Ysgol Heulfan in Wrexham has achieved Flagship School status for the second time.
Striving to be Ever More Inclusive
Ysgol Heulfan has a rich and thorough tradition of operating as an inclusive school, and indeed has a longstanding association with IQM, having already achieved the Quality Mark, Centre of Excellence Status and the Flagship banner. It is important to make this distinction because it makes the continuing journey even more impressive for Ysgol Heulfan: still striving to be ever more inclusive, continuing to improve and grow, unrelenting in its desire to reach more fully its vision of completely inclusive education – there is no sense of complacency here and no sense of an inclusion project that has been boxed off and completed. The entire school, from Governors, staff, pupils and parents, appreciates that inclusion is something that is never “finished” rather it is refined, adapted, improved and nurtured.
A Warm Welcome
Upon arrival at Ysgol Heulfan, one is greeted warmly, and the friendly welcome sets the tone for the school. The entrance is packed with celebrations of what the school does best, valuing everyone and including all children in the life of the school. There are photo-montage displays of the “Super Learning Days” that the school has introduced in recent years, together with accessible information and literature for parents and visitors. Wall-art adorned the lobby with phrases supporting the school’s vision, and this visual approach is replicated around the school, even the Welsh national anthem finds its way onto a wall in the Learning Zones area.
A Spectacular Learning Environment
The school’s learning environment is simply spectacular. Every aspect of the interior, each nook and cranny, is considered valuable space to aid the learning process and the devil is in the detail. Asides from quality displays that serve the purpose of being attractive and instilling a pride in those who work alongside them, there is a considered “purpose” to each and every display. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “Learning Zones” which sit in the KS2 area of the building. The school has developed these large-scale interactive areas which incorporate display, challenges for learners and celebration of quality children’s work. Ownership for the various zones sits across a wide range of staff and as such serves to strengthen collaborative working and a sharing of ideas. At learner level, they present opportunities for children to learn independently from the classroom and teacher, though this can happen on an individual level or, as seen more readily, through small group work and active teamwork.
Magic at Heulfan
Of course, as is what matters most in inclusive schools, it is the pupils that add the real magic to Ysgol Heulfan. And what a special bunch they are! During the assessment children were seen in a whole gamut of scenarios – from “mainstream” to “Canol”, from traditional academia to hands-on approaches such as “forest school” – and in each circumstance the pupils were exemplary both in terms of their learning and in terms of their attitude. Teachers at Ysgol Heulfan KNOW the children inside out and upside down. The Headteacher in particular was a source of intimate understanding of each of the 300+ children in her educative care and the pride she exuded in the way she spoke about each of her young charges was inspirational. It was a pride that extended from the senior staff through the entire staff team and reflected in the children themselves. During the assessment many pupils were spoken to and the voice from the students was as unanimous as it was inclusive in its collective love for Ysgol Heulfan. This small record of some of the things the children were noted to have said to the assessor captures the “inclusion heart-beat” of this wonderful school far better than anything else:
“The teachers are helpful, caring and excellent. We matter.”
“There is room for everyone in our school.”
“Behaviour is excellent throughout the school.”
“The support is good – I joined in March and didn’t know any Welsh. Then it came to Welsh lessons and the support I had was really good, and I’ve progressed with my vocabulary.”
Making a Huge Difference
Some of the young people at Ysgol Heulfan attend the “Canol” and have very profound needs. The teachers who work alongside these children should be justifiably proud of the difference they make to the lives of their pupils. That which impresses the most is that which is the most human, the knowing of each individual and the valuing of each individual. Here the achievements which to the uninitiated or the ill-informed may appear small or trivial are rightly recognised for the momentous, joy-filling and worthy milestones that they truly are. Against a backdrop of a “data-culture” education system, where “special school” status is not fully afforded, this becomes even more remarkable. For the system tries to make such achievements matter less than the levels achieved in core subjects in the mainstream school – but Ysgol Heulfan refuses to let such a system destroy its inclusive soul. Instead it uses it to revitalise its own purpose and remind itself – and everyone else – why “inclusion” is so important.
A Thorough, Honest and Insightful Review
Ysgol Heulfan submitted a thorough review of its progress against the 2016-17 IQM targets together with an action plan for improving in areas against all 8 IQM elements. The paperwork was thorough, honest and insightful. It was clear from this, and all of the evidence observed during the assessment that inclusion is something that is lived, breathed and genuinely believed at Ysgol Heulfan. The Headteacher, Julia Thomas Haigh, has been instrumental in coordinating the IQM process and must be praised for the professional way in which she has led on this programme throughout the school. Everyone consulted during the assessment was universal in their praise for her and the high regard in which they held her.
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:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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