“A safe haven full of unique personalities”
Several weeks ago, Student Life approached the Senior Leadership Team at Parkside Academy in Spring Road, to explore the concept of collaboratively working on our print & digital publication. We are delighted to have moved forward to the point of now introducing the Academy to you…
Parkside Academy is a school in Ipswich which offers Alternative Provision to young people who are referred, mainly, by their mainstream school. It got its name because the school used to be by Christchurch Park. It’s not there anymore but the name stuck after it moved to Spring Road.
What does Alternative Provision actually mean?
Well, we’re a school but with a difference. We are small; with 50 students from ages 11 to 16 and all of us have had some tough stuff in life to deal with. This has meant that mainstream school wasn’t the right place for us. This is where Parkside fits in.
In lots of ways, it’s just like any other school with lessons in English, Maths, Science and most (but not all) of the usual subjects you’d expect. We have GCSEs in Year 11 and make plans to move on to college, work or training after that; just like any other Year 11 student. We go on trips and all the usual school things you’d expect. We also have ‘Jigsaw’ which is like a music or creative arts session. Students get the chance to work with professional musicians to learn how to play the guitar and drums. We have registration, breaks, lunchtimes with healthy food and a Student Council just like any other school, and we head home at 3pm.
It’s hard to explain what’s different about the school. We are different but we are also the same. It’s maybe not what happens in school that makes Parkside different but how we are treated. It’s kind of a school family. Some of us need part time timetables because we have health problems and the school can be flexible to fit around us. Others are here full time and that works too. We think that Parkside is an environment that aims to make everyone feel comfortable, without feeling pressured. It is a loving and caring school, where both the students and teachers are incredibly supportive and kind towards each other. Everyone is understanding and it’s a really comforting place. Staff accept that we all have bad days, that life isn’t always straightforward and that sometimes, we just need to be given understanding. No one is forgotten. There aren’t the big punishments like detentions at our school. Instead, staff talk to us about our mistakes and show us how to learn from them. We are all given another chance. The atmosphere here is quieter, calm and more peaceful. There are fewer distractions by other students which makes it easier to concentrate during lessons. It’s a supportive place to be because there are fewer students and that means the staff have more time for us and we all get to know each other really well. It’s also easier to get on with independent work and if you prefer, you can work alone. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to. Parkside allows us just to be.