UK

Five UK schools named on global prize shortlist

Two schools for children with autism in England have been shortlisted for the work they do for pupils.

Trystan Williams is executive headteacher of Venturers’ Academy
Trystan Williams is executive headteacher of Venturers’ Academy

A school which takes children with special educational needs on “extreme classroom” expeditions is in the running for a global education prize.

Venturers’ Academy, an all-age special school in Bristol, is one of five schools in the UK which are on the top 10 shortlists for the T4 Education World’s Best School prizes.

The state school for children with autism has been shortlisted among the world’s best for overcoming adversity, alongside a secondary school in London.

Kingsford Community School, a state school in Newham, east London, where 72% of pupils speak English as a second language and nearly half are eligible for free school meals, is in the running for the prize for turning adversity into excellence.

Grange School, an all-age special school in Manchester which offers real-life learning experiences to children with autism through enrichment areas including a farm, a pupil-operated coffee shop and a role-play village, has been shortlisted for the innovation prize.

The winners of the five World’s Best prizes – for community collaboration, environmental action, innovation, overcoming adversity, and supporting healthy lives – will each receive 10,000 US dollars (£7,800).

Last year, the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School, a bilingual and integrated Jewish-Arab school in Israel, was crowned winner of the global prize for overcoming adversity.

Trystan Williams, executive headteacher of Venturers’ Academy, told the PA news agency: “The journey that these children have been on is really, really remarkable.”

In 2019, the school led the “Wettest Classroom on Earth” expedition where a ship was sailed around the coastline of Britain over two months with pupils and teachers on board.

The school plans to send pupils on a “Driest Classroom on Earth” trip in the next academic year to walk across some of the deserts in Oman.

On being shortlisted for a global prize, Mr Williams said: “It shows my colleagues how brilliant they are about what they do on a day-by-day basis and these trips are just one intervention that the school has.”

He added: “The adults here will literally go to the ends of the earth to transform a child’s life.”

Rachael Clifford, headteacher at Grange School, said pupils are outside of the classroom doing “real-life learning experiences” in enrichment areas as part of every single lesson.

Rachael Clifford
Rachael Clifford

Students can learn subjects like mathematics while on the farm, and the role-play village and pupil-run coffee shop allow the children to practise their communication skills, she said.

Ms Clifford told PA: “We’ve got a real passion here at Grange to make sure that we prepare our children for the next step in life after they leave us, fully prepared to be a successful citizen in employment or further education.”

Both Avanti House Secondary School, a state Hindu school in Stanmore, north London, and Lydiard Park Academy, a state school in Swindon, Wiltshire, are in the running for the supporting healthy lives prize.

Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education, said: “Unless we solve the urgent challenges global education faces – from learning gaps exacerbated by Covid to chronic underfunding and the growing teacher wellbeing, recruitment and retention crisis – we will have failed the next generation.

“Trail-blazing UK schools like Venturers’ Academy, Kingsford Community School, Grange School, Avanti House Secondary School and Lydiard Park Academy, which have cultivated a strong culture and aren’t afraid to innovate, show the difference that can be made to so many lives.

“Schools everywhere can now learn from their solutions, and it’s time governments do so as well.”

The top three finalists for each of the five prizes will be announced in September followed by the winners in November.