St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School in Ealing achieves Flagship Status for the second time.
A Great Deal of Development
A great deal of development work has taken place since the last IQM review a year ago. This has included the introduction of the new topic based ‘Connected Curriculum’ throughout the school. This has been a major undertaking which has involved extensive training and planning time for staff throughout the year, led by 2 external consultants. Each topic has a whole school theme with teachers working in groups of two-year teams on each topic. The settings are chosen to be motivating for pupils and have so far included a topic about London, one about India and the latest one ‘Under the Sea’. Each topic has a key text and there is a ‘stunning start’ event for each topic and a ‘fabulous finish’ involving parents at the end. Pupils do their work in large, ‘learning journals’ in which they insert all the written work for each topic. Pupils take great pride in their work in these books, which contain very interesting work, the contents of which pupils design themselves. Other developments, led by the head teacher and SLT, have included improvements to the inside and outside environment, including a new library/ICT suite, the development of the role of the Learning Mentor and the provision of a specialist room for this important work, development of the PSHCE curriculum, further work to develop the parent partnership and the development of pupil voice through the ‘Minnie Vinnie’ team. Developments in ICT have included further investment in iPads to improve ICT use within the classroom with support and advice from the school’s ICT coordinator, who teaches discrete lessons in the ICT suite and supports pupils’ ICT skill development in all classes.
The New Curriculum in Action
A tour of the school gave a flavour of the new curriculum in action. The whole school has the same overall theme for each topic, which currently is ‘Under the Sea’. There is evidence of very exciting interactive display on this theme with year 6 displaying a wonderful 3D model of the Titanic with bedrooms and other rooms highlighting the differences between the different classes on board. In addition, the beautiful new library, ICT space, “the Lookout” named in memory of a pupil who died of cancer last year, is an excellent learning space where guided reading and ICT lessons take place. The new room to facilitate the work of the Learning Mentor, the Haven, is another beautiful space where one-to-one work, Lego therapy and other interventions to support pupils’ social and emotional needs takes place. There is a calm, happy, purposeful atmosphere in the school and the environment is bright and very positive throughout with its excellent outdoor areas, designed to meet children’s outdoor learning, play and sporting needs. The environment is enhanced by displays of pupils’ work in the corridors and interactive learning displays in all classrooms with working walls, new ‘C Touch’ boards and creative/role play/reading areas based on the current topic.
The Inclusive Vision
Teaching and support staff share the inclusive vision and work well together to do their very best for all pupils with a very positive, caring approach. They spend a lot of time in planning thoroughly to meet their pupils’ individual needs and they have embraced the challenge of completely changing the curriculum and the way they plan this year. This is a mark of their commitment to the pupils and to the school. SLT are careful to ensure that they have been provided with the time, support and resources to enable them to do this work and this has included a range of CPD opportunities that have a strong focus on how to plan for the new curriculum. Staff spoken to mentioned the excitement pupils feel with the new topics and the way they are able to make connections between subjects and to work independently. Staff also spoke of the excellent relationship that has developed with parents through this process. They are now involved more in the curriculum and in its planning. A lovely example of staff and parents working together was when parents were informed of the title of the next topic for KS1 i.e. ‘Shipwreck’ and were asked to send their children into school dressed as though they had been shipwrecked but keeping the reason a secret from the children. The topics are planned in detail, ensuring they are interesting and challenging for everyone and there are many imaginative and exciting activities planned for pupils, including related trips.
Pupils are Very Happy
Pupils are very happy, polite, articulate, friendly, enthusiastic and caring and behave very well around the school, in their lessons and in the playground. They speak very highly of their school and its staff, for whom they have great respect and they know that they are listened to and cared for. Pupils enjoy learning and they explain how the teachers encourage and challenge them and make learning fun. There are opportunities for pupils to take on roles of responsibility in the school including the school council, the eco team, ‘Minnie Vinnie’s”, various monitor roles and sports’ leaders. The ‘Minnie Vinnie’ group is new this year and pupils plan and lead fund raising events for several charities, including CAFOD and more recently the Grenfell fire. They have also visited a local Care Home for people with Dementia and interacted with the residents by doing pottery and reminiscing activities. Pupils are self-confident, happy and very enthusiastic. They enjoy talking about the school and their role in it. They also explained with great enthusiasm the new ‘learning journals’, which are their workbooks for their topic work. Comments made by pupils about the new curriculum include
“I like the topics because it’s another way of learning and we can write about it and present it in the way we want to”, “This year history is much more interesting because we focus on one thing”, “We can be more creative in our books and we can do what we want if it’s related to the curriculum”.
Pupils also discussed the differentiation in the classroom through the selection of different levels of challenge,
“You can choose red chili, yellow chili or green chili and sometimes in year 6 you can have ‘add this’ tasks that are even more challenging”.
Pupils also spoke about the ‘Minnie Vinnie role,
“We can help the community, for example, by visiting the Care Home for Dementia and doing activities with the residents”, “We like to help other people. We have raised lots of money in school through things such as ‘Big Fish Day’ that we organised ourselves with lots of activities for children to take part in”.
Children also explained why they like their school,
“It has taught me lots of things such as about children with cancer”, “I like the teachers and the way everyone is nice to each other. If you are lonely they are very welcoming and helpful”, “This is the best school ever”, “Everybody helps everybody, for example, if someone arrives from another country”, “We can also welcome new staff and get to know new adults”, “It’s a huge school and everyone is very helpful”.
A Partnership with Parents
The school has further developed its partnership with parents this year. A parental survey provided very positive results for all aspects of the way the school works with its parents and it finds many ways to communicate with them and to involve them in the life of the school. The school listens to its parents and holds a number of workshops and courses to support parents in supporting their children. There is a thriving PTA, which helps to raise significant funds and to organise a variety of excellent school events, which are very child centered and community focused. This year EYFS organised an event for Fathers’ Day, which was very well attended and they have also involved parents in preparing the classroom role-play areas for the new topics. In addition, stay and play sessions are also well attended. Parents spoken to explained the work of the PTA, which has developed this year. There has been an International Evening just for parents where everyone danced and ate together. Other ‘parents only’ events are being organised to get parents to get to know each other. The PTA does a great deal of fundraising and they are currently aiming at raising £40,000 for the development of the school garden area. They are very confident that this amount will be raised. Parents volunteer in various ways to help the school and this year a group of parents have been DBS checked so that they can help with school trips with one of these parents mentioning the excellent trips that now link to the new curriculum, including those to Westminster Bridge and a Mosque. Parents spoken to explained the excellent support provided by the school for them and for their children: communication with the school is excellent and their children’s individual needs are dealt with in an effective and sensitive way. One parent of a daughter in reception who has significant SEND explained the wonderful support she has received,
“I was so worried about leaving her but it was easy. They are amazing with her: she has friends, she knows the rules, she can wait in a queue – she is in safe hands and she is improving.”
Another parent who also volunteers in the nursery, spoke of the very positive changes that have taken place recently in the school,
“Every child is completely different and the school tries to meet all their different needs, for example, if someone seems unhappy or has misbehaved – they care and they want to find out the reasons so they can help them”.
Parents are also pleased with the new homework system, which is simpler and involves some family projects. They also love the class assemblies where they are now allowed to hug and congratulate their children afterwards.
Exceptional Features of the School
Exceptional features of this school include the excellent team-work of all staff working together and the very high standards across the school; the excellent behaviour and positive, learning attitudes of pupils; the excellent communication with and the thorough provision for parents, leading to very positive parental support for the school.
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