As I sit reading yet another young person’s paperwork, I feel an increasing sense of worry about the state of our education system for some young people. So many of the student profiles we are sent are for young people whose anxiety has been a catalyst for their avoidance from school and/or is causing them to disengage with life in general. This anxiety is often exacerbated by their individual diagnosis and sometimes their needs not being met in the best place.

At the Alternative Provision setting I work in, SENse Learning, we offer bespoke learning packages for children and young people with additional needs who are either out of school or struggling to attend. Our holistic approach focuses on emotional and social wellbeing, interaction, learning and life skills. We aim to support each of our students to get to a place where they can manage more formal education again or can be supported onto an educational pathway that’s better suited to their needs. Relationship building and working to each students interests and pace is at the forefront of what we do.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen an exponential increase in the need for our services. Often these children and young people come to us unable to get out of their beds, let alone leave their homes. These are all capable young people who, with the right support, should be able to access specialist, or in some cases, mainstream schooling. In the last two 5 years, we have worked with over 250 young people and currently provide for around 135 students.

Many of these young people have been out of education for a sustained period of time, some for more than a couple of years before coming to us – that just isn’t good enough. I constantly ask myself, ‘Where is it really going wrong? What are the main reasons?’

Themes that jump out are the child’s perceived need to ‘get it right’ or ‘to make it perfect’, adding to a generation of young people with increasing anxiety and mental health issues, and a data-driven, attainment-focussed curriculum, that puts so much pressure on our young people at an early age. It is perhaps unsurprising that a love of learning can be so quickly damaged or the pressure to succeed can become overwhelming.

Something needs to change if we are to support students to reach their full potential, whatever their need, who are able to thrive within their school environments and on into their adult life. Our work at SENse Learning, like many other brilliant non-registered APs out there, is all about supporting children and young people to re-engage, not only with learning, but with life in general. But what we need to work on is preventing them from becoming disengaged in the first place.

I strongly believe that together, and through this network, we have the power to turn things around, to help our young children to have access to the education they deserve.

Lucy McMann
Managing Director and Founder of SENse Learning