Family & Education

The programme making sure that no child is left behind

Children not well-suited to mainstream education can find themsleves lost and aimless. But many are discovering a range of options to ensure they have meaningful futures


It can be easy to fixate on grades - not least during the summer, when A-Level and GCSE results risk condensing a student's achievements to letters marked inside an envelope.

But while the headlines tend to focus on the highest achievers, whose A*s and As are impressive and well-deserved, it is also important to consider those pupils who may not have ranked so high. Those who worked just as tirelessly, but whose skills lie in other areas. Those who struggle to perform within the narrow margins of academia, so are often overlooked.

Recognising this importance, Norwood runs a range of programmes open to pupils of varied ages from across the spectrum - from those who have been diagnosed with special educational needs, to others whose struggles may be social or emotional, rather than medical. The aim? To ensure that every child has the space and support to find their skill set, develop a vocation, and not be left behind.

"The earlier that difficulties are addressed, by any form of intervention, the better the chances are that we won't be needed down the line," said Daniel Stavrou, teaching services manager at Binoh, Norwood's educational branch.

One of Binoh's services is to offer primary school children and secondary school children who have mild learning difficulties - both diagnosed and undiagnosed - assistance to supplement their school studies.

The children involved spend part of their time at a mainstream school, and then visit Binoh two or three times per week for three-hour sessions, where they work on core skills such as literacy, numeracy, and Kodesh studies, and also practical skills like studying alone and mixing in larger groups.

The sets are small and divided between boys and girls, each containing between three and seven children. They are taught by both a specialist teacher and a teaching assistant, meaning they receive unparalleled attention and tailor-made support.

"The concept is that if we do our job well, they will be with us for as little time as possible and will reintegrate full-time into mainstream schooling," Mr Stavrou said.

The same goes for the charity's work with older children. Working both inside schools, as well as at Norwood's Kennedy Leigh family centre in north-west London, the idea is to help teenagers find a skill that will put them in good stead for the future.

Mr Stavrou explained: "There are certain students who tend to be on the fringes. On the one hand, they have a challenge to learning, but they don't belong in special-needs schools. For this reason, they are on the edges of mainstream schooling.

"In most schools, the provisions are not good enough to allow them to fulfil themselves in a more vocationally-orientated curriculum. That is the gap we are trying to fill."

One service is providing a qualification in "functional skills" in core subjects like English, maths and computing. Pupils who take part learn how to speak and write to different types of people.

"It is practical and hands-on, and relates to the pupil's own life," Mr Stavrou said. "We have the space and expertise to tailor-make the qualification based on the pupil's needs."

Also on offer is the opportunity to study vocational BTECs through Binoh's "transition programme". Participants have just finished their GCSEs and, in most cases, have not been able to graduate into sixth form. University is unlikely.

"At this point, they are still not ready for full-time employment," Mr Stavrou said. "They don't have the necessary skills and they can also be immature or socially vulnerable. We are trying to transition them from a point of crisis to one of real growth and change."

Qualifications on offer range from generic BTECs like "work skills", which teaches the student how to prepare for job interviews and how to behave at work, to more streamlined trades like gardening, childcare, library work, hairdressing, animal care and computing.

As well as working with school-leavers, Binoh collaborates with JFS and Hasmonean, and runs a successful course at JCoSS where students who sit a BTEC in health and social care are guaranteed a job.

According to Mr Stavrou, the biggest challenge is convincing the student of his or her potential. Often, they feel dejected by poor grades, especially when compared to their friends.

"Mainstream academic education is very biased towards a particular way of learning," he said. "If they don't fit the mould, they don't know where to turn. And if they can't continue into their sixth form, they run the risk of being excluded from their peers.

"They often come to us in despair and don't see the point in learning at all," he continued. "Then they find themselves aimless or in bad company. We believe that every student has the potential; it is a question of finding it and helping them to enhance it.

"We have some pupils whose families cannot believe how far they have come and would never have thought that their child would end up in paid employment."

Mr Stavrou said that society's fascination with labels is unhelpful. More important is providing the space and resources to help the pupils develop - something the Jewish community is well equipped for.

"The community's response has been incredible," he said. "There is such willingness to help our children and offer placements across a whole variety of sectors. It's all part of looking after our own.

"Sometimes special needs are overlooked, while other times people are too quick to diagnose kids. It is important for the right people to get involved. I like to think we are the right people."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive