Kedleston Group has announced the appointment of Interim Head Rachel Boylan to the position of permanent Principal at High Peak School.
With over 20 years’ experience working with children with extremely high needs in mainstream and PRU settings, including at leadership level, Rachel’s appointment comes at an exciting time for the school as new learning, residential, therapeutic and recreational facilities are set to be unveiled following a significant investment from the Kedleston Group.
“There are no ceilings at High Peak. Children here can and do sit the same examinations as children in mainstream settings and can go onto mainstream colleges, apprenticeships or even – as one student did recently – to gain a place at university.
“Having been with the school for over two years, first as Head of Education and then as Interim Headteacher, it feels we now can really get moving…we have the right curriculum, the right team, the right local environment and very soon the very best facilities to support our vision for care and education. I’m ambitious and excited for what our children will experience and achieve with us, and in their lives beyond High Peak School.”
Rachel works closely with Registered Manager Tracey Hill, with the two meeting daily to ensure that care supports educational achievement and that key transitions are supported. Care and education staff work together, learning how to work as a seamless team to deliver the best wrap around support for the young people.
Equally important is the role of therapy at High Peak School. Occupational therapists, SALTs and clinical and educational psychologists help children to recover from the early trauma they have experienced, enabling them to regulate their emotions and to access and enjoy learning. The staff team work hard to close the gaps in the children’s education in support of the school’s strong belief that, as Rachel puts is, “children here may have had disadvantages, but that need not limit their future.”
Having started her career as a drama teacher, Rachel has already begun to expand performing arts provision at High Peak School. She explains her commitment to encouraging all young people, even those initially reluctant, to develop their creative and performing arts skills:
“It’s about self-esteem and confidence. It’s about developing relationships: nothing, except perhaps sport, has the ability of performing arts to help young people build self-confidence and their social skills. Finally, it contributes directly to young people’s ability to present themselves in interviews, and other social situations, and so it has a very long-term impact on how children see themselves and how they interact with others. Plus…it’s really great fun!”
Other key initiatives that Rachel is planning to deliver in the future include:
- An expanded outdoor education programme, which now runs from year 3 and offers benefits across the curriculum as well as setting up a lifelong appreciation of the benefits of the natural world, including physical education, outdoor survival skills, mental health and well-being, learning about the environment, wildlife and habitats. Hiking, climbing, mountain biking, orienteering and paddleboarding are just some of the activities in which children already receive regular and expert tuition. Duke of Edinburgh Awards are already being studied by a number of pupils, and in the near future they will embark on expeditions further afield. ‘This subject area is going from strength to strength, and we are lucky to offer the most beautiful surroundings to run our outdoor education programmes from.’
- Strengthening ties with the local community, including local old people’s homes, the police and others, in order to help children navigate the world with confidence and, as Rachel says, “to help change perceptions of children like ours by the public, which benefits everyone.” Such initiatives will include performances by the children of plays and other performances/exhibitions as well as events such as harvest suppers and bake-off challenges.
- The development of an expanded co-curricular programme for residential children, so that there is always a wide choice of activities to help children try new things and develop their own interests.
- More opportunities for children to engage in cultural capital and to build their understanding and appreciation of the arts, seeing the world through the arts and engaging activities/exhibitions locally and nationally.
- The development of agricultural and horticultural curriculum. Many children at High Peak School want to work with animals and some already study relevant courses at local colleges. The school’s location, the backgrounds of many staff members and Rachel’s vision to support children in pursuing their interests all mean that an on-site farm, including looking after livestock, is an aspiration.