Introduction and background
For five days in November 2011, 49 Year 10 pupils from Canterbury Academy in Kent took part in a residential visit to the Rock UK Carroty Wood Centre in Kent (see the case study here). The main purpose of the visit was to enable disengaged students learn and achieve in a different, more positive and supportive setting.
The subject teachers involved in the residential were aiming for all activities to directly enhance GCSE attainment in their core subjects, particularly for those students identified as borderline C/D. Additionally, they were hoping that the experience would help to build better relationships between staff and students.
Student A was a persistent school refuser and had the lowest attendance in her year group. She attended this residential at Carroty Wood and has now left the school with grade C and above in English, Maths and Science.
Student A – short term impact (during and after residential)
The residential visit leader participated in a staff evaluation focus group following the residential, and commented specifically about student A:
“The fact is that she has the worst attendance in the school. She has very difficult personal circumstances that are her barriers to accessing school. She had very low self esteem and confidence approaching this week. We’ve tried several methods of reintegrating her into school and all have failed because she’s struggled to engage socially with other young people – they’ve all left her behind. To see her engaging socially with her peers and engaging with the learning on an equal footing, bearing in mind how far behind she is and the low confidence over her learning, that’s staggering for her as an individual.”
Comments from student A about the residential experience and its overall impact, which were gathered on the residential itself:
“I didn’t come to school for about a year because it was boring and I didn’t like it. I’ve started coming back and I’ve been in a couple of days and they offered me to go on this trip. I said I’d give it a go, but when I was in school those few days I was not understanding a single thing where I’d been away for so long. But since I’ve come on the residential, when in maths this morning we had to do things around archery, it really helped me and I could do it by myself with no help – and part of it without a calculator.
It’s better. I was going to start going to school before, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to catch up. It kind of put me off. But now I’ll give it a go. And now I’ve come here I actually understand things like pi and I didn’t understand that before.
It’s going to help, because everyone’s doing stuff that helps them in their GCSEs – now, it’s going to give me 10% of my English GCSE. I feel good [about going to school on Monday] because I’ve got something that I know how to do. If I just base everything around everything back here I might be able to get it done.
Where I’ve only just come back it’s helped me, instead of going straight back into a school day. It is difficult. [I’ll go to school more now] because I’ve understood things. You get to know the teachers more – they’re not so stuck up. When they come here they’ve come out of their shell a bit and you get to know them and they get to know you. I don’t have to be worried. I can go and find them and talk to them.”
Following the residential two different members of staff (her subject teachers) took part in evaluation focus groups, and commented on student A’s engagement within their lessons.
“Student A was very nervous at the start of trip as she had lost her friendship group – she then developed one over the trip and this has sustained since coming back to school. [During the residential] Student A made friends easily and tried really hard, her vocabulary and questioning improved a lot at Carroty Wood, so her confidence in English was good when she came back. She showed she has the skills to make good relationships during the different activities – this led to common ground to talk about with others and develop friendships.”
Maths Pythagoras lesson:
“Student A was in the middle of her maths test when she literally shouted out, ‘I know how to do this! You should have all gone to Carroty Wood – Mr W taught me how to do this!’…[This incident] epitomises the relationships and the learning that happens – she felt like she wanted to stand up and tell everyone.”
Student A – longer term impact (19 months later)
Student A left the school in June 2013 having achieved the level 2 threshold, and having massively improved her attendance record.
She went on to study and complete a construction course at college. Without the intervention of this residential her refusal to attend school would have almost certainly led to her becoming NEET.