seven or eight.

“We also take a lot of care over working with carers and parents.

“We don’t have staff rooms or break times, all the young people and staff spend the interval together and we take a very holistic approach to their needs, and targets for behaviour.

“The aim is that they will leave here and go on to either college or employment.

“A small proportion have stayed at home afterwards, like the girls who have had children, 
but about 90 per cent achieve this.”