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Focusing on inclusion, Nisai retains IQM “Centre of Excellence” status 

According to IQM’s review on March 2024, Nisai continues to retain its Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM) “Centre of Excellence” status with focus on inclusive learning. Mr. Dirk Pittard, the assessor of IQM, visited Nisai Stockton-on-Tees office and met with Ms. Victoria Reaney, Chief Operating Officer of Nisai Group, to discuss student support.

“Despite celebrating over 26 years as one of the most established market leading companies in the delivery of online learning, this is not an organisation content with standing still, continually looking to improve and provide a better experience for its community.” – IQM Assessor

The work of the Nisai Virtual Academy in delivering outstanding levels of inclusion best practice has once again been recognised by Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM). The academy continues to be the only online education provider to be awarded the Centre of Excellence Award. In gaining the award, Nisai becomes one of only 240 schools and academies nationally to meet the incredibly high standards required by IQM. 

The image shows Dexter the Bear sitting on the windowpane with Nisai's IQM "Centre of Excellence" Award (2022/23 ~ 2025/26)
Dexter the Bear with Nisai’s IQM “Centre of Excellence” Award (2022/23 ~ 2025/26)

“I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Nisai as part of their Centre of Excellence review. It continues to be a highly inclusive school with dedicated staff who truly care for the students. It is clear from the review process that the leaders continue to prioritise inclusion.” IQM Assessor

Educational inclusion is about equal opportunities for all pupils, whatever their age, gender, ethnicity, attainment and background. It pays particular attention to the provision made for, and the achievement of, different groups of pupils. IQM is the nationally recognised framework for looking at, and certifying, inclusive practice.  

Recognition of a highly inclusive online school 

Nisai first achieved IQM “Centre of Excellence” status in 2019. The 2023 visit was a revalidation of the status – recognising Nisai as a quality assured education and skills provider focused on transforming the education landscape through inclusive blended and online learning. 

During the visit the IQM, assessor recognised the highly effective teaching model and the way that the Virtual Academy utilised learning technologies to offer inclusive education virtually as well as to provide extensive support to individual learners.

“Students come to Nisai because a mainstream education isn’t working for them.” IQM Assessor

The image shows Nisai's COO holding IQM "Centre of Excellence" Award next to Nisai Group logo
Ms. Victoria Reaney, Chief Operating Officer of Nisai, holding IQM “Centre of Excellence” Award

The assessor also recognised the strengths of the Nisai Virtual Academy in terms of pupil monitoring, the strong relationships between the organisation and both parents and commissioners, the support for learners with learning differences (SEND), and the way that teachers were supported through the Nisai Professional Development Institute

To gain the award, the Virtual Academy’s practice was initially evaluated in 2019. The inclusion indicators include Nisai values, leadership, all aspects of teaching and learning, pupil personal development and relationships with parents/carers and the community.

To continue as a Centre of Excellence, Nisai Virtual Academy illustrated a commitment to sustaining and developing inclusive practice, not just internally but also through collaboration with other schools, and by undertaking impactful research into best practice in inclusion both nationally and internationally. 

Partnerships around each young person 

The review commented on how the Academy’s worked in partnership with teachers, parents and schools around monitoring and supporting attendance and engagement. Not only is there daily analysis of attendance, but the exclusive portals ensure that parents/carers and commissioners are directly connected to educational delivery. It was also noted that there was ongoing development of the portals to improve even further the user interface. 

The implementation of a new form tutor system aims at enhancing proactive support for learners. With an emphasis on early intervention, Nisai team initiates contact with parents or carers upon referral to gather essential information about students’ needs. This approach includes monitoring attendance closely, identifying patterns, and recording reasons for absences to address any underlying issues affecting inclusive learning. These proactive efforts have helped learners engage more effectively. For students who cannot participate in live learning sessions, having lessons recorded made a real difference to their engagement in education. 

The report also highlighted the Personal Learning Support Programme (PLSP), which provides targeted mentoring, addressing social, emotional, and academic needs. This inclusive practice extends beyond academic support, with virtual mentoring now available to non-PLSP students who require additional assistance, reflecting the school’s dedication to evolving and meeting the diverse needs of its student body and community of stakeholders. 

Helping teachers help others 

During the reaccreditation visit the assessor recognised how Nisai was continuing  to support the development of its own specialist educators with both  professional development and new tools which enhance how teachers respond to and monitor the progression of young people with learning differences. 

The Academy had created an inclusive learning environment for other adult learners seeking professional development opportunities through the Nisai Professional Development Institute – somewhere to benefit from the experience of the Nisai team and also illustrative of the broad commitment to inclusion and equity. 

Partnership and Collaboration 

The IQM review praised Nisai’s proactive approach, highlighting its commitment to continuous development and engagement with the wider educational community, both nationally and internationally. Of particular note was Nisai’s developing partnerships with similar organizations and schools who also aim to prioritize inclusivity and equity, and work in conjunction with British Embassies in Southeast Asia!

With targets to develop more, and deeper partnerships the next IQM award visit will scrutinize Nisai’s engagement with its Inclusion Cluster in the Northeast of England along with the wider outreach work. The results will determine its eligibility to maintain its esteemed Centre of Excellence status. 

Reflecting on the reaccreditation experience Dhruv Patel, CEO of Nisai Group said: “The IQM Centre of Excellence Award means a huge amount to everyone at Nisai. Not only does the award reflect our individual and group commitment to include every young person and family we work with, but also our work in improving, researching and collaborating around educational equity and inclusion so that we can meet our mission – to improve lifelong educational outcomes for all.” 

You can read the full report here.

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