Greenhill School, Rhiwbina, Cardiff, has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
Achieve through Hard Work, Passion and Commitment
Greenhill School is a local authority maintained special school for learners aged between 11 and 18. It is a school where young learners who have been unsuccessful in their learning in previous settings are given an opportunity to thrive and grow. The learners have a range of complex behavioural, social and emotional needs and at Greenhill School they are, as the school motto describes “Nurtured, Inspired” and able to “Achieve” through the incredible hard work, passion and commitment of the staff team.
Inclusion is at its Core
Pupils appreciate the school’s values – Relationships, Respect and Responsibility in developing their own skills as individuals. They described their increased understanding of the importance of positive relationships both in and out of school. They understood the benefit of respecting both each other and their teachers as well as recognising that each individual has to take responsibility for the choices and actions that they make. Greenhill School is a place where each learner is seen as an individual and the school creates an environment where the learning is adapted to fit the child not the child to fit the learning. Inclusion is at the core of the school and throughout the visit the enthusiasm of the whole team towards improving life chances was evident in all conversations and learning walks.
The Curriculum Reflects the Needs of Learners
The school has established a curriculum that reflects the needs of the learners within the school. Senior leaders have an excellent understanding of the intent of their curriculum. They have recognised that the learners in their care need an alternative approach to engage them in both developing self-belief and confidence, as well as academic outcomes. The traditional curriculum that maintained schools offer has been reviewed and adapted to meet the needs of the pupils at Greenhill School. On the website the school describes the aims of the curriculum as helping pupils to become:
• Ambitious, Capable Learners through being brave and learning about new things.
• Enterprising, Creative Contributors by teaching how things are made, grown and fixed.
• Ethical, Informed Citizens by learning about the world around us, taking responsibility and having respect for others.
• Lifelong, Healthy, Confident individuals with a love of the outdoors, taking care of them, working as a team and making friends.
Practical, Flexible and Interactive Curriculum
The curriculum has three elements to it- Traditional, Nurture and Alternative. The Traditional element maintains the classroom approach to the core subjects of reading, writing, maths and science. Classrooms have whiteboards and a range of resources that can be used by the learners to support their learning. Class sizes are small and organised based upon emotional need as well as academic. Teachers try to make the curriculum as practical, flexible and interactive as possible. Formal Assessment in reading, comprehension and spelling skills take place twice a year with the use of the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT). Pupils progress in Maths is checked termly using the Malt Assessments. The school has a tracking system for assessment which enables teachers and leaders to review progress and identify gaps in learning. Catch up programmes are used including the Numeracy Catch Up Programme. Members of the staff team have been trained in phonics teaching. Although, leaders noted that with changes of staff new training needed to be completed. One member of staff is SPLD trained and is able to support staff in identifying SPLD issues and developing the appropriate intervention.
Supporting Social and Emotional Needs
The Nurture element has been established through the development of Nurture classes that learners attend on a daily basis following identification. The school has established two Nurture spaces, one of which is set up as a house with a living room, kitchen and Shower room facilities. The second space has similar areas although the outside space has been developed with the learners as a garden area that is used each week. The school also has recently introduced Nurture dogs; Chilli and Lunar, which both pupils and staff noted as being of great value in supporting social and emotional needs.
The Nurture Approach
The Nurture approach has been extended into classes with Nurture areas established in the classroom as well as the practice. During my visit I was able to see evidence of this in the Year 7 class early morning routine. Learners had an early morning digital learning session that they were able to access independently, although adult support was available. Following the completion of the task the adults and learners were able to sit down together to eat and drink before moving on to the learning activities for the day. The room was structured to provide spaces for independent learning, tables to sit, eat and talk together as well as a safe quiet space that children could access independently. All classes had both female and male members of staff as part of the team.
Experiential and Skills Development Approach
The third element that the school offers is the Alternative provision. The school has developed a COED framework that enables subjects to be taught through an experiential and skills development approach around practical and engaging contexts. Learners are able to access real life experiences to promote understanding and engagement. Each class has an opportunity to take part in a weekly COED session which uses the local environment. On the day of the visit the Year 7 children were visiting a local outdoor space. Through the planned activities the learners would be developing skills in Geography and Science as well as learning to collaborate and value each other. Professor Donaldson who has reviewed the Welsh curriculum has visited the school and observed that the curriculum that the school is offering, is one all schools should be developing. The school is in the process of enabling the COED aspect of the curriculum to be recognised as a qualification. The 6 limbs have been developed across the year groups and now include:
• Landscapes and Land based studies
• Nature as Nurture
• Local Habitats
• Outdoor survival
• Camp craft.
The school also offers access to alternative provision such as Moto X which enables pupils to learn about engines and mechanics as well as developing the skills of learning to drive. The school also works with other partners such as ACT to achieve Level 1 in Construction to extend the provision for learners. The school uses part of its pupil deprivation budget to fund the different activities as well as contribute to curriculum enrichment such as canoeing, fishing, theatre and cinema. Residential trips, which include visits to Snowdon, Brecon and Llangramog, are also funded through the grant. Family therapy and 1-1 mentors, which support the social and emotional aspect of the learners as well as contributing to effective relationships, are also part funded by the grant. Leaders have consistently considered how they can implement the vision and values of the school in raising aspirations.
Increased Number of Qualifications
The impact of the curriculum on pupil outcome has been improved over time. In Key Stage 4, Greenhill School offers a wide range of externally validated qualifications at Level 1 and 2. The number of Level 1 and 2 qualifications have increased annually from 6 in 2012/13, to 17 in 2018/19. Learners benefit from opportunities at Early Level/Pathways, BTEC. In 2019 56% of passes were above predicted grades and 100% of learners left school with qualifications including English and Maths and Science. 2019 outcomes maintained the success of the last five years in ensuring pupils left with qualifications.
Strong Focus on Self-Evaluation
The end of Key Stage 3 results is based on 9 learners, 5 of which joined at the start of Year 7 and 4 who joined part way though the Key Stage, following time out of mainstream school. Outcomes for 2019 reflected 100% of pupils making progress either within a level or to the next level. The school has evaluated the progress and outcomes of the pupils and has identified that pupils did not make as much progress in spelling. The school has put in place, a new intervention programme to address this issue. This reflects the strong leadership focus on using self-evaluation to continually consider improved approaches to learning.
Skills for Success
Leaders have also recognised the need for a Post 16 provision for some of its pupils. At the beginning of September 2019, the school opened its new 6th form unit. From the 14 pupils that completed Key Stage 4, 7 have returned to the school. The member of staff leading the unit is inspirational in his determination to further develop the skills of the learners in the unit. He and the leadership team have recognised the importance of continuing to build self-confidence and understanding of the skills required to access the world of work and identify a career path. A curriculum has been developed based on two key outcomes and 14 secondary ones.
Outcome 1: I have employment that is directly relevant to my career plan + I have at least one other legitimate way of making money if I needed to.
Outcome 2: I am in education or training directly related to my career plan + I have at least one other legitimate way of making money if I needed to.
There is an expectation that learners leave post 16 with either Outcome 1 or 2, as well as all the secondary outcomes. Learners have chosen to be in the setting and individualised plans are in place for each of them. The secondary elements include outcomes such as The Duke of Edinburgh Award, being able to travel independently on public transport, an ability to demonstrate work ethic, significant and demonstrable individual and team volunteering, both in and out of school. To achieve the outcomes, a curriculum framework based on four elements has been planned:
• My community – the ways I interact with the people who live around me.
• My skills – the skills I need to live positively and independently.
• My future – the ways I can build my employability and learning.
• My wellbeing – the ways I can look after my body and mind.
During the visit I was able to meet members of the 6th form who were incredibly positive about the opportunity they were experiencing. The school has regular reviews with parents and celebrates the achievement of each pupil. The school has developed a tracking system to show daily evidence of each of the secondary outcomes. It was evident from my conversation with the lead of the 6th form that he was very clear in his understanding of the progression of skills the pupils needed to make in each area. An example would be with regard to volunteering, which would begin in the school before moving to external settings. Clarity of the progression of skills would be an area of development to demonstrate the high expectations that the lead has for the learners.
Success is Celebrated
The school uses the Class Dojo system to both track behaviour, communicate with parents and celebrate positive behaviours. Learners are able to work towards Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum certificates. Success is celebrated at the Friday Celebration Assembly and Learners are able to have first choice of the Friday afternoon options when they are successful. Staff observed that the system is particularly effective with the Key Stage 3 pupils. Learners have their own individual behaviour plans, which are developed with them and reviewed regularly. Parents are able to use the same strategies if they would like to as they are shared with them.
Total Commitment to Care
The school has very clear behaviour expectations which it has developed over time based on effective relationships and a positive behaviour approach. Staff have been trained in de-escalation techniques and learners feel safe and secure in the school. Pupils described very positively that at Greenhill School teachers:
“Help you out, speak to you and try to understand you, teachers listen to you.”
This view was reinforced in conversations with staff who reflected on the strong team approach across the school with the total commitment to caring about the learners within the school. There is an expectation that staff are positive role models, modelling positive parenting skills and helping to develop the whole child; academically, socially and emotionally. Daily meetings at the beginning and end of the day contribute to staff wellbeing as well as an opportunity to reflect and plan for the next day. Greenhill School is working towards becoming a Trauma Informed School, training staff in the skills required to manage the challenges the learners face outside of school. The school has seen a reduction over time in behaviour incidents with its positive behaviour approach.
Passionate about Improvement
School leaders have a clear vision of improvement across the school. They are passionate about improving the outcomes for the learners through their development of a wide range of skills. There is a three-year school improvement plan in place and during my visit it was evident that progress had been made in completing and achieving the priorities on the plan. Priorities focused on the developments within the curriculum to the new Post 16 educational provision on site. Leaders have established monitoring systems to review the quality of teaching and learning, including the use of the “Treasure Hunt” format to review books. This enables leaders to gain an accurate picture of the quality of learning through reviewing the impact of feedback and evidence of progress over time.
The school has established transition periods for both new staff and pupils. Staff are encouraged to visit prior to application and if successful have a number of follow up visits to meet staff, pupils and develop an understanding of the school. The new Head of the school reflected on the excellent opportunity his pre visits had given him in developing a clear understanding of the school. Pupils also have a period of adjustment to enable them to settle successfully into the setting. The school has established a clear format to ensure that both the school and new learners are confident that the provision is appropriate. The importance of establishing effective relationships and so developing trust is at the core of the school’s approach to transition.
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