Delamere School, Flixton in Manchester, achieves Flagship School status.
Delamere School in Flixton, Manchester is a generic special school for children aged between from 3 to 11 years old and has seen a growing need recently that has resulted in them currently having 112 pupils on roll. Pupils in school have a diverse range of need, some requiring high levels of individual care, others who are more able, both requiring individual plans for learning and developing. They speak proudly of being able to support every need imaginable and the school’s motto is,
‘Together we make a difference.’
Provision Wrapped Around the Child
It is a school that is justifiably proud of the inclusion journey it has been on thus far, and where they still wish to go. Senior Leaders spoke how they strongly believe that effective schools are educationally inclusive schools and how they wrap their provision around the child, giving them time, love and understanding. From this belief they have developed a culture of extremely high expectations and a clear focus on putting children first, ensuring all are included in everything the school offers. Their aim is to provide the highest quality of education to all and their drive for excellence sees them having eight core values: inclusion, respect, trust, enjoyment, collaboration, creativity, optimism, and growth. There is a consistent approach to inclusive practice from all staff across the school and it is clear that they also have an impressive awareness of the community they serve, and they embed ‘inclusion’ through every opportunity they provide each and every day.
Cohesive Approach to Inclusion
The Headteacher and Governors passionately believe in inclusion for all and being a school that celebrates individuality. The Headteacher, with their support, has developed a culture that puts an emphasis on learning and teaching and is well supported by her Leadership Team. Following this example there is a relentless drive from passionate, knowledgeable but humble staff to improve teaching and learning so that every pupil’s needs are well matched to their life experiences. For example, the school has provided additional opportunities to develop language skills in innovative ways such as their ‘walkie talkie’ earphones, these allow pupils to keep communicating with each other when not in the same room.
Flexible Curriculum Model
During the day staff focused on explicit discussions of how the inclusive curriculum is offered within Delamere. It is a flexible curriculum model, with personalised learning pathways for every individual pupil. It is lively and stimulating and staff plan rich opportunities for pupils to be active learners, moving towards independence, autonomy, control, and choice so that they learn to effectively communicate needs, wants, and opinions. Their curriculum design has been organised to ensure everyday learning for an individual takes place both within the impressive indoor facilities as well as having organised sessions in their outdoor learning environment. The school has impressive resources available such as the soft learning area, Hydro pool, sensory room, multi-use games area, expressive arts studio, trampoline, and outdoor learning classroom to support this.
Due to the diverse special educational needs that are met within the school there is a passionate ‘Communication Champion.’ They commented how pupil voice comes in a variety of ways, some of which are subtle signs and they spoke on how staff were ‘detectives of how the pupils are behaving and why, as it is their way of communicating.’ There is an impressive rolling programme of training for staff, to support different methods of communication, which is incorporated seamlessly across different areas of the curriculum. Teachers spoke of how this ensured that education is about their pupils, leaving them as resilient, rounded, and confident individuals who are ready to tackle the next stage of their learning. Delamere provides the opportunities to develop life skills that are essential and ensures there are exciting, stimulating spaces for pupils throughout the school.
Collective Problem Solvers
Going one step further the school, to ensure their work to promote inclusive teaching and opportunities for all in the curricula, is supported by multi-agency working. A range of professionals, including Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Play Therapists, CAMHS, social care and curricular specialists are consulted regularly. This holistic approach ensures the curriculum and support offered at Delamere is exemplary. This is borne out by the high expectations that the management of the school and staff have for all their pupils, speaking how working together they are ‘collective problem solvers.’
While the school’s pool has already been mentioned as a place where pupils’ imaginations are allowed to develop by transporting them to magical learning experiences, it must also be mentioned that the approach to all outdoor learning and sport is impressive, and a tangible strength of the school. Physical or mental disability are not recognised as a barrier to access, and pupils enjoy sport for pleasure, development and also get involved in competitions. On the day of the assessment both the Outdoor Learning and Sports teachers shared how they had developed their impressive curriculum offer. Every child, each and every one of them, was scheduled to learn outside the classroom each day. Opportunities range from Forest School and gardening sessions, den building and learning about nature around them that support cooperative peer to peer work. Table-top cricket and the school’s website showed that they had already enjoyed success in the Lancashire School’s competition. In prior years pupils have been encouraged to be involved with the ‘Panathlon Challenge,’ a challenge that inspires young disabled people to use competition sport and fair play as a means of social development. ‘Adventure Week’ shows the pupils how they have, ‘nothing to lose and a world to see’ (Dr Seuss) and were doing so by canoeing, ten pin bowling, Dyno Golf, forest den building, farm visiting and experiencing a sleep over. There was also a ‘Mini-Olympics’ in the planning with an opening and closing ceremony. Their innovative way of bringing sport and outdoor activities to pupils is inspirational, and something others could learn from. A parent spoke of how their child loved to ‘learn outside and makes more progress doing so.’ It is evident that staff seize every opportunity to ensure pupils’ learning opportunities result in them being recognised as individuals, with different learning styles.
Pupils’ Positive Attitudes
Delamere expects the best and encourages pupils to be the very best they can be. Behaviour in and around the school, is excellent and reflects the school’s effective and consistent strategies. Pupils’ positive attitudes to learning lead to them being confident individuals, who were able to confidently speak to the assessor about their school and their experiences. They were able to articulate how all children have a right to play and protect themselves, sharing that Delamere was,
‘the best school ever!’
for this. Discussion with the Deputy Head explained how the planning of the curriculum and any events always include a link to the articles from the Children’s Charter. Impressively the ‘Right Squad,’ a group of pupils who speak for all, meet regularly and are fully aware there are 42 articles that support them as children. They are the voice for what has gone on in school to date, and what they and others would like to see being offered to them. Regular meetings start with a ‘School Council Song’ and then a personal story shared from one of the pupils. They are structured so that everyone learns about the diverse nature of the school and how everyone is encouraged to have a voice. They plan activities such as the recent successful ‘Cultural Diversity Day’. It is seen and valued by staff as the pupils’ own ‘inclusion circle,’ giving them a platform to further develop as good citizens within school and the wider community.
Reaching Out to the Wider Community
Delamere values working closely with the wider community and continuously strives to ensure that all pupils have relevant, real life and meaningful experiences. The pupils have written to pen pals in Hong Kong and had poems published, they also reach out by signing and enjoy a Sing Along Champions accreditation. They are recognised as an Advanced Status school with the National Autistic Society and work as a strong partner within the local primary and secondary school network. They have recently enjoyed links with a local artist, who engaged the pupils using their skills and knowledge of shape, tessellation, and symmetry to create a beautiful eye-catching art sculpture, given pride of place within the school.
Parental Support and Commitment
One member of staff spoke enthusiastically about her passion for inclusion of all, saying how,
‘We all can, at our own level, all achieve.’
The school also promotes the awareness and inclusion of parents in supporting their children’s learning as well as developing their own. Parents are overwhelmingly positive about the school and in 2019, contributed £11,000 to the school MUGA. COVID-19 has not stopped them, they have just navigated their way through the guidance and continued to do events for enjoyment as well as fundraising during the year.
Striving Towards Excellence
Being able to talk at length with the passionate individuals throughout the school and the IQM Inclusion Lead, also aptly named the ‘Head of Independent Learners,’ it was evident that they regularly undertake monitoring meetings within the sub teams so that they could see first-hand the standards and efficiency that the school is achieving. This is constantly measured against the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award’s elements to ensure inclusion remains at the heart of all they do. While they recognised all that had already been achieved on the action plan, they were also aware that working to be better would ensure any gaps would be filled. They shared;
‘big journeys begin with small steps, and we do for everyone and then we all still endeavour to do more.’
From the assessment it is clear that the entire school, from Governors, staff, pupils and parents are a strong and cohesive team, a team that knows inclusion is something that is never “finished” rather it is refined, adapted, improved, and nurtured. Delamere School has made significant progress as an IQM Centre of Excellence School over the year, keeping inclusion high on the agenda. It has continued to move from strength to strength in terms of its inclusive practice.
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