Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Every Day Counts: How the school is changing lives

Jason Ashley on the attendance bus Photo: ITV MERIDIAN

It's the knock at the door that says they care.

Since teachers from Redbridge Community School started touring the Millbrook Estate in Southampton chasing up truants, they've increased attendance rates by nearly six per cent.

Those on patrol include the headteacher Jason Ashley. On the day I joined him alongside assistant head Sarah Lewis, he was driving the school minibus wearing his beanie, and challenging students who should be in lessons.

He says being out and about on the doorstep helps with building relationships with students who might have difficult lives - that the personal touch makes a difference.

"What I try and prove is that I am not sitting in my ivory tower telling people what to do but part of the mission to improve aspirations in the community," he says.

"I suppose my role as a headteacher is to prove that education really can be an opportunity to continue to better yourself whatever that will be."

The minibus tours the estate looking for truants Credit: ITV Meridian

To those who suggest teachers should be in the classroom rather than riding around chasing up recalcitrant teenagers, assistant head Sarah Lewis has a simple answer.

"My timetable is teaching as well. I think this is absolutely a valuable use of my time because what we know is when we look at student's attendance it directly correlates to their attainment so basically if you are in school you can learn and you do better. "

As well as the attendance bus the school runs a whole host of incentives, rewarding pupils for being at school and doing the right thing. They include cakes and sweets and time in the school's VIP lounge complete with pool table and pinball machine.

There's a special unit within the school called "EduK8" which works with pupils at risk of exclusion. Small classes, lots of support, individual timetables - all are possible. The aim is to gradually get back into lessons in the main school - earned by good behaviour.

"There's more to EduK8 than what is on the performance tables, there's more to Redbridge than making sure our data goes up in a positive trend," says the head of EduK8 Laura Streeter. "Our goal is to make sure that pupils leave this school wanting to be someone rather than leaving this school with no hope or no aspirations."

Those performance tables of course have no column for how much schools care - or any measurement for just how far they have raised the aspirations of pupils.

And the school is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of a highly academic curriculum on students who want to follow a different path based on skills and vocational qualifications.

Assistant head Sarah Lewis tours the Millbrook Estate Credit: ITV Meridian
Credit: ITV Meridian

"Regardless of where you live shouldn't stop you from studying an academic curriculum and going onto university," says Jason Ashley. "My concern would be that not every student has an aspiration to go onto further and higher education.

"I can give lots of examples of students who wish to go into the building trade and they are telling me that studying French and History is not going to get them to where they want to be."

It's a school that is doing its very best to transform the lives of its pupils for the better.

Yet some would say it's operating within a system that gives it little credit for the difference it makes.