Dr Abide Zenenga, headteacher of Birmingham-based independent school Riverside Education, recently appeared on the Flourishing Education Podcast to highlight the work of his institution and his views on education.
Dr Zenenga [pictured, right] was speaking to podcast host Fabienne Vailes, French language director and senior research fellow of HEA at the University of Bristol. Vailes regularly interviews leaders from across the education sphere for the podcast, in order to shine a light on the incredible work of individuals and institutions from all over the industry in helping empower young people, teachers and educators.
Riverside Education has certainly done its fair share of that, providing SEN-specific learning opportunities for some 100 students at any one time, and has helped many go on to secure employment and lead better quality, fulfilled lives.
Dr Zenenga revealed on the show that he had established Riverside after his own personal experiences had inspired him to push boundaries and explore new and innovative teaching methodologies, in order to challenge educational barriers and ultimately help those with SEND needs achieve educational attainment.
He says: “I started Riverside Education based on my own experience parenting a child with Down’s syndrome and autism. I have been a teacher for children with SEND needs since 1997 and I was always putting myself in the child’s shoes. Then when my son was born in 2005, the experiences I went through made me understand the position of parents better.
“I believe my experiences gave me an opportunity to help both children and parents. I thought I could better help them through founding a small school with around 30 pupils which has gone on to become Riverside Education as it is today.”
Dr Zenenga goes on to talk about the Riverside philosophy, which involves a hands-on form of education, working with and getting to know well students who in many cases have been permanently excluded from mainstream education. The school’s flexible and autonomous approach works to support and remove disadvantages by providing young people with a range of bespoke academic, vocational and technical curriculums, autonomous and flexible timetables, a range of stimulating learning environments, small-group teaching, personalised one-to-one mentoring and therapeutic and academic interventions, to enable them to overcome daily challenges and to achieve success not only in school, but also at home, at work and in the community.
“I believe in doing things hands-on,” Dr Zenenga explains. “I wanted to know the parents, our young people, what they eat, where they like to go. I want to help these young people have opportunities to find employment and contribute meaningfully to the community.”
The full interview with Dr Abide Zenenga on the Flourishing Education Podcast can be found here.
Photo provided by Riverside Education