Organisation: Stoke Virtual School

Region: West Midlands

Sector: Education

Service: Bespoke training

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case study
The Stoke Partnership

Stoke Virtual School, 1 January 2014

the need

Having adopted a zero tolerance of permanent exclusions of children in care policy in Stoke, the Virtual School needed to provide schools with the necessary resources, knowledge and understanding for them to support this policy.

Stoke on Trent is a small urban local authority and has been ranked as one of the 10 most economically deprived local authority areas for a number of years. The Virtual school has a very small budget but a strong history of working effectively across the local authority and in partnership with other stakeholders. In particular the Virtual School and the Educational Psychology service have a strong and effective partnership.

A secondary need was that, having become a traded service, the Educational Psychology Service needed to develop innovative ways to both fund and charge for their work.

Funding for development for schools staff is in the main held within the schools so there was a final need to find ways to get 'buy in' from schools both in terms of paying and prioritising.

the solutions

KCA provided initial consultancy to Stoke to map out the initiative. A three way partnership was established between KCA, Stoke Virtual School and the Stoke Educational Psychology Service where KCA would develop a half day training course and a technical infrastructure for the EP service to be able to deliver the course to schools. The virtual school would take on responsibility for engaging schools in the take up of this training offer. KCA would additionally be available for some of the training delivery and consultancy and supervision as required by the EP service.

The Course

KCA developed a course called Improving Outcomes: Meeting the needs of vulnerable and traumatised students with the following learning outcomes:

  • Understand the impact of unregulated stress on brain development and function
  • Develop skills in promoting recovery from trauma
  • Analyse observed behaviour to assess needs and plan and review interventions
  • Develop skills in planning, implementing and reviewing needs-led interventions

Toxic levels of stress can injure our brains, changing the way we think, feel and behave until we recover from the injuries. This can happen to anyone, and our most traumatised children are those whose life experiences have led to them being in care. This course enables participants to explore key issues for schools in working with the significant minority of children and young people who are living with brain injuries from which they have not yet recovered

The Infrastructure

KCA connected provides a web-based infrastructure to enable the Stoke EP service to set-up, manage and deliver the trianing events with KCA producing the required number of training packs. The same sytem allows for participants to log-in, leave online evaluation and access connected learning resources.

the outcomes

At the time of writing KCA, has provided whole school training to five schools in Stoke-on-Trent and provisioned for EP Service to deliver training to a further eight shcools. Combined this has resulted in training being delivered to 852 participants the vast majority of whom have been schools staff.

Across the whole project around 20% of participants have taken the opportunity to leave online evaluation.

customer response

Tony Clifford, Stoke's Head of Virtual School, has commented:

"We have worked with KCA for over three years on a range of programmes delivering multi-agency training on attachment, trauma, recovery and emotion coaching to schools, colleges, carers, social workers and other agencies. In providing the training KCA have been highly responsive to our specific needs, 'bespoking' programmes to suit particular contexts and circumstances, doing skilled consultancy with schools, and helping us to develop our overall vision for this vital work.

"Feedback from all courses has been unfailingly excellent, featuring comments such as 'the best training I have ever been on'. I have seen its direct impact on attitudes, understanding and practice, for example it has been key in supporting our zero permanent exclusions policy for children in care.

"KCA have real depth of operational understanding balanced with considerable strategic ability to work dynamically and successfully with large organisations."

next steps

Efforts will continue to provide more schools with foundation knowledge about attachment and Trauma though further delivery of the Improving Outcomes course.

For the schools that have already participated in this training there are now opportunities for them to further develop knowledge, understanding and skills enabling staff to develop their own 'attachment aware tool kits'. This work will in turn be shared as best practice across the authority.