New focus on school exclusions helps St Matthias Park make an early impact on the lives of young people

Closer work between schools, families and Bristol’s Inclusion Panel has helped drive a turnaround in the number of young people who go to St Matthias Park through permanent exclusion.

St Matthias Park operates on two sites in Fishponds and Brentry to provide education for pupils aged 11 – 16 who have, for a variety of reasons, struggled in a mainstream school and have been at risk of permanent exclusion. Today Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees visited the school in Fishponds and met students who have been able to pick up their school career in mainstream secondary schools after a successful placement.

As part of an effort to reduce permanent exclusions in Bristol to zero, schools are working more closely with provision like St Matthias and Bristol City Council to refer students, before a crisis point is reached. This work is organised through the Bristol Inclusion Panel that was launched in July 2016.

In the first two terms of this academic year St Matthias received 19 pupils through school referrals compared with 20 through permanent exclusion during the same terms in 2015/16.

Head teacher Aileen Morrison said:

“We’re really beginning to see a turnaround in the numbers of children who are permanently excluded from school and have no option but to be found a place in alternative education like St Matthias Park.

“Permanent exclusion is a very blunt tool to deal with a child who isn’t managing to be part of the their school community in the way that is expected of them. By the time they are excluded many opportunities have been been lost to tackle some of the underlying issues that is leading to disruptive behaviour.

“Now schools are working much more proactively with us to refer children, with permission from their family, before they reach a crisis point. In turn this means that we’re having greater success in working intensively with young people on a short-term basis before finding an opportunity for them to complete their education at a mainstream secondary school.

“Students can stay with us to sit their GCSEs if this is more appropriate for them and I’m delighted that last year we recorded out best results ever.”

St Matthias Park currently has places for 60 students. The majority have come from a Bristol secondary school but some are referred from neighbouring authorities as the student has a north, east or central Bristol home address. It offers a core curriculum in very small classes plus targeted emotional, behaviour and learning support.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said:

“During my visit to St Matthias Park today it was encouraging to see how the school is helping students to re-engage with education and unlock their true potential. We know that in order to prosper all our young people need to have access to a good education, in a place that best suits their needs, and St Matthias is providing a stepping stone back into mainstream education. Through our Learning City Partnership we are working with schools to make education as inclusive as possible.”

Chair of the Bristol Inclusion Panel and Deputy Head at Bristol Cathedral Choir School Rupert Moreton said:

“The Bristol Inclusion Panel is a great example of how mainstream schools, pupil referral units, alternative learning providers and outside children agencies can all work proactively together to meet the needs of individual children facing challenging circumstances.  The panel is concerned with helping some of Bristol’s most vulnerable children succeed in education.”

Chair of the Bristol Secondary Heads Association and Headteacher at Redland Green School Sarah Baker said:

“Bristol Secondary Headteachers across the city have worked together to create the Bristol Inclusion Panel which means we work together to prevent students being permanently excluded from schools. We have reduced the number of permanent exclusions from 29 for this period last year to zero. However this would not work without the excellent provision we have at St Matthias Park, we are able to refer students for assessment and support for reintegration into mainstream schools. The work they do is an integral part of the provision for these learners in the city.”

Joey Martin aged 15 met Mayor Marvin Rees today.  He spent six weeks at St Matthias last May before being found a transfer to Redland Green School. This year he is siting his GCSEs including history and design and technology.

Of his time at St Matthias he said:

“I definitely got more attention at St Matthias as the classes are a lot smaller.  It made me focus on what I wanted for the future and now I feel more motivated in school.”