Strong Inclusive Ethos
Kirkby High School (KHS) is a school of choice, welcoming increasing numbers of students each year. This is particularly true for students with inclusion, attendance, or Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The school serves an area of deprivation and leaders factor contextual information into their planning. The school has a ‘no excuses’ approach. Leaders know and understand the demographic of the community the school serves but are clear that this is context, not an excuse.
Attendance is below national average and is a high priority for the school. The school has a thorough and well thought through strategy. There are attendance mentors attached to each group. They work as a team to ensure a joined-up approach and information sharing. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) receives a weekly update with actions and any emerging trends. This ensures that it is a team responsibility across the range of leadership responsibilities.
Kirkby High School has a strong inclusive ethos with a shared commitment to removing barriers. This permeates down from the SLT. The Headteacher encapsulated the ethos with the phrase, “everyone is valuable here; we have high expectations of everyone”. The Headteacher explained the rationale for a change in the strapline for the school, replacing ‘excellence’ with ‘maximising potential’ which was felt to be more inclusive. At KHS staff work hard to get a balance between nurture and challenge. They work in the space of high challenge, high support. There is a school-wide commitment to the ethos of high expectations and staff see it as their role to provide the necessary support for pupils to be able to meet these expectations. Leaders are passionate about providing fresh starts for pupils. Pupils have the entitlement to make mistakes and then be supported to resolve them.
Strong Sense of Teamwork
There is a strong sense of teamwork at KHS. Governors and parents describe how they feel part of the school community. Staff are friendly, open, receptive and warm. Governors said they feel like everyone is on the same team and that challenges are ‘our’ challenges. The school is on a path of positive change. Leaders know what the school is doing well and what still needs working on. A Staff Governor told our Assessor, “everything is very transparent and joined up in the school. There are never any surprises about policy and ideas. SLT always welcomes feedback, it is quite refreshing.”
The Inclusion Department plays an important role in the school. This provision is available to all students when and if they should need it. This has been a deliberate strategy to make it fully inclusive. There are beautiful rooms and an outdoor space, providing a calm and nurturing environment for pupils, offset from the busy main school.
The Kirkby Child Room is particularly special and the pupils were so proud to show this space. The provision has a separate canteen and all students can access breakfast. The aim of the Inclusion Department is that students access the mainstream curriculum and they provide the wrap-around care and support and small group intervention needed to enable this to happen. Students with social and emotional, physical, cognitive learning and communication and interaction needs are all supported by the Inclusion Department. Staff ask parents to tell them about their child so they can provide bespoke provision.
The Inclusion staff have excellent knowledge of the pupils they work with. Intervention programmes include literacy and numeracy or English as an Additional Language (EAL) support, counselling and physiotherapy support. The Power of Reading intervention programme is impactful and is adapted to meet the needs of the group of students. A Training Assistant (TA) is currently being trained as an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) which they told our Assessor, “is going to be fantastic, really helpful”. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for TAs is responsive and comprehensive. The team has a culture of sharing best practice. Our Assessor loved the success criteria shared by the Head of Department, “a successful Inclusion Department is an empty department”.
Open Door Approach
A repeated theme of the assessment days was the ‘open door’ approach from all staff to each other and to the students. There is never a, “I am too busy” at KHS. Students and staff know where to go for support. Clear routines around the school help students to feel safe. The Personal Development curriculum covers topics to support wellbeing. The school has a counsellor and a Higher-Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) who provides a listening ear, often before and after a counselling programme.
Each year group has a non-teaching mentor with the capacity to get to know families as well as the pupils. They run intervention programmes and provide individual mentoring for pupils in their year group. All Heads of Year have been trained to run early assessments which has significantly increased the school’s capacity to support families. The safeguarding culture is strong, there is an open and transparent ethos. Staff see it as their responsibility to ‘notice’. There are many examples of this making a big difference to pupils’ school experiences and wellbeing. Students know how to stay safe and can identify what constitutes unsafe behaviour or an unsafe situation. They are overheard saying to each other, “you will get safeguarded for that”. The school has done a lot on protective characteristics which are clearly displayed around school.
Calm, Nurturing School
KHS is a calm, nurturing school in which staff and students enjoy excellent relationships and inclusive practice is embedded in planning and provision.
Some final words from staff, students and parents:
A student stated, “there is a good atmosphere in school, teachers are positive, never negative and uplift the students to be positive people”.
Another student stated, “teachers have great bonds with students so they can talk to them about their problems if they need to. Teachers do not just teach, they form bonds with students and between themselves. There is always an adult to talk to.”
A member of staff commented, “inclusion, from the moment I walked in the door; it has never been about anything else. I have never known it be so explicit, it is quite humbling. The kids deserve the absolute best in every minute of every day. That is what I took away from my first few weeks in the school.”
A parent said, “the school is helping my child be the very best version of himself”.
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: [email protected] for further details.
Want more information on the IQM Award? Click here to request your free IQM information pack.