Dersingham Primary School, Manor Park in London, achieves the Inclusive School Award.
As a visitor enters the school you immediately feel that this place is different. The Headteacher’s passion is clearly represented by ‘Dream Big, Be Excellent, Turn Up and No Excuses.’ The corridors are not covered with children’s work but instead they are professionally lined with life size photos and brief accounts of famous people from all different walks of life. Children can see themselves represented here. Black, Asian, White and disabled people who have influenced our lives are a constant reminder that these children can succeed. Black History Month is not taught in isolation here as it is woven throughout the school. These people are an integral part of the curriculum in every year group. Dersingham fully appreciates that children here must have the knowledge and cultural capital to succeed in life. As the Black Lives Matters campaign occurred during the lockdown, the staff immediately asked how much children would understand from what they saw in the media. Staff embrace these topics to help empower the children.
Students have the opportunity to read to a rabbit called Buddy. This was inspired by Alice in Wonderland. There is plenty of evidence around the school of the imaginative creations taught by the artist in residence from the Gruffalo to the Lion King. The huge dragon in the school hall remains a talking point. Pupils said that they get an equal chance here so they can learn together – no-one is left out. The School Parliament ensures it is a safe place; playground buddies try to sort out issues and meet every two weeks. It gives them a voice and they know they will be heard.
‘Fix It and Build It’
Children know who they would go to if they needed to speak to someone in confidence. Each class has a worry box and teachers act promptly to address any issues or concerns raised. Pupils think that the behaviour policy is fair and they like the reward system. They have the opportunity to reflect and recap on their learning every morning. They described how the ‘Fix It and Build It’ marking and feedback system works, and they know their targets. In class each group is targeted once a week to receive verbal feedback and written post-it notes are stuck into the children’s books. Each child is offered opportunities to promote their independence.
Values Led Curriculum
The Equalities and Inclusion Leader said that the values led curriculum means that children learn about their own responsibilities through learning about their rights and the rights of others. Staff have a deep understanding of their backgrounds and ensure all are treated fairly. There are regular assessments which enable the staff to plan to address the gaps and areas which need developing. The staff are encouraged to use a variety of teaching styles to suit the various learning styles. Appropriate resources are carefully selected to address individual needs. Books and plans are monitored weekly. Teachers do their own planning starting with the desired outcome. There is weekly CPD, based on the teachers’ needs and there are master classes when a specialist comes in to teach the staff DT or Art or RE etc. New staff receive a thorough induction. There are no staff desks in the classrooms and one member of staff said there are no barriers here. He quoted the Headteacher who said, ‘If not now – when; and if not me – who?’ A bespoke curriculum has been written for some of the foundation subjects as the staff know what these children need. Specialist teachers come in to teach the staff how to deliver this curriculum effectively. A music specialist works alongside class teachers helping them to deliver best practice. Children are offered exciting ways of learning from the dramatisation of writing to attending a Spanish workshop where they were taught flamenco dancing and art. Hopefully some children will go to Madrid later this year. Near one of the exits there is a display entitled ‘The Adventure Awaits.’ There is a list of activities that each year group can look forward to from camping to dipping toes into the sea.
Support for Parents
There is a Family Room, which looks like an up-market apartment. Here people can talk, feeling more relaxed, helping them to feel calm where they may share a difficult conversation. Parents prefer this neutral space rather than going into the Headteacher’s office. All staff are known by their first names which also helps balance relationships. There is a breakfast bar and table where children are encouraged to develop their social skills. There is a soft playroom and a sensory room designed for the needs of certain children.
The Headteacher has been in post for four years. The school has undergone radical changes during that time. He has been at the forefront of introducing Education4Change to Dersingham, which will ensure it provides high-quality, practical opportunities to explore diversity and racial issues in a meaningful way. The aim of the E4C programme is to provide schools, leaders, pupils and those responsible for governance with resources to tackle racism in society, starting in the classroom. Children were able to discuss social justice issues and they like the photos of the inspiring people. Staff said that the Headteacher is transparent and always puts the children first. If any decision is to be made the question asked is how would it benefit the children?
Staff have noticed that since the pandemic, the level of need has increased. The school responded by putting in more mentoring and pastoral care. Safeguarding concerns are logged on up-to-date software. Some children will now approach staff to discuss issues on behalf of their parents, who may not be able to speak English fluently enough. Staff are confident challenging parents but in a supportive way. The priority is always the safety of the children. Occasionally the Community Police Officer has been used to mediate between parents and help resolve issues. Once concerns have been explained, parents do understand. The school offers support and will signpost parents to other organisations for example the foodbank or CAB etc. The school offers a wrap-around service, but staff know that as the school withdraws support it has to be sustainable, so the parents are able to do it for themselves. Dersingham is seen as a safe place. Everybody agreed that the children love this school. The parents feel more comfortable approaching staff who have a deep understanding of this community. The children wear the new uniform with pride.
Part of the Community
Parents are very enthusiastic about Dersingham. They said that the photos of famous people down the corridors normalises the children’s history. This school ensures that children can relate to people like them throughout the curriculum. They said that space throughout the school is used wisely. There is a sense of belonging and the status of the school has been raised within the local community. They are pleased with the various forms of communication they receive. One parent who removed their child from another local school and brought her here is constantly impressed. They are pleased to see that the staff represent the diversity of the community. One said, ‘I feel so blessed that my child is here.’
Investing in People
The Headteacher is very aware of investing in human resources. There is a newly refurbished staffroom where they feel comfortable to eat, drink and relax. They are offered a day in lieu each year. They have plenty of CPD opportunities usually in-house and the staff feel valued, respected, appreciated and nurtured.’ Adults are given the opportunity to contribute. Continuous improvement drives this school forward. There is no shouting, and expectations are high, pupils are empowered to approach the staff. The appointments made by the Headteacher are strategic and carefully thought through. If they have to leave, then he knows that other children elsewhere will benefit. Staff who have been here before the Headteacher arrived say that the school is now more welcoming. The culture has changed; ‘If you see it, deal with it.’ They are so proud to work here. ‘The Headteacher is out there – everyday greeting the parents.’
Diane Rochford has collaborated closely with the school over the past six months. Following her review for the DfE the school has embraced the ‘engagement model’ which helps teachers track and support pupils with extreme and complex needs. Although there are presently none of these children in the school, they do have eight children on Tier 1 and the same approach is used for them. Progress is better than ever before and ensures that they receive an education tailored to their needs and abilities. Thanks to Diane Rochford this school gets behind the rhetoric. There has been a fundamental shift in understanding led and supported by the SLT.
Support From Well Informed Professionals
The Educational Psychologist said that this school has an ‘openness. There is a warmth which you feel as you move around the school and see the children’s engagement.’ The general feeling is that ‘only the best is good enough.’ The children in Dersingham are respected by all of the staff. The EP buys into the ethos here. She starts at looking at what the child can do, to unveil the jewels that lay inside. These sentiments were echoed by the Speech and Language Therapist, who said that this school is so inclusive demonstrated by the lengths the staff go to ensure children are given fair access to learning. They are highly motivated, and their interactions demonstrate they understand the pupil’s needs.
The Curriculum Lead said that all children can access the curriculum from their own starting points, which creates a comfortable space. The staff are encouraged to be self-reflective. They question their methodology. The deep dive monitoring is thorough. The school has moved from assessment driving the curriculum to the curriculum driving assessment.
The Governing Body is incredibly supportive of the inclusive agenda. They feel that the children are engaged in their learning enabling them to fully participate. They know that the curriculum is adapted to the needs of the individual. They are pleased that barriers to learning have been removed. They hold the Headteacher to account through appropriate challenge and ask the right questions as they seek verification for accurate information.
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