Support for special educational needs and disabilities

Investing in people

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 is a term describing the needs of a child who has a difficulty or disability that makes accessing learning harder for them than other children of their 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 (BBC archives, DfE SEND Code of Practice). Currently 1.2 million children have SEND, constituting 14.4% of the school age population (UK Government).

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.  The company 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 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.

The company 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.

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, with just 2% of UK adult social care services receiving it in the last 12 months (Learning Disability Today, 2017).

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.

Staff commitment is borne out in their words. In a recent blog, Cathy Rundell, Service Manger at Orchard Manor, wrote 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

Similarly, Aurora Brambles in Leyland, a specialist school for boys with needs related to social, emotional and mental health issues, benefited from a state-of-the-art building created by Aurora, opened in September 2017.  It allows the school to support more pupils, now catering for 80 boys aged 9-16.

In an article, Headteacher Dan Creed discussed how the building boosted the school.  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 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.

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.

Tracey Clare-Gray, Principal of Aurora’s Foxes Academy, reminded people that, “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.” (The Caterer, 2017)

As Aurora supports many unique and inspiring people, we are proud to support them.  Aurora helps people to realise their potential and move their lives forward. In turn we celebrate their work in making a difference, and changing lives for the better.