Brunel Academies

The BSM Story 

The Brunel SEN Multi-Academy Trust: Our Journey

The Brunel SEN Multi-Academy Trust (BSM) started with the ambition to make a difference to the lives and aspirations of children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

In April 2009, the Governing Body of Uplands School decided that the school needed a change of direction and a move away from the status quo which led to appointment of Jackie Smith as Head Teacher. This was Jackie’s first Headship, and with the support and encouragement of the Governing Body, they embarked on a fast-pace journey of improvement and change. When Jackie Smith became Headteacher of Uplands School she was given the opportunity to do things differently and make a difference. With the support of determined staff and forward-thinking Governors Uplands was transformed into a vibrant community with a proactive attitude with a “can do” approach and the confidence to “do it differently”. Uplands wanted to ensure that all aspects of the school design were student focused and introduced Personalised Planning and an age not stage approach to classes, with students grouped according to need. They redesigned the curriculum, the staffing structures, and their entire approach to SEND Education. All these changes led to the creation of the Learning Mentor Programme; a bespoke educational package tailored for students with ASC/SCID, that would eventually become Churchward Free School. It was no longer about supporting their students; it was about creating new opportunities to enable them to support themselves.

Over the next few years Uplands became a thriving learning environment where each student was able to make great progress. However, the Uplands team soon realised that there were not enough skill-based opportunities for their SEND young people once their statutory education was complete and wanted to ensure that all the valuable skills learnt at school were not lost as they went into adulthood.  Both nationally and locally, most young people with SEND leaving education at 19 embarked on a life of leisure, which mirrored retirement, where skills learnt in school were not utilised or very sadly lost. In response to this lack of opportunity, Jackie, together with a dedicated Board of Trustees, created Uplands Enterprise Trust (UET formally Uplands Educational Trust) in June 2012, a unique non-profit charitable trust set up to provide the meaningful and sustainable activity for young people with SEND in their local community. The UET vision was to “help young people with SEND help themselves”.

UET’s desire to create relevant and meaningful work-related learning opportunities lead to the opening of the first UET Charity Shop in November 2012. UET then expanded their offer and successfully opened Horizons College in September 2013. Horizons College was set up as a unique Further Education Provision for young people aged 16-25 offering a range of vocational education leading to paid employment where possible. Horizons College grew rapidly, remaining closely coupled with Uplands School and forming collaborative working relationships with the other schools to join the BSM. To further develop this collaborative working Horizons College moved from UET to become an active member of the BSM family of Education Provisions.

UET continues to grow, widening and developing their offer to support SEND young people to lead meaningful and complete lives. Their offer includes the well-established and very successful Skills for Life programme, the growing Skills for Work programme based in the community, offering sustainable enterprise opportunities, the much needed and valued Bespoke programme based at the Community Enterprise Centre (CEC) offering skills based enterprise,  UET Short Breaks offer; providing essential respite care at Shaw Farm, and of course the UET Farm, as well as Holiday and Leisure Clubs. These provisions combine to create an exciting 52 week offer for children, young people and adults with SEND that ensures they keep the skills learnt at school and college with the aim of developing these skills further. 

Since April 2009, Uplands also developed a strong partnership with their neighbouring primary special school, Brimble Hill School. They shared the core values of promoting independence, interdependence and celebrating the success of each child. Together they created a seamless transition process from Primary to Secondary SEND education. The success of Uplands School has been nationally recognised.

Uplands is now a double awarded Ofsted Outstanding School following their inspections in both 2014 and 2017. Uplands School was named the ‘Best Overall School’ at the prestigious Times Educational Supplement (TES) Awards 2015 and Jackie Smith was awarded an MBE in 2016 for visionary and innovative leadership. This is all due to the school’s forward-thinking ideas, determination, can-do attitude and the unwavering support of staff, parents/carers and the Swindon community.

Uplands along with Brimble Hill wanted to share their knowledge and expertise with other SEND Schools. They envisaged a family of bespoke Special Schools and Educational Provisions that could support and develop each child and young person in their journey from infancy to adulthood. In August 2018, Uplands and Brimble Hill achieved this goal, and became an established Multi-Academy Trust known as the Brunel SEN Multi-Academy Trust (BSM). Jackie Smith, now moved to the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Brunel SEN MAT, with the support of the Executive Leadership Team comprising of the Chief Finance Officer, Director of Education and Director of People and Culture.

In September 2018 Churchward School, a Secondary Special Free School for students aged 11-19 years with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and/or Social Communication Interaction Difficulties (SCID), opened in a temporary specialist centre, moving to their permanent site in July 2020.

Now established, BSM also opened an ASC Specialist Nursery, All Aboard, in October 2018. All Aboard Nursery’s mission is to deliver life changing support to 3-4 year olds with additional needs and disabilities and their families, by providing specialist learning through play.

BSM then welcomed The Chalet School into the Brunel SEN MAT in December 2018. The Chalet School are highly knowledgeable in ASC Education and have significantly enhanced the BSM specialist offer.

With the establishment of our subsidiary company, Brunel Education (BE), in September 2019, Horizons College officially joined the BSM educational family.

2021 saw the re-branding and expansion of BASIS (Brunel Autism Support and Inclusion Services) and All Aboard Nursery to include ‘Reception’ provision. BSM are also working in collaboration with UET, following the successful award of a 5-year contract to continue to deliver essential Short Breaks respite care for Swindon children and young people with SEND.  

BSM/BE now has 6 fabulous SEND provisions working together to deliver exceptional learning experiences that lead to significantly improved life chances and outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.

The commitment to our BSM/BE family and our people has been vital to see us through the challenges that we have all faced over the past months of the Covid-19 pandemic. BSM/BE remain firmly committed to focussing on the wellbeing of the BSM/BE family and as we move into 2021/22 BSM/BE will be able to focus on enabling a positive approach to learning and support our children and young people to make progress in all areas of their development. To be able to offer these life changing opportunities for our children and young people we need to have exceptional staff. We invest heavily in the people who work in our provisions and believe in developing our staff across every level of the BSM/BE family. This investment has been vital in supporting and enabling staff to continue safely deliver their role, while embracing a new and complex way of working.

Jackie continues to be supported by an experienced Executive Leadership Team, well-established Heads of Education Provisions, knowledgeable Trustees and loyal and committed Local Governors. This exceptional and proven leadership team work collaboratively across BSM to achieve success at all levels. The Education Provisions continue to provide exceptional education, governed by the BSM and BE Boards comprising of experienced education and business professionals and Local Governing Committees (LGC), with specialist support from the Central Service Team (CST).


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