The Involve post- 16 service offered by St. John’s is primarily aimed at learners who require highly bespoke programmes in an outreach learning environment. These young people have complex needs and have disengaged from learning and for a variety of reasons, they cannot cope well in a classroom environment. Referral into the Involve service can only be done by HOWB and HT / Principal and must involve Parents/ Carers/SW.

The Involve project has been designed with the needs of those for whom social communication or inclusion in group activities is a significant barrier to education. Some of the learners can present challenging behaviour due to their mental health. As a team we have high aspirations for our learners and support the journey to reaching goals with sensitivity, continually stretching and challenging them using a person-centred approach. Although this is a highly therapeutic programme it is still a core part of our Education offer. We track progress via Connecting Steps and Evisense to continually cross-reference with core education targets.

The core outcome offer is to re-engage young people in learning by offering a curriculum which embeds work experience and community outreach. This offers the opportunity for active learning in environments which they can access with bespoke support. This focussed programme is centred around St Johns six core outcomes; wellbeing; communication; skills; independence; employability and English and Maths.

The main aims of the service are:

1. To provide access to learning opportunities for our most hard to reach young people.

2. To improve their opportunities for better life outcomes.

3. To enable them to be active and participating members of a community.

It is notable that the 1 st aim is around learning and not education. This is because for all our learners formalised education has proved too challenging and, in all cases, learners have disengaged either through communicating via behaviours or through disengagement from others. Each learner has a personalised timetable based around their targets/goals and interests. These timetables allow for flexibility as learning and work are so dependent on the mood and the ever-changing demeanour of the learner on the day. Sometimes it feels like there is no opportunity for learning to take place but each interaction with a team member brings an opportunity to develop and challenge the learner’s understanding of their relationships with others.

It is the aim of Involve is to engage young people in educational projects that make learning enjoyable and relevant to them. Using this approach, our goal is to promote self-reflection and autonomy, empowering young people to achieve more educationally, develop positive communication skills whilst exploring their own culture, self-evaluate and develop greater awareness of themselves and their communities.

Many of these learners have ASC in addition to emotional and mental health needs. These learners can present with high anxiety-provoking behaviours like significant self-harm, suicidal tendencies and other behaviours that place themselves and others at risk. Learners often have very “spikey” profiles which require effective management and support to ensure that programmes stretch all areas of learning. Support is highly individualised, and the department takes a holistic approach to learning and personal development. Staff working with these learners are emotionally and physically resilient and have a sound understanding of positive behaviour support. Additionally, other EHCP provision such as SALT/OT needs to be personalised before being delivered.

Involve learners

Young people who access the service will meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • They will need at least 1-1 support to access learning in the local community.
  • They are unable to be taught in a standard specialist classroom, even with 1-1 support.
  • They may be a danger to themselves or others when heightened.
  • They may have very low esteem and struggle in their relationships with authority or peers.
  • They may have specific mental health needs that impact on their ability to engage and learn.
  • Their behaviour may be considered as challenging to others and they may struggle to understand social expectations.
  • Early life experiences or trauma may have resulted in a severe lack of trust in others, the education system and themselves.
  • They may also suffer from high levels of anxiety which impact significantly in being able to access social situations or places where they feel vulnerable.
  • They may be self-isolating, fearful of contact with groups or exhibit fight or fight behaviours when feeling challenged.
  • They will struggle to focus on learning in a classroom or group situation.

Young people who attend the Involve service will be able to:

  • Engage with staff on a 1-1 level.
  • With full support, be able to consider the possibility of building relationships with others.
  • Be safe within the community with the appropriate levels of support.
  • Be willing to focus on tasks and subjects that interest them with appropriate support.
  • Will want to improve their life outcomes and choices post-college.
  • Will be able to demonstrate a willingness to engage within environments that are right for them.
  • Generally, they will be able to engage in and direct their own learning (through their specific interests or curiosity) with support.
  • Have or develop communication skills that will enable them to make choices and negotiate with staff.

Learning Environments

If the young person is living in one of our residential homes the learning may take place in their home. This is also possible for young people who are looked after or living in another residential setting or family home providing that we can ensure a safe level of risk through our risk assessment processes and all parties agree.

Other work may take place in the community: in cafes, libraries, work experience placements, outdoors, at special interest clubs or even on the beach. The places that young people work is important in achieving the best environment for them to learn.

Curriculum

Each young person will have a highly individualised curriculum based on their interests and will have a consistent core team that best fits the subject interests and the needs of that specific young person. These staff teams will be well versed in processes, such as positive behaviour
support and boundary training.

Learning will focus on embedding English and Maths within subjects of interest for the young person until they are able to learn in a more formalised manner. Other learning will include developing their interests in ways that promote both manual and intellectual skills. A significant focus will be placed on developing their ability to live within the community demonstrating skills that will enable them to engage in a healthy lifestyle within their community.

Exceptional attention will be paid to the young person’s emotional well-being and their ability to build and maintain relationships with others. This is achieved by ensuring staff are skilled, resilient and empathetic. They are trained in SSTS and are chosen for their skills in managing and deescalating difficult conversations whilst remaining calm and focused even when under pressure.

Support is also obtained from the Well-being team through Multi-disciplinary meetings, counselling services, Behaviour Support Practitioners and other college teaching staff who offer their individual expertise and time when appropriate. Where needed, learners are also supported by community services including a psychologist and members of the community mental health team.

Where possible we also work towards the young person’s re-engagement with their peers through highly structured lessons or through shared social interests. Recent learners have learnt to attend English and Maths sessions together, work alongside external agencies, create radio podcasts together and enjoy making and playing music. Learners are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and how these could positively impact their future lives.

A significant long-term aim is to improve the young person’s ability to communicate in a positive manner with others, reduce the amount of negative behaviour presented and improve the quality of their lives and outcomes. We aim to work with the young people to develop the best
opportunities for post-college outcomes. This may include living safely with others, supported living, micro or social enterprises or some form of other employment, either voluntary or paid.

In Involve the term learning is used to indicate and evidence the improved life outcomes for individuals through incidental learning and carefully developed opportunities where needs have been identified and strategies have been put in place to enable them to gain and learn from
certain experiences or interaction with others. We set implicit targets which we share with the learners if appropriate. This needs to be carefully decided by the core team due to many of the learners having such a significant fear of failure so they will sabotage anything that they feel there is a risk of them not achieving.

High Aspirations

Although the learners in the Involve service are our most complex and potentially dis-engaged, our aspirations for them remain as high as if they were in the School or College teams. Their progress will be tracked in the same way as other learners and we will expect them to achieve our
Core Outcome Offer.