Belmont Primary School in Derbyshire achieves Centre of Excellence status.
Aspirational for All Pupils
Belmont Primary is a large two-form entry, fully inclusive primary, operating on a split site. The school is situated in the Swadlincote which is part of the East Midlands challenge area and pupils attending Belmont come from a varied of socio-economic backgrounds. The school is highly ambitious for all groups of pupils and they strive for all pupils to make good progress from their starting points and diminish the difference in order to reach Age Related Expectations. Staff are aspirational for all pupils, including the More Able pupils, providing appropriate support so that they work at greater depth.
Currently 32.6% of the pupils are eligible for free school meals and the proportion of disadvantaged pupils has increased over time. There are 32 pupils with SEND support and 7 pupils have Educational Health Care Plans. The majority of SEND pupils present with social and emotional difficulties and moderate learning difficulties; more pupils have Autism, and some have challenging behaviour. The number of pupils with EAL has grown over time and currently stands at 6%, with pupils speaking mainly Polish and Romanian, although there are other languages represented.
The IQM assessment of Belmont Primary School was remotely done over one day. During the time of this review the country was facing a global pandemic, COVID-19. Despite all the challenges, the Deputy Headteacher worked diligently to ensure that the assessment day ran smoothly with all relevant stakeholders being given a voice via a virtual platform with all appropriate and supporting documentation being sent prior to the day of the assessment.
A Safe, Stimulating and Supportive Atmosphere
Belmont Primary School is very welcoming and the very warm, friendly ethos of the school is apparent from the outset. There is a calm, happy, purposeful atmosphere and the environment is bright and very positive throughout the school with beautiful displays in the corridors, halls and classrooms. Pupils’ learning and work is celebrated throughout the school. The virtual tour of the school showed how the staff were ensuring that the class bases were COVID-19 secure based on the risk assessments that had been conducted. The staff have created a safe, stimulating and supportive atmosphere where pupils can love life, learning and play. One of the values of the school is, “To provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and achieve in a secure and caring environment” and this was very clear from the virtual tour of the school.
A Curriculum Designed to Meet Children’s Needs
The pupils are strongly supported in all areas of the curriculum by dedicated, hard-working staff led by strong leaders who share a determination that all stakeholders should be listened to and work relentlessly to provide equality of learning opportunities for all pupils in school regardless of gender, race, age or disability. The curriculum at Belmont Primary is planned, adapted and resourced to meet the needs, interests and cultures of the pupils in the school. Staff are effective at delivering tailormade provisions and these personalised programmes enable pupils to make strong progress across the curriculum regardless of starting points. Teachers provide high quality learning experiences and pupils are actively engaged in their own learning. Rigorous monitoring, evaluation and observations ensure that there is a consistency in the quality of teaching across the school. Teachers and support staff have high expectations and challenging work with aspirational targets for all groups of pupils. They work hard as a team to put in place a range of adjustments to support individual pupils with significant barriers to learning. Staff speak very highly of the school’s use of Kagan interventions and the school’s whole school implementation of Tamba Roy strategies and the continuing professional development opportunities they receive.
Sharing an Inclusive Ethos
The Leadership Team share an inclusive ethos which pervades throughout the school, they have an accurate picture of strengths and areas for improvement and are highly focused on the drive to ensure outcomes for pupils are high. Leaders at all levels lead by positive example with very high ambitions for its pupils and believe all pupils can succeed while ensuring all aspects of inclusion and pupils’ individual needs are focused on. Subject leaders are enthusiastic, and they work effectively together to bring about improvements in their subject areas. The OFSTED report commended the work of school leaders, “You and the Deputy Headteacher make a formidable team. You have an accurate picture of the strengths and areas for development at the school and are relentless in your drive to ensure outcomes for pupils are high. School improvement planning is focused sharply on areas identified in your detailed and accurate self-evaluation.” I would echo these findings as an assessor, as the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher/IQM Leader lead by example and have embedded a collective vision that has created an atmosphere where all children support each other to achieve success. The preparation for the assessment was exemplary with a wealth of documentation provided by the Deputy Headteacher/IQM Leader which supported the IQM application.
Proactive, Flexible and Motivated Staff
At Belmont Primary School, all members of staff are proactive, flexible and motivated and their ideas are valued. In classes, teachers and support staff work in close collaboration, supporting the different needs of pupils in small groups. Support staff greatly value the supportive nature of the school and how they are able to access advice and guidance through the very open and positive staff relationships in the school. Teaching Assistants and Learning Mentors receive regular training and are deployed effectively to support the learning of all pupils. One of the Learning Mentors I met with during the day was also in charge of monitoring attendance and works very closely with the families and supporting them and building relationships. There is a real solution focused approach to this work. The Nurture Group TAs are highly skilful in supporting those pupils who need space and time to reflect if they experience challenges and in some cases bereavement. Support staff say that they belong to the “Belmont Family-everybody has a common goal and that is to ensure that they give their absolute best to the children both socially and academically so that they develop their resilience and love for learning”. The TAs with whom I spoke with work very closely with the class teacher and adapt learning to allow the pupils they are supporting to access the curriculum. They feel supported by each other and their management teams. They say that “Everyone supports each other and we all have time for each other and the children. This is a happy, homely, safe place for children and staff”.
Emotional and Social Support
The school has a strong ethos and extremely effective delivery of emotional and social support for pupils of all ages. Senior Leaders have put into place a wide range of strategies to support pupils’ well-being. Both teachers and support staff spoke highly of how effective they have found the school’s implementation and training they have received in relation to Tamba Roy strategies and Kagan strategies. Leaders at all levels ensure that priority is given to all pupils, particularly to pupil premium pupils by ensuring that they receive quality first teaching to enable them to make above expected progress, where possible. There is a strong ethos of resilience, perseverance and in pupils working hard to achieve their personal best in whatever they are doing. The school uses a range of assessment systems to evaluate the impact of interventions, including iTrack Primary School Tracking System to measure pupil progress in line with national expectations.
Knowledgeable about Inclusion
The Governing Body is well trained and knowledgeable about inclusion. Governors provide challenge and support with a clear vision for the school. They show focus and determination in ensuring that the school continues to develop its work and is forward looking in all aspects of their work. Governors have a wide range of experiences and skills and they regularly complete appropriate training, including safeguarding, to ensure that they are well-placed to carry out their duties diligently and effectively. Challenge for the Headteacher is rigorous ensuring full accountability. All members of the Governing Body have full access to training which enables them to extend their individual knowledge and to become even more effective in their strategic role.
Pupils are Inspired in Their Learning
The pupils have confidence in their teachers and support staff and know their needs will be met. They feel inspired in their learning by the imaginative and needs-led teaching. Pupils felt that they were supported appropriately in the lessons and that their teachers and teaching assistants had high expectations of them with differentiated challenges. One Year 5 pupil said,
“I like this school because work is never too easy or too hard and teachers always present you with a challenge”.
Another pupil commented on how much she enjoyed the learning,
“I like the lessons because you get to learn new stuff”.
As a result of the planning of the curriculum and an inviting environment, pupils’ attitudes across the school were highly positive. The pupils were extremely respectful of each other, happy, polite, articulate, friendly and enthusiastic. They speak very highly of their school and its staff and they know that they are listened to and cared for. There are opportunities for pupils to take on roles of responsibility in the school including the School Council, Eco-Council and School Parliament. Celebration assembly each week rewards effort and life skills such as determination, perseverance and other positive character traits. Pupils were all incredibly positive about the school and the opportunities available to them including the full range of extra-curricular clubs and trips that are available to them, as they stated,
“We get to go on really cool trips like the theatre and the mosque”.
Pupils feel safe in the school and if they have a worry or a concern, they feel confident to go to a member of staff and also have a “worry box “in class to write down their concerns for the teacher to deal with and they are confident that concerns will be dealt with appropriately. Pupils were clear that positive behaviour is supported through a five-point behaviour plan and an emotional literacy programme. They reported that behaviour is managed consistently. and they were able to explain the consequences and rewards systems in place within school.
Very Supportive Parents
All the staff, parents, Governors and pupils spoken to during the assessment were extremely positive about the school’s work. There is a very genuine sense of team effort here, of mutual support, of listening, discussing and of including everyone. Parents feel that they are listened to and the school has fostered a real partnership ensuring both parties share the process of educating their children. Parents commented that communication between home and school is very good, if parents have any concerns, they are confident that staff will take them seriously and act immediately. A parent with a child with complex needs explained how her son and the family have been supported in securing the support that her son needed.
“The school has been brilliant and the support that was given by the school has been second to none”.
All parents including those who were key workers spoke with great passion about the support their children have received during the lockdown period. They said that the teachers provided fir their children both academically with regular weekly home learning but also supported them with their social, emotional needs. The parents appreciated the text messaging they received from the teachers and said that there were excellent levels of communication during the lockdown. They said that the,
“Relationships between teachers and parents is excellent and all the staff go above and beyond to help the children to be best they can be”.
Inclusive Provision for Maths and Literacy
Day 2 of the assessment for the Inclusion Quality Mark, Inclusive School Award took place several months after the original date planned and due to the continuing social restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also conducted remotely. The focus for Day 2 was to consider more closely the inclusive provision for Mathematics and Literacy across the school, through discussions with Senior Leaders and consideration of a range of school data. This included documents relating to the ‘Intent, Implementation and Impact’ emerging from a well-structured curriculum. During the assessment, a common thread of poor language development became evident; this was identified by the Headteacher and the Subject Leaders who participated. On entry, many pupils have poorly developed language skills and this developmental issue has been identified as a limiting factor by all professionals.
The report from Day 1 gives a clear indication of the diverse nature of the pupil population of the school, but it is useful to keep this information to the fore when considering the structures in place to support all children in their learning. 33% of pupils are in receipt of Pupil Premium funding, 38 have an identified Special Educational Need and/or Disability (SEND), 5 have Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) and the percentage of pupils experiencing English as an Additional Language (EAL) is increasing with most additional languages being Eastern European. An understanding of the social demography of the area in which the school is situated is also important. Within the school’s catchment there are areas of significant deprivation impacting on the educational needs of many pupils. Average household incomes are low, making Swadlincote one of the least affluent areas in the District, thus contributing to higher levels of economic and social deprivation. Approximately ten years ago, unemployment figures tripled and still remain significantly higher in the Swadlincote Urban Area, than most other parts of South Derbyshire. One key employment area is located around the former Cadley Hill Colliery (Information from South Derbyshire District Council document).
A Rich, Well Resourced Curriculum
Against this social backdrop Belmont Primary School is providing a rich, well-resourced curriculum with a strong focus on pupil achievement and progress. This has been carefully planned to respond to the educational, social and emotional needs of all pupils, following the national lockdown and closure of schools, during the global pandemic. Leaders support the new Headteacher in her determination to place inclusion at the top of the agenda as well as placing great importance on high achievement for all. During Day 2 of the assessment, I met online with the Headteacher, the EYFS and KS1 Lead, the Maths Lead, the English Lead and the Leader for SEND.
Committed to Inclusion
The commitment to inclusion is evidenced by reference to the day-to-day provision for all pupils. An emphasis on Quality First Teaching is a key priority and, as the strapline suggests, places an emphasis on ‘high quality, inclusive teaching supported by continuous whole school processes for assessing, planning, and monitoring of each child’s progress’. Lessons are regularly observed, and all teaching staff are involved in the process. Teaching is found to be at least ‘Good’ with many examples of ‘Outstanding’ practice. Planning and assessment opportunities are shared across the year groups and feed into the formal recording of data. Termly Progress Meetings ensure that that the learning of every child is regularly monitored, so that swift action can be taken if intervention is needed.
Staff find that ‘Precision Teaching’ has made a significant contribution to successful learning. This is a method of planning, a teaching programme to meet the needs of a child who has difficulty with retaining and applying a new skill. By breaking down tasks into small stages, learning can be evaluated, and accurate assessments made to inform next steps. When necessary, this approach is used to embed learning across the EYFS and Key Stages and for identified children assists the transition from phonic blending to accurate spelling. Precision Teaching is an effective intervention which relies on the competency of the adult who is working with an individual child, for this reason Teaching Assistants and Learning Mentors are specifically trained to support learners. Involvement of parents in school life is highly regarded and encouraged by the school. The EYFS/KS1 Lead values the positive relationships she has developed and excellent responses in questionnaires show the appreciation of parents. ‘Evidence Me’ has been introduced within the EYFS, to facilitate regular two-way communication between home and school and the use of ‘Marvellous Me ’is planned for KS1 and KS2.
Children are Identified by Their Individuality
Belmont Primary has a profound understanding of children with social and emotional needs and has successfully included and integrated children who have failed in other settings. Children with social and emotional difficulties are not identified by their issues but rather by their individuality and additional needs, which may have been caused by earlier life experiences. A highly effective Nurture Group has been in place for several years and many children who have previously attended actually ask to re-join the class when they know that they need extra support. It is a resource that has been used for a wide range of children including those who are academically highly successful. A common-sense approach is used to support children who sometimes struggle to conform to social constraints. If a child needs to expel tension and surplus energy, then they are given that opportunity for some physical exercise followed by sensitive support to return to their class.
A Solution Focussed School
Many structures are in place to help children succeed rather than fail. The SEND Leader articulated this well when he said that
“we have an ethos of accepting individual needs and understand that some children need to be carefully managed – however we are solution focussed and if an approach does not work, we find another way.”
In the words of the Headteacher
“every child deserves a fresh start.”
Passionate about Inclusion
The Headteacher is passionate about inclusion and firmly believes that behaviour needs to be seen as a form of communication. She is an advocate of the Boxall Assessment Tool, which is used in the school to identify the specific needs of children demonstrating emotional and/or social distress. Once the need is understood work begins to put appropriate support in place. She works tirelessly to maintain very high standards in every area and under her Leadership as the newly appointed Headteacher, the school is destined to go from strength to strength. Her compassion blends well with a clear understanding of educational pedagogy as she faces a challenging but rewarding time ahead.
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