A Year to Look Forward To

The WSOA Partnership Board highlights inspirational Trauma Informed Schools training and discusses how, in its fifth and final year, the OA will share the learning that is delivering so well for West Somerset. 

The beginning of June saw the last WSOA Partnership Board meeting for Year 4 of the Opportunity Area programme. Following the announcement that the 12 national Opportunity Areas would be given a funding extension into a fifth year, the focus was on what had already had greatest impact for children and young people in West Somerset, and how lessons learned could also maximize success at county level and beyond. It was commented on by our Chair, Professor Colin Diamond, that the Opportunity Area is a pioneer within the region and that the valuable experience should not be lost going forward.

Year 4 finishes at the end of August 2021. After a Summer programme of holiday activities with food, which will be enhanced by the OA, the final leg of the programme will begin at the start of the new academic year in September, with the aim of building on achievements to date. The ambition is to leave West Somerset with a sustainable legacy of improvements in learning and classroom excellence, greater access to career enhancing relationships and training, plus a sustainable network of partnerships to help every young person fulfil their potential.  With that at the forefront of the agenda, it was announced that a conference will be convened in the Autumn of 2021, with the sole purpose of fleshing out a viable, lasting structure that will deliver a legacy for this work.  

One partner commented that attainment and progress with regard to young people, and the teams around them, cannot take place without the solid foundation of good mental health and the board were given a presentation on the Trauma Informed Schools training that has been rolled out across West Somerset schools this academic year.  

The aim of Trauma Informed Schools training is to provide appropriate training for school communities so that they become mentally healthy places for all. The idea is to help children and teenagers before they develop mental health issues – to “catch them as they are falling not after they have fallen”.

It was stressed that the value of wellbeing is high on the agenda of the educational recovery package and the board learned that the West Somerset area wide model encompasses training for senior leaders and practitioners, both in schools and in wider outreach/community settings.

At the start of the Trauma Informed Schools project, eight schools took part in a one-day whole school training session and this was followed by twenty-four senior leaders from schools and area services taking part in a two-day Senior Leadership programme.  In addition to this, twenty-eight colleagues from schools and outreach services are about to complete the final phase of the ten-day long Practitioner Diploma.

In terms of impact, the board were delighted to hear that the TIS training has been called the “most empowering learning some individuals had ever undertaken” and it is already informing discussions around updating behaviour and relationship policies in some schools.  With its emphasis on cognitive development and neuroscience, participants felt it helped them understand the reasons behind certain behaviours and not just the behaviour itself. West Somerset now has a body of educationalists who can support each other in taking the programme forward, for the benefit of every school community.

Going forward with a budget of £869,700, Year 5 of the West Somerset Opportunity Area will continue to work across all areas relating to improved focus upon improvements in Early Years attainment and Schools Standards. There will be continued support for professional development within schools and it will also continue to engage beyond the school gates. This will include a parenting programme for parents of 0-18 and 0-25 SEND, as well continued embedding of ‘Team Around the School’. The aim is that not only are parents confident accessing learning, but they are also fully engaged in raising their children and are aware of all steps to take at each stage of the child’s development.

The Opportunity Area will continue to explore how parents can have the opportunity to work with access to affordable childcare.  Additional work will take place in Year5 to examine opportunities for high quality, effective wraparound childcare including support for growing the availability of OFSTED registered provision.

Other highlights of the meeting include the continued efforts to generate employment post-16 and further skill-up training. It was very clear to all colleagues that school leavers had faced an incredibly tough transition during Covid-19 and that they must continue to receive extra support to help them enter the workplace. Ongoing provision of training opportunities and relationships with local business will continue to be funded.

Further twinning projects are planned for Year5 to extend the reach of progress to date and to enable other authorities to benefit from lessons the Opportunity Area has learned. It was stressed that a key focus within the final year of the programme will be to ensure that all of the outstanding work across each priority area is embedded in a sustainable way, to empower the children, young people and families of West Somerset to have the very best opportunities to succeed.

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