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Leading Liverpool education project has hearts of gold

An innovative Liverpool education project that supports some of the city’s most vulnerable children has won a teaching “Oscar” this weekend.

The Liverpool HEARTS Project Team, which is led and funded by Liverpool City Council’s Virtual School in partnership with Hope School, received a prestigious gold Pearson National Teaching Award for its work to introduce trauma- and attachment-informed practices in Liverpool’s schools.

Up against three other nominees in the Impact Through Partnership category, the team had already been announced as a silver winner in June, with all silver recipients then becoming nominees for the gold awards which were announced at Saturday’s grand final event.

The Impact through Partnership category recognises schools that have worked widely to have an impact on children and staff through joint projects that provide enrichment opportunities.

The HEARTS Project is a wider collaboration between Virtual School Liverpool, Hope School, Changing Minds Child and Family Services UK, and The University of Chester. HEARTS stands for:

• Holistic thinking
• Empowering the school community
• Aspirations for every pupil
• Relational focus
• Trust and safety
• Shared purpose.

Hope School has been a leader since 2014 in supporting children with complex trauma histories and attachment disruptions and is rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Since 2021, the school has been sharing its expertise with other Liverpool schools via the HEARTS project, which has been designed and led by Virtual School Liverpool.

The project started as a pilot with ten schools and has now expanded to 32 with many schools involved seeing improvements in inclusion and mental health. The project will continue to roll out to further schools each year.

The ten pilot schools were: The Belvedere Academy, St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Windsor Primary School, Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary School, Anfield Road Primary School, Gwladys Street Primary School, Broad Square Primary School, Mab Lane Primary School, The Academy of St Nicholas, and The Academy of St Francis of Assisi.

Cllr Lila Bennett, Cabinet Member for Employment, Educational Attainment and Skills, said:

“This award acknowledges the tremendous progress that the Liverpool HEARTS Project has made since 2021 and I am delighted that this has been nationally recognised.

“Working in this way is a true investment in our children’s futures and the positive engagement from schools across the city proves how much it is valued.

“The project shows the profound difference that can be made when the right people start working together with passion and drive. Liverpool HEARTS demonstrates the power of collaboration.”

Carolyn Lawler, Virtual School headteacher and project lead, said:

“It has been commitment, dedication, collaboration and hard work of many individuals that has helped to develop and drive this project forward over the last two years and ultimately achieve this prestigious award.

“This is a tremendous achievement as it is a national recognition for the excellent work being developed across the city through the HEARTS Project for the benefit of children across Liverpool.”

Maxine O’Neill, headteacher, Hope School, said:

“My passion for making a difference to children who often express their emotions in an undesirable way comes from being raised by parents who fostered children who had a difficult start to life.

“Every child should be supported to achieve their potential no matter what. The HEARTS project underpins a psychologically informed way of working with not just children but all stakeholders within schools.

“To be recognised as the Gold Pearson Award winner will allow this incredible work to have a better platform and hopefully increase research into the long-term impact of this approach.”