A FORMER education secretary and schools minister has applauded the work being done by Future Schools Trust during a visit to our academies and ground-breaking Gateway.

Estelle Morris – now Baroness Morris of Yardley – is a former teacher who was a key player in Tony Blair’s Labour Government between 1997 and 2005.

She visited all our schools and the Gateway at NLL– a new provision for children with additional needs who are disaffected and underachieving.

Ms Morris said: “I admire and welcome this new approach by Future Schools Trust. The Gateway is not about making life easier for the children or for the staff – it is a very determined way to meet the needs of a group of young people and ensuring they get the best from their education.

“For a school to deal with the children on site, as an integrated part of the school so that they still belong but have a curriculum tailored to their needs, is the right thing to do.”

She applauded the management of the Trust - and the Gateway in particular - and said: “I feel a sense of ambition and determination matched with a healthy dose of realism - which is how it should be.

“Here we have a Trust that is really determined to deliver better outcomes for the children and give them better life choices - and that shows through in the classrooms. I have seen children working in a focussed way in lessons in all of the Trust’s schools, clearly enjoying what they are doing.”

The Baroness’s visit coincides with a new inquiry by the Commons Education Select Committee into the education of children in alternative provision, following news that the number of children being excluded from school is on the increase.

Head of Gateway James Graham said: “Our aim is to teach practical skills whilst reinforcing the need for academic rigour.

“The Gateway is an extremely adaptable provision, providing students with an array of opportunities to both develop and inspire them. It is not a case of ‘one size fits all.’ We will work together as a Trust to find the resource which works best for each child.

“It’s not going to be a soft option – just a different option – and one which will, we believe, ensure each child has the opportunity to maximise his or her potential.”

The Gateway incorporates a classroom and IT suite for teaching small groups and a circular table to be used whilst eating and during discussions. The team will work in conjunction with outside agencies and professionals, such as counsellors, therapists and social services.

Mr Graham said: “It is really exciting to be working on such a ground-breaking project. Hopefully, in a year from now, we will be able to show that this is a model other schools and academies can follow.”

Future Schools Trust plans to send a written submission to the select committee, which is looking at the effectiveness of pupil referral units as well as in-house provision like the Gateway.