A life-changing Doncaster setting that offers its pupils ‘a second chance’ has been named as a School of Excellence for mental wellbeing.
St Wilfrid’s Academy, part of Delta Academies Trust, has held a celebration of mental wellbeing which was attended by pupils, teachers and local councillors to mark its achievement in becoming a Thrive School of Excellence.
The school, in St Wilfrid's Road, Cantley, has 125 pupils and is an Alternative Provision for children and young people aged from 7 to 16. In Key Stage 2 and 3, the Academy supports students at risk of permanent exclusion through short stay assessment places, helping them to reintegrate into mainstream provision. Key Stage 4 pupils attend on a long-term basis, with the goal of finding a positive post-16 destination. NEETS (young people not in education, employment or training) have remained less than four per cent for the past six years - a remarkable achievement.
'Everyone works in partnership'
“We are not just a school – it's a much broader picture than that. Our philosophy is that young people come here after they have had a negative setback and we work to make sure that their future experiences of education are positive. Everyone here works in partnership in a trauma-informed way to make St Wilfrid’s as good as it can possibly be,” said Headteacher Dirk Pittard.
As well as using the Thrive Approach, St Wilfrid’s also runs animal therapy sessions for pupils with guinea pigs, a flock of bantam hens and a cocker spaniel called Basil. Pupils have allocated time with Basil, alongside a member of staff, where they can spend time walking, grooming and reading to him as a key part of their therapeutic intervention.
The school’s latest Ofsted report says: “For all pupils, the school is a second chance. They feel safe, valued and respected.... This is not a one-size-fits-all school. Leaders go the extra mile to make sure that pupils get the education and support they need, whatever that is.”
St Wilfrid’s approach has been so successful that it has been invited to be part of a Department for Education Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce Pilot which aims to evaluate the impact of co-locating specialist workers from across health, education, social care, youth services and youth justice in Alternative Provision settings to build relationships between different organisations and young people and reduce the need for external referrals.
Delta Academies Trust is now looking to replicate St Wilfrids’ achievements by opening four additional Alternative Provisions across the north east by September 2025 using the same model which places mental wellbeing and inclusion at the heart of school life.
Thrive’s 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 School of Excellence 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, the school 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.
“By recognising the individual needs of each child or young person, the team at St Wilfrid’s are achieving amazing results and are supporting young people to re-engage with education and with life. The school richly-deserves this award and it is inspirational to hear about the work they are doing for young people’s mental wellbeing,” said Viv Trask-Hall, Thrive’s Head of Product and Innovation, who presented the School of Excellence award.