Julie Sadler, Headteacher at St Andrew’s College, shares insights in TES magazine

TES, formerly known as the Times Education Supplement, is a leading education magazine for school teachers. They recently published the final instalment of their curriculum special, which featured insights from educators across the UK. The publication asked Julie Sadler, the headteacher of St Andrew’s College which supports young people within our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, to share how active learning helps student engagement.

Here’s Julie’s insights:

“St Andrew’s College is unique. It is a registered ‘Outstanding’ Independent College based within a secure Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) setting. The residential provision can take up to 110 patients, and all have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act (1983). Every young person within the hospital has access to education, as well as personalised therapy and treatment from an on-site multi-disciplinary team.

Last year over 450 qualifications were achieved by these adolescents. Despite our youngsters being very poorly, it is imperative that we offer a curriculum that is not only bespoke, but offers engagement, opportunity, and contributes to their recovery and journey onwards. Many of our learners have had poor experiences at school; poor attendance, significant gaps in knowledge, and bad relationships with teachers.

We reviewed our model of delivery last year, and are now offering what we call an ‘Activ8’ curriculum. We encourage our learners to participate in eight different subject areas, making delivery as active as possible to promote a less sedentary approach. As far as possible this is in groups as this also contributes towards recovery. We try and find a specific hook of interest with each young person to get them engaged in their own learning, which often leads to them wanting more education.

The eight subject areas are Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Art, Technology, Vocational, Physical, and PSHE. Qualifications are targeted at the appropriate level, whether that be Unit Awards, Functional Skills, GCSEs, or even A Levels - our cohort has that broad range of ability. We are delighted that some of our Learning Disorder patients are achieving a Diploma in Life and Living Skills by focussing on the Activ8 model. We have project and enrichment days which support the curriculum, and we focus on celebrating achievement, promoting confidence, and encouraging a more enquiring approach to education generally.

We are unique in our setting and expertise, but to any provision reflecting on embarking on curriculum review, I would offer the following advice: Consider the finished product and how it can be reached in the most flexible and creative way to promote engagement, self-esteem and independence, and let the journey to the achievement be as relevant as the destination.”