Beech Hill Community Primary School in Wigan achieves the Inclusive School Award.
Resilience, Collaboration and Opportunity
Beech Hill Primary School is a happy, nurturing, an unusually diverse and harmonious school to visit virtually. This assessment was conducted during a worldwide pandemic, and I feel compelled to say that the fabulous team at Beech Hill was not in the least ‘phased’ by this but quite the opposite! Instead, Senior Leaders embraced the opportunity with open arms, such is the spirit of resilience, collaboration and commitment, which was demonstrated throughout the day as I met with a number of the stakeholders of this great school.
Benefitting from a brand new build in 2011, Beech Hill’s school community continues to expand. It is a slightly larger than average primary school with a NOR of 310 (including 28 pupils in the Nursery class). The standard number was increased from 30 to 45 in 2015 and this is in direct response to a growing population in the immediate area. As a result, the school is currently organised into 11 classes with a mixture of 8 single aged and 2 mixed aged classes.
A quote from Ofsted (March 2017) states:
‘I should say how impressed I was with the quality of the school building. It provides a wonderful space for the pupils to learn in and is appreciated by all of the school community. Staff take great pride in creating an orderly, safe and inviting place for pupils to work.’
Inclusion is at the Heart
Described by one parent as “a fabulously supportive school where communication is top notch,” Staff, Governors and pupils are clearly living out the school’s vision: ‘Doing our best today for a brighter future tomorrow!’ As such, Inclusion is at the heart of all aspects of its work and pupils thrive in an environment where everyone works together to secure success.
Exceptional Tolerance and Respect
In a school where the vast majority of the children are White British (83%), untypically, the school boasts 18 different languages and pupils exude exceptional tolerance and respect for one another. After speaking to a group of KS2 pupils it was very evident that the children here go about their daily work supporting and looking out for each other, whilst putting the school’s aims and mission statement into practice.
For several years now, Beech Hill has continued its journey of improvement and has maintained its rating as ‘Good’ by Ofsted (March 2017). The school community is praised and described as one …
‘in which all staff and pupils feel valued, respected and understand what is expected of them. Your team pull together with a strong, dedicated work ethic and high expectations for good learning. This is evident in pupils’ excellent attitudes, which have a significant impact on the good progress that they make. Strong relationships between staff and pupils are apparent in every class. This supports pupils’ confidence to learn and promotes high standards of behaviour. Pupils listen carefully to their teachers and always try to do their very best in lessons. You are rightly proud of the positive attitudes and performance of your pupils.’
Highly Experienced, Skilled and Knowledgeable Headteacher
Under the current highly experienced, skilled and knowledgeable Headteacher’s leadership (appointed in September 2017) it is wonderful to see that the great work has continued to build upon these ‘good’ foundations. In the Headteacher’s own words she is very proud to say “we never turn a child away!” This is testimony to the super attitude and mantra, which gives hope to all who walk through Beech Hill’s gates. Her mission to streamline the systems, to reduce the bureaucratic burden is having a great impact on freeing up valuable time for the children and staff she champions! She is ably supported by her talented DHT who co-ordinates Inclusion very well. The external teams who work with the school describe her as having “a strong handle on inclusion, as she knows the children very well.”
Barriers to Learning
Both the Headteacher and her Deputy Headteacher know the school’s community very well and are well aware of any barriers to learning.
Barriers to learning are vast and typically include:
Lack of parental engagement and low literacy levels.
Poor attendance particularly amongst highly mobile families.
Poor language skills.
Children arriving not school ready.
Limited aspirations for the future.
An “Alternative Curriculum”
Since 2019, an ‘Alternative Curriculum’ is being championed and taking shape to promote a ‘next level’ of inclusion; one which is ambitious and accessible to all enabling learners to optimise and achieve their potential. The target children are those who are affected by ACEs, intermittently, short term or long term. This is an impressive concept and one, which is impacting on the motivations and achievements of all who participate. It will certainly be an interesting resource to evaluate over a longer period. Well done everyone! A stunning idea!
Providing a Quality Education
Across the school, the fundamental aim is to provide pupils with a quality education, which will provide them with the skills for their future lives. Every pupil is known as an individual and the school fosters a strong sense of belonging in the community.
Tolerant and Respectful Children
Children speak very highly of their “really good” school and can’t get enough of the daily, inclusive experiences, which they believe have moulded them into tolerant and respectful individuals who simply “get along!”
Children have great ambitions of becoming engineers, teachers a vet and dancer! A Yr 6 pupil felt Beech Hill helped him develop his interests as his ambitions to become a mechanic where being supported through the DT work he was learning! Another Yr 5 pupil wanted to ‘give back’ to the community by becoming a teacher due to the amazing things she had learned! A Yr 4 pupil said that she wouldn’t change much at the school but if she had a magic wand, she would want to expand the school further as her love of reading and of books warranted a bigger library! Another Yr 6 pupil commented that he would love much more learning outdoors because fresh air makes you happier!
Children Feel Like They Belong
Children at Beech Hill most definitely feel like they belong to the school as they see themselves and each other thrive and become better skilled. Children’s anxieties are few and far between. The vast majority felt that they are in a good position to achieve their longer-term goals and ambitions. One Yr 6 pupil summed this up beautifully when asked if he was going to achieve his future goals;
“I am going to try my very best to get there!”
Partnership with Parents
Parents speak from experience as their children have received fabulous learning opportunities and say that the Senior Leadership and staff teams are highly visible, very friendly, and extremely helpful. They are very supportive of the school and one parent summed the provision she has received for her children at the school succinctly;
“I simply can’t ask for anymore!”
Having had three children who have been through the school, her knowledge about specific meetings provides testimony that the school values the partnership with their parents; parents are evidently on the inclusive journey with them!
Other sound bites, which highlight a successful partnership between parents and the school, include:
“The communication is top notch!”
“Visual timetables help our children to learn.”
“The staff are diligent and know my child well.”
“I was so proud when my child got the opportunity to compete for the school; it was the taking part that counted and not necessarily the winning which was important for the school.”
“My child needed S&L Therapy and the class teacher was straight onto this.”
“Specific support from outside agencies is second to none!”
“During lockdown, a new ‘mutual appreciation’ has emerged as I have felt valued for my part in the learning process.”
“I have learned lots about how children learn and how I can help.”
When asked if the four parents I spoke to would change anything about the school or its provision, parents mentioned they would value opportunities to regularly volunteer at the school. One parent wondered if more space for ‘specialist’ facilities and even more specialist staff could also further improve the school’s core offer for inclusion.
Staff Support Each Other
Staff at the school are real ambassadors of teamwork as their support and encouragement for each other, including a recently appointed Newly Qualified Teacher, was very evident.
Inclusion Comes Naturally
Inclusion is at the heart of everything at Beech Hill, and it comes naturally as one senior staff member commented:
“we have built a great team who are used to open, honest, and explicit discussions as we all have a responsibility to ensure quality first teaching is as inclusive as possible.”
A Multi-Sensory Approach
Amongst the many inclusive strategies that staff promote through their roles, the school’s EYFS Leader spoke articulately about a ‘multi-sensory’ approach to teaching phonics and handwriting. These have been pre-recorded and shared with parents on the school’s Twitter page. The school’s induction on entry into school is very well organised and staff rightly boast about the INSPIRE sessions which parents and children benefited from. The AQS questionnaires have a positive impact by involving parents with the process and the importance of cognitive and social, emotional aspects of learning.
The Graduated Approach
An NQT spoke confidently and very knowledgeably about the graduated approach and her mission to find solutions to help children who struggle. She feels very well supported in her NQT year and her seniors are full of admiration and support for her.
Strengths of the School
The secret of the school’s success and strategies for inclusion include:
An indepth knowledge of the families and pupils the school serves based on a longstanding commitment to the school.
Great communication between all the staff in the school and outside support agencies.
A comprehensive knowledge of the Quality First Teaching and SEND Pathway.
A clear system for early identification of SEND needs and a good understanding of what to do and when.
Inclusive strategies which promote success for different children e.g. Lego Therapy, Play Therapy, access to bespoke internal professionals e.g. Learning Mentor, Emotional Literacy Support Assistants etc.
A great relationship with Outreach Support Teams, TESS, CAMHS etc who act in a very timely manner and support requests for monitoring and future planning of EHC Plans.
A commitment and passion from the top for making sustained improvements for all.
Inclusion is Tangible
External visitors and Governors ‘feel’ the inclusivity at Beech Hill, as it is tangible and a cause for celebration!
A Clear Picture of Inclusion
The Governing Body has a clear picture of inclusion. The newly appointed Vice Chair of Governors spoke enthusiastically about the inclusive work of the school and its clear links with the data that SLT share at meetings and the impact on the children. It made perfect sense to the Governors that the focus of the school on every child to reach their full potential, meant that barriers were identified and removed. She acknowledged that the staff worked tirelessly, and this reflected on the school’s eagerness to make inclusion even better than it is now. She saw the IQM as ‘a pat on the back’ for all the hard work that the school do well.
A Valuable Partnership
There are many strengths in this ‘harmonious’ school but one which must be mentioned and forms the foundations of success and which underpins the school’s inclusive ethos, is a most valuable partnership with ‘TESS’.
The Wigan LA based Targeted Educational Support Service (TESS), a community resource accessed through the SLA, linked to the local Special Needs Schools, provides phenomenal leverage to the SEND work of the school. Early identification by the school’s leadership team and staff enables timely intervention so that much needed specialist strategies are at hand quickly!
I had the privilege of speaking to three members of the TESS team and all sang the school’s praises. Comments included:
“The minute you walk in, you know it’s a fantastic school.”
“The IQM lead and her staff are highly enthusiastic, very nurturing and with a positive ‘can do’ attitude.”
“There are a clear raft of interventions and staff are open to new ideas.”
“Staff are not afraid to ask questions in order to become even more skilled.”
Planning to be Shared
An ongoing next step is for planning to be shared across all staff so that targets and strategies can impact across the board and in an inclusive way.
Inclusion is Central to Everything
To conclude, it is a real pleasure to see Inclusion is most definitely at the heart of everything at Beech Hill School. Pandemic or not, this philosophy is present in all that is virtually visible in the school and is reflected in the actions of those who are part of the school.
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: email@example.com for further details.