Exploring the Use of External Provisions in Schools in 2024

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The educational landscape in the UK is continually evolving! In 2024, it is becoming more common for schools to turn to external provisions to enhance their educational offerings and support student well-being as they strive to provide a high-quality, comprehensive education experience to students. Typically, these provisions encompass a wide range of services and resources, from supplementary educational services to specialised support for mental health and wellbeing and extracurricular activities. In our latest blog, we explore the growing reliance on external provisions in UK schools, the benefits they bring, the challenges they present and how Focusing Minds could just be the solution you are looking for…

A Growing Need for External Provisions…

Several factors contribute to the rising demand for external provisions in UK schools:

Budget Constraints: With budget cuts and financial pressures, schools often find it challenging to meet all their students’ needs internally – does this sound familiar? External provisions can fill these gaps without requiring significant long-term investments in in-house staffing.

Specialised Needs: Students today have diverse needs, it’s inescapable that both SEN requirements and young people’s mental health and wellbeing needs are on the increase. External specialists can provide targeted services that schools generally may lack the resources to offer.

Diverse Educational Experiences: Parents and students increasingly seek educational experiences beyond the traditional curriculum. This is something we are acutely aware of with many young people accessing our range of private support services. External providers are many and can offer enrichment activities, such as music, arts, sports, and STEM programs.

Types of External Provisions…

External provisions in UK schools come in various forms, each serving a unique purpose. How many are you aware of or currently utilising in your setting?

Educational Consultants and Tutors: These professionals offer specialised knowledge and tutoring services, helping students with specific subjects or exam preparation, many different services that day-to-day school staff may be unable to deliver due to workload or commitments.

Mental Health Services: External psychologists, counsellors, and therapists provide essential mental health support, addressing early entry and more complex issues such as anxiety, confidence, self-esteem, and stress.

Extracurricular Program Providers: Organisations offering sports, arts, music, and other enrichment activities play a crucial role in holistic education.

Technology Partners: Tech companies provide digital tools and platforms that enhance learning, such as educational software, online resources, and e-learning solutions.

Benefits of External Provisions…

The integration of external provisions brings several benefits to UK schools:

Enhanced Educational Quality: By leveraging external expertise, schools can offer high-quality education in areas where they may lack in-house expertise.

Access to Specialised Services: External providers offer specialised services that address the unique needs of students, such as SEN support and mental health care.

Improved Student Outcomes: Access to additional resources and support can lead to better academic performance, improved mental health, and increased engagement in school activities.

Flexibility and Scalability: Schools can scale services up or down based on their needs, allowing for flexibility in resource allocation.

Challenges and Considerations…

While external provisions offer numerous advantages, they also come with challenges:

Cost: Hiring external providers can be expensive, potentially straining already tight school budgets in an era of high inflation, rising staffing and utility costs.

Quality Control: Ensuring the quality and effectiveness of external services can be challenging. Schools must thoroughly vet providers to ensure they meet relevant standards and have ways of determining the quality of the implementation and impact of provisions with students.

Alignment with School Values and Curriculum: External services must show some adaptability and flexibility to align with the school’s values, goals, and curriculum to ensure a cohesive educational experience.

Dependency Risks: Over-reliance on external providers might undermine the development of in-house capabilities and expertise.

How does Focusing Minds overcome such challenges?

Let’s take each of the challenges and consideration in turn and demonstrate how our provision can effectively overcome to provide effective and impactful support in your school:

Cost: We fully understand the financial constraints many schools operate under and the impact this can have on the ability to enrol external provisions in your setting. With this in mind, we offer complete flexibility for schools to determine what their needs are and how this can be structured in an affordable way so students don’t have to miss out on the impactful work we undertake.

The bespoke nature of our provision offer allow schools to ‘buy in’ for as little as half days per week and often on a term-by-term basis: no long-term contracts, no tie-ins and no costly commitments!

What’s more, if you’re part of a multi-academy trust, or have strong links with other local schools (within a reasonable distance by road) you are welcome to take advantage of our MAT discount by splitting our day rate rather than being charged our full day fees – typically we spend three and a half hours in each school. Alternatively, we can accommodate fortnightly support without having a detrimental effect on the impact of services offer, ensuring your students can take advantage of our provision without the associated weekly costs and you can save more if you alternate with another school in your trust or who you are linked with too!

And what of schools who already benefit from our services? We offer early booking incentives in the summer term for the following year, providing discounts – it’s not much but is a gesture from us to you for your commitment to purchase our services on an ongoing basis.

Quality Control: We are absolutely dedicated to providing the best possible service to your school and your students and it’s a commitment we don’t take lightly! Getting the basics right allows us to set the foundations – our staff hold Enhanced DBS checks on the update service and are familiar with KCSIE documentation. We have our own defined safeguarding policy to work alongside that of our own school and staff are trained to recognise and effectively manage safeguarding concerns.

And what of the impact of the work we undertake? This is something we are naturally keen to demonstrate and we discuss ‘what great looks like’ in our initial communications with you. We also conduct student surveys to identify the impacts of our work and construct reports and use data to ascertain where improvements in student performance are being made. We evidence the work we do with students but also you will get a feel of the positive impact our work has by noticing a difference in the students themselves.

Alignment with values: For us, this is incredibly straight forward. We immerse ourselves in your school culture and environment, seamlessly working alongside your current staff and teams to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for your students. We are keen collaborators, team players and do not work ‘in a silo’: only can external provisions working together with in-house teams can true, lasting impacts be made.

Whether it’s relating our support to your current policies and procedures or referencing specific models you utilise in everyday school life, we adopt them as our own without having to depart from the person-centred approach we see as key to student development and improvement.

Dependency risks: We are nothing but honest and open about our support and where there may be limitations or opportunities to develop staff to increase your own in-house offer – indeed, many of our school services feature staff CPD quite heavily to be able to offer training for specific needs which may reduce the need for our regular day-to-day, term-by-term input.

The Future of External Provisions in UK Schools…

Looking ahead, several trends are likely to shape the future of external provisions in UK schools:

Increased Collaboration: Schools will likely form more strategic partnerships with external providers, focusing on long-term collaboration rather than ad-hoc services. In essence, at Focusing Minds we already do this with several of our schools who have repeatedly accessed our services for several years now.

Personalised Experiences: External provisions will play a crucial role in personalising education and support, tailoring support and resources to individual student needs. We are proud at Focusing Minds of our bespoke and thorough approach to ensuring individual needs of both schools and students are met through our own provision.

Focus on Mental Health: The emphasis on mental health and wellbeing support will no doubt continue to grow, with schools increasingly relying on external mental health professionals, therapists, coaches and more to support students without the need to employ internally.

Integration of Technology: As technology continues to advance, digital tools and platforms provided by external partners are and will continue to become integral to the learning process.

In conclusion:

The use of external provisions in UK schools is a growing trend that offers numerous benefits, from enhanced educational quality to improved student well-being. However, it also presents challenges that schools must carefully manage. By thoughtfully integrating external services, schools can create a more comprehensive and supportive educational environment, ultimately leading to better outcomes for students. As we move forward, the role of external provisions will continue to evolve, and we at Focusing Minds aim to be at the forefront of this, with the overall aim of supporting as many students and young people as we can.