Schools for children who struggle in mainstream education are planning to teach more pupils in the next academic year.
Progress Schools gives vulnerable, disadvantaged and disengaged youngsters aged 13 to 16 an alternative to conventional teaching.
For most it’s a second chance to learn and gain essential life skills after being excluded from school, or being at risk of exclusion, for a whole variety of reasons ranging from behavioural and emotional issues to long-term illness.
James Madine, chief executive of Progress Schools, said: “Despite all our young students’ cases being different, one common thread runs through the need to provide a form of alternative education in areas like Northampton and Kettering.
“This is that remedies to help repair the lives of these young people need to be tailored to their individual needs, something that many conventional schools and local education authorities either lack the resources or have the will to do.”
Based in Notre Dame Mews, Northampton, and Montagu Street, Kettering, Progress Schools is currently educating 13 young people; that figure is due to rise to 35 by September.
It is part of a network of independent secondary schools across England which are already providing high level, supportive and inspirational teaching at Key Stages 3 and 4 with a particular emphasis on GCSE English and mathematics along with vocational subjects.
Incidence of exclusion from school is seen to be consistently higher in areas of economic deprivation. Children in care also figure prominently.
Exclusion affects some of the most vulnerable pupils in society.
Along with children with special educational needs and disabilities, this group also includes pupils from certain ethnic groups.
An excluded child is likely to be seen by other schools as a source of trouble and many schools are unwilling to take on “problem” pupils.
Mr Madine said: “These are the issues we are aiming to address to make sure exclusion from school is not an exclusion from a good education.
“Poverty, segregation, lack of opportunity and a lack of interest in the futures of some of our most vulnerable youngsters, is no excuse to leave them on the education scrapheap.
“Our tutors, as well coaching pupils through GCSE English and maths, will be introducing them to vocational subjects that could lead to an interest in further education or prepare them for work in areas where there are real jobs in sectors such as health and social care, call centres, sport and fitness.”
The Progress Schools’ portfolio of classroom success in the past year includes a boy who arrived in the country from Pakistan speaking English only as a third language and who, inspired by English lessons, now excels in basic skills and is pursuing a career in IT.
Following one-to-one tuition and guidance, a teenager excluded from school because of aggressive traits is now on a car mechanics course while a boy excluded because he was heavily involved in substance abuse is getting his life back on track by achieving functional skills qualifications and taking part in peer teaching.
Mr Madine added: “A lot of children in these areas come from families that, because of local economic circumstances, are third or fourth generation benefit claimants.
“These are young people whose horizons need broadening and who have to be developed and challenged to meet their academic, emotional, behavioural and social needs.”