Our MISSION AND VISION
At SAFE, we believe that…
Every child should have the chance to learn in a safe and understanding environment.
Every young person has the right to an education.
Every young person should be able to have the opportunity to feel part of a community
Read on for more information…
I have been at SAFE since 2014, and have been part of many changes in the organisation – the most significant of these being our registration as an independent school in 2019. As the parent of two neurodiverse teenagers, I understand how difficult school can be for many children. For those with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, neurodiversities or past traumas, it can be overwhelming.
At SAFE, we have always striven to help those children who have been unable to cope in larger schools. We know that, in order to learn effectively, children must have all their intrinsic needs met. Many of our students come to us with their self-esteem in tatters, feeling as though they do not fit in, and fearing that they are not safe in school.
We seek to address the past traumas experienced by so many of our students by providing on-site mental health support and maintaining a culture of zero tolerance towards aggressive behaviour in school. We provide a calm, relaxed, friendly environment and a holistic education for all our students, giving opportunities to develop their social communication and emotional regulation alongside an academic curriculum differentiated to their specific needs. Our staff work exceptionally hard to this end, creating exciting, inspiring lessons to support students in their efforts to reengage with education and developing warm, nurturing relationships with them.
It is a joy and a privilege to watch our students grow and develop, to see their confidence increase, and to be part of their transition into happy and successful adulthood.
I am looking forward to leading SAFE into the future, and building upon the vision of our founder, Annabel Leaver. Ruth McWeeney
A typical student at SAFE will have suffered continual bullying. As a result, they will struggle to attend school. They will, though, have a committed desire to learn. Most have mild to moderate social communication difficulties and/or a diagnosis of autism or another neurodifference.
Most have SEMH needs that are displayed through passive and anxious behaviour and many are severely phobic of school, or struggle to access group environments. Students come to SAFE at various points during their secondary education. They have often missed several years of school.
The curriculum at SAFE offers both academic and therapeutic lessons. This helps students to repair emotionally while they reengage with education. Students have access to a wide range of subjects. Both academic and vocational qualifications are available. Classes are taught in key stage groups rather than in age-based year groups, which allows children to learn at the right level for them.
Qualifications can be staggered, so students can take exams when they are ready. They do not have to take all their exams in one academic year. We teach using the SPELL framework, which was originally created to aid autistic learners. This emphasises the need for structure, positive expectations, empathy, low-stimulus environments and links with families and agencies.
SAFE is far smaller than most schools. There are only three classrooms, and most lessons are taught in groups of no more than 8. SAFE also does not look like a traditional school. This helps students who have struggled in a mainstream environment to settle here more easily. Adding to this, there is no uniform, and students call staff by their first names.
SAFE takes private referrals, self-referrals and also referrals from schools and agencies, including local authorities. Our admissions criteria are the same, whether a person is referred privately or not. We are not a suitable provision for students with SEMH who readily or regularly display any forms of aggression. We take a zero tolerance attitude towards behaviour such as this, due to the fragility of other students. Limitations of space and layout within our building mean it is also not a suitable environment for children with these challenges.
Our school day
Click the timetables below to enlarge or download them.
Do I have to be full-time straight away?
No – we initially start new students on a transitional part-time timetable, and collaborate on this with them and their families, so it only increases when the student is ready.
What is it like to study at SAFE?
Our students say they feel well supported and safe here, and that there is always someone they can talk to if they need help.
What happens at lunchtime?
We take students to Eltham park at lunchtime, weather permitting. Students in sixth form (16+) are eligible for a walking pass, allowing them to go into Eltham High Street at lunch independently. Students with individual medical needs which may limit their access to either option are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
What happens if I need a break during class?
Most students at SAFE need breaks during lessons at some point, whether for anxiety management or to aid focus. All our teachers are used to this, and will often remind students to take a break if they see that they are struggling.
What happens if I'm too anxious to speak in class?
Teachers will know not to ask you direct questions, and will ensure you’ve got ways of communicating that don’t involve you having to speak.
What happens if I am late for school?
We understand that heightened anxiety can make it hard to come into school, and also that sometimes there are other factors, such as very bad traffic, that prevent people from getting in on time. Nobody is ever punished for being late.
Will there be much homework?
We don’t set much homework, and we don’t punish people for not doing what is set. Those in exam years will get two or three pieces of homework per week, which can be towards coursework for subjects like art, or for revision in academic subjects.
What are your school rules?
Our school rules focus on treating each other with respect and consideration and can be found in our handbook.
I've missed loads of school, does that matter?
Most people at SAFE have missed quite a bit of school. We are very used to this, and work hard to fill in any gaps. As the classes at SAFE are small, students often find they learn more stuff more quickly than they would in a bigger group.