A family business with over 10 years’ involvement in the children's care sector is launching an alternative education establishment in Nottingham for teenagers who have been excluded from mainstream schooling.
Younas & Schofield Group is this week launching SHAPE (Safe Haven Alternative Provision of Excellence) in Alfreton Road, Radford, in an effort to improve the prospects of 14-16-year-olds who have been permanently excluded from school.
Many of these teenagers will have displayed signs of disruptive behaviour, violence, truancy, gang or drug-related offences, while others may have actually been the victims of bullying or suffer from anxieties that make mainstream schooling difficult.
SHAPE will become the first such centre for alternative provision (AP) launched under the Safe Haven brand, which also operates over 100 semi-independent homes, children's homes and supported living units across the UK that support vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
Nottingham has the highest overall permanent exclusion rate in the country. Out of 151 local authority areas, Nottingham topped the table with 15 exclusions per 10,000 pupils in the 2020-21 academic year, according to Government data.
SHAPE, which currently has capacity for around 50 Key Stage 4 students, will offer a bespoke curriculum based on the needs of individual pupils, in addition to English and Maths, which are a statutory requirement.
Harvey Schofield, who has been appointed Head of Provision at the new centre, said: “The high demand for alternative provision is shockingly sad, not least in Nottingham.
“There’s a massive shortage of AP for youngsters who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schooling. We want to show these young people and their families that there is life beyond things like gangs and selling drugs.
“We will try to give every one of them the best chance possible for their future.”
Harvey (37) himself experienced a turbulent childhood in Nottingham, coming from what he describes as “a disruptive home with no role models and heavily involved in crime.”
He eventually ended up in young offenders’ institutions, until a supportive colleague later encouraged him to pursue a growing interest in education.
Since that point, Harvey has become a specialist in behaviour management and has plied his trade in alternative provision education ever since. He was formerly involved with Nottingham’s Stone Soup Academy, the second AP free school in the country to ever be awarded an Outstanding Ofsted rating.
With his new venture at SHAPE, Harvey will be leading a strong and carefully selected team of teachers, support and safeguarding staff.
With a maximum of eight pupils per class, teaching will be more bespoke than mainstream schools, with opportunities to learn about things like independent living, football, citizenship, the uniform services and employability, alongside more traditional subjects like art, history, geography and, of course, English and Maths.
The main building, which contains classrooms, a games room and cafeteria, benefits from a 2,500 sq ft warehouse, where Harvey also intends to teach construction skills, particularly in relation to renewable and sustainable energy.
Despite the fact that Harvey’s turbulent background mirrors that of many of the young people he supports in his profession, he said that the best mentors and educators could equally come from very advantaged, affluent backgrounds.
“It’s all about how we behave as people in this environment,” he said. “That’s what will make a difference to these youngsters. In fact, the only behaviour that is more important than the students is our behaviour as teachers and people.”
The philosophy of setting good examples extends to SHAPE’s planned daily interaction with parents and guardians. Through a social media dashboard developed by Harvey - called The Sphere - parents, pupils, referrers, and staff can interact safely, to encourage involvement from all parties.
The communication tool will also offer advice and educational opportunities directed to parents, such as enabling them to complete their own English and Maths qualifications, perhaps to help set an example for their youngsters.
Shamraiz Younas, the CEO of Safe Haven Support Care & Education Group, expressed great enthusiasm about the addition to their current offerings in place for vulnerable young people.
This venture holds special significance for him as it is located in the heart of his hometown, allowing him to give back in a personally meaningful way.
He said: “This opportunity is both rewarding and exciting. Moreover, we anticipate that this venture is just the beginning for the group, as we aspire to positively impact the lives of numerous young individuals across the country.”
The group already has a nationwide presence, providing support to young people with accommodation and daily support, including a focus on fostering independent living for those aged 16-25.
SHAPE is launching tomorrow (Feb 1) with an open day, where key people involved in Nottingham’s education provision and pupil referrals have been invited to attend.