The Medical Needs Unit evolved from the borough’s Home Tuition Service, which provided the statutory minimum of five hours week tuition for any child of school age (5 – 16) who, for medical reasons, was unable to access mainstream school. Those reasons ranged from short term post operative recovery to longer term mental health issues or terminal physical illness.
Maria Hewanicka, the Medical Needs Coordinator, after receiving a referral would set up a home tuition package. The MNC’s team of tutors responded to the referrals and liaised with schools where appropriate. Pupils stayed on roll at their school.
At this point the MNC and the team of tutors were under the umbrella of the PRU, today known as ‘The Bridge Academy’. In addition to the regular tutoring, part of Maureen Hill’s role was to teach KS4 pupils with mental health difficulties or with medical problems. Some were housebound and continued to be home tutored; others, whilst unable to access mainstream, were able to leave their home, so we considered ways of grouping them together to provide them with the socialisation essential for their emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The ‘obvious’ choice in some ways would be to have them join the Bridge Academy when it was relocated but we judged the environment to be too ‘threatening’ and intimidating for them as they were so vulnerable.
After discussions, the Headteacher at Woodlane was approached and agreed to host the newly formed Medical Needs Unit on his site. Thus in September 2005, the MNC, Maureen and her group of three young people set up in a room at Woodlane High School. Maureen developed our own resource base and was trained in all levels of KS4 exam subjects. In addition she completed a course in Youth Counselling and now offers one to one tutorial sessions in the afternoons.
From these beginnings, the MNU has now developed. To accommodate our enlarged group (we now have ten young people on roll at any one time) we moved upstairs to more suitable premises, have a separate entrance and function largely as a separate Unit. We work closely with CAMHS and other agencies and help our young people make the transition into college.
The hours of attendance for the young people has increased from the minimum five hours a week of home tuition to a minimum 20 hours a week (Mon – Fri, 9am to 1pm). They can also choose to stay longer to do personal study or for their tutorial sessions. This is not however, due to staffing resources, a formal teaching time. Some take advantage of this and benefit from it; others, due to their mental/emotional health are unable to cope with a longer day.