Belgrave St Bartholomew’s Academy, Stoke-on-Trent has been awarded Centre of Excellence status.
This is a large Church of England primary academy which caters for 486 pupils between the ages of 3 and 11. The school has an excellent reputation and is consistently oversubscribed.
The vast majority of pupils are well motivated, have a positive attitude and are keen to experience new challenges, despite the majority of pupils starting Nursery with standards that are well below national expectations. The school works hard to foster a strong home-school partnership that supports a positive attitude to learning.
Britannia Teaching School Alliance
Belgrave St Bartholomew Academy is the lead school for Britannia Teaching School Alliance (BTSA) and the majority of the teaching school work is organised and delivered on site. The Executive Principal is a National Leader of Education (NLE). The school, in its capacity as a National Support School has worked with staff from these schools to look at developing practice and improving standards.
All children know, understand and follow the Academy’s Golden Rules which are discussed during collective worship and PSHE, as well as being prominently displayed around the school.Through God’s strength we are:-
• Courteous and helpful.
• Considerate and honest in our words and actions.
• Respectful and kind to everyone and everything.
• Hardworking and resilient.
• Love…always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.
Pupils are expected to follow the Golden Rules at all times and teachers ensure that their management of the classroom and the environment they create, encourages the pupils to follow the Golden Rules, which encourages them to work in a calm and purposeful atmosphere that promotes “Courtesy, Consideration and Respect”.
Systems are Well Established
Systems and procedures throughout all areas of the school are well embedded and leaders are relentless in their pursuit of excellence for all pupils. These include systems to identify, monitor and address under-performance or fluctuations in pupil progress and leaders are swift to act upon their findings from these systems.
A High Level of Accountability
All staff provide a high level of accountability for individual pupil progress, using and evaluating assessments to adapt learning and teaching.
All staff are leaders of learning and a subject or area of the curriculum, bringing about improvement in outcomes for pupils. All staff can articulate both vision and next steps in the development of the school and also their own specialised subject.
The impact of the overall quality of leadership is distributed at all levels and this is reflected in all aspects of the school’s work. All staff are involved and are therefore fully committed to developing and monitoring strategies for improvement.
The Executive Principal, Principal, senior leaders, staff and governors are relentless and united in their vision to raise expectations and pupil attainment for all individuals and groups. Rigorous procedures for safeguarding and promoting the spiritual and moral, personal care and well-being of pupils of every age, gender, culture and ability are embedded.
A High Quality Learning Environment
All staff are aware of the school’s expectations for the building and, in particular, display and they are followed. There are regular learning environment walks and there is a teacher who has responsibility for display. During my learning walks I observed consistency of display in each classroom and corridor visited. There were reading corners and RE corners in each classroom and a variety of bright and engaging working walls in classrooms.
Professionally Produced Photographs
The corridors are adorned with professionally produced colour photographs of Belgrave at work and play which also carry inspirational quotes from J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, The Dalai Lama, Roald Dahl, Barack Obama and Walt Disney. The investment in making the environment high quality for all children and staff is impressive. This investment in the fabric of the building has been significant and it has been effective in creating a high quality, warm and welcoming environment. There are guidelines and very clear expectations for displays which are regularly monitored.
Good Range of Resources
There is a good range of resources to support learning including for those pupils with additional needs, for example a visualizer and keyboards for use by pupils with a visual impairment. There is also a multi-sensory room. The playground areas are very well equipped with fixed outdoor equipment appropriate to the age and stage of the pupils. The school also has an allotment, situated across the busy main road, which is an impressive environment accessed by all children throughout the year. The allotment is largely self-financing, selling its produce to members of the community. It is used creatively to link with and enhance the curriculum, for example in science and food including the Food for Life project.
Excellent ICT Provision
The school has excellent ICT provision. There are 30 laptops and notebooks per year group and 60 iPads as a bookable whole school resource. Each classroom has an interactive whiteboard, which I saw in use in all classrooms I visited. Each classroom also has its own digital camera too. There is good use of a variety of apps and the school uses ‘Kiddle’ a safe, visual search engine provided by Google. In the main waiting area of the school and in front of the entrance to the hall, there is a ‘Welcome Mat’ with a projector above. The school was awarded the ICT Mark last year.
Teachers and teaching assistants are very knowledgeable about the learning needs of their pupils, the systems in place are extensive, detailed and effective. Lesson planning including the use of resources is well matched to need. During my learning walks, it was difficult to distinguish between the teacher and the assistant such is the seamless way in which they work together in the classroom.
Behaviour of the Pupils
Throughout my two days at the school, I was impressed with the behaviour of the children. On my first morning, I attended school assembly and it was clear that the smart uniform worn by pupils was consistent throughout the school. When I spoke to members of the school council, they told me that they valued their school uniform, stressing that it was very smart and business like!
Good Learner Attitudes
At Belgrave the children show very good learner attitudes within the classroom and around the school. They respond very well to the school behaviour policy and show Care, Consideration and Respect. Pupils demonstrate positive attitudes to learning in all classes and work hard. They concentrate well in class and are productive, learning well as a result. They interact well with each other and the different adults who work in the school. Staff have effectively helped pupils to develop their positive attitudes to work in lessons.
Learner attitudes are very positive about the school, their teachers and other adults and their learning. In discussion with the school council, one member from Y1 told me how the school helped him to learn so that he could be successful and “…go to university…” Such aspiration and ambition clearly fuelled by the impressive ethos and culture at the school.
Highly Inclusive PE Provision
It became apparent that PE provision in school is not only broad but also highly inclusive. From Archery to Zorbing every possible interest and ability is catered for in a school that is very well equipped and can boast a climbing wall. The school is fortunate to have a specialist PE teacher who spoke to me with great knowledge and passion not just for PE but the ways in which he can make it accessible for all. I was very impressed by his desire and obvious success in bringing the pleasure of sport to all the pupils in school and the way in which activities are differentiated to ensure that this is achieved. Through this provision it is clear that pupils show empathy and are supportive of each other. We discussed several examples of how children with additional need are supported for example, a pupil who used hearing aids was supported in swimming class by a teaching assistant who swam with him and used a bespoke signing system to communicate.
Broad Range of Extra-Curricular Activities
There is a broad range of extra-curricular activities, trip and visits and there is healthy participation from pupils across the school. There is a vibrant music and performance arts curriculum and opportunities in abundance for pupils to engage in activities. The school offers instrumental tuition to its pupils provided by the City Music Service.
Positions of Responsibility
The school bestows upon its pupils the opportunities to become responsible leaders within the School. In addition to the school council, there is a Head Boy & Girl, Sports Leaders, Team Captains, Spiritual Leaders, Reading Leaders and KiVa Leaders (antibullying). In addition, there are two pupils who are members of the Alliance Pupil Parliament.
Very Good Transition Arrangements
Transition arrangements are very good. There is a phased nursery transition programme for first half term in September. New children joining part way through the year are buddied up with another child/group of children and meetings held with parents to discuss needs. During the summer term all classes have a transition fortnight, moving into their new class and year group in order to establish rules and expectations ready for September. Year 6 have visits to their new high schools and staff from the high schools come into school to speak to the children. Additional visits are arranged for the vulnerable children. An Assistant Principal is responsible for transition arrangements, ably supported by staff including the Extended Home School Links Worker.
Prior Attainment Data Used Effectively
The school uses data including prior attainment very effectively. Staff use their progress records to inform teaching and learning daily. Any child who needs further support before the next lesson will have a catch-up session with the teacher or TA. If more support is needed or a bigger gap in learning needs addressing the child or group will be identified for an afternoon intervention planned by the teacher, delivered by the TA.
Weekly Staff CPD
Staff have weekly CPD as part of the weekly staff meetings which provides opportunities for staff skills in all areas to be developed. Sessions are also adapted to address areas in teaching and learning which arise from M&E.
Changes to the Marking Policy
The changes to the marking policy are indicating a positive contribution to the children’s learning. Feedback to the two groups supported each lesson by the teacher/TA is instant and those who have worked independently know immediately from looking at the stamp and code on their work what they need to do next.
Communication with Parents
The school has a good range of means with which to communicate with parents. The introduction of Class Dojo this year has been well received by parents. The school offers parents the opportunity to speak about their child’s progress in a formal parents’ evening or more informally through parents’ meetings which could be called by staff or by parents.
In surveys of parental views about the school, they are overwhelmingly positive about the school. In a meeting with one parent, he told me that he had complete confidence in the school. Teachers were described as “friendly and approachable” and the quality of teaching as “excellent”. Parents are invited to sit in on some lessons.
Governors hold Leaders to Account
Belgrave has a governing body which represents the school community. Each named governor has a specific responsibility and reports back to the Headteacher and full governing body. During discussion, it was clear that the Governing Body hold leaders to account and are robust in their pursuance of improved standards.
Working with the Local Community
Belgrave works very closely with the local community and supports a wide variety of fundraising throughout the school. The school effectively promotes community cohesion as part of its PSHCE curriculum. The diversity of the school community is viewed as a strength and they regularly promote inclusion through the curriculum, making links with local businesses, and places of collective worship.
The school choir are regular visitors to a variety of local community organisations such as Longton Cottage Hospital, University Hospital, Harvest Festival at St Bartholomew’s and Victoria Hall. The school, rightly, enjoys a positive and high profile amongst its local community.
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