Newbury Park Primary School, in Essex has been assessed for the national award in inclusion.
A Highly Inclusive Learning Environment
Newbury Park is an exceptional school providing a highly inclusive learning environment for 970 pupils. It is situated in East London and children attending come from diverse backgrounds with 90% having English as an Additional Language (EAL). The predominant faiths are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.
The main school building dates to the early 20th century with three floors and extra classrooms that have been added over time.
Very Strong Leadership
Over the last two years with very strong leadership, Newbury Park has undergone a radical restructuring process which has resulted in a very clear sense of purpose, firmly focused on the needs of the children. The large team of staff have been fully involved with many changes and are still excited by the ‘renewed’ learning environment within which they work.
Children “Buzzing” with Pride
Several staff members stated their love for the school and said how much they enjoy coming to work. Similarly, the children were simply ‘buzzing’ with pride for their school and could articulate very clearly the values that make Newbury Park such an inclusive happy place in which to learn. The inclusion lead person for the school has her own mantra – ‘it’s all about the children’, a statement that was repeated by many adults in Newbury Park during the two assessment days.
Many Child Ambassadors
The children are a shining example to everyone in the Newbury community and there are many child ambassadors including, peer buddies and school council members. When asked what they would do to help a ‘child in need’ on the playground they replied by saying that they would talk to the child and help them find solutions for themselves rather than just telling them what to do. They also said that they would never promise to keep secrets but would always talk to a grown up if the matter was serious. They readily recalled Newbury Park’s ethos and motto and particularly stressed the importance of showing respect for everyone, acknowledging the ethnic diversity.
Integrity, Courage, Respect and Ambition
Newbury Park has an engaging and informative website which is easy to navigate and gives clear information about commitment to inclusion. The ethos and values are at the forefront and include phrases such as Newbury Park’s motto ‘Inspiring Learners’, and the core values of integrity, courage, respect and ambition.
On the first day of the assessment it was the beginning of Ramadan and there was clear information about fasting during this period and advice about both Safeguarding and the Prevent Strategy.
Language of the Month Initiative
EAL pupils have a very wide range of languages which are celebrated through the language of the month initiative (Language Nut). This is described on the website and has generated both national and international interest, with many schools wanting to learn more about the way in which this inclusivity is fostered at Newbury Park. For this achievement, Newbury Park has received the European Award for Languages and the Community Language Prize.
A Restructuring Process
Underpinning the inclusivity of Newbury Park is the restructuring process which has introduced some very effective but discreet systems. Year groups have been divided into phases with a member of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) who is either a Deputy Headteacher or an Assistant Headteacher, leading two academic year groups. Children and staff within each phase have a close relationship with their phase leader and together they have developed a clear identity and a sense of belonging.
The job descriptions of support staff, previously known as Teaching Assistants, have been reviewed and, in consultation with staff, have been rewritten to encompass and reflect the views of all concerned. Their role has been totally rebranded and they are now referred to as Learning Practitioners with some retaining the title of HLTAs (Higher Level Teaching Assistants). Changing the job title of the majority to Learning Practitioner has had an enormous impact and has unleashed the energy, commitment and skill of employees, who in the past, may have been a support structure for teachers rather than the children. The skill of each Learning Practitioner is now directly targeting child progress and wellbeing and time is not being diverted to less valuable tasks. This support has been organised in a strategic way to minimise the number of adults who may be working with individual children, thus improving the continuity and consistency for the child as well as enhancing the job satisfaction for the Learning Practitioner. The HLTAs then focus on support for those children in receipt of pupil premium funding.
Professionalism and Passion
It is hard to imagine a stronger, more inclusive team, than this group of Learning Practitioners and HLTAs which is led by a dynamic and highly respected SENDCO. A meeting with them lasted for over an hour and their professionalism and passion was impressive. Team members regularly share expertise and classroom experiences and offer each other a great deal of encouragement and support. They acknowledge that the SLT listened to earlier concerns expressed before the restructure and now feel that they are included and valued as key players in the learning process. The success of their new roles has been enhanced by the extra hours worked, enabling meetings with teachers and each other before and after school. They also acknowledged the high quality of the external training opportunities made available to them.
Reviewing the Curriculum
The curriculum has also been reviewed to respond to the diversity of the school community. The headteacher and SLT believe that to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of all children it will require constant evaluation and consideration. This reflective approach has impacted on the quality of teaching and all lessons visited showed a commitment to real life experience, through role play or hands-on activities, linking subjects across the curriculum. In this way teachers are ensuring the inclusion of all children, as the lessons were exciting, relevant and engaging.
Trips and Visits
Trips and visits are carefully chosen and planned and the school exploits its proximity to London as well as nearby rural areas. For example, recently a whole year group visited the Palace of Westminster to learn more about our national democratic process and another spent a day in Epping to learn from a forest school experience. Year 6 pupils enjoy a residential trip to an outward-bound centre and for some pupils this presents a first experience of sleeping away from home. To minimise anxiety for both parents and children and to promote inclusion, the school organises a fun sleepover in the school hall so that children can have their first experience of sleeping away from home in a familiar and secure environment. This has resulted in an increased number of children being allowed by parents to participate in the residential trip.
Learning about Different Religious Beliefs
There is an overview of the curriculum on the school website and the religious education area demonstrates broad coverage so that children learn about a wide range of religious beliefs and practice. Pupils visit places of worship including the Gurdwara, the local Church of England church, and the Mosque. Currently children are working with the local C of E church to create bunting to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Jo Cox.
Focus on Improving Writing
Writing is a significant focus for improvement at Newbury Park and its development has been enhanced by a renewed approach, resulting in many more children achieving their full potential. The use of challenging but relevant and pertinent texts to stimulate high quality writing was evident and the knowledge and enthusiasm of the teachers in being able to explore these texts was impressive. Limited time during assessment days did not do justice to the high standards achieved but time spent in both the Reception and Year 6 classes showed that these were exemplary.
A Large Team of MSAs
There is a large team of MSAs who give support over the staggered lunch break. This team is led by a manager who is very experienced in both working in schools as an administrator and as an MSA. She holds regular meetings and is determined to further develop skills and confidence so that there is improved interaction and engagement with children. There is now a performance management structure for all MSAs with a corporate target focusing on inclusion. A meeting with the Assistant Caretaker gave further recognition of the helpful and courteous children as he commended them for their respectful behaviour.
At the Heart of the Local Community
Newbury Park is at the heart of the local community and has an ethos of reaching out to parents, grandparents and other carers. On a Friday evening the Tamil community uses Newbury Park for its own cultural activities and at the weekend a faith group also uses it for youth work ‘Divine Youth’.
In Partnership with Parents
The reception office is managed by staff who are welcoming and helpful and there are frequent opportunities for parents to participate in activities and to complete evaluative questionnaires. Invitations are extended to attend class assemblies and productions, parents of the youngest children are invited into the classroom for ‘Open Fridays’, so that they can share in their child’s learning and develop a greater understanding of progress made. As well as home visits, parents are also asked to complete a ‘Unique Child’ booklet so that the staff will have a better picture of the needs of the child as they join Newbury Park. Adult learning is well established and parents spoke enthusiastically about the sessions they have found helpful, including Phonics, Keeping up with your Child in Maths, and Parenting Skills.
Before and After School Clubs
On the outside perimeter wall of the school (adjacent to the public pavement) there are large weatherproof posters displaying children’s work, including images from a Family Learning event held in school. There are several before and after school clubs aptly named ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ clubs. These provide an extension to the rich curriculum already provided as well as support for working parents. There are other clubs organised by the school staff in their own time after school and at lunch times.
Governors are Highly Valued
Governors are highly valued for the work they do to support inclusive practice. They have a full complement with a considerable number being parent governors. A meeting with the chair and a staff governor (who is also a parent) indicated that the diversity of the children and staff is reflected in the diversity of the governing body. Governors expressed tangible care and concern for all pupils and staff and are committed to serving the needs of the local community through their role.
Striving for Continuous Improvement
It is my opinion that the school fully meets the standard required by the Inclusion Quality Mark. Areas for development are few and have already been identified by the school. The ethos and values and sheer commitment of the Headteacher and leadership team ensures that all members of the community will strive for continuous reflection, review and improvement. I recommend that the school be awarded the Inclusion Quality Mark and be reassessed.
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