Faith Primary School in Liverpool has achieved Flagship School status.
Children at the Centre
The staff at Faith Primary School put the children at the centre of everything they do. Their priority is ensuring pupils’ needs are addressed “above all else.” The Headteacher explains how the vision is to “make them thrive and enjoy their education.” The Leaders are conscious of their role in the wider community too. The Headteacher recognises that “these children are going to be the future adults in society, so our primary job is to make them function well and contribute positively to society.”
A Positive State of Wellbeing
As you walk through the door at Faith Primary School, it is impossible not to relax as the aromas from the essential oils enwreathe you. The aromatic diffusers placed in each room, combined with the low, ambient lighting across the building, provide a calming, zen-like atmosphere. There are many areas in the school with comfy seating and mood lighting to provide spaces for pupils to regulate and stay calm. There are fish tanks throughout the building too, which add visually to the calming ambiance. In each classroom, there is relaxing music and lighting. The whole school environment is ‘zen’ and designed purposefully to stimulate all the senses. In the Cambridge Dictionary, Zen is defined as “relaxed and not worrying about things that you cannot change.” Given the school’s demographic, and the local area it serves which has higher than average levels of poverty and crime, it is inevitable that the children and families experience many challenges outside of school. Therefore, the Leaders deem it essential that school provides a sanctuary for all children. The school environment is purposefully designed to support all pupils, staff, and visitors in regulating their emotions and it encourages a positive state of wellbeing.
A Nurturing Approach
Faith Primary School was placed in special measures following an Ofsted inspection in 2017. Subsequently, new staff were appointed and the new Headteacher was able to build a school ethos from a blank canvas. The Leaders researched local areas of best practice and looked at pedagogical philosophy from further afield. Thanks to the new policies, systems and approaches, the learning culture has changed significantly. The school is now calm, and pupils’ behaviour is much improved. The positive in-school monitoring data evidences the continued improvements in behaviour. The school’s records show that overall negative behaviour points reduced by 58% last academic year compared to the previous year. All adults in the school have undertaken emotional regulation training and understand that behaviour is a form of communication. They look at the reasons behind the behaviour, then implement support and intervention accordingly. The Senior Leaders do not believe in exclusion and regularly welcome pupils into the school who have previously been excluded from other settings. Although these children present challenges, the staff work with them to understand those challenges and offer a nurturing approach to help them thrive.
Zones of Regulation
The behaviour policy is based around the Zones of Regulation and places emphasis on children being able to identify when they are becoming dysregulated. The staff then equip pupils with the necessary tools to help them to regulate back to the ‘green zone.’ During the review, all children were able to confidently articulate what the Zones of Regulation are and what each colour represents. The Zones of Regulation system is fully embedded across the school and used consistently by staff. The Leaders have recently developed an emotions check-in system using a grid which corresponds to the Zones of Regulation. The grids are completed by all children in the morning and collated by Year Six Monitors – Regulation, Responders and Retrievers – who pass the information to the Safeguarding Team who then delegate any concerns to the relevant staff for timely interventions to take place.
Supporting Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs
Due to the high level of social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs amongst the pupil body, the school utilises the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) assessments to screen all children each term. This allows the staff to identify specific areas of need within their class, such as low-self-esteem, and plan the curriculum appropriately. The PASS assessments also identify any pupils who require targeted intervention. In September, a Play Therapist was employed to work with individuals and small groups of pupils. She is based in the Nurture Room for pupils to access support throughout the day and she also leads break time Nurture Groups in Key Stage Two. Constant access to this high-quality intervention ensures that all pupils who are struggling emotionally or mentally, can have instant support.
The wellbeing of staff is high up on the Headteacher’s agenda. Their wellbeing is prioritised, and this has led to high levels of buy-in from all staff. They care for each other and see themselves as a “family.” The Senior Leaders support staff through career development opportunities which are based on their personal areas of interest. Each year, at least one member of staff asks to undertake the National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator qualification. This demonstrates the extent to which the teachers value supporting the children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their desire to make a difference in this area.
Restorative Circles’ Session
During the review day, I observed the Year Five Class during a Restorative Circles’ Session in the Hall. There were two groups of children sat in circles around a candle. As in all areas of school, the lighting was atmospheric, there was an essential oils diffuser, mindfulness meditation music with mindfulness images on the screen. Using a teddy to take turns to talk, the children were sharing their problems, such as recent peer conflict, with the group. Together, they then looked for alternative, positive solutions. These sessions take place at least once a week. Any child can share their problem or viewpoint. There are cards available with hypothetical situations on for any children who do not wish to share a personal issue but would like to contribute. There are ‘Bubble Boxes’ in classrooms for pupils to ‘burst’ their worries in. The staff at Faith Primary School listen to the children and do their best to help them resolve any issues they have.
In the Reception Class, the children had brought their favourite toys from home into school for the day. One group were sorting pictures of toys by material, another group were mark-making in glitter, others were drawing a picture of their toy and colouring it in. Some were writing the name of the toy. The standards of the pupils’ work was high, and pupils appear to have settled well into the school routines. In a Year One active lesson, pupils were animated whilst exploring the activity outdoors, which was based on the book they are currently reading, Stick Man. There were pictures of emotions with characters from the story hung on trees and different areas around the play area. The children had to sort them into the Zones of Regulation categories. As an extension task, some pupils were challenged to write sentences about the picture, others were asked to use a clause in their sentences too. Pipe cleaners were used to hold the pictures in place across the playground, so pupils had to use their fine motor skills to untie them. They were all enthused and actively participating in the activity. Across all lessons observed, it was clear that pupils with SEND are well supported and fully integrated into the learning. The learning is differentiated to include all learners in the lesson. In the active lessons, instructions were clear so that pupils knew what was expected of them. The pupils carried out the tasks responsibly. Their attitudes towards learning were consistently excellent.
A Special Place
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Faith Primary School. It is a special place which has a lasting impact on all who visit due to the wonderfully relaxing and calm environment. There is an all-encompassing inclusive ethos. It is clear from the review process that the team at Faith continue to be fully committed to inclusive practice. They have proved their expertise over the years of IQM accreditation and I believe they have the passion and capacity to continue to drive the inclusion agenda in their own school and beyond.
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