Blackshaw Primary School in Bolton has achieved the Inclusive School Award for the second time.
Blackshaw Primary School is a popular one form entry school with 240 children on roll. It has a nursery which provides childcare on both a full time and part time basis. The Reception Class has been oversubscribed for the past 7 years. The school has a mixed catchment area of private and social housing in the town of Bolton. The proportion of pupils who are eligible for FSM is currently in line with the national averages following a long period of being above average. The proportion of children who have special educational needs is lower than the national average, but the school has strong secure provisions for those pupils whose needs are significant or complex. The school prides itself on its inclusive ethos where pupils are treated as individuals.
Outstanding Learning Environment
It was clear from the one-day online assessment that staff and pupils take pride in their school and their outstanding learning environment, with all staff working tirelessly to provide all pupils and their families with the best possible education, care, nurture, and support to enable them to reach their full potential and have the best outcomes in life. The one-day assessment of the school was undertaken virtually due to the current pandemic. However, this did not in any way compromise the depth, breadth and integrity of the assessment process. The information from the Self Evaluation Report, the SDP, website and a plethora of documents and online meetings were all triangulated to ensure that all elements of the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award were not just established but were fully embedded in the school’s everyday practice. The schedule for the day was well organised and ensured that I was able to speak with the staff, parents, pupils, governors, and external partners all of whom spoke confidently and passionately about inclusion and about their involvement with the school. What became extremely apparent as the assessment unfolded is that inclusion occurs naturally and is a highly pervasive element in the positive culture of the school, as is the dedication and drive of the staff to make a positive difference to everyone they work with. That fits seamlessly with their stated ethos, ‘Education for All’ and ‘To provide a warm and welcoming learning environment where everyone is respected, and no-one is isolated’. Truly inclusive statements that everyone involved with the academy lives by and models daily and was seen and discussed during the assessment.
Pupils Come First
As the assessment progressed in this extremely vibrant, warm, and welcoming school, I found a genuine ambition and integrity amongst all stakeholders revealing what really matters most. Pupils come first, and all receive equitable provision and support. Staff spoken to were dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled. Their sense of drive and determination to improve the outcomes for all came through extremely strongly as did their sense of being a team and part of the ‘Blackshaw family’. The implementation of rigorous, but supportive and fair structures and processes supports the staff in all areas and at all levels to work strategically and collaboratively together. Inspirational and aspirational leadership, coupled with strong teamwork amongst the staff, is at the core of relationships and their success. They are motivated to improve and to improve the lives of everyone involved with the school so that they achieve their potential and goals. Leaders spoken to in meetings were clear about the vision and next steps for the school.
The Best Outcomes for All Pupils
They have excellent reflective skills and what came across very clearly is that they want the best outcomes for all pupils whatever their starting points or individual need. This is supported by the staff who are included and buy into the vision and values of the school and are very passionate about ensuring ‘their pupils’ succeed. It was clear throughout the assessment that staff will not settle for anything but the best for the pupils, the families, the community, and themselves.
Online Live Learning Opportunities
Throughout the pandemic the school and staff have continued to deliver high quality learning experiences for their pupils and their families, often going above and beyond what is expected to ensure they have and continue to be supported and can access appropriate teaching and learning opportunities. Excellent communication with pupils and their families, alongside the timely provision of teaching materials and technology, ensured that pupils managed to continue working and learning so that gaps in knowledge can be more readily addressed now they are back in school. This included online live learning opportunities with pupils having access to normal lessons during the normal school day. This is a fantastic achievement and supports the outstanding inclusive practice seen at the school during the assessment and is something that the school and staff should be proud of.
Intuitive and Natural Inclusivity
Scheduled discussions during the assessment allowed an excellent picture of the school’s intuitive and natural inclusivity to emerge. It was a privilege to engage in conversations with such enthusiastic, dedicated and professional staff. I spoke at some length to a number of staff with a variety of responsibilities that included the following meetings.
Sources of Evidence
The initial conversation with the Headteacher and the IQM Lead set the scene for the assessment and discussed the breadth, scope and format for the online assessment and the context of the school within the community and highlighted some areas of the school’s comprehensive SER to be explored during the day such as international links, parental, pupil and staff questionnaires and links with local schools.
Parents are Partners in Their Children’s Education
I also had a wide ranging and very interesting conversation with parents who were extremely supportive of the school, what it has offered their children both in the past and currently. They were keen to explain that they felt that they are partners in their children’s education and that they worked closely together. They felt that the school was extremely inclusive and couldn’t be faulted, as they understood the different needs of the children in their care and often went above and beyond what would be expected of them to ensure their children got the best education, care, support and opportunities. They were keen to stress that children are accepted for who they are, and nothing is too much for the extremely supportive staff of the school, who know their children extremely well. This is a fantastic accolade for the staff and clearly demonstrates their superbly intuitive inclusive ethos and is something that the school and the parents should be proud of.
Governors Support the School’s Ethos and Values
The meeting with two governors who are highly involved in the life of the school, provided valuable insight into the way that they work with each other and with the school to ensure that they support the school’s ethos and values, and extremely high aspirations for all pupils, but also provide appropriate and tangible support and challenge. It was clear from the conversation that the governing body is well trained, and effective and has the knowledge and wide-ranging skillset to support the school and they are passionate about their work in the school and spoke very highly of the school and its staff. It was clear that the governing body and its members are proud of their inclusive values and superb, supportive work with learners and their families. This was borne out by a discussion later in the day with the Chair of Governors who reinforced my view that the governing body is extremely effective and can provide the support and scrutiny of the school to enable them to continue to be successful. I was impressed by their knowledge and the way they work so closely with the school and its staff.
Extremely Effective Support
A further meeting was undertaken with the Deputy Headteacher and KS2 Lead, the Year 2 teacher and KS1 Lead and the Pastoral Lead and Learning Mentor to discuss the school’s curriculum and their roles in relation to inclusion within the school and the mental health and well-being of pupils and staff. The discussions demonstrated that the curriculum and support offered to both pupils and parents is extremely effective, and that inclusion is embedded within the school and occurs at many different levels and that there is a superb connection between pupils, parents, and all stakeholders. As one of the staff members explained,
‘No one is left behind’
and this includes the staff as well. It is very clear from these discussions that there is a superb level of support for everyone involved with the school that more than meets need, that the staff and school should be very proud of and highly commended for.
I was able to have a conversation with six older pupils that was extremely positive as they talked about their ‘Blackshaw experience’ and how they had been and continued to be superbly supported through a difficult year by all staff at the school. They were a pleasure to talk to and were articulate and mature in the way in which they discussed their experiences of the school and it was clear from the way that they responded to questions that they felt that the school is an extremely inclusive place and had gone above and beyond to ensure there were very few gaps in their learning moving forwards. It was clear that they are very proud of their school and were actively involved in decision making and proud of the improvements they had helped to make to the outdoor learning environment. In fact, they were so proud that two of them went and took pictures of the superb external learning environment and came back to show me albeit online. The pupils were a credit to themselves, the school and their families and showed the tremendous relationships between each other and the staff.
Strong Relationships with External Partners
The school has very strong relationships with external partners and I was able to have a discussion with a representative from Ladywood Outreach Service who works closely with the school. It was clear from the discussion that the school and Ladywood work closely and innovatively together to ensure the needs of all pupils are met. In fact, Ladywood uses the school as a beacon of outstanding practice and recommends other schools visit to see what they offer and how they can help them improve what they do. The representative felt that the school is extremely inclusive and went above and beyond what they experience elsewhere to ensure that their pupils and their families are safe, looked after and receive the best education possible. This is quite an accolade for the school and one that is, in my opinion, well deserved demonstrating without doubt that the school is a highly inclusive place.
Outstanding Inclusive Ethos
It was a pleasure to visit Blackshaw Primary School to conduct their assessment, albeit virtually. The assessment underlined their outstanding inclusive ethos, care, nurture and support that is at the very heart of their approach to teaching, learning and supports everyone in their care and was talked about and discussed openly during the assessment.
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.
Want more information on the IQM Award? Click here to request your free IQM information pack