Abington Vale Primary in Northampton has achieved Centre of Excellence Status.
Context of the School
Abington Vale Primary School is part of Northampton Primary Academy Trust which is made up of eight schools. Abington Vale School is a two-campus school: Stirling Campus and Park Campus. Stirling Campus was opened in 2013 and has grown rapidly with the school being asked to take a Year 3 and 4 class earlier than expected in September 2016. This campus is in the town centre. Park Campus is situated a few miles away. The Head and the Leadership Team split their time between the two campuses. The two campuses very much operate as one school. This has been successfully achieved with all the staff working seamlessly together towards the vision and strategic direction of the Head and the Leadership team.
Robust Integration Process
The school is above the national average in terms of minority groups and has over thirty different languages spoken. The pupils have a very robust integration programme for those pupils who are new and come to school with little or no English. They are mentored by other pupils as well as by very skilled staff who ensure links are kept very closely with the pupils’ home environments. The impact of this carefully thought out intervention means that all pupils feel safe, support each other and enjoy school.
High Aspirations for all Pupils
The staff have high aspirations for all the pupils. It is very evident that they treat each pupil on an individual basis. The Head, Deputy and the Inclusion Lead ensure they plan meticulously from learning in the classroom to the organisation of the pupils’ social time. Because of the detail in the planning, pupils become resilient as well as empathetic and accepting of different cultures and circumstances of others.
A Growth Mindset Approach
One of the key features that contributes to the success of the inclusive atmosphere and practice is the ‘Growth Mindset’ approach to all parts of the school’s make up. This means that with the tailored support in place, pupils feel empowered to have the determination to succeed. The ‘Growth Mindset’ approach to everyday life in the school is complimented by the whole school ‘Protective Behaviour’ programme to keep pupils safe and aware of others. The benefits were immense to witness. For example, in assembly, the pupils were genuinely delighted when a class member was voted ‘Super Hero of the Week’ by the teacher. It was evident that there was genuine joy for a pupil who had made progress in their learning or in their attitude towards others or in their own behaviour. This was also witnessed when the School Council was explaining the benefits of the behaviour system. They understood that there were exceptional circumstances if someone had SEN needs or had just enrolled at their school which meant that they may need more support in following the behaviour structure.
The Learning Environment is of a High Standard
The Learning Environment was of a high standard throughout the school. Both campuses had engaging displays throughout. The SLT were clear on their expectations of what they expected to see in each classroom to compliment the learning experience for the pupils. Tasks set enabled pupils to progress in their learning. Pupils felt that they were challenged in the lessons and that their teachers and teaching assistants had high expectations of them. Classrooms were equipped with whiteboards and computers and ICT was effectively used to enhance learning and ensure progress of each pupil according to their needs. Due to careful planning of the curriculum and an inviting environment, pupils’ attitudes across the school were very positive. The pupils were extremely respectful of each other and took pride in their work. When the pupils were interviewed in a group session, they were honest and open. They shared their experiences of school life and stated that there was always someone to talk to. Any issues were immediately ‘sorted out’ in a collaborative way. If there was any bullying, it was dealt with swiftly through the behaviour policy. Regarding their progress in their learning, they knew their targets and what they had to do to improve their work. Every pupil spoken to really enjoyed coming to school and as one pupil said, ‘felt they were part of a great community’.
Working Hard to Improve Outcomes
Leaders have worked very hard to improve outcomes in KS1 and KS2. Even with the large mobility of the Stirling Campus and the vast amount of different first languages spoken, progress in all areas of English and Maths is constantly monitored, tracked and evaluated and the necessary interventions are put in place. If Leaders feel the impact is not great enough towards progress they will quickly re-evaluate. They are determined to improve progress and attainment from the pupils’ baselines, for example, there has been a drive on improving Reading and Maths across the school and monitoring the progress to diminish the difference between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils.
CPD is a Strength
Abington School is a Teaching School and CPD (continual professional development) is a strength. The School successfully trains teachers who want to stay on as NQTs (newly qualified teachers). They are coached and mentored by outstanding practitioners within the school. CPD is encouraged throughout the staff. One of the Leadership team has just completed their Masters in her own time researching into literacy to support outstanding practice across the school. The Lead for Inclusion was completing a course in Dyslexia and freely giving up her time during half term to complete assignments. This shows the level of commitment to improve their own practice to ensure the educational experiences of all pupils regardless of their diverse needs is of a high standard.
Teaching and Learning is Rigorously Monitored
The Head and Leadership team are rigorous in monitoring teaching and learning. High standards are expected through the appraisal system of all staff. Support and positive feedback is a key feature for staff from the SLT. The staff felt that it was a very supportive environment. All staff give up their time freely to run extra-curricular activities. For example, there was a ‘Film Night’ across both campuses on the first day of the visit and a Diwali parade taking place in the town at the weekend. Both events were attended and run by staff.
Parents are Very Supportive
Parents were very supportive of the school. They felt that they are kept fully informed of all aspects of school life. They felt welcomed at the school and that ‘nothing was too much trouble’. ‘It is an ‘open door policy’. One parent said that even though she lives three miles away now ‘it is such a good school, she would not want to change’. They felt that any problems are always sorted out. They felt listened to and felt that they are kept informed of their children’s progress and that interventions are always put in place to support any learning needs.
Supportive Parent Association
There is a very supportive parent association called FAVS ‘Friends at Abington Vale School’ that has a main body of parents with all parents being encouraged and welcomed to become involved. As one parent stated, ‘we can ‘dip in and out’ of fund raising events, for example, there is a healthy tuck shop every other Friday. The parents raised the money for the new ‘Roof Garden’ at the Stirling Campus where outdoor space is extremely limited in comparison with Park Campus.
During the visit, there was a full Harvest assembly. Each class performed a song or poem. Every pupil from every class on the Park Campus was involved. The same assembly was taking place on the Stirling Campus. Parents were invited, and it was an inspirational celebration of the school’s community spirit. The Head took the opportunity to announce that the school had won two awards in the ‘Northampton in Bloom’ competition including the best school award.
Governors Play an Active Role
The Governing Body play an active part in the school. The Chair of Governors and the Governor for Safeguarding both stated that the Head and the Leadership team drive the school forwards and have high expectations of the staff and pupils. The Inclusion Governor visits the school regularly too. The Governors are aware of where the school is and what it needs to achieve to improve even more, for example, to continue to create more interventions so that the disadvantaged pupils’ progress is matching that of non- disadvantaged pupils. On an equal note, to continue to create more interventions so that those capable of greater depth attainment achieve this by continually evaluating the data and interventions that are in place. Governors attend the necessary training, so they are up to date and confident in their roles.
Strong Links with the Local Community
The school has strong links with the local community. Visitors are welcomed into the school such as the local vicar, police, firefighters and St John’s Ambulance. Parents are included in the community. They are keen to visit the school too to share their cultures and faiths with the pupils. The local community run clubs such as tennis, basketball and street dance to name but a few. The school choir goes out into the local community such as the local care home to sing to the residents. During the first day of the visit, pupils from both sites came together to make Diwali lanterns ready for the local Diwali parade in the town centre. This was a fine example of community links and how much the school values being part of the community.
Sharing Ideas and Training
In addition to this, the school works closely with the eight schools in the Academy Trust sharing ideas and training as well as moderation of standards within schools.
As part of the global community, through Erasmus, some of the School Leaders and teachers visited Italy and Sweden to gain ideas on Early Years and Forest Schools respectively. Practice in both is being developed now within the school.
Regularly Updated Website
The school’s website is constantly updated with a regular weekly newsletter to inform the parents and the community of what is happening within the school. The website caters for families and communities whose first language is not English with a ‘drop down’ menu of additional languages spoken within the school.
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