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Support for special educational needs and disabilities

3 Jan 2018

At Octopus Healthcare, we’re not just investing in buildings and businesses, but people and their futures. The companies we invest in share our vision.

One such company is the Aurora Group, a specialist provider for children, young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

SEND describes the needs of a child with a difficulty or disability that makes it harder for them to access learning compared to other children of the same age. Needs cover everything from specific learning difficulties – such as dyslexia – to profound and multiple learning difficulties.

SEND affects many lives. Approximately one in five children will have SEND at some point during school years. And the number of children identified with SEND is growing. According to the Government’s most recent data, currently 1.2 million children have SEND, which works out at 14.4% of the school age population.

In supporting a child with SEND, families can obtain an education, health and care plan that is legally binding. However, SEND remains an underserved area. Funding cuts and policy reforms have made navigating the UK’s education, health and care systems extremely challenging for all involved.

The work of Aurora

Since launching in 2015, Aurora has made great progress in working to meet the needs of children and young adults with SEND. It has grown from a team of eight to 860, with nine operational schools, two further education colleges and two adult care homes across the UK. Funded by local authorities, these facilities support 485 children and young adults. The Aurora team works not just to provide care and support but to encourage, develop and celebrate diversity, and ultimately to empower uniqueness in every individual in their services.

Outstanding care, outstanding results

Aurora’s Orchard Manor, offering a living and learning environment for young adults with severe and complex learning difficulties, was awarded its second ‘Outstanding’ rating from the UK’s Care Quality Commission in 2017.

The accreditation is rarely given. In fact, it’s been awarded to just 2% of UK adult social care services in the last 12 months. However, the team is not resting on its laurels but focused on continuous improvement. Aurora’s culture is one of transparency, trust and learning, including strong leadership and teamwork, with extensive induction programmes to ensure that all staff deliver the highest standards of care. Cathy Rundell, Service Manager at Orchard Manor, talks about a new arrival who had previously spent six months in hospital with his mother by his side. Concerned about separation anxiety, the team was thrilled that, “He’s settled fabulously and hasn’t stopped laughing since he moved in. Now that’s outstanding.”

New buildings for new opportunities

Take Aurora Brambles in Leyland, a specialist school for boys with needs related to social, emotional and mental health issues. The state-of-the-art building created by Aurora opened in September 2017, and now caters for 80 boys aged 9-16.

In a local article, Head teacher Dan Creed discussed how the new building allowed the school to support more pupils. He emphasised that, “For many students who come here they may have felt rejection and misunderstanding in previous placements. So, it is mine and my team’s aim to never give up on anyone who comes to us.”

Living, learning and the workplace

Aurora also helps those with SEND in the workplace. Through colleges and placements, including at Aurora Boveridge College and Foxes Academy, it supports adults with SEND in forging careers. Activities include supported internships and apprenticeships, equipping people with practical skills and giving them deserved opportunities.

Foxes Academy is a specialist catering college and training hotel specifically for young adults with learning disabilities. In November 2017, Foxes Academy students were part of an event organised by charity Springboard to promote people with learning disabilities working in the hospitality industry. Academy Principal Tracey Clare-Gray explained the benefits to The Caterer: “Disabled employees stay in a job for longer, have good punctuality records and low absentee rates. Loyalty, talent and enthusiasm are among the many assets they bring.”

Aurora is named after the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. As a natural phenomenon, these only come together when all the right elements are in place. Similarly, Aurora is focused on ensuring that the right elements, including education, care and therapy, are in place to help people grow in their own unique and inspiring way. Aurora is supporting many unique and inspiring people, helping them to realise their potential and move their lives forward.

Octopus Property and Octopus Healthcare merged to form Octopus Real Estate.

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