Unity Academy official opening
On a lovely warm sunny evening on Tuesday 5th September, Unity Academy a brand new, purpose-built primary Alternative Provision (AP) situated in Kidderminster was officially opened by Professor Barry Carpenter CBE, OBE, International Education Specialist and Kate Brunt, CEO of The Rivers CofE Academy Trust.
AP schools provide education and support for children who are not able to attend a mainstream school due to reasons including illness, behaviour or exclusion. Unity Academy is a state-of-the-art school that has been built as a central hub for the Wyre Forest providing support for up to 60 pupils and outreach services for Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs in local schools.
Unity Academy is proud to be part of The Rivers CofE Academy Trust a family of 16 schools and nurseries based within Worcestershire, Sandwell and Dudley.
Speaking during the official opening, Kate Brunt, CEO of The Rivers CofE Academy Trust said “Sadly the premises that our most vulnerable pupils are often educated in are worse than mainstream settings. Unity Academy is a fantastic building and outdoor space marking the beginning of an exciting journey for the most vulnerable pupils in the Wyre Forest and Worcestershire area”.
“Rather than Alternative Provision I see Unity Academy as an Appropriate Provision, a provision to shape the future and empower our pupils to be able to return to the mainstream settings or the appropriate setting they need”.
“Pupils attending Unity Academy will have become disengaged with school for a number of reasons and it is our role to re-engage them through our Rivers Curriculum and fantastic teaching. The new team at Unity Academy are fantastic”.
Kate expressed a heartfelt thanks to the organisations who contributed to the realisation of the school, particularly the Department for Education, Worcestershire Children First, who put the initial bid in for the new school, Portakabin who manufactured and built the school and finally the educators and support staff who have created an environment conducive to learning.
Kate then welcomed Professor Barry Carpenter to open the school.
Based in Chaddesley Corbett, Professor Barry Carpenter, has been awarded an OBE and CBE by the Queen for services to children with Special Needs and is the Professor in Mental Health in Education at Oxford Brookes University and the author of over 200 articles and texts on a range of learning/special needs topics. He said, “ It is a great honour to open Unity Academy as this is my home patch.”
Talking about the new school he said “This is going to be a stopping point, a signpost for many children on their educational journey. The one route that they were being offered may not have helped them achieve the goal of being a successful, efficient, effective learner, they need to go a different route, but the goal remains the same. There should be no sense of shame or lost purpose, instead, this is recognition that we all travel a different route, but we can all get to the same destination”.
“The quest, mission and purpose of an educational establishment like Unity Academy is to re-engage children to be active learners, not peripheral learners watching the learning of others, children who can own their own learning and attainment”.
Professor Barry explained how “Education is the key to so many doors” and how “An environment like this [Unity Academy] offers hope to those children who without this opportunity may be lost to education, society and their own lives. Lives can be transformed here”.
“Here is a place where the children’s voices can be found, here is a place where they can engage as successful learners once more, here is a gateway to their education and all the fulfilment that brings”.
After a presentation by Barry and Kate, they were joined to cut the ribbon to officially open the school, alongside Unity Academy Headteacher Kuldip Berdesha, Director of Children’s Services at WCF Tina Russell and Portakabin Contract Manager Andrew Catherall.
Invited guests, which included members of Worcestershire Children’s First (WCF) and Portakabin, Headteachers from local Wyre Forest schools, local residents and neighbours and Old Sladonians (ex-pupils of Sladen Middle School which previously occupied the school site), were then welcomed to tour the impressive new school.
A Wyre Forest Headteacher commented on how “homely and welcoming” the school felt.
Unity Academy will open its doors to pupils on Monday 11th September with 18 primary school-aged children starting the term and being welcomed by 12 members of staff.