Guest Blog: “The Brentwood Local Delivery Group – Supporting local pupils and their families”

The degree of collaboration between Brentwood’s schools is largely invisible to most of us but some excellent support for families and students in the town are provided because of it. At our invitation, Susan Allen of the Brentwood Learning Partnership Association (BLPA), outlines what services are provided as part of this arrangement, how they came into being and how they are funded.  By supporting BLPA in the future we can all help to safeguard this excellent provision for families in our town. Educating Brentwood will publish information on future initiatives in this spirit. 

The Brentwood Local Delivery Group – Supporting local pupils and their families

The state schools in Brentwood consist of 6 secondary schools, 24 primary schools and The Endeavour MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties) special school. Since 2006 the Local Authority has allowed this large number of schools to remain as a collective Local Delivery Group (LDG). Other areas such as Basildon, Colchester and Chelmsford chose to split into up to four geographic sub groups. Brentwood LDG has remained as one group and works collectively towards common priorities for the whole of the Brentwood pupil population.

In the early stages of its development the Brentwood LDG identified the need for early intervention to children’s services as the highest priority. The specific needs for pupils in the area were identified as Emotional Health, Behaviour and Attendance and Access to Services amongst others.

Access to services was of particular concern as it was felt by many schools that local services for their pupils were either over subscribed or outside main transport routes for many families. From these priorities the LDG have created and commissioned services to support vulnerable pupils and their families.

The most popular and widely recognised service offered by the LDG is the subsidised holiday activities and events that run every school holiday and offer a diverse range of sessions ranging from sport, craft, cookery, dance, drama and animal workshops. These activities are run from various locations across Brentwood and details can be found on the LDG website .

The less familiar work of the LDG involves the provision of vital early interventions for children and families. This work is coordinated and delivered by the Brentwood Extended Services Team which is a group of multi-disciplined professionals including a psychotherapist, social worker, ex mental health nurse, parent advisor and two speech and language support workers who all work with families and pupils, on either a 1:1 basis or through group work.

The team offers parenting support sessions and regular workshops and work closely with other agencies to provide a much needed support service in Brentwood. Originally the team started out with one person accommodated in a small cupboard in Brentwood County High School but soon outgrew the space! Fortunately they were able to be accommodated on the Sawyers Hall College site and have remained there for the last five years. Recently the site of the office has transferred from the property of Essex County Council to Becket Keys CE School.

The work of the Extended Services team has been funded through a variety of different grants over the last six years. These have been awarded either through educational budgets, school contributions or further external funders such as the Local Authority, Borough Council, Health Service or National/Local charities.

Over the last few years these awards have enabled us to provide specific services such as a domestic violence awareness production, mobile classroom, as well as two different types of counselling service and a family mediation service. We have also been able to fund training for schools and other local organisations in bereavement, anti bullying and self harm strategies.

The LDG has been able to be innovative with some of their commissioned services such as Nurture Dogs. This service uses Occupational Therapy and some very well behaved dogs which are trained, groomed and petted by the pupils to assist in building self esteem in pupils. This has helped many of them to recognise ways in which they can better manage their behaviour. This intervention has also had a remarkable impact on the attendance of the pupils involved.  It is this increase in attendance that will hopefully equate to better achievement in the longer-term for some of our most vulnerable pupils.

You may not be surprised to learn that, in the current climate, the funding opportunities and grant awards are less forthcoming than they once were and as a result, we have had to ask schools to fill the funding gap. For 2012/13 all schools were asked to contribute an amount of £4 per pupil which, with one exception, they have all decided is economically in their interest to do so. This amount represented a 20% reduction in contributions from the previous year due to the fact that the LDG have been successful in raising funds through different funding streams.

The current funding “squeeze” also gave a clearer focus to the LDG on how it could maintain these unique services without putting unwelcome pressure on school budgets. This led schools to a unanimous agreement to form a charitable body which, it is hoped, might increase opportunities to obtain additional sources of funding. In June 2012 the Brentwood Learning Partnership Association (BLPA) was registered with the Charities Commission.

This new body was the first of its type in the UK and has allowed the LDG to pioneer a new way of operation through a close and supportive partnership with the national association representing PTAs (PTA-UK). With their help we were able to set up the charity with a dual purpose of supporting everything to do with education in Brentwood and offering support to a very well coordinated group of PTA’s in our schools. Although it has only been registered for a few months we are already finding that we are being successful in our grant applications and hope that we will, one day, be able to provide a service to schools without asking them to pool their funds.

All of the services on offer are only made possible by the cooperation and commitment to collaboration of our schools and their Head teachers and staff. They have all been willing to invest time and energy into our long term success. We would also be unable to continue without the generosity of both Brentwood County High School, who provide our infrastructure and support services, and of course our new host school Becket Keys.

If you would like to know more about the work carried out by the Brentwood Local Delivery Group and the services on offer from the Extended Services Team then please feel free to contact us on 01277 699432 or follow @brentwoodldg for an instant update.

Susan Allen

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