Ayresome Primary School, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
A Warm Welcome and a Sense of Belonging
Ayresome Primary School provides a warm welcome, a sense of belonging and is a place of emotional safety for pupils within. The headteacher leads a dedicated team bringing an energy and drive which is directed towards innovation and best practice. Drawing on her experience of SEN, BESD and EAL, she ensures that the school moves constantly forward, viewing challenge and change as the opportunity for progress and creating better life chances for the pupils in her care. Ofsted noted in October 2017 that ‘The headteacher is resolute in her ambition to improve standards across the school. Her vision to provide the best-quality education and pastoral care for pupils is clear and shared by leaders, governors and staff.’ In January 2019 the school became part of the Ad Astra Academy Trust and is developing links with its new family of schools to further help realise this vision. All stakeholders hold fast to an ambitious vision which they put into practice daily for their pupils; they share the same values when embracing inclusion, thinking outside the box to overcome challenges, going the extra mile and beyond to achieve their goals.
This significantly larger than average primary school of over 740 pupils in the Gresham ward of Middlesbrough serves an area of very high deprivation, being well within the lowest 5% of schools nationally. The rich and diverse school population of 43 differing groups, 38 spoken languages and a very wide range of ethnicity, nationalities and faiths, come together to learn, contribute, achieve and flourish in a community built between different cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Many children join the school during the school year, including refugees, asylum seekers and children from European migrant workers’ families. Leaders embrace values such as respect, integrity and courage to tackle the many challenges faced, such as the exceptionally high mobility throughout the year which has considerable impact on attainment and outcomes as children leave and join at times other than normal admission points. Becoming a Rights Respecting School and a School of Sanctuary have been key drivers for making sure the motto “It’s Awesome at Ayresome” comes alive in practice. The headteacher recognised the changing demographics as an opportunity to “completely overhaul our social, emotional and mental health provision,” setting out to create a new vision and becoming the first in the borough to achieve School of Sanctuary and Gold status in RRSA.
Inclusion is Discovering What Every Child Needs
At Ayresome Primary School, a safe haven has been created where childhood is encouraged, individuals are nurtured, gaps are bridged and barriers are dismantled so that there is a readiness to engage with learning. Staff understand clearly that inclusion is not about treating every child the same but about finding out what each child needs and responding to that to meet the complex needs of learners. This holistic approach helps pupils feel secure; the sense of belonging is palpable and goes beyond acceptance and tolerance. Here they embrace differences, appreciating what they have in common and what brings them together, breathing life into the values that are so obviously promoted and explicitly taught. The support and professionalism of staff and governors means they never give up seeking solutions for their school, their pupils and their community with one teacher stating that:
“Progress is our driver, but it’s also about making the school the best we can for the whole child.”
The school recognises that by giving children the best start in education and care they are giving them the key to unlock a more positive future. The importance of this holistic ethos was described by teachers when discussing the personalised curriculum on offer with comments such as:
“We are their world, so we make it the best we can.”
“We use every lesson to enrich their lives, open up their world and give them life skills.”
“Our children are encouraged to think critically and are given opportunities to build resilience. They have the confidence to ask questions so that they are supported towards a safer future.”
The Space Encourages those within to Flourish and Grow
The imposing Victorian building gives clues to the creativity inside as one enters the grounds. Outdoors is designed for and by children, giving room and resources for physical play, quiet contemplation, team sports, language acquisition and social play. The indoor area has been beautifully and sensitively refurbished to provide uplifting spaces bathed in calming colours and natural light, giving a backdrop for displaying high quality work but also encouraging the sense of order and organisation which helps pupils thrive. There is fluidity and flexibility that ensures the best use of space, access and equality. From the ‘corridor of sanctuary,’ where the flag of every family’s home land is proudly displayed, to the two-year-old provision where the very youngest children are nurtured through experiential play; places lend themselves to encouraging those within to flourish and grow in confidence. British Values are displayed throughout school and taught from the earliest stages as pupils learn about and celebrate similarities and differences between religions and cultures; they are helped to understand about rules and democracy and mutual respect.
It is evident that everyone cares for the environment and they are proud of the uniqueness Ayresome Primary School provides. Reading is given an appropriately high profile and leadership to ensure that all pupils are “saturated in Literacy,” with a well-organised reference library, inviting child-friendly libraries, exciting and colourful murals, author benches and arrays of front facing books tempting children to browse. One pupil said:
“We’ve got all the books we really want to read, all of the good ones. They are all ours.”
Enhanced and Enriched Curriculum
The curriculum is enhanced and enriched to provide opportunities for pupils to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries. This is evidenced through the specialist teaching of music, at which pupils excel, through sports provision, high quality science and through the Lego Innovation Studio. Whether winning trophies for wheelchair basketball, playing violin in an ensemble or creating a STEM project with Lego, children will find their talent and engage with learning, discovering on the way what it is that makes them proud to be here. Everyone works together to nurture individuals and to recognise where they can add value to the lives of their pupils.
Classrooms are Calm, Creative Centres of Learning
Classrooms are calm, creative centres of learning and are places where the warm, supportive relationships between adult and child are evidenced. A teacher described working with children as:
“The most joyous part of the day.”
Friendly Competition and Achievement
There were certainly smiles and laughter accompanying the challenging tasks. Sanctuary Houses give a sense of belonging, are a family within a family and show examples of friendly competition and achievement. Children are enthusiastic about learning, their behaviour in classes and around school is impressive. Displays celebrate achievement and cover all subjects showing the growing impact of literacy across the curriculum. Class charters are clearly displayed in each tidy, well-resourced classroom. Learning to learn prompts are made available and a particularly innovative initiative encouraged pupils to read in unusual places with a ‘Caught on Camera’ display.
Adaptive resources are made available as are prompts and support for the basic skills. ICT is well-resourced and gives access to high quality provision. Pupils are courteous, open and friendly and speak highly of the teachers. When asked what they liked about school, comments included:
“Well everything, but mostly the teachers”
“The way teachers help you if the work is hard and the way they care for you.”
“Getting certificates and choosing (rewards) out of the box.”
“The hugs, and the after-school clubs, where there’s always something to try.”
Investment in Music
Watching children come together to create music shows the investment given towards this subject as a lifelong skill, as support for social, emotional and mental health and as a platform for children to perform and for families to come together. This has had phenomenal take up by migrant children resulting in the creation of Windband and Orchestras of Sanctuary, which have performed widely and experienced success. Access to this is continued for school leavers so that this gift is not lost.
Sport Develops Confidence, Talent and Social Skills
Similarly, sport is taught to develop confidence, promote emerging talent and allow pupils to socialise with others. Children are very proud of the many successes they experience within these subjects and the trophy shelf bears testament to their dedication and commitment.
Imaginative Outdoor Areas
Children in the Early Years have their own secure and welcoming spaces with access to imaginative outdoor areas, providing carefully selected play opportunities in all areas of learning. These are planned to encourage language development, curiosity, confidence and social skills and it is where the important routines which underpin good behaviour and engagement are established.
Over lunchtime, children follow the ‘Dining Room Charter’ which helps with socializing, in a friendly, supportive atmosphere. Here there was much evidence of the kindness, considerations and care staff and pupils demonstrate towards one another.
Pupils are Taught Leadership Skills
Ayresome Primary School gives many opportunities to pupils to hold positions of responsibility and to make positive contributions. Pupils are taught leadership skills and use these purposefully to lead in areas such as Rights Respecting School, School Parliament; as Headstarters, in the Head boy and Head girl role and in assemblies, community and charity events. They negotiate and write the Class Charters, are young interpreters, buddies and mentors to new intake, showing them the ropes and ensuring they learn to love the school. Pupils had much to say about why Ayresome Primary School is awesome, but it is obvious that children are also taught to care, to think about others and ask what they can do to help. This results in a swift integration of pupils, with new entrants to the school telling of the empathy and caring support they received which helped them settle in. Pupils say bullying is rare and are confident that teachers will deal with it if it did happen. Feeling safe and secure is an important common theme of pupils spoken to. Pupils commented:
“Everyone looked after me here when I started, showing me around and taking care of me. It’s fun and it’s safe”
“I can help others with their problems because I know what it feels like to need help. Nothing bad can happen here, you can be yourself and be happy.”
Innovation within Very Strong and Supportive Teams
The structure of leadership is supportive of the school’s aims. Teachers and teaching assistants work seamlessly together for the benefit of pupils, sharing ideas and innovation within very strong and supportive teams where everyone is respected and has their contributions valued. As one staff member said:
“As a staff we must be resilient, open and supportive of one another. People go above and beyond because we care passionately for these children.”
Pathways to Success
The SENCO works tirelessly to develop collaborations and supportive networks as she strives to meet the complex needs presented, proactively seeking out methods, people and processes which focus on academic progress whilst addressing social, emotional, mental health and well-being. She draws together the intentions of inclusion and helps create pathways to success, ensuring that the family is included in plans. The SEND team has developed solid networks which are able to offer the appropriate advice and guidance for the issues faced and is making strong partnerships across the Trust. The team dedicated to addressing Safeguarding and Parent and Families’ needs, provide a joined-up service which is invaluable in identifying and understanding the challenges faced. Families are given the support they need and are signposted to a wide range of external agencies who offer specialist advice and guidance. Good strategies for improving attendance are in place and showing impact.
Improved Progress Scores
This is an outward facing school which embraces support, seeks out expertise and welcomes collaborations. Additionally, the school works closely with all other schools in the Academy Trust accessing joint training, sharing ideas and moderating standards across the schools. This is resulting in improved progress scores across schools and as the newer initiatives become embedded this rising trend should continue.
Parents are Supportive
Parents are supportive of the school and how they tackle the challenges faced. They were keen to acknowledge how they had been welcomed and given opportunities to be involved, using interpreters so that their voice could be heard and offering Family Learning Days. A group of parents from EYFS praised the Stay and Play sessions, saying:
“Staff are great, there’s a lot of trust and we learn more about what the school does and what our children can do.”
“My son plays the flute, takes part in lots of sports and is thriving here.”
“My daughter has come on so much here in her learning and it’s great to see how settled she is.”
Parents say staff are approachable and feel that children’s confidence has been enhanced by the many extra-curricular clubs, residentials, sports and music offered.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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