North West Regional Lead:

Janice Cahill 

North West Region includes: Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.

Local Authorities:

Blackburn with Darwen Cheshire west & Chester Liverpool Sefton Warrington
Blackpool Cumbria Manchester St Helens Wigan
Bolton Halton Oldham Stockport Wirral
Bury Knowlesley Rochdale Tameside
Cheshire East Lancashire  Salford Trafford

Regional Updates:

March 2024

Hope School and The HEARTS Project

Hope School is a special school which “raises awareness of attachment theory and the psychological impact of trauma.”

Through its HEARTs project, and in partnership with the local authority, they are “sharing their skills and expertise to have a positive impact on other institutions, enabling them to have the best outcomes possible.”

This was recognised in the Impact through Partnership category which celebrates 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.

The Virtual School Head Teacher, Carolyn Lawler was the project lead reflects:

“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 is the Head Teacher at Hope School who reflected on the schools and projects approach:

“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.”

March 2023

In the North west are main piece of news is the work in Liverpool

Hearts is the new name for the collaborative venture between Hope School - an Ofsted Outstanding SEMH provision - and Liverpool Virtual School which is developing transformational attachment and trauma informed practice with a growing network of schools.

When it started they already knew the central significance of building attachment relationships in making a difference to the lives of vulnerable young people, too many of whom had been affected by adversity - loss, abuse and neglect - the combination of which often making school and learning alien and overwhelming. In Hope school they had seen how building trusting relationships could begin to repair this damage and help children engage with a curriculum built round their needs and an ambition to enable them to live healthier and happier lives.

Many schools in Liverpool recognised these needs and opportunities but the challenging context meant they were isolated and not benefiting from the power of a strong peer network.

They have now built a programme of support that started with attachment relationships. Hearts helps schools to recognise their strengths through a rigorous SLT audit and development process and then brings together project leads from each school to implement a network wide development plan focused on schools' priorities for their children, families and community contexts. Hearts is an improvement journey which is peer led, not top down, not target or tick box focused.

Collaboration takes time, it is relational, it requires the building of trust in an often fragmented and traumatised system. They have invested in Masters level academic input from University of Chester, expert supervision, 360 degree views of individual needs and knotty problems built on psychological thinking and building a culture of openness in which issues are tackled and solved collaboratively. All these elements are impossible without partnership.

The results two years in are exciting. They started with 10 schools; theynow have 32 and enthusiasm for joining Hearts from many more. Hearts schools have had 'good' from Ofsted, one for the first time in three inspections.

Amongst Hearts schools exclusion has decreased and co-operation to find in house inclusion solutions has increased. These outcomes are better for young people and save money, creating a sustainable 'invest to save' model which we aim to further develop by engaging more schools and allied services.

Already our strategic group has grown to encompass psychology, school improvement and health and social care

Hearts shows how inclusion practice can build outwards and upwards if it is founded on connecting with front line practice.

We are finding what works and celebrating excellent practice. Rather than endlessly reframing problems, we are building out from practical solutions and linking this psychological theory. Our first conference brought together 1000 practitioners, in September 23 2000 will gather to share practice and build a vision with 'a heart as big as Liverpool'