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Venturers' Academy celebrates a successful first year

The academy has seen its students and staff receive prestigious honours

Posted by Lucinda Reid | July 28, 2017 | People, policy, politics

Venturers' Academy, Bristol's only state school for children with a primary diagnosis of autism, is celebrating the end of its first year with students and staff picking up honours.

Two students, Jack Gryniewicz, age eight, and Luke Mair, age 12, both received prestigious national awards this week, while Assistant Vice Principal, Steve Hobden, was named Bristol's Special Educational Needs Teacher of the Year.

The Principal of Venturers' Academy, Trystan Williams, said the recognition means a great deal to staff, students and families. “It reinforces our primary objective – to make a positive difference to the lives of our children,” he said. “This is a school where everything is possible. The quality of the education we provide and the progress that children have made have both been validated by the Department for Education and an independent Academy Improvement Adviser. Individual successes such as these make us all feel very proud.”

Jack and Luke were shortlisted in the ‘Engage in Their Future’ national awards for showing outstanding personal resilience. They flew to Newcastle with their teachers, parents and carers for the ceremony on July 5, and both boys came away with bronze awards.

Venturers’ Academy has had an incredible first year. The students as well as the staff have grasped with both hands every opportunity to grow and experience new things - Chris Curling

Jack, from Hartcliffe, had never been on an aeroplane. He has had additional medical needs since birth as well as having autism – yet he was able to step into the spotlight on his own at the ceremony to receive his award.

Luke, from Nailsea, has flown before – earlier this summer, when he and fellow students from Venturers’ Academy participated in an adventure trip to the Ardeche, funded by a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers, which sponsors the academy along with the University of Bristol. Luke had a difficult and challenging start in life but has flourished since arriving at Venturers' Academy from a mainstream school.

Lynn Richards, Chair of the judging panel for Engage in Their Future, a charitable organisation that seeks to improve services for children experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), said: “It is clear that the success stories of Jack and Luke were achieved through hard work, application and determination, something we all respect and admire.”

Steve Hobden, who has worked at Venturers’ Academy since it opened last September, won his title at the first Bristol Post Education Awards. He was described by Trystan Williams as “a teacher with a dynamic and modern vision of the power of education to transform the lives of children with special needs.” Over the past two decades, Steve has positively influenced the educational journeys of thousands of children excluded from mainstream schools, specialising in supporting those most vulnerable and challenging.

Chris Curling, Chair of the Education Committee for the Society of Merchant Venturers, said: “Venturers’ Academy has had an incredible first year. The students as well as the staff have grasped with both hands every opportunity to grow and experience new things. From kayaking trips abroad to being nominated, and indeed winning, national and regional awards, we have already seen the Academy’s motto, ‘everything is possible’, come to life.”

Venturers' Academy opened in September 2016 with 47 students aged four to 12. Numbers have already grown to 66 and will reach 72 in September. The school will eventually accommodate children up to the age of 16 and will move into brand new purpose-built premises during 2019.

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