Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan in Conwy achieves the Inclusive School Award for the second time.
Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is an 11–18, mixed ability, foundation secondary school in a deprived area of North Wales with 995 students on roll. It serves the community of Abergele and the surrounding area. It is a superbly inclusive school with excellent facilities that serves its local community extremely well. As the Headteacher states in her welcome address on the website, ‘This is a school with high aspirations for the learners which the school serves, both in terms of their academic performance and their personal development. All of our learners are prepared for rewarding personal and professional lives with the intellectual, personal and social qualities and skills needed to make a difference to the communities in which they live. We want your child to develop the skills to be an independent learner who is able to demonstrate good literacy and numeracy skills whilst also being a creative problem solver and able to work effectively with others’. These are truly inclusive statements that are captured by, and enshrined in, the school Motto ‘Dare to Shine’, that is central to and underpins everything that occurs at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan where everyone involved recognises that support, challenge and respect lead to the achievement of goals for all, both students and staff.
An Inclusive Vision
All staff at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan and an external partner spoken to are actively involved in enacting its inclusive vision and is responsible for ensuring everyone is included and this is at the heart of their superb ethos and vision. This is a school where staff at all levels work tirelessly to ensure that successful outcomes happen, with interventions and strategies evolving and developing as the school’s students and families change over time. Staff know their students, families and the community very well and there is a determination to help everyone to be the best they can be, often going above and beyond what is expected to make a difference. There is a clear vision for the school and their students with a relentless drive for all to succeed, but also to support their colleagues ensuring they work together extremely well. As with previous in-school reviews it was clear to see, that there is a naturally caring, supportive environment that is prevalent at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan that ensures every student receives the best possible educational experience and care, delivered by highly motivated, inclusive and dedicated staff. Students at the school experience numerous opportunities to broaden their life experience and develop confidence and self-esteem so that they can find what is unique about themselves and capitalise upon it, whilst being supported and eased through any identified areas of challenge and is something that the school and its staff should be extremely proud of.
Evolving Educational and Inclusive Practice
In terms of inclusion Ysgol Emrys Ap Iwan is an outstanding school in every sense where the commitment to superb care, nurture and support are the foundation stones of its inclusive approach and are ingrained into the very fabric of the building, its staff and its students. It is a school that is in a constant state of review evolving its educational and inclusive practice for the benefit of all in the school community, providing a happy, stimulating and vibrant learning environment. A school that focusses on helping all students to develop their potential, whatever that might be and helping to ensure they are positive members of their community and society. This is a school where everyone buys into their inclusive ethos and works extremely hard to ensure no one is left out or behind. Inclusion occurs naturally without thought due entirely to the efforts of the staff at all levels. This is a fact I can attest to from the evidence of this and previous reviews, where everyone involved is committed to the inclusion of all whatever it takes and no matter the difficulty.
Highly Positive Picture
Discussions with key members of staff and an external partner during the review was extremely useful in confirming that the school continues to successfully address all elements of the IQM Award, supported by documentary evidence both prior to, and during, the review to enhance and underpin discussions. This included photographic and video evidence from the website and a number of additional documents, that allowed a remote and highly positive picture of the school to be seen and built on the evidence gleaned, from previous in-school reviews.
A Passion for Educating Students
Staff actively engaged in discussions during meetings to talk about inclusion and the Centre of Excellence action plan, their part in it and to talk about successes and future developments. There was also discussion about the Centre of Excellence action plan for 2020-21. Discussions with all stakeholders during the review demonstrated their professionalism, enthusiasm, inclusivity and passion for educating students and supporting them, their families and the local community. What came across clearly is that Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is a central part of the community, described by the Headteacher as a community hub, this is a statement with which I would agree. The superb inclusive ethos and nature is shown in the way that they educate, care for, support and nurture all of their students. It became apparent from discussions including those with a small group of students that everyone involved with Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is invested in providing the best possible experience and outcomes for every student, this has an enormously positive effect on both themselves and their students and is something, they should be proud of.
Naturally Inclusive Nature
The initial discussion with the Service Leader ABN & IQM Lead and Student Support Officer set the scene for the review and looked at how the school has moved forward since the last review in terms of inclusion, how they had successfully operated during lockdown and beyond, supporting their students and their families so well, providing the best possible education and care for all during lockdown and beyond ensuring the safety of students, staff and families. Highlighting staff determination to ensure that everyone was, and continues to be supported, whatever it takes, and that students are supported to make up for lost time and accelerate progress in a safe and appropriate manner. A fantastic achievement that says a lot about the calibre of staff at the school and their naturally inclusive nature. The staff should be congratulated for their efforts in this regard.
Superb Transition Programme
In other meetings during the review there was an involved a detailed discussion about the different elements of the Centre of Excellence action plan for 2019-20, identifying successes and areas that, due to the current pandemic, would need to be addressed over the coming year and have been identified above in the main body of the report. I was able to have conversations with the Literacy Lead to discuss the ongoing vocabulary project that has identified vocabulary as one of the significant factors preventing students achieving higher grades in core subjects and thereby limiting life chances and an interesting conversation about how the school is tackling this. A further discussion with the Pastoral Leader for Year 7 looked at the school’s superb transition programme was extremely informative and gave a great insight into the school’s inclusive ethos. Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan and the Pastoral Lead should be commended for the depth and breadth of the programme that engages children from Year 2-6 across the whole year and is something that should be given a wider audience and other schools should take note of.
Supporting ASD Students
The meeting with the Service Lead for ALN and students focussed on how the school is improving support for ASD students, through the use of different programmes and resources such as, ‘Talkabout’, ‘Zones of Regulation’ and ‘The ASD Girls’ Wellbeing Toolkit: An Evidence-Based Intervention Promoting Mental, Physical & Emotional Health’. The conversation with the students confirmed the excellent level of support offered to them and it was evident from the conversation and evidence supplied that there is a fantastic rapport between the staff in ACCESS and the students they work with and support that allows everyone to flourish. A final conversation with the Alternative Provision Manager from the Educate Group who have been commissioned by the four schools in the Coastal Alliance of Schools (CAS) to provide an alternative curriculum for a small number of students in each school was extremely enlightening. The identified students from each school spend a day each week, three of the schools accessing a vocational course with teaching provided either by the school or Educate staff and then two days on a work placement. There is a close working partnership between the schools and Educate which allows the students to achieve good outcomes that might not have been possible within the normal curriculum offer and will allow them to move on to the next stage in their lives with academic and vocational qualifications. The programme compliments Emrys’ extremely successful and evolving in-house Alternative Provision Programme (APP) that was discussed at some length earlier in the review that is effectively supporting a number of previously disaffected students across KS3 & 4 and ensuring that they follow an appropriate curriculum that meets their needs and also ensures that they achieve at least 6 GCSEs or equivalent. It was clear to see in the discussion about APP the passion that the staff have for ensuring that these students are given every opportunity to excel. It will be interesting to visit APP and talk to the staff and students in the future and could be used as a blueprint for other schools to use to support similar students. These wide ranging and extremely interesting and involved discussions were pertinent to ensuring that the school still meets the criteria of the IQM Inclusive School Award, but also looked at the school’s previous and future Centre of Excellence action plans and inclusive provision.
Superb and Supportive Caring Ethos
What became very clear from all of the meetings was the passion that everyone brings to their roles and their pride in what they have so far achieved and continue to achieve in such difficult times. It was a privilege to participate in discussions with such, professional, dedicated and enthusiastic staff, who are fully supported in their quest to achieve success for their students and themselves. This online review underlined their superb and evolving inclusive ethos, that is at the heart of their approach to teaching, learning and supporting students and families in their care and was talked about and discussed openly during the review in all discussions. Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan is a school where students and staff are actively supported to reach their full potential no matter their starting points, evolving what they do and what is offered for the benefit of their students and families, enacting superb inclusive practice each day. What came across again clearly during the review and has been seen in previous reviews is the level of mutual respect and the superb supportive caring ethos that is evident across the staff body, that is felt by visitors as well and the fantastic rapport between the staff, and between the staff and students. Everyone involved with the school should be extremely proud of what they achieve in this respect and is a key driver in the success of the school.
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