Baines’ Endowed Church of England Primary Academy, in Blackpool Lancashire, part of the Cidari Multi Academy Trust, has achieved the Inclusive School Award, with Centre of Excellence status.
Baines’ Endowed COE Primary Academy is a fun, creative and mindful mainstream school with a unique and flexible approach to ensuring a deep sense of inclusivity: which is evident from the moment the children and staff arrive each day. The school sees Special Educational Needs (SEN) support as a strength of the school and wears its high percentage of children with Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCP) with pride and gives these children (and all learners) a sense of belonging and self-esteem.
All Embracing Provision
The school embraces the needs of each learner in a highly individual and proactive way. The children benefit from the splendid example set by all adults, and they benefit from celebrating their own differences. Strategies are flexible and as well as knowing each child and family on a sensitive and meaningful level, Leaders understand the local context with a staggering amount of knowledge used to meet their community’s needs. This is a melting pot of nurture – full of well deployed, dedicated, highly experienced staff: helping the children in their care to become well-rounded human beings who are full of kindness, care, and emotional intelligence.
Valued as Part of a Community
The range of experience that has been gathered at the school is not just collected and ‘rolled out’ for visitors! Newly appointed staff and staff with great tenure – have an equal voice and are actively asked by Leaders to bring ideas to them. There is a genuine sense that staff, children, families, and community members feel valued and can use their own talents to build practical life skills for the children. There is a reason behind each resource chosen, behind each choice the child makes (‘Would you like to spend some time in the Peace Garden? Or would you like to sometime caring for the Sensory Garden?’) What a wonderful way to de-escalate or refocus!
Playing to Strengths
Leaders and especially those with Special Needs responsibilities create learning opportunities and call on their teams to put these opportunities in action. The level of organisation and communication needed to make this look innate and seamless is not to be underestimated. The Special Needs Link Governor is able to bring her NHS experience to her role and made it clear that although she can challenge decisions if needed: she works so closely with Leaders that she is a vital part of the decision-making process. The use of ‘outside’ skill sets are echoed throughout school, from staff with specialist sport backgrounds to staff bringing ideas from other settings such as Special Needs Providers – help strengthen the provision at Baines’.
Buzz for Learning
The learning walk presented each classroom as a hub of learning, with adjustments made for all learners to access their education. The buzz of learning was around every corner, children thank each other for holding doors or even for small everyday kindnesses. This is due to the adults allowing the children to communicate their feelings in a tangible environment of a truly safe space. The ‘soft landing’ breakfast choices and lunchtime emotional support groups are something to be believed!
Skills for Life
The children are learning life skills as well as having the confidence to talk and build their social skills. Every activity is something they will need in later life – from self-care to plant care. A great deal of thought goes into the children’s experiential lives – if a child needs to visit a hub that will inspire or break down barriers – then that child will attend the trip as a matter of urgency. The proactive approach that has gone into the framework of staffing, resourcing and an inclusive curriculum means that it runs in a calm manner.
Reflection for Growth
Children are taught the skills to be self-starters and ‘bounce forward’ when trying things out. They have ‘Reflection Rooms’ and ‘Workshops’ to support emotions at the point of need and each resource or area is used to its potential due to the great understanding that each member of staff has in relation to their role. Lessons are often practical and have real life applications – the thinking seems to be, ‘If the child cannot use it to enhance their life – why do it?’ The provision is often many steps ahead of what may occur on any given day and the staff are confident in how they can best support the children. They are also confident to call on the skills of their colleagues. They support each other in a non-judgemental way, which benefits the children.
In Partnership with Parents
During the first day it became increasingly evident that Baines’ is a school that cares deeply and only takes actions that practically help their families. For example, uniform costs and activities always consider the financial needs of the families. Leaders have employed staff with skills that match the needs of their school, and this has helped build a bank of ideas that Leaders are keen to continue. For example, they consider that parents and carers need to be engaged with in a friendly, open, and creative way. They create reading opportunities such as the ‘Words, Words, Words’ events which are always full of excited families!
‘Nothing is Impossible’
All staff members are active role models and show the respect they expect to see from everyone around them. Nothing is performative and everything is about providing experiences for the children and enhancing their life chances, well beyond their time at school. The school lives their Christian values and when they say, ‘nothing is impossible’ they inspire the community around them to ‘get on board’ and work towards their goals. This is exemplified by the inspiring Headteacher who has a passion for providing an education, which is grounded in making sure all her children can flourish, through knowing how to care for themselves and others.
Parents came in one-by-one and without knowing, they shared the same admiration and thanks for the support they have received. Story after story of needs being identified, clubs across school matching the needs of the children, excellent communication from the school, outside agencies being signposted and contacted and importantly highly supportive feedback and help within the home. Above all, it was clear that the school never rests when given a challenge – in fact, they thrive on it. When parents are most in need, feeling lost or confused – they have found a safe haven at Baines’.
The children are a delight to spend time with. They are a credit to their families and to the school. They are wonderfully diverse: socially, economically, physically, emotionally and many have complex and profound needs. The diverse nature of the children is never anything other than something that helps to build bonds between the children, to be celebrated and makes the children even more proud of who they are. Self-esteem is nurtured through the careful word choices the adults used. (a shared language where adults understand the consequences of how to approach a child in crisis or who has needs that are unclear.)
Enhanced Pupil Roles
Many of these vital roles are filled by children with SEND, however that is not surprising in any way due to the determination of the staff to ensure every child gets to have active responsibilities and the full ‘Primary School’ experience. Like the staff, the children have a clear voice, they make suggestions in clubs like the Eco Council, and they know they will be taken seriously with a history of actions resulting from their requests. The children’s roles are real and are not just to wear a badge, they are reminded to follow up on their ‘jobs’ regularly – as that is what ‘real life’ would dictate. Even the Nurture Dog had a sense of purpose – moving to the right area and right child at the point of need!
To see the celebration assembly, you would be in mind of a ‘standard’ celebration assembly – with weekly awards and certificates. However, looking closely there were subtle choices that meet the needs of the school. It had children take the lead in distributing awards to their peers. It was low-key and calm, exactly what is needed to avoid over excitement. It promoted experiences and had inclusive sport at the heart of it. Traditional athletics matters, but Boccia and Disability Sport have parity and coexist perfectly. This can only happen over time and with a genuine promotion of inclusive values across school. I have rarely seen a school with such a breadth and equality in how sport is discussed, presented, and provided.
The children who make up the ‘Resilience Committee’ do not just have a great title! They attend mental health conferences and help create school events to provide a calm environment for their community. The children help themselves by helping others. They provide sensory kits and yoga moves to give practical advice for anyone who may be struggling. They showed a great desire to help and as one member mentioned ‘Have faith, there are lots of ways you can do it – if you have resilience.’ The choice of who makes up this committee is perfectly balanced by the Senior Leader who has created this much needed group. The ‘Destresstival’ is an exciting and creative event that will surely bring everyone together in the community and create much needed calm for all.
The Special Needs Assistants bring a wonderful breadth of experience, teamwork, skill, and care to their roles. Parents highlighted how their communication is valued and helpful. Many staff know from their own experiences exactly what the parents need and what might be worrying them or concerns they may have. They know this because they have experienced similar situations and want to ‘give back’ and help others. Some staff may have had experiences with adults who have complex needs and are able to see the ‘bigger picture’ and use vital transferrable skills to help.
Relentless Pursuit of Inclusion
Inclusion can only be ‘genuine’ if staff feel supported, valued, and empowered as much as the children. A very experienced but quite new member of staff described his experience of working in this school, as making him feel ‘re-energised’ due to the confidence Leaders have in him, the ideas he can try out and that his voice was listened to. He described Leaders asking him for feedback and ideas when starting in a temporary role and this perfectly sums up Baines’. As if they can add to their offer by seeking out innovative ideas – they will. Leaders are tireless and without ego and this ethos has spread throughout school.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
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