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About Consilium

Consilium Academies is a multi-academy Trust working across the North of England. It has nine academy schools located in Yorkshire, the North West, and the North East. Consilium is dedicated to enriching lives and inspiring ambitions for both students and colleagues.

Education reimagined: Sunderland school’s new era of learning is recognised nationally

Headteacher, Rob Bell has received national recognition for his groundbreaking work. 

Robert attended the Westminster Insight Alternative Provision Conference in London as a distinguished speaker in a Spotlight Session titled "Creating an Holistic Environment for Students to Flourish”.

The conference, which was attended by teaching professionals from across the UK, highlighted Robert’s pioneering approach to addressing emotional-based school avoidance, and has caught attention and acclaim from the whole education community.

Bridging the gap between mainstream and AP

Consilium Evolve prides itself on its approach to bridge the gap between mainstream schooling and alternative provision, acknowledging the importance of emotional wellbeing in education.

At the conference, Robert used a clever audience participation exercise to highlight the significance of creating a safe and supportive environment for students.

Conference attendees were asked to draw the person sitting next to them, resulting in a mix of surprise, apologies, nervous laughter, and some hesitancy to participate – which was totally the point! The activity served as a powerful illustration of the vulnerability students might feel in the classroom.

Robert said: "Learning is an emotional risk, and it’s natural to become conservative and withdrawn when we don’t feel in a safe space.

“We are asking students on a daily basis to feel vulnerable in front of their peers, and that’s tough for any young person, let alone a child suffering from mental health issues.”


Robert Bell leads a ‘life-changing’ school

This kind of attitude and effort has been recognised before – and rightly so.

Consilium Evolve, part of Consilium Academies, was described by Ofsted as "life-changing" during a recent inspection in October 2023.

During his presentation, Robert said: "I’ve always believed there’s another way. I’ve spent years developing what my idea of education looks like, crossing the boundary between mainstream and alternative provision.

“Schools like Evolve have typically not had the recognition they deserve, and I want to change that as we’re supporting young people who would ordinarily slip through the net.”

Aiming to identify and address challenges that may affect pupils’ ability to engage with the curriculum effectively, the academy conducts visual and sound processing assessments for all students.

This dedication to understanding each student's unique needs has contributed to an outstanding increase in attendance; from an average of 18 percent before they joined the school, to 82 percent after. What an impressive leap!

The assessments prove invaluable time and time again. Robert explained that difficulties with eye tracking impede the ability to comprehend written meaning, while challenges in sound processing result in the brain struggling to make sense of information.

He said: “It's important to recognise that our listening involves both air and bone conduction. When these components are misaligned, the messages to the brain become scrambled.

“A considerable number of our students experience varying degrees of difficulty with sound and visual processing, and we are actively engaged in therapeutic interventions to enhance their processing abilities.”


Looking beyond curriculum content

The academy’s approach also includes planning the timetable around students’ emotions, not just curriculum content, and incorporating outdoor education as well as addressing factors such as sleep patterns.

Robert refuses to have a behaviour policy and instead has a communications policy. While this may be a controversial approach to some, the choice is rooted in the understanding that behaviour is a form of communication.

Well, it appears to be working, as Ofsted praised students on their “superb” behaviour!

The school community at Consilium Evolve extends beyond students to include parents and staff, fostering a sense of belonging and understanding. Evolve’s commitment to mental health is evident in its approach to supporting parents and students alike.

Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East, said: “As the need for alternative provision continues to grow, we need more schools like Consilium Evolve who challenge traditions and explore new, pioneering techniques that keep students front and centre.

“We’re truly delighted to hear that Robert’s efforts have been recognised on a national stage, and we want to say a huge congratulations. He has no doubt inspired many educators – in the North East and beyond – and as a result our schools will continue to improve.”

Consilium Evolve stands out as a beacon of success, demonstrating that a holistic approach to student wellbeing can – and will –  lead to positive outcomes that benefit both the individual pupil and the wider community.