Brook House Primary School in Haringey has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
Brook House Primary School is a two-form entry primary school based in Tottenham, in the Borough of Haringey in North London. It operates as part of the Lion Academy Trust – made up of nine primary schools, in London, Essex and Northants. The current Headteacher has been in post since 2015 when he took over the school that was then in special measures and had a lot of problems to sort out. The Head is now the Executive Head and is also leading another school in Essex that is part of the Lion Trust.
There are over 413 pupils on roll and the population is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-faith community. More than 37 languages are spoken within the school. Most pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds, the largest group being white Eastern European. The proportion of pupils who speak English as an additional language is over 60% with the languages spoken by most families after English are Turkish, Romanian, Somali and Polish. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for the pupil premium is relatively high and there are a number of invisible families who don’t receive this funding but still need the support. The proportion of pupils who have special educational needs is roughly in line with the national figures.
The school works in very challenging circumstances. The Northumberland Park ward is the most deprived ward in London and within the 5% most deprived within the country. The school was inspected in June 2016 where the school was judged to be a Good school.
A Community School
Although the school is part of a Multi-Academy Trust it describes itself as a community school that exists to serve its local community.
After carrying out day one of the IQM assessment via Zoom towards the end of the summer term, I was very keen to visit the school and meet everybody to see the learning environment for myself. The Assistant Headteacher (Inclusion Lead) prepared a very detailed schedule for me, which enabled me to meet a great number of people and to get a real feel for the school. She knows every aspect of the school very well and her knowledge and expertise were evident both in the paperwork provided and the discussions we had during the day.
The school is well organised, and it was good to see children at work in their classrooms or moving around in their bubbles. They were extremely well behaved and followed the instructions of staff in classrooms and in the corridors. The COVID-19 regulations were being followed to the letter and it was amazing to see how the children had adapted to the new rules and regulations.
The Inclusive Ethos of the School
Displays around the school are colourful and reflect the inclusive ethos of the school. The working walls are seen in every room and help to remind children what they learned yesterday and the previous day, they also set the scene for the current day’s learning. These are well used by staff and pupils. The school is well maintained by an excellent Premises Team who keep it in tip top condition. However, the children obviously value the school and look after it. I saw no litter or graffiti on my tour around the school and I noticed pupils looking at displays and showing a real interest in their learning environment. Classrooms are a good size and are currently set out (according to DFE guidelines) in rows with children facing the front. Each classroom has a theme and the book corner in each room reflects that theme decided by children in conjunction with their teacher.
Pupil Feedback – Years 3 and 4
I met with a large group of Year 3 and 4 pupils who were keen to tell me everything about their school and about anything else they could think of. I asked them what the best things about the school were. Their replies included; drawing, painting, craft, working in class, playing in the playground and the Brook House “Five Ways”. They also mentioned teachers and teaching assistants, they mentioned the new teacher video that had been sent to them to introduce them to their new class teacher and this helped to relieve the anxiety about coming back to school. When asked what they would like to change or have more of if they could, they found it difficult to come up with anything but eventually said they would like more laptops and more chapter books and interestingly – more 5 Ways! I asked them what it was like during lockdown, a few said it was boring but they enjoyed themselves with their family and they did lots of handwriting practice when at home. It was clear they were very happy to be back at school.
Pupil Feedback – Years 5 and 6
Next I was able to meet pupils from Year 5 and 6, they said the best thing about the school was that they all get on together and there are no fights. They like playtime and think the facilities in the playground are good, even though the playgrounds are small they make good use of them. They said the boys and girls play together and they like playing football. They said they sometimes have fun in lessons and the teachers are patient with them and they notice if you are sad, adding that they would help and try to make you happy. They also help them with their work. They like the dinner hall and the dinners are OK – many of them bring a packed lunch. They said there was swimming in Year 5 and a trip to go camping in Wales when they were in Year 6. They knew this may not happen this year as a result of COVID-19 regulations. We discussed the many after school clubs they had before lockdown but they felt sad that these had not started up again this term but they understood the reasons. They talked about the culture days they had when they could all celebrate their different cultures. When new people arrive at the school they are made to feel very welcome. Furthermore they told me about the Safeguarding Team at the school and pointed to the poster that was in the room and they knew that there was always someone they could go to if they were worried or concerned.
Implications of COVID-19
When asked about the things they did not really like about the school they thought very hard and came up with the staggered playtimes in place as a result of COVID-19 regulations. They were not able to play with their friends in other year groups. They were concerned about having enough room to play football without hitting others who were not playing. They suggested more playground equipment and wondered where “the bridge” had gone from the playground. Most of all they wanted afterschool clubs, trips and visits to be brought back once “COVID-19 had gone away”. They mentioned the previous year’s Halloween Disco and Christmas activities and wondered what would happen this year. Then they told me that each class has a Worry Box – outside the classroom and after a week the teacher looks at it and speaks to you if you need to talk about anything.
Teaching Support Staff
My next meeting was with a number of HLTAs and LSAs. One member has been a HLTA for 5 years, she started as an LSA and worked her way up and now covers teachers and PPA in the afternoon. She is in class every morning supporting pupils. The LSA I spoke with has been in the position for 2 years, she is a qualified teacher in her own country and decided to apply for a TA position when she came here. She stated that she loves the job and is considering her next step. They both told me that they have an appraisal and they can say what training they need or would like. They meet other HLTAs in the Trust and have done a lot of training together. They said its good to visit another school and get some new ideas. The training and development is useful and helps them to support in class and to support individual pupils. They also learned how to update data and identify individual needs. They told me that teachers (and pupils) value them and really miss them when they are not there.
Parental Engagement Officer
I met the Parental Engagement Officer who has been in the post for 4 years. Her job is a balance of supporting parents and doing creative clubs/projects after school. Currently she has been supporting parents/carers with secondary transfer forms. Normally the school would invite parents in to meet secondary school staff but this has not been possible this year as a result of the pandemic. Parents of children with special educational needs ask the SENCO and others for advice about where to send them and normally there would be educational coffee mornings and creative coffee mornings in the lead up to the summer holidays but these have had to be halted due to the COVID-19 restrictions. She is on the gate every morning and afternoon (along with SLT) and the families get to know her. They might have a chat there and then or they will make an appointment to come and see her or to have a telephone conversation. She worked at home during lockdown but was in contact with families through telephone calls on a consistent basis.
The Lead Mentor
I was able to spend some time talking to the Lead Mentor. She is very experienced and very passionate about her role. She works closely with the Family Liaison Officer, the Assistant Headteacher, the SLT and other staff in order to provide appropriate support for pupils and their families. She works with pupils in Years 3,4 ,5 and 6 and has contact with various external agencies involved with families.
My final meeting was with a Learning Support Assistant and a EYFS Phonics Lead. Both are parents as well as school staff and have seen the way things work from both sides. It is true to say that a number of staff at the school send their children to Brook House Primary School which is a sign of the trust they have in the organisation and the people in it. They were very keen to tell me about their positive experience as members of staff as well as parents.
A Mindful and Supportive SLT
We discussed their experience during lockdown and how they managed their children at home while also working from home and they described the work that was provided for children. They said the SLT were mindful and supportive of those who had family responsibilities. They were able to give me an overview of what it is like to be a parent of a child who was a pupil at the school. The word that comes up over and over again is the Brook House Team.
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