“Learning for Life” with Bloom – supporting Alternative Provision students to flourish

There is a great need to support the mental health of children and young people in alternative provision education. A 2018 report from the House of Commons Education Committee (Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever-increasing exclusions) found that an estimated one in two pupils in Alternative Provision schools have social, emotional and mental health as their primary category of Special Educational Need, as opposed to 1 in 50 in the general population.


Despite the identified need, there is a lack of sufficient support and funding for these schools. This has certainly been the experience of staff at Kings Mill Special School in the East Riding, Yorkshire who have felt frustration at the lack of support available to them and their students.

Following a chance encounter with one of our Bloom Training Associates, Kings Mill Special School got in touch with the Bloom engagement team to see whether we might be able to bring our programme to their school. Bloom seeks to equip students aged 14-18-year-olds with the tools and knowledge they need to build their resilience so they can better protect and maintain their mental health through life’s transitions.

After an in-depth discussion with our team about the needs of the students and school staff, they decided to take the plunge and signed up to our 8 session co-delivery programme. A core component of Bloom is training teachers in the content so that we can jointly deliver a series of 6 workshops to a selected student group with those staff. 20 Kings Mill students and 13 teachers took part, inspiring the whole staff team to learn more about mental wellbeing and bring Bloom tools and techniques into their work on an ongoing basis.

We were delighted to utilise some of the previous experience and skills we had gained in supporting Alternative Provision schools after training more than 90 staff at The Complete Works, an Alternative Provision school with campuses across London.

The enthusiasm from staff at the school for Bloom was evident in week 1, when 13 keen staff showed up to receive our full training rather than the required 3-5.

One of our Training Associates for the programme, Helen Williams recalled:

“Following the first half of teacher training it became clear that we would need to facilitate a pared down version of Bloom to suit the group of students we were going to be working with. This involved selecting three activities per workshop, simplifying them and making them as accessible as possible with the teachers’ input and insights.”

– Helen Williams, Bloom Training Associate

From the 13 staff trained, two stepped forward as classroom leads for the student workshops – Caroline and Marnie, and worked closely with Helen to adapt our content where necessary and deliver it to students each week.

Our Bloom co-delivery model usually involves 6 student sessions in total: Resilience, Exam stress, Social pressures, Managing studies, Friendships and Decisions about the future, but some changes were made to suit the student group. For example, while these students are assessed, they don’t experience exams in the traditional sense and so rather than focusing on exam stress, this workshop was adapted to discuss stress more generally.

“We created new scenarios that were aligned with life events the students would relate to” Helen explained. “I adapted the toolkit by taking out references to exams, but most of the strategies were relevant to coping with wider life stressors these students have experienced.”

As weeks went by, Helen gradually encouraged Caroline and Marnie to lead on more and more of the workshop content – a vital part of the Bloom model to ensure legacy outcomes in a school, with staff left behind who feel able to continue delivering our content. Caroline shared that this often pushed her out of her comfort zone, but that she was very pleased with the outcome.

“I am glad we stuck to us all delivering an activity each session as I now feel confident to use the activities again,” she explained. “The co-delivery has worked really well. Helen sent us the activities she thought would work for each session and we adapted them between us.”

Students responded well to the content – particularly the friendship session, which provides techniques to manage conflict within friendships – and some staff also expressed that they found the workshops on managing negative self-talk useful. Staff plan to use the content to support both students and staff in the future, creating a better mental health culture for all in line with Kings Mill’s motto – ‘Learning for Life’.

A handful of students expressed how much they enjoyed the activities that they took part in during Bloom. “The Tree of Dreams was my favourite activity because I liked looking into the future. I would like to do more activities thinking about my future.” Another student simply wrote, “I liked Bloom because it made me happy.”

“Bloom is a rich resource with plenty of tools that can be adapted to work well with students in alternative provision,” Helen concluded. “There is plenty you can experiment with and adapt to meet the needs of your students. I also discovered it’s important to bring new creative ways of working to the table.”

How can you get involved with Bloom?

Sign up to Bloom on Clic, a group for teaching staff, helping you access support online for yourself and the young people you support: https://bloom.clic-uk.org/

Express your interest in co-delivery, get in touch with one of our Engagement Officers by emailing: [email protected] or [email protected].



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