Professor Lord Robert Winston, world expert in human reproduction, opened North West London Independent School last week. The special school in Ealing has a new £2 million building and is about to have its first intake of pupils with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC).
Many people know Lord Winston from his television appearances. He was the science expert in Jamie’s Dream School and is also highly respected for his work as a doctor and surgeon. Last week he took time out from his busy schedule to open the school’s science room which bears his name.
The North West London Independent School can take up to 55 pupils and supports nine boroughs across West London. It is one of three schools owned by TC Education Services (TCES) which works with children who have serious behavioural difficulties.
Most of the pupils arrive in year 10 and will require considerable support including some one to one teaching. They have been excluded from other provision and may not have been attending school on a regular basis for several years. Some are in care and may also be known to the Criminal Justice system.
The aim of TCES is to get children back into full time education but also to help them re-engage with their community and this might be challenging if they have a criminal record and have been in conflict with their families and neighbours. The school works with Impressionable Minds, an organisation which provides workshops and activities for children to make them aware of the consequences of anti social behaviour.
TCES is proud of its record in helping pupils them to get accreditation. “More than 80% of our pupils are in education, training or employment six months after they have left year 11,” said Thomas Keaney, chief executive of TCES. “This is a figure which most schools would be proud of but it is particularly remarkable given the profile of our young people.”
Now the North West London Independent School has a new unit called Genesis for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. This will be run totally separately from the main school so that the teenagers with behavioural difficulties will not come into contact with the autistic pupils.
Jacqui Twitchell, head of service for ASC, is delighted with the modern, flexible learning spaces and high quality facilities. “Everything has to be very individual,” she said. “Some of our learners will react badly to particular colours or different stimuli so the new unit will be in neutral colours with small rooms and areas where children can take time out if everything is getting on top of them.”
Luke, a year 10 pupil with ASC from another TCES school, praised the support he had received from Jacqui Twitchell and other staff, “I have changed quite a lot,” said Luke. “I am keeping calm a lot longer more willing to listen to other people’s side of things. If you had seen me last October you would not think I was the same person.”
Professor Robert Winston praised TCES and Thomas Keaney for the work they do with young people who are dropping out of education and in danger of social exclusion. “We don’t always value young people in our society,” he said. “The experiences they have when they are young are very important and if it goes wrong for them in their early years it is hard to undo the damage.”