Christ Church Primary School, Bilston, has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
Reputation of Excellence
Christ Church C of E Primary School is an outstanding school, that is proud of its reputation of excellence for all. As you enter the warm and welcoming spaces, you are surrounded by children eager to get to their classroom to see the staff they clearly adore and trust. The high aspirations resonate in the motto ‘dream, believe, achieve’, which reflects both the children’s and staff members ethos and practice. I had reviewed the Ofsted report and knew I was going to be greeted by ‘dynamic’ leaders, but they were also passionate, omnipotent and compassionate, whilst demonstrating embolden ambition. The Headteacher was uniquely undistinguishable amongst her team, a chameleon adapting to her surroundings as she worked amongst the staff and pupils on the ground. The staff appreciate her leadership style and are assertively clear that they would not work anywhere else, for anyone else.
Commitment to Routine and High Standards
The demographic headlines are misleading; around 23% of the pupil’s population are Pupil Premium, but this ignores the vast amount of families sitting at a minimum income; either working part time work or on universal credit, those who are deprived but are not entitled to any additionality. Therefore, staff have ensured that free access to milk and fruit is open to everyone. This is not only to hide the differentiation of status, but to provide for this ‘hidden deprivation’ which impacts this community. There is a strong Christian Ethos, although the heart of the staff underpins the schools’ moral compass, to always strive for exception for their pupils. The local High School was closed, due to falling achievement and standards of behaviour, which is difficult to comprehend when you see Christ Church mask the vulnerabilities of the community through its commitment to routine and high standards. The pupils took great pride in their uniform, spoke with confidence and could communicate their love for Christ Church and the staff.
Innovative Use of Space
The school was compared to a rabbit run, with additional parts of the school being built at different stages to meet the growing population demand. They have utilized their open spaces to create interlinked, but separate classrooms for each year group. This innovative use of space makes room for spontaneous and planned interventions at all levels. The ‘same day interventions’ were delivered with enviable expertise, offering quick turnaround gap fills, so all pupils could access the following lesson. The school values are displayed around the school, but they are not often referred to as they are securely embedded as expectation. The pupils demonstrate these values in practice not though reciting them verbatim. Respect, kindness, truth and forgiveness, underpin the working relationships between children and adults succinctly.
Staff are Family
The leadership are unapologetic about their capital spend; there has been an extensive investment in staffing. The Headteacher has a clear agenda that the staff are a family, therefore making decisions on extra staffing so no external cover will ever be generated. These careful considerations lend themselves towards the children feeling safe and nurtured. Staff well-being is at the forefront of the agenda.
Inclusion is Visible in Every Classroom
The learning walk was inspiring, with the rhetoric of inclusion and consistency tangible and visible in every classroom. The pupils were learning the same thing across the year group, differentiated by support, questioning and active facilitation. Consistency is outstanding, but this also highlights the team work and effectiveness of the collaborative time they awarded through the additional staffing structure. Ofsted describe a school where they have created a culture of everyday ‘outstanding’ but as this is their new normal, they are constantly reviewing and improving on strategies. Each member of the staff body understands their role and purpose. Many teaching assistants are former teachers, or have degrees, yet it is not considered a step down. This is a testament to the enormous sense of satisfaction they experience in their roles.
Pupils have Developed Resilience
Pupils have developed resilience, as they feel safe. There are opportunities for independent learning. They are not afraid to challenge themselves and are prepared to overcome first-time failure. The behaviour of the pupils was exceptional in every classroom. Staff could tell me who had additional needs, but it was also clear what provision was in place to minimize the anxiety or associated behaviours. The SENCO highlighted pupils who were self-regulating and working independently and then told me that they were ‘managed moved’ from other schools, due to their vulnerability of permanent exclusion. These pupils were difficult to identify and clearly thriving in the structured, safe and welcoming classrooms.
Responsible and Active Behaviour
The outdoor spaces have been recently regenerated with pupils being permitted access to enviable equipment and structured play choices to encourage responsible and active behaviour. There are carefully positioned, clearly identifiable Buddy Points. When I asked the pupils about their purpose, they confidently told me it was where you stood if you needed a friend, but then quickly added, “no one stands there for long.” The pupils guided me on a tour of the outdoor walkways and presented their allotment with pride. They were able to articulate their feelings and pride with an extensive vocabulary that belied their SEND need. Opportunities for exposure to cultural capital are vast. Most impressable, the entirety of Year 2 pupils have the opportunity to learn to play the violin for a year. Lessons after that year are heavily subsided. Similarly, any extracurricular trips and ventures, are also subsidised for all, to include all.
Family Feel of Lunch
The family feel of lunch was my favourite part of the day. Prayers on the table sought to remind us that they are a family and even those that could not read them, knew that they were to remind them to show appreciation for the little things. I was impressed with how they understood and could articulate the sentiment. The table cloths on the lunch table, with knives and forks set out, were an example of the finer details which instil subconscious standards and discipline. Pupils would put up their hand and ask for water or to leave the table, without exception. There was a notably absence of dinner lades; this is a strategy adopted to ensure pupils have consistency and familiarity. The teaching assistants enthusiastically support this time instead.
The Early Years provision is well resourced and staffed. The leadership have employed Teachers and Higher-Level Teaching Assistants to give it the rigour and routines needed for effective learning. The heavy investment pays dividends when these pupils join the wider school. They join mainly below normal expectations but quickly close this gap, due to the personalised learning and intervention their staffing affords. The children I observed were all engaged in free play, the expectation they would explain their choice, extending their communication and social skills. The pupils were playing independently, collaboratively and engaging in activities because they are given choice, trust and encouragement from the supervising staff.
Consistent, Excitable and Genuine Welcomes
My time at Christ Church was most enjoyable, I was greeted by staff and pupils with such consistent, excitable and genuine welcomes. There was no ‘show for visitors’ it was a genuine and honest reflection of their everyday working practice. Consistency and outstanding are synonyms for Christ Church. The staff simply know and love the children of their community. The passion and humility of the leadership team during feedback was the final piece of evidence, that the achievement of well-being of the children and all in their community, is all that matters. Because their every day is ordinary, they forget what they do is extraordinary. I sincerely hope the feedback reminded them of this.
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