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Introducing In Toto Ed

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

In Toto Ed is a brand-new alternative provision with schools in Cambridge, Peterborough and London that offer young people aged 11+ an alternative to mainstream college.

A whiteboard and pens

With roots deeply embedded in music and the arts, In Toto Ed's inception and growth has been a fascinating story.

Director Simon Gunton began working in education with both the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra at a time when the Arts Council very much supported education work in South London schools. He discovered his gift for interpersonal communication and found himself immensely enjoying delivering creative workshops for young people. This led to him working with the Royal Opera House to produce children's concerts and it was from there that his career in alternative education flourished.

With funding from the NHS, Simon started to work with adults with mental health challenges, putting together an evening of music inspired by the city of Cambridge; 18 months later they performed to a sell-out crowd in Kings College Chapel.

"It was one of those amazing, lightbulb, changing evenings where I saw the power [that] music and creative music-making had on people's mental health and sense of wellbeing", recalls Simon.

Simon Gunton, Director

From that moment, he never looked back.

In 2019 Simon started working with a small group of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, offering Maths and English for the first time alongside performing arts subjects - just before the pandemic began.

"At that time, there seemed to be a real need in the area we were working with", says Simon.

"When the pandemic started in 2020 and we locked-down at the beginning, mental health in people really hit an all-time low from my experience. Those that were finding it hard to access education... once we went into that pandemic, they were completely shut off from education."

The first iteration of In Toto Ed was established in September 2020 in Cambridge - seemingly in response to the crisis - and consisted of one room and three learners on Education, Health and Care plans (EHCP). By the following September in 2021, there were 50 learners and many more rooms.

A classroom with computers and whiteboard

"[We work] with young people who need that little bit of help in education, that maybe haven't thrived at school and just need that bit of help. So whether they have some mental health issues, or that they haven't thrived before."

When asked what kinds of young people typically attend In Toto Ed, Simon responds,

"It's impossible to typify one of our students - everyone is individual and that's something that we very importantly recognise."

"What we like to do is meet a young person, when they come or are referred to us, and then because everyone's so different, because everyone has such different needs, [we] talk with that young person and work out how they want to achieve what they want to achieve."

Unlike many of its mainstream counterparts, In Toto Ed teaches in small groups with experienced, supportive staff who are trained to understand some of the challenges students face.

A teacher and student working in a recording studio

"We put a bespoke education plan together for [our young people]. If you go to a college - a further education college - then you have a course. The course starts on whatever date in September, it's for a certain amount of hours a week and it's at this place and you finish the course on this date. All our young people aren't like that", explains Simon.

"They might need a little bit more support to achieve the same qualification. They might not be able to come to the same place for eight hours a week, they might only be able to manage four hours a week initially because they haven't been used to getting out of the house. So our whole ethos is based on developing a bespoke education package so it suits them, suits their needs and best helps them to achieve what they want to achieve."

In Toto Ed currently offers a range of accredited qualifications as well as non-accredited and GCSE courses at its three campuses.

Get in touch to book a visit or to enquire further about referral and enrolment processes.

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