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Nottinghamshire special school Bracken Hill joins the Esteem Multi-Academy Trust


A NOTTINGHAMSHIRE special school has joined a leading multi-academy trust in a move that will ‘strengthen skills and knowledge’ and ‘nurture existing relationships’.

Bracken Hill School, in Chartwell Road, Kirkby, will become the latest school run by Esteem Multi-Academy Trust. Esteem MAT was formed in 2018 and now consists of 13 academies across the East and West Midlands.

Many of their pupils have special educational needs and/or disabilities, or are disadvantaged. Their schools include Bennerley Fields School in Ilkeston, and Holbrook School for Autism.

Catherine Askham is headteacher at Bracken Hill School – rated ‘good’ by government inspectors Ofsted – and is delighted that the school has become part of the Esteem MAT family.

“We have been exploring our options around joining an academy trust for a while now, and Esteem have been highly recommended,” said Mrs Askham.

“They have specialist staff who will be able to help staff at Bracken Hill; they can offer HR advice, for example. And it will be great to strengthen skills and knowledge, to share best practices that work well here at Bracken Hill, too, and to also learn from other special schools.

“We have worked hard at Bracken Hill to create an environment where the children are encouraged and celebrated. We have an open-door policy and the relationship between school and parents/carers is fantastic.

“There is a real community here at the school and everyone has a sense that they belong.”

Bracken Hill School, which has 168 pupils on roll, caters for young people between the ages of four and 18.

Mrs Askham added: “We have high expectations of our pupils. There are a lot more opportunities for young people with SEND once leaving school these days; that is why it is important to nurture relationships with external organisations.

“We have found that our pupils also learn better if they can get a hands-on experience with the topic they’re studying, before they start learning about it.

“For example, we had a giant space dome set up in the school hall for those who studying space; and we’ve also taken part in a Spirit of the Stone Age workshop at the University of Nottingham, it really helped the pupils take this knowledge into their lessons.”

Older pupils are given opportunities outside of school such as studying small animal care over twelve weeks at Nottingham College to support their work related learning, whilst the school also runs a residential trip for students every other year.

They frequently welcome visitors into school and have recently had visits from Jungle Jo to support work in Science lessons, Jo Jingles for music and movement and representatives from business to support careers interviews.

Mrs Askham says that Bracken Hill is constantly evolving to cope with the changing demands in special education.

She said: “We are constantly upskilling our members of staff to meet the growing needs of pupils; they really do go above and beyond.

“Mrs McLoughlin, for example, is our community liaison officer and plays an important role in helping parents with referral applications for their child, if they need additional help, and working with local charities and food banks.

“It’s an important role and I really don’t think the school could function without her.”

Julien Schofield, CEO of Esteem Multi-Academy Trust, said that he is delighted to welcome Bracken Hills.

He said: “We greatly value each school’s unique identity which reflects the diverse needs of the pupils.

“Our vision is to lead and support all the schools within Esteem Multi-Academy Trust to provide the highest standards of education and development for all of our pupils.

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Bracken Hill School to the Trust, and we’re looking forward to developing our relationship with staff, pupils and the school community.”

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