Hospital and Outreach Education is a pupil referral unit based in Northamptonshire for children and young people with medical and mental health needs who can’t attend school full time. Pupils learning in various settings such as hospitals, in-patient units, in home and in outreach learning centres use online learndirect courses to help increase their number of hours of education in an innovative and engaging way.
In 2014 the unit was rated outstanding by Ofsted. Their report stated: “Opportunities to gain qualifications through completing online courses, through the use of learndirect, have greatly increased the breadth and number of accredited courses available to students, especially those who are too unwell to leave their homes.”
Cath Kitchen, acting head teacher at Hospital and Outreach Education explains the benefits:
“Our learners all have very different needs and I was looking for something to put some variety into the pupils’ learning. I wanted something quick, easy and engaging which a young person could do and have something tangible they could come out with and use.
“After meeting learndirect at a conference we were impressed by the offer and decided to buy 600 units and see how it went and they’ve been so popular they’d all been used in eight weeks. It was really straightforward and easy to set up. I have one point of contact who’s been excellent. She emails and phones me regularly to check how everything’s going and has set up webex sessions to providing training in how to use the system.”
Hospital and Outreach Education uses a whole variety of learndirect courses with their pupils, from providing training in interview skills and CV writing to food hygiene and languages.
Cath said: “Each pupil has a personalised learning plan into which we fit the learndirect courses. The employability skills are really useful as I don’t have specialist teachers to deliver that type of learning in all the settings. These really help prepare pupils for the outside world.
“I’ve even had support staff taking the courses. Providing our staff with continued professional development is often a challenge as it’s costly to send them on courses and our pupils don’t like a change in teachers so the learndirect courses allow us to get around these issues.”
The online courses provide a range of benefits for both staff at Hospital and Outreach Education and the pupils.
Cath said: “One of the main benefits of learndirect is the flexibility it offers. For the young people the technology means they can access the courses on demand so they can do it from home as well as in the learning centres. The content is interactive and not too text heavy, with nice graphics and films and it’s not patronising.
“The courses really help build their confidence and motivation and teach them to be independent learners. It provides them with a break away from the more traditional methods of learning which is often a nice escape for them.
“For the teachers there are clear objectives so it’s easier to evidence how our pupils are making progress. They’re able to use them as a real motivator and it helps them prepare pupils for the next stage in their education.
“I would really recommend learndirect. It’s really good value for money, which, with shrinking budgets, is really important. If you want to try a few units you can do and you can just top up as you need. I don’t think we’ve even started to scratch the surface yet.”