Young people on Teesside with a range of special educational needs are looking ahead to a hopeful future thanks to a specialised education provider and support from UKSE, the Tata Steel business support subsidiary.

Hopefields Education CIC, a non-profit alternative education and support provider based in Thornaby, is currently working with 20 vulnerable students, aged between 11 and 25.  They have a range of special needs including learning difficulties, exclusion, mental health issues and a need for extra support.

UKSE has provided £2,500 from its special Community Support Fund to help buy IT equipment for a computer suite and a further £7,500 to support Hopefields’ move to the bigger premises it desperately needs.

Hopefields was started by Directors Emily Greenhalgh and Alison Laws in 2020 to provide a much-needed service in the area and, despite the difficulties of a pandemic, is going from strength to strength.  With increasing demand for places and referrals from a number of local authorities in the region, Hopefields has an attendance rate of more than 93%, well above the national average.

The growing team of specialised teachers and other staff alongside the two Directors bring wide experience and expertise in education, business, trauma, special needs and therapy to the organisation.

A focus on core subjects goes alongside outdoor learning and animal therapies at a working smallholding farm near Billingham and leads to meaningful accredited qualifications and vocational options. The aim is to offer a curriculum that helps all the young people succeed and also has a positive impact on their families and the wider community.

Director and Head of Teaching and Learning Emily Greenhalgh said: “We wanted to provide a bespoke education that really works for this group of young people and makes a difference.

“It was a difficult time to start but so rewarding to see the students grasping the opportunity and gaining qualifications they would not have otherwise achieved.  Our move to a new location will give us 12 times the floor space, enabling us to provide purpose built classrooms and more places as well as a community hub with communal space and facilities for painting, woodworking, sculpture, specialist study and meetings.

“We are very grateful to UKSE for the funds to help equip our computer suite and to purchase materials needed to refurbish the building as well as to all the wonderful volunteers, friends, parents, local businesses and funds providing their labour and other support.”

Peter Taylor of UKSE said: “Supporting community organisations working in our steel areas is an important part of our operation, alongside the investment packages and Innovation Centres that help growing businesses. We need to invest in our young people for the future and Hopefields Education is doing a great job in helping a particular group reach their full potential.”

For details of UKSE’s support call 01642 777 777 or visit www.ukse.co.uk  Hopefields Education CIC is on 01642 205233 and at www.hopefieldseducation.co.uk.