Phoenix Park Academy's minibus mobile classroom project reaps rewards for students!
A ground-breaking Grimsby initiative which provides schooling to highly vulnerable students has inspired identical projects across the region.
Phoenix Park Academy launched its mobile classroom two years ago and its success has seen the launch of a second minibus.
Wellspring Academy Trust, which runs the alternative education provider, has been so impressed with the project it has purchased three additional vehicles to enable it to repeat the success elsewhere.
Phil Burns, Assistant Principal at Phoenix Park Academy, thanked the Home Office, Humber Outreach Programme and the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery for their support and sponsorship.
“Attendance of those involved in the initial programme increased from 22% to 73%,” said Phil. “Among current students, the figure’s improved from 34% to 71%.
“We are delighted by the initiative’s success.
“School is not for some children, for a variety of reasons. We needed to look at ways we can engage and educate them.
“The minibus enables us to take school to their homes. Some have one or two days a week on the bus and come into school the other days. Two students have a full five-day offer in the mobile classroom.
“They are being taught GCSE English and Maths, plus other subjects, but it is done in a different way.
“Parents have been supportive. We’ve had instances of them ringing and asking where the bus is if it’s running late.”
Phil puts part of the project’s success down to outreach worker Toseef Khan, known as Tee.
He’s been supported by the Home Office in setting up social enterprise Wizer, having served 10 years of a 16-year sentence aged 19 for gang-related offences.
Tee said: “I really messed up. I live in Bradford and got caught up in anti-social behaviour and eventually gangs.
“I realised in prison I needed to sort myself out. I had not been interested in education and had no qualifications, having been excluded from mainstream school. I left prison with a degree in criminology and social policy.
“Eventually, with the support of my family, I started working with ex criminals and set up my own outreach organisation to help young people.
“This scheme in Grimsby is really close to my heart. I understand the issues faced by the kids here. There are some heart-breaking stories.
“They have barriers up initially but, when I talk to them, I think the kids can relate to me.
“The issue I had was being NEET (not if education, employment or training) and being exploited as a result.
“The bus is definitely something else. We can give them a bespoke timetable suited to them. The kids are off the streets, safe and warm.
“This is an outstanding initiative by Wellspring and I’m proud to play a part.”
Executive Principal at Phoenix Park Academy Phil Hutchinson congratulated the team behind the mobile classroom.
“Its success with these highly vulnerable young people is there for all to see,” he said.
“When we proposed purchasing a second minibus, Wellspring bought three more to enable the initiative to be copied in other academies across the region.
“Working alongside other agencies, we are tackling historic issues with ground-breaking ideas.
“It takes time, but the young people and wider community will benefit from this difficult work.”
UK director of Phillips 66 Darren Cunningham, which has contributed £10,000 to the project, said: “We are proud to support this initiative and delighted to hear of its successes.
“Education gives us all the tools that help form the foundations of our future life decisions.
“Education isn’t black and white, and this innovative approach is helping to ensure everyone has the chance of an education, no matter what other difficulties they may be dealing with.
“To work with a school whose fundamental values and Mission are so aligned with ours is an honour. They truly are Making a difference to these students’ lives.”