Riversdale Primary School in Wandsworth has recently been awarded Centre of Excellence status.
Riversdale is a growing primary school on the edge of Southfields in the London borough of Wandsworth. It has high pupil mobility (46%) with 61% of pupils coming from minority backgrounds, 41% have English as a second language, 26% of pupils are in receipt of pupil premium.
Inclusion is Central
Inclusion is at the heart of Riversdale and is high on its agenda. School leaders recognise that learning cannot occur for their pupils if inclusion isn’t in place first. The school successfully integrates children who have been excluded from other schools, believing that all children deserve a second chance and with the full confidence that as a staff they have the capacity to support these pupils. The school works closely with a local PRU to ensure that integration from the PRU to mainstream is smooth.
A Drive to Meet Expected Standards
Along with Inclusion there is a drive to ensure that the pupils meet expected standards. The chair of governors described the school’s aims as being “Aspiration and Inclusion working together!”
Communication is a Strength
Communication is a strength at Riversdale with daily staff briefings to ensure that everyone knows the priorities of the day. Parents feel that the school communicates with them very well, via newsletters, texts and the school website. The open-door policy means that they are welcome to come and speak to teachers before or after school and the SLT are always available for discussion. One parent described the confidence that she and other parents have in the school. Although her child has a serious medical condition she felt that the staff were keen to support her and her son with training and research on his condition, she added, “The only time I can switch off and stop worrying about him is during school time!” Another parent felt that the staff were always open to suggestions and dialogue. The parents were unanimous in their agreement that the school listened to them. “The staff are brilliant; they are a family away from family!”
A Great Knowledge of the Community
The SENDCO has been in the role for two years having previously been a class teacher at the school. She leads her area with a great knowledge of the community and its families and a huge enthusiasm for her role. Parents find her approachable and always available to listen.
A Vast Knowledge of Inclusion
The Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher also have a vast knowledge of both SEND and Inclusion and ensure that all stakeholders, including governors, are kept up to date with the Inclusion agenda. They speak knowledgeably about individuals on the SEN register, about their family backgrounds, the support given, and progress made.
The school itself is a listed Victorian building with a large new build attached. Although it does not have a huge amount of outside area, every inch is used to its fullest potential. There is beautiful landscaping in the secret garden, superb outdoor play equipment and a huge growing dome funded by the lottery. There is even a scooter park built by some of the dads. The stairwells and walls of the school are adorned with great art work and posters of the pupils who have done particularly well that week in their work, or shown kindness to others. Each classroom door has a display linked to the book “Wonder”. During the holidays all staff were instructed to read the book which is now being shared with the pupils of all ages and focuses on friendship, self-acceptance and prejudice.
Early years classrooms are colourful and inviting. The two reception classrooms are joined to the nursery classroom by a large open area, the children move easily between all areas within the foundation stage; this makes for easy transition from Nursery to Reception. The children were all engaged in exciting activities which had been well planned. There were many focus areas where pupils worked with teachers and teaching assistants. The outside area has recently been landscaped to reflect the local environment with a “hobbit” type house and mounds for the children to play on and in.
Kindness is a Focus
Kindness is a focus at Riversdale. The Headteacher felt that not all pupils are used to kind acts and as a result a great deal of emphasis is put on it. This was reiterated in discussions with both the governors and the children. One of the walls of the playground displays a kindness tree where children nominated for specific acts of kindness have their names painted. Being kind is also a way to earn house points. The children were keen to discuss what acts might gain them a house point and the much-coveted gold house points given only by the Headteacher!
Children Feel Safe at School
The children feel safe at school and know who they can talk to if they have a problem. They listed many adults who they would feel happy to confide in, including: their teachers, the Headteacher, their TAs and the mentor, but they also felt that they could confide in one another. Some older pupils talked confidently about keeping safe online, describing the lessons they had been taught using Make Waves and their internet safety day.
Staff Well Trained and Regularly Updated in Safeguarding
Staff and governors are well trained in safeguarding, with regular updating. There are clear reporting procedures in place. Clear communication between the pastoral team and the safeguarding leads ensures that information is shared in order to keep all pupils safe.
Very Skilled Support Staff
The school has both teaching assistants, who work within classrooms and run interventions, and LSAs, who work 1:1 with pupils with EHC plans and those needing specialist support. Both TAs and LSAs are very skilled and well trained. They lead courses to support TAs from other schools. Staff feel that there is plenty of opportunity for them to develop their skills, through attendance on courses, working with other schools and in-house training. Lego Therapy, Safeguarding, Makaton, and ASD awareness to name a few. They also felt empowered by the senior leadership team who allow them to research and follow some of their own ideas for interventions. The school runs many interventions which are swapped and changed to meet the needs of individuals, these include: Spelling Snake, Rapid Read, Teach Talk, Magic Kids, Positive People, OT and SALT groups. Parents feel that the education their children receive is personalised and made to fit their children, rather than their children fitting it.
A Strong Pastoral Support Team
There is a strong pastoral support team which includes a play therapist, a mentor and a guidance counsellor who speak knowledgeably about their work, and the children and families that they support
Working Closely with Partners
The school prides itself on the work it does in partnership with other schools, clusters of schools, the local authority and outside agencies including: Victoria Drive PRU and the Bellville Cluster in terms of gaining and giving support. The school also works very closely with Roehampton and has a placement manager from the university on site. The Headteacher also sits on the High Needs Forum for Wandsworth. Links with secondary schools have proved a good source of knowledge, with Riversdale presenting to, as well as learning from, the secondary schools. One high school teacher was so impressed with Riversdale that he left his job to join the school!
Encouraging Ambition in Muslim Girls
The school also works as part of the MOSAIC project which was set up to encourage ambition in Muslim girls. The project included mentoring for jobs such as journalism and architecture. The children visited such places as Clarence House. The project continues through to high school.
Learning Councils Members are Articulate and Confident
Riversdale has a learning council who feel that it is their responsibility to look after the other pupils in the school and to help them if they are in need. They direct pupils to the play charter which is displayed in their playground and states their rights e.g. the right to play safely with the equipment. The members of the learning council were articulate and confident. They spoke about the opportunities given to those who excelled in specific subjects, stating that they would be given additional work to stretch them as well as being selected for additional clubs such as cross country.
Many Trips Offered to Pupils
They also discussed the many trips that they have attended including visits to: Hampton Court, Kew Gardens, Littlehampton Beach, to the theatre to see Wind in the Willows and to a local Buddhist temple. Some were aspirational in their thoughts about their future careers seeing themselves as: journalists, teachers, scientists, architects, cricketers, fashion designers and dolphin trainers.
Riversdale has an active PTC who organise many events to raise money for the school, including holding big breakfasts, setting up pop up restaurants, fayres and cake sales. They also have their own website keeping parents up-to-date with the developments at Riversdale and how their money is being spent.
Attendance is a Priority
A priority of Riversdale is attendance. There are many rewards and interventions set up to ensure that the school meets its attendance target of 96%. Good class and whole school attendance is displayed around the school and on the school website. Certificates and house points are given to those who improve their attendance, with the best class receiving a party or a privilege of their choice.
The Riversdale Way
The Riversdale Way is a useful set of notes which all teachers are given. It details how things are done at Riversdale, from safeguarding to planning to marking. It forms the first section of the teachers’ “To Inform Planning” book or TIP book. During sessions teachers note down pupils who have not understood the objective or who have exceeded it. These notes are then made available to the specialist teachers and intervention leaders who act upon these notes. This makes for very joined up teaching and planning that is personalised.
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