Riverside Education

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Riverside Education is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Dr Abide Zenenga and student
receiving the headteachers’
award for achievement
Students working
independently on bespoke
curriculum tasks
The philosophy that underpins Riverside Education derives
from the co-founder and Headteacher Dr Abide Zenenga
and his experience of being a parent to a child with
complex special educational needs. The school was founded on
a commitment to academic research, the ambition to explore
innovative teaching methodologies and the determination to
push boundaries in order to challenge detrimental educational
barriers. Dr Zenenga tells the
The school actively promotes traditional family values of honesty, integrity and
respect, which are embraced and demonstrated by all staff. We work with
students in and around the city of Birmingham, the majority of whom have been
permanently excluded from mainstream education and other alternative learning
provisions due to issues with social interaction, communication, behaviour
Our school provides bespoke alternative education to 100 young people aged
14–19 with a wide range of SEN such as Asperger’s syndrome, autistic spectrum
disorders, behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, anxiety and mental health
disorders. Many of our young people have neurological processing problems
such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia, which severely affects their
ability to retain rudimentary reading, writing and mathematics skills. Students also
have issues that affect higher-level skills such as organisation, time management,
abstract reasoning, long or short-term memory and attention.
Our flexible and autonomous approach works to support and remove
disadvantages by providing our young people with a range of bespoke academic,
Dr Abide Zenenga
»Founded in 2015
»Location: Two sites based
in the south and north of
»Type of school: Independent
»100 students
Riverside Education
Highlighting best practice
vocational and technical curriculums,
autonomous and flexible timetables,
a range of stimulating learning
environments, small-group teaching,
personalised one-to-one mentoring
and therapeutic and academic
interventions, to enable students to
overcome daily challenges and to
achieve success not only in school,
but also at home, at work and in
Parental involvement
We have an explicit parental support
plan to encourage parents to play an
active role in their child’s education.
Staff are committed to creating a
caring environment where empathy
and motivation can be sensed as soon
as you walk through our school doors.
Our dedicated pastoral team work
with parents and carers to establish
protective factors such as maintaining
healthy relationships, managing stress
and building good mental and physical
health in order to develop emotional
wellbeing and to increase attendance
and attainment.
We have implemented an open door
policy that welcomes parents and
visitors throughout the operating
school day and at evenings and
weekends as well as a mobile contact
number on which parents, carers
and all professionals can contact the
management team 24 hours a day,
seven days a week. Our primary aim
is to modify negative perceptions of
education, to challenge and change
adverse educational experiences
and break down and remove
traditional education obstacles that
the majority of our parents and
carers have experienced in the past,
in order to support our ambition to
enable all students to reach their full
Although we are only a small school,
our students can choose from a wide
range of academic, vocational and
practical programmes that help to
break down the traditional educational
barriers many of our young people
endure. Our curriculum is driven by
the individual needs and strengths
of our pupils and is reinforced by
continuous pedagogical research. Our
aim is to meet the learning abilities of
all students, from pre-entry through
to GCSE. Learner-centredteaching
approaches are adopted by all staff,
empowering students to actively
take charge of and engage in their
education. Management ensure staff
have quality training, support, flexibility
and creative resources to nurture,
encourage and respond to the needs
of all students.
The majority of our post-16 pupils
will fall into the category of NEET. In
order to challenge and change these
austere statistics for our students, last
year we launched a unique work-
based learning (WBL) programme
specifically designed for ASD and NEET
pupils. The new sixth form provision
enables our students to take part in
designated work placements built
around their requirements, interests
and personal development, giving
them employability skills training
Student working on a
GCSE Art project
Education is
now our
second family
and the school
is my son’s
second home.
Education isn’t
just a school,
it changed
alongside a social and emotional
curriculum. Varying levels of support
are provided according to individual
needs andabilities.
Each year, we also offer opportunities
for Riverside Education students
to access a school-based teaching
assistant apprenticeship and the
possibility of a permanent position with
the Riverside family. The curriculum is
driven by participatory action research
(PAR), a research method in which
both staff and students are involved in
a cyclic programme to plan, review and
reflect on the teaching and learning
journey each year. As a result of this
reflection and review on curriculum, a
new curriculum is launched every year
based on student and staff views.
Our approach
Part of our success in engaging
disaffected students is a result of
making education enjoyable, accessible
and purposeful for all of our young
people. We truly value diversity
and the unique contributions each
student brings to our school. We
strive to ensure that all students feel
safe and have a sense of belonging.
Students play a vital role in setting
learning goals and are actively taught
and encouraged to participate in all
decisions that affect them.
The school has recently expanded
and now operates across three
sites, all of which provide bespoke
curriculums that develop students’
academic, vocational and therapeutic
needs. We also offer a wide range of
academic and vocational qualifications
from entry level up to A level. Our
main school site concentrates on
bespoke academic edification, while
our college provision concentrates
on vocational subjects that stimulate
creativity, ranging from construction,
hair barbering and beauty to catering,
online retail and horticulture. We have
recently acquired a farm provision in
a rural location outside Birmingham.
All of our students have full access to
our therapeutic farm resources and
specialised therapeutic mentors. The
farm uses agriculture and the natural
countryside to reach out to youngsters
who are experiencing serious issues
and who find it difficult to access a
traditional education. We aim to re-
engage marginalised young people
and instil in them a love of learning
and the outdoors.
Students have the freedom to choose
from a range of academic, vocational
and practical programmes that break
down the traditional educational
barriers many of our young people face
on a daily basis. Our syllabus is driven
by the individual needs and strengths
of our pupils and is reinforced by
continuous pedagogical research. Our
drive and ambition is to create a rich
educational approach that tries to
remove the detrimental educational
barriers faced by many young people
in Britain today. Due to the success
of our unique approach, our school
has recently been rated by Ofsted
under the new framework as “good”
with “outstanding” management
I never
thought that I
would be able
to do GCSEs.
The school has
helped me to
realise that I
am capable of
and that I can
reach my goal
to go onto
college and
study music
Students working in a
GCSE music session

This article was sponsored by Riverside Education. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.