Sense of Community
On arrival at Burlington Infant and Nursery School, it is clear what a special place this is. The warm welcome from the office staff started the beginning of an inspirational day. The large dining hall was buzzing with laughter and chatting from the shared Big Breakfast that happens annually; it was Year 2’s turn to have breakfast with their parents. During this week, each year group has the opportunity to eat with their year group and parents are welcomed in to attend. Most of the staff our Assessor met had been working at the school for over a decade and in many cases two decades, staff stay because they love the children and the close community feel of the school. The Head School Meals Supervisory Assistant (SMSA) who has worked at the school for 12 years said, “it is the children that keep me here, I want to see them grow and develop from Nursery to when they go to the Juniors”. That sense of community and the feeling of “our children” was felt very strongly throughout the day from all staff.
The school is passionate about wellbeing across the board, both for the children and for everyone who works there, and it threads through the fabric of the school. The week of the assessor visit was, ‘Healthy Living Week’ not only promoting fitness and good nutrition but also promoting emotional health. The school has received an Attachment Aware Schools’ Award run by the borough’s virtual school after completing the year long training and running INSETs and is looking to move up to a silver award soon. The behaviour policy is based on positive reinforcement and there is no shouting in school. The SENCo said, “No one needs to feel anything but brilliant here”.
Does Not Stand Still
This is a school that does not stand still, actively seeking the next initiative that can enhance their children’s experiences by providing aspirational opportunities. The SENCo explained that the Headteacher was exceptionally driven and energised, and the phrase “what can we add?” sums up the outward looking approach. The SENCo said, “whatever they need, we do”. This was in evidence in all areas around the school and there are big plans afoot to shake up the outside space and playtimes in general after an inspiring visit to another local school which has adopted Outdoor Play and Learning for schools (OPAL).
This exciting outdoor learning school improvement programme addresses all the areas that the school must plan for if they want to improve the quality of their play opportunities strategically and sustainably. It will be a long-term project which will take up to two years to embed and will drastically change how the playgrounds are used with plans to merge all year groups. The school is very excited to get going with the OPAL team and will have a designated mentor from OPAL for the duration of the project. The SENCo is already looking into how to acquire an old double decker bus to turn into a nurture space. The introduction of a Forest School area in the autumn term will dovetail nicely with the OPAL project. Inclusion is at the heart of everything they do, and they continue to creatively look at ways to engage the whole community.
Another new initiative which has been rolled out by the Deputy Head and Curriculum and Assessment Leader this last academic year, is ‘task time’. This is a new strategy for supporting recall of knowledge and skills in KS1 classes. It supports all groups of learners but particularly SEND and PPG children. It was implemented in the autumn term (2022) to support spaced retrieval and children’s progress of knowing more and remembering more. Sessions take place in the afternoon and involve several tasks, which children complete from a range of subjects. The foundation subjects are no longer seen in isolated blocks but instead they will be continually taught throughout the year through task time sessions. By allowing children the time to continually revisit previously taught knowledge and skills (‘Recall Tasks’) this supports children to retrieve knowledge from their long-term memory. Tasks involve one ‘teach’ activity and four ‘recall’ activities. Three sessions are planned on a weekly basis. Feedback from teachers has been positive and children are thoroughly engaged in the various tasks. There is more coverage of the curriculum as a result of the implementation of task time.
Pupil voice in the summer term (2022) indicated that children were not retaining knowledge from the curriculum. Flashback Friday, a quiz used to assess children’s understanding in the foundation subjects, showed that on average 42% of children had retained their knowledge of learning in Y1, with 48% in Y2. Task time was introduced at the beginning of the autumn term to support children to recall their learning. Pupil voice at the end of the autumn term showed that 94% of children had retained their learning in Y1 and 92% in Y2. These high results suggest that children are actively retrieving knowledge from their long-term memory and strong progress is being made to support children to know more and remember more. The SENCo said, “it has had significant impact on what our children are able to learn and remember and so has hugely benefitted all children including those with SEND”.
Pride and Commitment
Ofsted has not visited since 2008, rating the school ‘Outstanding’. The Headteacher and SENCo very much want Ofsted to see the exceptional work that the school is doing and the SENCo said they were thinking of calling Ofsted to request an inspection. A surprising and unusual statement, but this highlighted the pride and commitment all school staff have in providing the best education they can for their children.
Our Assessor met with the school SEND Governor whose son, who has been diagnosed ASD, attended the school. She has been a Governor for four years. She spoke about her role as a critical friend and asking probing questions, attending termly meetings with the Inclusion Leader, conducting learning walks and discussing data and key headlines from the term. She spoke affectionately about the school and about her personal experience of navigating the difficult journey of CAMHS, her son receiving the diagnosis but also after diagnosis; “the SENCo scooped me up and held my hand all the way through”. She felt the strength of the school was the drive for early intervention, having robust systems in the Early Years’ provision to identify children as young as possible (the nursery starts at two-years-old) that may need referral. This includes observations conducted during stay and play sessions and home visits. She said, “it is a real joy to be part of this school”.
The school has various Whatsapp groups running, some solely for staff, eg: the midday supervisor staff, some for class groups run by the class rep parent and some for a particular SEND need such as the ASD group. Any new interventions, school news or key information are shared on the Whatsapp groups as well as the usual means of communication. The groups are also used for support and staff wellbeing. The Head SMSA felt that they were a key resource for strengthening staff relationships and checking in with each other. All staff are deemed important and integral to the success of the school. The SENCo said, “any new interventions at lunchtime starts with the Head SMSA which she then disseminates through to the team”. The Head SMSA felt that the lunch staff were an important asset for spotting potential concerns early on, “having ‘eyes on’ at those other times of day can help to spot possible SEND needs or other difficulties that may not have been spotted in class”. Any concerns are put on Child Protection Online Management System (CPOMS) after discussions with the relevant class teachers.
The next most exciting initiative will be the development and running of the small ASD provision that will be run by a specialist ASD LSA, overseen by the SENCo and is due to start being developed in autumn term 2023. The inception of this provision was borne out of the SENCo wanting to offer more to children with ASD. The school sought advice from an outside ASD expert but felt that they were already offering what the expert had suggested and they wanted to take it further. The LSA is passionate about offering as much as possible for those children through a more specialist approach, was providing all wave three interventions and was seeking a role such as setting up a specialist provision. The SENCo saw this as an opportunity to develop their own provision with a talented member of staff with great expertise who cannot wait to get started!
During the visit our Assessor was fortunate to sit and watch a Lego Therapy session run by one of the TAs who supports a child with complex needs who was also in the group. The session was a continuation of the same Lego model that the children had collectively chosen as a challenge and the technical model would take a few sessions to complete with more but smaller pieces. The children were still in the roles of the builder, engineer and supplier but had specifically asked the TA for a more challenging build and were supporting each other to get it right. The skilled TA was calm, supportive and facilitated the session beautifully, using language such as, “we are using whole body listening” and, “we are working as a team to get the model finished”. The children were engaged, waited their turn and thoroughly enjoyed the session.
‘The Teachers are Really Kind’
Our Assessor met with members of the Eco Council, School Council and Learning Council. The children were enthusiastic, all wanted to share what they loved about school but also what they wanted to change and how they achieved this, for example getting the catering company to change the lunch offer. They said, “the teachers are really kind and are polite to us”. They explained the learning trees, which our Assessor then saw around the school. These are wooden trees that have pictures of great learners hung on the branches. The Learning Council member explained, “we pick people that have done great learning and their picture is put on the tree for everyone to see”. The member of the Eco Council spoke about being part of re-invigorating the Rainbow Garden out in the playground and designing and shopping for new flowers, plants and bug hotels.
Next our Assessor met with a parent of a pupil who has significant need, but it took the family some time to get the diagnosis of KBG Syndrome, a rare genetic chromosomal disorder. The school and the SENCo embraced the child’s needs with gusto and has been a huge support to the family. Once the return to schools happened after lockdown, the SENCo supported the family to reconnect with the services they needed for support and to acquire an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The parents could not be happier with the support from school and his one-to-one TA who they spoke very highly of and have seen huge improvements in all areas of their child’s progress from reading, motor skills and emotional regulation. He now has the words to explain how he is feeling and will say, “my head is too busy” to indicate that he needs a learning break. The parent talked about her child moving on this autumn but felt the transition support the school provided was exemplary and that he now has the building blocks required to thrive in a new setting.
All the interventions detailed in the report are run by the TAs, overseen by the intervention Lead alongside subject leaders. The SENCo proudly said that the school never use supply staff and have High Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs) who step in where needed and who know the children well. All staff know the children well and there is a sense that all staff are responsible for all children.
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