A specialist education service which works with the most vulnerable children and young people in Essex and Suffolk has been named a School of Excellence for the role it plays in supporting the mental health of its pupils.
Reach Essex, based in Witham, supports children and young people with the highest level of social and emotional needs. As well as working with 50 schools to provide mentoring services for young people, Reach Essex provides specialist education packages for children with complex needs working on a one-to-one or two-to-one basis. It also runs a Thrive therapeutic centre where children that are referred by the local authority or schools, can take part in sessions focused on outdoor learning such as gardening or working with animals.
Reach Essex has been named as a Thrive School of Excellence after going through a rigorous assessment process with Thrive, an organisation which trains teachers and other education professionals to support the social and emotional development of children and young people.
'We are often their last hope'
Director of Operations Gemma Quantrill said: “Most of the children and young people we work with have been excluded from mainstream schools and have not attended for a year, or even longer. We are often their last hope to stay in education and we make sure that we provide them whatever support they need to help them manage their lives better. The biggest impact of Thrive has been on our staff, who are phenomenal. The children regard them as being different and they know that our staff are there to help them.
“One of our young people. who has been with us for a significant period of time, made several attempts to harm himself and place himself at risk of significant harm that has led to long periods of hospital admission. He has gone from two-to-one to one-to-one support and is now looking to re-engage back into a full-time education placement. His reflection to our staff was that he had learned how to calm himself down when he gets angry as the result of the Thrive sessions we have done with him.”
Reach Essex works with children aged from 4 to 18. The service has achieved some impressive results for attendance with an average rate of 95 per cent, rising to 100 per cent for pupils with the most complex needs and those accessing the Thrive outdoor learning centre.
'Mental health is the foundation of education'
“Mental health is the foundation of education. Most young people come to us and their life chances have been dramatically-reduced, whether that’s about their family background or poverty on the back of Covid. Everything we do here is focused around creating a positive sense of mental health so that young people can develop a sense of self and move forward with their lives,” added Mrs Quantrill.
The School of Excellence award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils, and on the wider community, by prioritising emotional wellbeing. The award is the highest level of achievement in Thrive’s Ambassador Schools scheme, which was launched in 2020 as a way of recognising excellence in member schools. There are five areas in which schools can evidence how they use Thrive to support children’s social and emotional development: Environment, Leadership, Right-time, Reparative and Relationship, with the School of Excellence award reserved for schools that achieve the highest standard across all five categories.
As well as submitting an in-depth evidence and impact application form, Reach Essex was visited by Thrive staff to observe and assess the way that teachers and other staff implement the Thrive Approach to help build the emotional resilience of children— so they can better manage the ups and downs of life and be more open to learning.
“Everyone at Reach Essex is passionate about Thrive and its impact. The whole team are committed to making the lives of children and young people better and giving them hope for the future by demonstrating the importance of relationship and connection with trusted adults. Their School of Excellence achievement is richly-deserved,” said Sarah Baltieri, Regional Development Manager East and London.