Bridgelea Primary School is a school for pupils in Key Stages 1 and 2 offering specialist places for children with an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) identifying Social Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties (SEMH). Bridgelea also offers places for Manchester’s children who are at risk of being excluded (APX) or who have been permanently excluded (PEX) by providing the day education offer. We currently have thirteen classes, across two sites. Classes can vary in size depending on the complexity of the need and can range in size between six and ten pupils. All classes are taught by a qualified teacher and are supported by at least two teaching assistants. The level of additional educational needs is high and increasing.
Baseline testing on admission confirms that the vast majority of pupils are working below age-related expectations in reading. Many children remain at Bridgelea awaiting specialist school places to become available. Bridgelea is working alongside the LA to develop a wider continuum of SEMH provision across the city. In the last three years, around 90% of children have completed the statutory assessment whilst at Bridgelea, identifying SEMH difficulties as their primary need. In the 2022/2023 academic year, the number of consultations for SEMH EHCP places has increased at the school and PEXs are higher in Manchester than in previous years.
At Bridgelea we have never permanently excluded a child. Fixed-term exclusion is used as a last resort and is used rarely and only in the interest of the child to support school staff to put changes in place to the child’s provision. We are extremely proud of our child-centered and solution-focused staff and their skills in adapting the provision for the children at Bridgelea.
At Bridgelea, we want to help our children, families, and communities to understand themselves and each other more. Bridgelea is an accredited Nurturing School and the development of social and emotional skills is at the heart of our curriculum. We understand that children learn and develop at different ages and stages and this is reflected in our curriculum and approaches. Staff are trained to understand the six Nurture Principles, and are skilled in attuning to children to support and challenge unhelpful and negative beliefs about themselves and build resilience. Pupils attend Bridgelea for a variety of reasons. Some children attend due to one-off incidents, such as violence towards a teacher, or temporary circumstances such as arriving in the local area mid-year arriving as a complex admission to PIYFAP (Primary in Year Fair Access Protocol). In other cases, children attend who need an alternative curriculum or learning environment. At Bridgelea, we have a high number of vulnerable pupils, who have experienced abuse or neglect at home, and/or have mental health difficulties, CAMHS involvement with our children and families is high.
Poor understanding of their underlying learning needs has led to our pupils being excluded from mainstream schools. Pupils often arrive at Bridgelea disengaged and with extremely low rates of attendance. In addition, there are often complicating factors relating to family background or experience with social services and the child protection system. This complex mix of risk factors can mean that this group of pupils will also include those at risk of becoming or already involved with crime and an increased risk of entering or becoming involved with the criminal justice system.
Additional support is offered by the COMLP’s (City of Manchester Learning Partnership) Outreach Service to mainstream primary schools to help them support and understand the SEMH needs of their pupils and to reduce the likelihood of exclusion. At Bridgelea, there are only small numbers of pupils in each year group. The majority of Bridgelea children are in years 5 and 6 (50%- 11% lower than in the previous year) with the next biggest group being in years 3 and 4 (37% -6% lower than in the previous year). We have a smaller number of KS1 pupils at 13% (5% higher than the previous year).
Most pupils have SEMH as their primary recorded need. Around 6% of children have a diagnosis of ADHD, 8% have Dyslexia, 14% of pupils have other diagnosed communication difficulties such as Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), 2% of children have moderate learning difficulties and 2% have hearing impairment as their primary need.
Most pupils who attend are of White British origin (59% a decrease of 2% from the previous year). This shift has continued for the last 2 years. The other groups that attend reflect the wide ethnic communities represented in Manchester. Black African, Black Caribbean, and Black other (15%) and mixed ethnicity (18%) are the next biggest groups represented in the school. Most pupils who attend are boys (90% an increase of 3% from the previous year). There are limited numbers of children at the school with English as an additional language. Other first languages include Akan, Arabic, French, Igbo, Somali, Yoruba, and Spanish. 94% of children have English as their first language.
A much higher than average proportion of pupils are eligible for the pupil premium, which provides additional funding for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals (90% a decrease of 1% from previous year) and those in the care of the local authority (9.4%)- a decrease of 3.6% on the previous year). A further 13.54% of families are open to Social Services (an increase of 6.54%) and 12.5% of families are accessing Early Help support (a decrease of 1.5%). The school continues to work closely with the city council's Troubled Families Team who has placed 2 full-time equivalent workers with the school to support the children at an early help level. This has meant in the last year that several children have stepped down from requiring additional support to universal support through the intervention of the Early Help Team.
Bridgelea Primary School relocated to its larger school site on Plymouth Grove in Longsight in the summer of 2018. The site in Withington remains the primary base for children in key stage 1 and targets the curriculum for Y1-Y3. Having all staff together on just two sites has meant that many efficiencies have been made and consistencies in practice are evident, building on the school’s strong foundations of Nurture, Elklan, and Rights Respecting practice.
Bridgelea is a re-accredited Communication Friendly Setting May 2020. We were the first PRU in the country to achieve this award in 2015. This means that understanding the speech, language, and communication needs of all our children is at the forefront of the offer we provide for our children. All staff at Bridgelea are trained in communication and language development and this work underpins the school’s nurturing practice. The Communication Counts training supports staff to adapt their communication strategies and improve effective interactions with children across the curriculum. Staff understand the importance of structure and routine and the use of visuals and are more consistent in their approach. Elklan has empowered staff, they have excellent knowledge, understand the processes involved in communication, and are better equipped to reinforce and differentiate the key elements. A recent development has been around matching the level of play to a child’s level of communication and a higher level of differentiated play is now taking place at our Withington site with improved exploratory learning opportunities supporting children's communication and social and emotional development. As a school, we target PPG spending on speech, language, and communication needs (SLCN), ensuring that SLCN targets are embedded in the curriculum and through the delivery of SLCN interventions as part of the school’s retreat offer.
Bridgelea has developed effective multi-agency partnerships with the AIM Project, and Health and Children’s Services to enhance and develop a provision to match appropriate agencies and to support pupils who display harmful sexual behaviour in Manchester’s schools. The model is offered to mainstream schools as part of the Bridgelea Outreach Support to enable children who display these behaviours to continue to access mainstream education in a safe and controlled way. Bridgelea provides AIM assessments and access to specially trained staff and a therapist who specialise in working with children who display harmful sexual behaviours. Bridgelea provides targeted and personalized interventions and direct support to allow the children to work through their harmful behaviours and consequently understand how to form positive and appropriate relationships with peers and adults. Bridgelea also supports professionals through a training offer to recognise and understand inappropriate, problematic, and harmful sexualised behaviours using the AIM Framework model to identify patterns of behaviour from children and young people when they are early in their methodology.
In June 2023, we received our Gold Rights Respecting reaccreditation. Rights Respecting is embedded throughout our school and our wider community. At Bridgelea, we value working with our families and community to improve our children's access to activities and involve everyone in their child's education. We provide an enriching diverse curriculum that develops Global Citizens. We use assemblies, theme weeks, and a variety of visits and visitors to support this curriculum offer. Through the School Council, all children can express their views and be heard. Classroom charters, devised by the pupils, explain the articles the children are working on that term. The school is explicitly embedding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in its policy, practice, and culture.
The school was last inspected in April 2018 and the judgment of the school's effectiveness remains good. Monitoring visits by the Quality Assurance partner for the city council support this assessment. The major areas to develop remain the curriculum offered to the children, given that the school is now more of a SEMH special school than a Pupil Referral Unit, and most of the school improvement work in the 2022-2023 academic year continues to be focused on curriculum.