SIX months on from the devastating closure of Nacro educational centre in Carlisle, one English teacher is doing everything in her power to bring a specialist education centre back to the young people of Cumbria.

Kate Lindsay spoke to the News & Star in July, just a week after the city centre establishment was forced to close due to a reported lack of funding.

All the teachers at Nacro Carlisle were made redundant, while several students were left with nowhere else to go.

Ms Lindsay was one of just two staff members who would remain in teaching, as she took on a new job at Kendal College.

However, she handed in her notice in December, as she is desperate to do something to help children in the county who are 'left behind by mainstream education providers'.

News and Star: Kate worked at NACRO in Carlisle, before starting a new job in Kendal, which she has left to start the Mighty Oak InitiativeKate worked at NACRO in Carlisle, before starting a new job in Kendal, which she has left to start the Mighty Oak Initiative (Image: Supplied)

She is in the process of setting up a new independent special school and already has several students on the waiting list.

With the help of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Westmorland and Furness Council, she hopes to open her own educational provision - Mighty Oak Initiative – early this year.

The business will encompass educational intervention for young people both in and out of school who are struggling. Equine facilitated education and forest school will also provide opportunities for students.

News and Star:

Kate said: "I decided that going back into mainstream education really wasn’t for me. I realised that all of the old problems still exist and that provision for young people who are struggling just isn’t there. That’s exactly what Nacro was there to provide.

"I have met with other teachers who have exactly the same frustrations that have always existed of not being able to give that provision to young people that is so desperately needed.

"I shared my plans with a senior member of staff and said ‘actually, here’s my notice. I’ve decided that I’m going to bite the bullet and do this myself.’ The response was not at all what I expected. I expected them to be angry as I’d been in post such a short time, but they said ‘actually I completely agree with you, that’s exactly what is needed.'"

Paul Foster, head of programmes at Cumbria LEP, said: 

"We are delighted to be able to assist Kate with her efforts to open her new venture, providing one of our experienced business advisors to help her get the business up and running as quickly as possible, and looking to see if there are funds she can access as a new business in the area.  Kate’s business venture will add significant value to the young people it engages, and we are confident that Kate’s background puts the business in with a great chance of being a success."

Kate is working alongside the special educational needs department (SEND) of Westmorland and Furness council to help fund the school, but she is planning on setting up a fundraiser to finance a bus, which will help transport potential students from across the county.

A physical location is also in the plans, but for now Kate plans to operate an outreach project, utilising the beautiful outdoors that Cumbria has to offer.

She added: "The model of the school is going to be an alternative provision, where every child will have the opportunity to do equestrian-facilitated education, forest school and meet their own passions and interests on a personalised education pathway.

"However, every child will leave with a formal maths and English qualification because every industry demands that a child or young person must be qualified to a minimum of maths and English. So, they will all achieve that as an absolute minimum.

"It’s going to be a completely bespoke education for every child that comes to us, between the age of 11 and 17. We will be able to facilitate special educational needs, but it isn’t just for children with special educational needs. It will be for any child that has not been able to engage with or meet their potential within the mainstream standardised education.

"Industry demands will be met both creatively and in terms of the curriculum and that’s really important to us. The model of the school will be very similar to what we were offering at Nacro. Our over-arching ethos is for young people to be true to themselves, fulfilled, ambitious and work-ready."

Kate, who is also a scout leader, is keen for children to experience the outdoors as part of their learning, and those who attend will have regular access to the lakes, fully-accredited outdoor instructors and a horse.

She said: "Being on the edge of the Lakes we want every child to have the opportunity to get out and learn in that environment. I’m a scout leader and I’ve seen what incredible things scouting does for the young people that come to us. And the change that that can bring about. I think there’s a real influence from scouting that I’d like to bring into the educational setting.

“We’ve already invested in a horse, that we now have in full livery, so every child will have access to that. We also have people who would like to offer outdoor ventures and projects."

News and Star: Mighty Oak Initiative will provide an equestrian-facilitated educationMighty Oak Initiative will provide an equestrian-facilitated education (Image: Supplied)

Kate has already received messages from parents asking if they can register their children at Mighty Oak initiative.

She added: "Based on everyone’s response, I have every reason to be very confident. We are effectively building an education system that responds to the needs of so many disengaged young people.

"That’s exactly how I feel and that’s exactly how I felt when I left Nacro. I was completely devastated but now I’m filled with optimism, surrounded by other professionals that feel the same way I do, and we are building something really worthy and needed."

Westmorland and Furness Council were approached for comment.