Freegrounds Junior School in Southampton has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
“Children deserve the highest quality teaching and learning experiences to enable them to begin their learning journey effectively. I feel we do that very well here at Freegrounds.” Jerry Hughes (Chair of Governors).
Freegrounds Junior School (FJS) is a very inclusive establishment which is seen clearly by the values they hold dearly. Their school values are at the core of everything they do. They underpin their teaching and learning and provide an environment which prepares pupils as confident, happy citizens. Their vision is to create a safe, inspirational learning environment, in which everyone is respected as a learner and experiences success and where barriers to learning are identified and intervention put in place to overcome them.
Improving Every Year
Freegrounds Junior School is a large three-form entry junior school located in Hedge End, Southampton. 66% of pupils live out of the catchment area with some living up to 5 miles away. Almost all children transfer from the adjoining infant school, a school well-grounded in the principles of inclusion. There is good attendance and punctuality (currently 97.5% for 20/21) it has improved from previous years and rigorous support systems are in place for where attendance has been identified as a concern. The school evaluates itself to be a school that is securely good overall, and the LA identified the school as being ‘low priority’ for support in 2018-2019). The school was last inspected by Ofsted in March 2018 and was graded as ‘good,’ with many areas of significant strength.
An Exciting and Stimulating Environment
The staff make the most of the spacious building and its grounds to accept the diversity of needs of pupils and create an exciting and stimulating environment for all its learners. Educators work hard to know each of the children in the school individually and were proud to say that they care for all the children as in the “Freegrounds’ Family.” They have designed an inclusive and holistic curriculum for all. SLT work hard to ensure that the community at all times remain the heartbeat of the school.
Excellent Inclusive Practice
Throughout the assessment there was clear evidence of some excellent inclusive practice, driven by the Headteacher, Deputy and SENCO and all staff within the school. The inclusion agenda and the Equalities Act framework of 2010 are wholeheartedly supported through an ethos of well embedded values. There are good structures and systems in place to ensure an open dialogue with all stakeholders to continue to improve the experiences for all pupils.
Everyone is Welcoming and Friendly
There was a welcoming and friendly approach from all staff, pupils, parents, and all members of the school community throughout my very enjoyable virtual visit. My observations and involvement with pupils throughout the assessment clearly demonstrated that they are ambassadors for the school. Their exemplary manners, behaviour and comments reflected their pride in belonging to Freegrounds Junior School. Throughout the assessment everyone spoke with conviction and unity of purpose as to the inclusive nature of the school, thereby substantiating the school’s impressive Self-Evaluation Report (SER) and supporting documentation, which was considered as part of the assessment. The teamwork and spirit shown by the Inclusion team really captured the assessor’s imagination from the get-go. So many staff with a conviction of purpose, ready to deliver and improve the learning opportunities available to the children at Freegrounds. This ensures that inclusion at FJS is not just something that the school just does as an extra, it is something that they breathe.
Wellbeing is Important
The wellbeing of all stakeholders and in particular the children is of great importance in FJS. Senior Leaders have created a school with an open-minded, accepting, and inclusive atmosphere. At Freegrounds Junior School, they successfully promote positive mental health and wellbeing for their whole school community. They evidenced their recognition of just how important mental health and emotional wellbeing are to the lives of all those in the school. Through layered levels of support (universal, targeted, and specialised individual support) The Headteacher and the team recognise that children’s mental health is a crucial factor in their overall wellbeing and can affect their learning and achievement. This ensures that for all their children, FJS is a haven and a safe place to learn. This is invaluable work.
Everyone is Cared For
During the pandemic and going forward it is clear that all adults too are well cared for and well supported in their respective roles, both professionally and at a personal level. In fact, most people with whom I spoke commented on the positive ethos within the school and numerous comments were made about the growing warmth and friendly atmosphere, happy people, and the fun experience in all aspects of school life. To produce such a culture and have it robustly tested during a pandemic, is noteworthy and highly commendable.
Communication Is Strong
Another key to this success is the staff’s detailed knowledge of the needs of its community and their ever-changing social demographics. Staff consult parents and carers fully and they take steps to ensure the pupils are able to thrive and achieve as well as they can. This involves a high level of tolerance, empathy, and support. Communication with families is strong, frequent, and ultimately effective. The school ensures that all its communications convey respect and value to all types of family. All stakeholders have a sense of belonging to the school and inclusion is well embraced so that each pupil is valued for their individuality and can develop their enquiring minds and spirit of curiosity through participating in a range of challenging, fulfilling, and happy educational experiences to reach their full potential.
Commitment from All The Staff
The assessment included a series of virtual meetings with the Chair of Governors, Head, Deputy, SENCO, teachers, subject leaders, LSA/ELSA, family support worker, parents, and pupils. There was also an opportunity to discuss the context of the school, learn about a number of school initiatives and to review and evaluate a number of key school documents. At FJS, the Leadership Team do not work in isolation. The distributed leadership model has allowed many staff to develop across the school, to the benefit of the organisation as a whole. The involvement and commitment of the whole staff are significant reasons for the school’s success. While the children are encouraged in a positive way, so too are the teaching and support staff. In particular, the appreciation for the classroom assistants is very apparent. In fact, there are aspects of the school’s Covid-19 provision that could not happen without the commitment of the support staff. Their roles are fully integrated into the curriculum and credit for their work was consistently emphasised throughout the assessment. It was a pleasure to meet with a few long-serving assistants and the pride they felt at working in FJS really resonated with the assessor.
The Leadership is Exceptional
The strategic leadership of the school is outstanding. There is evidently a collegial approach to school improvement that is based on a clear, shared and child centred vision. From my visit and discussion with teachers, it was clear that leaders at all levels display the same pastoral approach and that their enthusiasm means they effectively work together with the whole school community to problem solve and surmount challenges. The Leadership Team at Freegrounds Junior School complement each other well, they are realistic about the context they work in but are proud of their achievements. The culture at FJS is very strong. A productive, strong, and highly inclusive culture that focuses on ensuring effective and enriched teaching for learning for all pupils. Their child-centred ways of working are unyielding and unrelenting, there was total commitment and enthusiasm for the priceless work that they do. Most eye-catching of all for this assessor was the ground-breaking Chestnut Room and the powerful narrative behind its evolution. The staff have driven this project forward through some outstanding initiatives and the legacy of their foresight will be felt in the children that have been cared for by them for years to come.
The Head Leads Inclusion
FJS is an excellent example of inclusive practice, energy, and aspiration for all members of the school community. The Head leads inclusion with the courageous and forward-thinking belief that more can always be done to increase levels of inclusion and improvement for the learning community at FJS. He arrived in post not too long before the pandemic. He has made a tangible impact on standards. A number of FJS’s successes during the last 18 months can be put down to this appointment and the strategic forward planning that is so evident in their ambitious action plans.
Joy and Celebration are Important
Joy and celebration are important for all pupils and the voice of every pupil in this school is vibrant and significant. This is a school that clearly evidences focus, energy and enthusiasm in its commitment to the growing reality of inclusion for all. Pupils achieve very high standards as the teaching is very good or outstanding. The work they do is demanding yet perfectly pitched to ensure challenge is appropriate. FJS staff take full account of their pupils’ varied life experiences and needs and then they get to work. My observations and involvement with pupils throughout the assessment clearly demonstrated that they are ambassadors for the school. Their exemplary manners, behaviour and comments reflected their pride in belonging to Freegrounds Junior School.
Behaviour is Excellent
Pupils’ behaviour is excellent, this is because there is a comprehensive and consistently applied positive behaviour system in place which rewards tolerance, kindness, friendliness, and a willingness to ‘have a try’. Pupils know that bullying and behaviours such as the use of hurtful language are wrong and have been shown the impact it can have on others’ feelings and achievements.
Always Looking for Improvement
FJS is a lively and friendly community where pupils achieve very high standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Pupils have a huge voice in the school, they are listened to and are keen to learn. The staff constantly look for ways to improve the quality of their teaching, are imaginative and make challenging demands of pupils. The Pupil Premium Leader leads the school strategy for supporting pupils eligible for the PPG, monitoring, and evaluating the support in place for these pupils. There are very good arrangements in place to support all pupils and care for them and the school has a strong partnership with parents and carers. The school is well governed and self-critical. They know what they do well, where their challenges lie and how best to tackle them. They have shown a high capacity for improvement and an ability to sustain their own high standards. The outstanding quality of teaching and imaginative teaching methods foster determination to succeed in their children. Class teachers have access to a live SEND Concerns form for each year group whereby strategies are listed, and teachers are asked to keep a written record of concerns they have and what inclusive strategies and support are being put in place to support the learning for the child which the SENCO monitors and takes action as needed.
Parents Are Grateful
Parents also feel valued for their contribution to the life of the school and in turn appreciate the dedication of all the staff in the education of their children. Parents I spoke with could not stress strongly enough just how much the school had supported and improved the quality of outcomes that their children were achieving. The parents of the children of FJS wanted to express their gratitude to the school for all that they do.
A ‘Can Do’ Attitude from Governors
There is a wide range of expertise on the Governing Body. They are well led and their commitment to the inclusive ethos is evident in discussions. Outcomes for all groups of pupils are periodically reported to the Curriculum and Standards Committee. They attend the school regularly and have a consistent monitoring timetable related to the school improvement plan. The infectious child-centred and ‘can-do’ enthusiasm of one governor in particular rubbed off on me and it was a joy to meet with such a positive and appreciative person.
The incredible atmosphere I witnessed in the school is based upon outstanding relationships between staff, pupils, and parents. I could see the importance and celebration of teamwork, the respect for each other’s roles and recognising the wide range of individual talents and expertise. The staff, Governors, parents, and pupils work in unison to create an educational setting which enables all of their pupils to grow in wisdom, understanding and mutual respect, ‘Aspire, Believe and Achieve’.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
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