The Grasvenor Project
Grasvenor Project Closure Statement
'It is with a very heavy heart that we write this statement to notify stakeholders of the future of The Grasvenor Project. Sadly, the Grasvenor Project must close with immediate effect. This has been an incredibly tough decision to make and one that we can assure you has not been made lightly. The Grasvenor Project has grown significantly over the years and has had a remarkable impact on the lives of so many young people for such a sustained period of time.
As you are all aware, COVID-19 has had a marked financial impact on many businesses, charities and non-profit organisations and sadly, as a non-profit organisation, The Grasvenor Project has also been hit considerably by this. We have been unable to work mentors in the usual way during the pandemic so have had very limited funds coming in for some time and no clear timeline of when work might get back to 'normal'. Unfortunately COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing financial and historic operational issues which we were working hard to resolve. We therefore have had to make this sad decision to close with immediate effect.
We want to thank all those who have been involved with The Grasvenor Project over the years for their support, wisdom, dedication and commitment to what was a fantastic and invaluable service. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with all professionals, and most importantly young people, associated with The Grasvenor Project. We know that The Grasvenor Project has changed the lives of over 200 young people in Barnet and beyond and that amazing and life changing work is worth celebrating and focusing on as we now look to the future.'
The Grasvenor Project Team and Trust
23rd February 2021
Information about the Grasvenor Project (now closed):
The Grasvenor Project was a unique ‘life experience’ programme based in our Infant School. It aimed to nurture
and release the potential of the most vulnerable of Barnet’s Looked after Children; those who are high risk
for not achieving well at school. It did this by providing individualised support, either in a placement in an
infant school setting supported by a lead teacher, or through personalised mentor support. Following a
one year ‘pilot’ with positive evaluations we have now extended the work across more infant schools and
through an outreach programme.
The project was a partnership between Grasvenor Avenue Infant School and Barnet’s Virtual School, with additional infant and primary schools gradually coming on board. The Grasvenor Project’s evaluation shows that our focused work with this discrete group has positive outcomes including improved confidence and self-esteem, which are indicators for improved outcomes in education. Feedback from the Looked After Children’s (LAC) secondary schools show increased motivation and achievement following participation in the project. Young people’s evaluations also reflected their enthusiasm for the project.
Over the first year we developed specific expertise and skills in managing the risks and challenges of the work with the steering group working to improve and refine the project. A secondary outcome which emerged was professional development for the teachers in the infant departments. The placements increased awareness of the needs of LAC, with teachers reporting high levels of motivation in their support roles as lead adults.
The project’s ethos and commitment to the children was fundamental to its success; we were and are passionate about our child-centred approach. We responded, and in our school continue to respond, proactively to challenging situations ‘no matter what’ (within the limits of our over-arching risk management process).
The LAC used the placement in a unique way which takes full advantage of the infant school environment in which non-judgemental relationships are integral and infant play was encouraged and supported. We observed ‘regressive play’ taking place as teenage children become engrossed in play activities such as sand-pit play with other infants, or painting in the classroom. We think that the therapeutic role of this play together with the non-judgemental adult support was a key role in the success of this project with children who often have a disturbed attachment history.
Placement or Mentoring
After referral our comprehensive assessment gathers information from Children’s Social Care, the secondary schools, CAMHS, the Virtual School, and police where relevant. We found that some young people were not ready for the school placement programme initially, but benefitted from personalised outreach mentoring support, which might lead to future enrolment on the placement programme. Other young people were also able to benefit from the mentoring support offered by The Grasvenor Project. In recent times we also launched Grasvenor Educate, a full time personalised package of mentoring, placement and tutoring.
The evaluations and assessment of our first year included the use of our Risk Matrix tool which shows the LAC have built confidence and self-esteem. During the placements they took on the role of assistants in the classroom and playground, whilst being carefully supported by their Lead Adult in the school. As the teenagers were encouraged to develop their own interests within the infant school e.g. running lunch time clubs on their own, they gained skills in team-work, built time-keeping skills, and found themselves helping the younger children, playing a fulfilling and useful role which the professional adults around them respect and appreciate. One young person reported that the placement was their “one positive experience of the week”.
Feedback from the Looked after children’s secondary schools was also positive and showed improved motivation and achievement in the secondary educational setting. One young person previously at risk of permanent exclusion was put forward as the school ambassador for anti-bullying following his completion on the programme. All the young people who have completed the placement have remained on the role of their school and have not been excluded. The schools reported: ‘The young person’s face lit up when she spoke about the children, it gave her something positive to talk about, and it gave her a sense of kudos with her peers in school’ and for another young person: ‘She was known for herself, not someone in care or a troubled person’.
We recognise that the nature of work with LAC is challenging and we were delighted that our determined efforts meant that this project was safe as well as fulfilling its objectives. A full risk assessment was carried out for every young person, building on information gathered from all partners involved, including the police where appropriate. During the process of risk assessment some children are not considered ready or safe for the school placement programme, and if appropriate they will be referred onto the mentoring programme. Additionally we have built in one-to-one support (see Appendix 1c) for those who are guiding/mentoring the LAC, including lead adults, Head Teachers of participating schools and outreach mentors.
As this project was an innovative model that broke new ground it was deliberately designed to be 'open' and subject to regular review and on-going evaluation, which we continued to do throughout its existence.
The Grasvenor project was sadly closed in February 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact this took on the project financially as a non-profit organisation. We do not consider any of the lessons learnt during the project lost or 'wasted time'. In fact, as over 200 young people were reached through the project we are really proud of what was achieved. We will be forever grateful to those committed professionals and mentors who worked so hard to successfully improve outcomes for those young people.