Broadway Academy in Birmingham achieves Flagship status for the second time.
Broadway Academy is a popular, larger than average 11-19 school that serves an area of significant social and economic disadvantage. The proportion of students known to be eligible for free school meals is significantly above national average and those with special educational needs and/or disability is also above national average. Most of the students are from minority ethnic backgrounds and speak English as an additional language. The school converted to an Academy in September 2013 shortly after moving to rebuilt premises in 2011.
The school is driven by a set of laudable values namely, integrity, respect, optimism, responsibility, appreciation, aspiration, generosity, and inclusivity. Leadership reflects these values.
Outdoor Learning Environment
During the past year, the school has secured a five year lease on a 5 acre plot of land to be used to develop outdoor education. The land is located in a rural area outside Worcester. Recently, work has been undertaken to refurbish and install outdoor classrooms, a long classroom and appropriate catering and toilet facilities. The school is set to embark on a programme to roll out the provision starting with Year 7 next week.
Enhanced Provision for All
Prompted by the experience of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, the school has invested in computer tablets for each pupil. Together with the Island Pool lease, these represent a significant investment in providing enhanced provision for all.
High Levels of Attendance
Ofsted inspectors found that children were happy at school and they also “…saw positive relationships between staff and pupils both during and between lessons.” It is significant that since the full return to school in September this year, attendance stands as just below 96% which is testimony to the hard work of staff in creating such positive relationships and to pupils who respond so enthusiastically and respectfully. As cited in the evaluation of last year’s Flagship Project, the school focussed on reducing exclusions which they have done successfully. Detentions have also reduced.
Emotional and Mental Welfare Support
The school considers the welfare of members of its community to be of paramount importance. Particularly through lockdown, the school provided much needed emotional and mental welfare support to pupils, parents and staff. Frequent and regular communication was key in order to monitor individuals and then to be able to respond quickly and appropriately according to need. The additional pressure faced by staff was recognised and simple means of communication via social media were utilised across the staff. A senior leader is currently completing a master’s degree, supported by the school, on SEMH and the use of online platforms to support in the context of a predominately BAME population locally.
Comprehensive Provision for All
The impact of lockdown cannot be ignored, nor can its impact be underplayed. I heard and saw evidence of comprehensive provision for all pupils during this difficult time including a total of 1600 separate telephone contacts with parents, deployment of previously underused internet platforms for home learning, the addition of new resources and between 15-20 home visits per day. In a report commissioned to evaluate the school leadership’s response to the national public health emergency of 2020, independent advisors described the school’s response as “phenomenal”. In the detailed report, amongst the many commendable findings it was reported that “…leaders directed a highly effective emergency strategy which controlled the situation and averted a crisis…All staff were directed to focus on the four most important priorities of the emergency” namely, children’s safeguarding, children’s welfare, children’s learning and finally, the community.
Assessment and Tracking Inform Planning
Given the disruption created by the pandemic it is difficult to fairly judge learners’ progress as in previous years. Nevertheless, the school continued to assess appropriately and collect data. To this end and to add external verification, the school subscribed to Assessment Box, a service providing valid and reliable assessments nationally. Data presented showed that progress had been maintained and comparable internal data showed acceleration from previous years. Assessment and tracking at Broadway is sophisticated yet not cumbersome and is used effectively by staff to inform their planning.
Professional Development is Structured and Pertinent
Professional development for staff is carefully structured and pertinent to school and individual needs. The accountability framework is both robust and supportive. Lesson observations have a particular focus on SEND, pupil premium and most able and report on a number of strands which include: values, character and personal development; relationships, attitudes and behaviour; planning and adapting teaching to meet the needs of all; assessment (know more, remember more, do more); high academic challenge; effective questioning. During lockdown, the use of online platforms to deliver live lessons and provide resources for home learning was very successful. Since returning in September, these resources have continued to be used in order to maintain Covid safe environments as classes remain in their bubbles.
Consistency and Efficiency
Leaders adopted the ‘Deeps’ several years ago as a means of structuring leadership responsibilities. Since my last visit, two more ‘deeps’ have been added to include all support staff through ‘Deep Service’ and one which provides the lubricant, ‘Deep Coherence’. Through deep coherence, a watchful eye is kept on all areas making sure that there is consistency and efficient and effective use of resources.
Parental Support is Strong
Parental support for the school as found by Ofsted inspectors is strong. Since lockdown, that support, borne through trust, has strengthened. Parents are appreciative of the above and beyond help they have received from the dedicated and caring Broadway staff through a huge number of phone calls and home visits. Parents of more vulnerable pupils continue to receive at least three contacts each week.
Governance is effective and during the lockdown, governors continued to meet regularly via Zoom. As found in the report on the school’s response to the crisis, “Governors and Trustees maintained their strong oversight and strategic functions across the period of the closure.” The school is open to external scrutiny and uses these processes to continue developing their provision.
The School in the Community
The school recognise the importance of its function in the community. There is a strong commitment to cohesion, particularly through inter-faith endeavours which I have reported on previously. This work continues despite the interruption created by lockdown and there is a very informative section of the school’s website that highlights some of this good work.
Active Working Relationships
The school maintains active, working relationships with many community organisations which they have used effectively in broadening and enhancing provision. In the report into the school’s response to the pandemic, advisors found that “…the reach of the Academy into its community was extraordinarily strong.”
Navigated a Smooth Course Through Lockdown
The school should be congratulated for the skilful way in which it navigated a smooth course through lockdown. Staff described procedures which were adapted to ensure safety and the continuation of a meaningful experience throughout the partial closure. Since September, further measures have been taken to maintain a safe environment and experience for all who work and learn at Broadway Academy. The work of support and site staff to make the environment safe for teaching staff and pupils is highly commendable.
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