Castlefort JMI School in Walsall achieves Flagship School status.
Castlefort JMI is a one form entry setting in Walsall to the north of Birmingham. It serves a mixed community which results in an array of challenges with regard to children’s key learning skills and their behavioural, social and emotional needs.
Improvements in all Aspects of Provision
The leadership team is stable and has grown together, bringing about diverse improvements to all aspects of provision. Governors include those with specific experience of senior leadership, school improvement, special needs and inclusion. Consequently, they know how to challenge and support the school’s work and have backed key decisions including those related to focused spending related to the school’s priorities. Governors are clearly aware of the school’s specific context with regard to safeguarding priorities, poverty and supporting those in receipt of pupil premium funding. The Governor who met with the assessor explained how she considered the school to be innovative but recognises that leaders don’t implement change without appropriate research and reflection.
Journey of Inclusion
Castlefort School has been on a sustained journey of inclusion for some years and has progressed from initially being recognised as an IQM inclusive school to its current status as an IQM Centre of Excellence. It has successfully developed and embedded high-quality inclusive practice across the setting which meets the diverse and sometimes complex needs of its community.
Improved Teaching and Learning
Through continuous self-evaluation, reflection and effective improvement planning, teaching and learning has improved. All classrooms are well resourced and purposeful. There is an ambience of enthusiasm for learning and positive pupil behaviour throughout the setting. Teachers and support staff work in seamless collaboration to ensure that all children make the best progress possible. The school is data rich and uses such information with careful consideration to ensure that intervention and support is appropriately targeted. The annual pupil premium reports demonstrate that there remains work to be done to ensure that all children make expected progress. This and other subsets of data demonstrate the complexity of cohorts, with gender imbalance, those with pupil premium support, EHC plans or social care needs all affecting rates of progress and outcomes. However, whilst there remains further work to be done to bring about the desired rates of progress and attainment, the school is pro-active in its ambition to address weaknesses. From Early Years onwards it is evident, through well-structured classroom practice, effective marking and feedback and carefully planned interventions that all personnel are committed to enabling children to reach the best possible outcomes, an example of this is the school’s new approach to mathematics through which all children experience practical activities as they work towards deepening understanding.
Rigorous Analysis and Monitoring
The school’s “O’Track” data system provides not only core information related to attainment and progress for all children but is also interrogated to analyse the progress of subgroups such as gender, ethnicity, SEND and pupil premium. There are embedded systematic processes for quality assurance and performance management, which include termly pupil progress meetings and learning walks which, unusually, are supported by children from the Junior Leadership Team.
Ensuring Every Child is Progressing
The school’s analyses has identified key challenges, among which are ensuring that the most vulnerable children are appropriately and intensively supported. In addition to the established support mechanisms for teaching and learning, the school is prioritising emotional well-being and mental health as key developments. Within the last year, funds have been identified to create a Forest School area, with learning cabin and in the adjacent “Castle Tots” pre-school setting a high-quality Nurture room has been created with an immersive sensory facility in the adjacent room. This provision is at an early stage of development but is already having a positive impact on vulnerable children and families.
Supporting Vulnerable Children
In order to ensure that the new resource provision described above has the best possible impact leaders have committed to engaging with the Nurturing Minds/Positive Play initiative which will both support and be used to analyse the progress of subsets of vulnerable children such as those from split families, those with attachment disorder, complex behavioural needs, SEND, health/mental health or those who are looked after.
Middle leaders are given the opportunity to develop leadership skills across the school by engaging with applications for aspects such as ECO school award, Votes for Schools scheme, the UNICEF Rights Respecting school strategy and applying for the Mental Health and Emotional Well Being Award.
Nurturing Minds Programme
Typically, the school is not simply introducing a new strategy such as focusing on mental health but has carefully considered its plan and is layering its approach to ensure that the maximum impact may be gained from the financial outlay and practical support for children and families. As part of the school’s onward inclusive journey it plans to undertake a project focusing on the Nurturing Minds Programme, using IQM for annual evaluation of progress.
Best Possible Educational Opportunities
Castlefort has become a truly inclusive school, personalising learning and support for every child and family. Leaders have now been together for some years and are fully committed to providing the best possible educational opportunities for their community. The school’s resources, including the human resources are of a high quality. There is a palpable sense of positive engagement in learning, teachers are confident in their skills and children are well supported. Behaviour evidenced throughout the review day was exceptional.
IQM Flagship School
The evidence witnessed during the review day, the quality of self-evaluation and the school’s forward planning is such that I have no hesitation in recommending that the school should be recognised as an IQM Flagship setting. The ambition shared by all is to ensure that everyone in the community works harmoniously to facilitate success for all children in their educational and life journey. The school has made significant improvements in its educational provision and inclusive practice in recent years yet retains the same appetite for further improvement such enthusiasm, dedication and attention to the details which make a difference for all children, is to be commended. I wish the Castlefort community every success for the year ahead as they embed their Flagship project plans. I feel sure that the current priority of focusing on mental health and well-being will be recognised and appreciated by the children, families and wider community.
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