The Bridge Academy
The Bridge Academy is a pupil referral unit managed by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham which caters for 175 boys and girls aged 11 to 16 who are not accessing mainstream schools. Just under half the pupils are from ethnic minorities, predominately Black Caribbean and Black African. Twenty-six pupils have statements of special educational needs, and 80% are eligible for free school meals. The standard of teaching at The Academy has for a number of years been recognised as of high quality, and the number of pupils achieving GCSEs has increased.
The Bridge Academy took part in an Innovation Unit sponsored field trial which started in Autumn 2006 and through this The Bridge Academy Online was launched formally on 15 February 2007. This is a virtual learning environment via which the school is setting up a differentiated core offer to enable it to provide for students outside the confines of the school building and school day. This offer ranges from a 5 GCSE diet to a highly individualised offer which includes (accredited) work and tailored courses. In phase 1 of the project, the Academy provided 16 Year 9 students with an ICT equipment package, online activities and support for students and their families. By changing the timetable so students work from home for a day a week, it allowed time for students to undertake these activities, and for teachers to personalise their learning. Content was drawn from other websites and sources and tailored materials developed.
An extensive network of relationships (between parents, staff and pupils) has been developed in parallel with the ICT network. The level of personalisation offered through the Bridge Academy and Academy Online is only possible because of the resources available and low learner-teacher ratio (maximum 6:1 and frequently lower). This means that it is unlikely to be replicable in mainstream schools (although it may be possible in Learner Support Units). However, specialist units and inclusion units may in some cases secure the additional resourcing necessary to provide a comparable level of personalisation and support.
The Bridge Academy was graded 'Outstanding' in its most recent Ofsted report in 2010 and has been the subject of a number of case studies, including the Innovation Unit (unfortunately the PDF of its report is no longer available) and UK Broadband.