Kensington Primary School in Newham has achieved Flagship School status.
Kensington Primary School is in the London Borough of Newham with the lowest life expectancy in London where one in twelve children are homeless. It is part of the Tapscott Learning Trust. It is a three-form entry school with 650 children. It is the TES winner of the Wellbeing and Mental Health Award of 2020.
Newham has one of the highest Covid rates in the country and many children live in overcrowded housing yet the response to home learning has been very positive. Over one hundred laptops have been lent out and the school has supported many families with their broadband and internet access. Food parcels go out regularly to many families who are struggling to cope. Kensington staff regard the school as a family and its local community as part of this extended family.
Putting Mental Health at its Heart
A few years ago the Headteacher realised that this school must create its own curriculum putting mental health at its heart. With that in mind, Curriculum K was formed. Together the staff worked through many ideas and this evolving approach is still growing. It took its inspiration from good Early Years’ practice where children learn through discovery. Staff have a deep understanding that clear communications between people must be encouraged through a thoroughly transparent and planned curriculum. The Headteacher believes that effective communication enables children to access their learning, communicate confidently with impact and develop social, emotional and cultural awareness. This is a long-term strategy. Staff at Kensington believe that in twenty years’ time people will need effective skills in communication, creativity, interpersonal relationships and physical skills. Each half-term the children learn through a theme and most of the work is geared around that theme. Evaluations demonstrate that the children are motivated and more ready to learn because they feel ownership as their opinions are valued.
Additional Resource Provision
The school funds its own Additional Resource Provision where certain children with extra needs are supported. The aim is to reintegrate them into Key Stage 2, most of whom will still need individual support.
Children are happy here, ‘We do lots of exciting things.’ They enjoy all the different areas of the curriculum and miss not being in school. There is a School Council where children have a voice and develop a sense of ownership over policy and practice. They build a consensus over school issues such as behaviour and a responsibility towards the school community and environment. There are sports and lunch leaders. Children know that there are staff here who they can speak to and who will listen to them.
Supporting Vulnerable Children
Place 2 Be supports twelve children on a weekly basis. It offers Place 2 Talk to all of the children who know this is a safe place for them to discuss things that may be troubling them. Staff are also supported through Emotion Coaching sessions.
A Personalised Child-Centred Approach
Staff at Kensington have a fundamental belief that a personalised child-centred approach will address the needs of all of their children. Senior leaders encourage staff to address misconceptions and examine closely how best they will achieve their learning outcomes. The most appropriate ways to support each child is examined every half term at the Step Back and Reflect meetings. The barriers to a child’s learning could be academic, emotional, social or physical and once sought, staff put in the appropriate intervention. Evidence from NFER assessments, data drops and Impact Tracker are collated to inform if progress is sufficient. Here trends may also be identified. There is a focus on daily AfL sheets and teachers have a dialogue with pupils on a regular basis. Most children know what they need to do to improve.
Building Children’s Resilience
There is a wide range of clubs offered to all children. Certain pupils are offered clubs to help them with their reading or writing. During the lockdown some children were invited into school and some have been targeted via Google Classroom. There has been a lot of work on building the children’s resilience through emotional health lessons. They are becoming good at resolving their own playground disputes and recognising and understanding their own feelings. The Colour Monster (similar to the Zones of Regulation) helps them to identify what colour they may be feeling. A child may then go to a regulation corner in the classroom, which differs according to each year group to help them self-regulate. They enjoy the various reward systems from class Dojo points to Learner of the Week and the Golden VIP. Staff know that the best form of praise is when individuals are acknowledged for their hard work and effort.
Involving the Child’s Whole Community
Staff recognise that when children are dysregulated it is hard for them to access their learning. They ensure children have the best possible start by mirroring their home language. Staff try to involve the child’s whole community as they may have limited home resources or amenities. At the initial interview, a child’s needs are identified. Many start with little or no English. Staff are skilled in assessing if the child has an EAL or particular learning need. Often maths is a good indicator but sometimes there may be a hearing problem etc.
Using a Variety of Teaching Methods
Staff are encouraged to use a variety of teaching methods and styles which suit different children. In Early Years there are few carpet sessions, and the children self-select their resources. Phonics is introduced when the individual child is ready.
A Very Understanding and Supportive School
The staff at Kensington seem to have a mature understanding of their own feelings. They know that they have a’ rainbow of emotions’ and they too have to regulate themselves. The senior staff are adept at recognising this and offer their services when required. All staff are confident discussing their emotional well-being in an open and honest forum. This is a very understanding and supportive school. This openness has come from the Headteacher who has shared his anxieties and vulnerabilities with his team. Staff are able to weather the storms because the senior leaders have created a strong and supportive safety net.
Parents are very supportive of the work the staff do here. Some have had poor experiences elsewhere and do not mind travelling a distance as they know their child’s needs are being met. Parents who attended workshops before lockdown were encouraged to use positive language with their children. They like being contacted by the staff throughout the lockdown. Parents with children with SEN enjoy the communications books and appreciate that staff always seem to be available. One parent said that the, ‘SENCO is always in the playground and listens to us.’
The governing body is fully supportive of the inclusive ethos in Kensington. They want every child to be treated equitably and individually. They admire the work that has been done regarding unconscious bias and value the whole staff’s professionalism. They hold the Headteacher to account and are proud to be part of this school and the role it plays in its community.
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