Huddersfield-based alternative education provider and social enterprise, Employability Solutions has received a prestigious Inclusive School Award with Centre of Excellence status, recognising its inclusive and nurturing environment for students and staff.

Centres of Excellence are given to those establishments which prove themselves to be highly inclusive organisations, while the Inclusive School Award is presented to schools that show ongoing commitment to providing the very best education for all children, irrespective of differences.

As well as its provision in Greenhead Road, New Street, Huddersfield, Employability Solutions also has two schools in Garston, Liverpool, one of which is open this September for the 2023/24 academic year after a £250,000 investment.

Claire Cook, founder and proprietor of Employability Solutions, is proud of the measures in place to offer an inspiring, supportive and inclusive place for young people to learn:

“To receive the Inclusive School Award with Centre of Excellence status is a testament to the meaningful and excellent work that the teams are doing across Employability Solutions provisions in Kirklees and Liverpool.

“We are fiercely passionate about allowing young people to see and achieve their full potential through an enriching curriculum of alternative education using tailored, nurturing education, alongside physical, creative and practical courses.

“As well as celebrating the work that we do for our young people, the Inclusive School Award recognises the inclusive environment that we provide for our staff through a number of initiatives, including ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’, meditation sessions, social events, and a ‘Parents As Professionals’ forum to support staff members with neurodiverse children.

“We do what we say on the tin; we actively employ past students, who have a special insight into what the young people coming to our schools are going through, having been in their shoes themselves.”

By carrying out an initial assessment to gather as much prior information as possible about the young person, Employability Solutions is able to set benchmarks, understand individual needs, barriers, and specific support required, in order to take a holistic view of the student bearing in mind their personal circumstances.

Ms Sarah Linari, assessor for Inclusive Quality Mark, added: “The relationships between the staff and students are of paramount importance and were proven to be incredibly significant throughout the assessment day.

“Staff members possess a deep understanding of each of the students, enabling them to pre-empt moments of dysregulation and offer appropriate, timely support - consistently going above and beyond to ensure that the students receive the support they need.”

Claire Cook first made her mark in Kirklees twenty years ago after setting up the Better Education Achievement and Transition (Beat) project - one of the first of its kind alternative education providers in Yorkshire.

And her mission to increase accessibility to education and employment for young people in Kirklees continues, as Employability Solutions is launching a 12-week Assessment Centre programme, starting this month (September, 2023), offering bespoke interventions to young people experiencing barriers in mainstream education to help them overcome them and reintegrate back into school.

Matt Brayford, commissioner of Kirklees Council, praised the organisation for its impact on the community: “Employability Solutions has proven to be an invaluable partner in our mission to provide diverse and effective educational pathways for the young people in our community.

“Claire and Employability Solutions’ commitment is not only positively shaping the outcomes of our future generations, but contributing significantly to the growth and vibrancy of Kirklees as a whole.

“These recent recognitions for Employability Solutions are a testament to their unwavering dedication and tireless efforts in providing exceptional educational solutions for Yorkshire and beyond.”

Completing a trilogy of successes for the social enterprise, Employability Solutions has retained its ‘Good’ Ofsted status for its Liverpool site, offering ‘an open and supportive environment’ to its students, with inspectors reporting that ‘pupils [felt] happy and safe at this school’ and ‘leaders have established a friendly and supportive environment’.

On its latest Ofsted report, Claire explained: “We’ve had many Ofsted inspections over the years, but this most recent one was the most helpful, constructive and kind process, with an inspector who really understood the nature of our school and the circumstances in which we operate, taking time to include the whole team.”

Ten years after establishing Employability Solutions, Claire and her team are hoping for further success following a string of award nominations, including Best Business at the Enterprise Vision Awards, as well as two nods at the Liverpool Chamber Innovation in Business Awards for Social Impact and Skills Provider of the Year.