Knowsley Central Primary School has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
Everyone is Valued
At Knowsley Central Primary School, they have the motto that ‘Everyone is a star and can shine in our learning community’. It is apparent from everyone that you talk to within the school community that it is a place of learning where everyone is valued and invested in to bring out the best in learners, parents, staff and Governors. Inclusion is central to everything that Knowsley Central Primary School does and it is clear that the school community has high aspirations of everyone within it, investing in all and providing equality of opportunity so that all people within the community can shine and reach their potential. There is a wide variety of excellent inclusive practice both in terms of teaching and learning and leadership that could be shared across other schools.
A Bespoke Curriculum
Knowsley Central Primary School is a special school that caters predominantly to meeting the needs of children on the autistic spectrum. The learners at this school have a variety of complex needs which the school has an unwavering commitment in meeting. The school delivers a personised curriculum to each of its learners that takes account of their academic needs, social and communication needs and their sensory needs; concurrently, the school has a Speech and Language Therapist in residence three days a week and an Occupational Therapist two days a week. Even during the pandemic, the school has worked hard to be able to meet all of the complex needs of their learners, for example, sending sensory kits to parents to assist in ensuring the children maintain their sensory diet at home or offering home webinars in effective communication. All staff have worked collaboratively, supported by Governors, in creating a bespoke curriculum called Learning Pathways, that allows the children to show incremental stages of progression that can be effectively built upon. Progress of this is effectively shared with parents at regular stages. The school is also in the process of writing a new Life Skills curriculum to enable their learners to be more independent, at school, home and in the wider community. This is a large body of work to develop and it will take time to embed and refine. However, the school feels it will have a huge impact on their learners now and in the future.
Compassion is Wholly Visible
Knowsley Central Primary School is incredibly welcoming and friendly. It is a school where compassion is wholly visible. The children feel that everyone is kind to them and that adults listen to them. Parents all commented that their children love attending the school. Parents were incredibly positive about their experience of the school and particularly felt that during the COVID- 19 pandemic, there was continual support and they never felt alone with their child’s learning. One parent commented that,
“Nothing is too much trouble…they have a vested interest in every child.”
This sentiment was evident with all parents interviewed on the day of assessment and evident in the bespoke curriculum and attitude of the staff. Recently, after the announcement of the second lockdown, parents were sent care packs with tea, coffee, chocolates and cards made by the children; this is testament to the caring attitude of Knowsley Central Primary School. Parents spoke highly of the Parent Liaison who had supported them with things such as school transport, medical appointments, instructional videos and setting up a shared parent group (a forum for parents to work together to solve parenting challenges).
Everyone Supports One Another
All staff at this school shared a theme that working at Knowsley feels like being in a family, where everyone supports one another. Staffing is very consistent; often support staff who leave to train to be teachers return to Knowsley, showing their sense of commitment to the school. Governors explained that the success of Knowsley Central Primary School was based around the positive relationships that are formed across the school between all stakeholders:
“Restorative practice is used with all…People’s opinions are always valued.”
Wellbeing is Central
Wellbeing is central to all activity at Knowsley Central Primary School. It is evident that everyone is valued and listened to and this can be seen through the collaborative approaches towards curriculum development that consider the views of all stakeholders. The school is consistently striving to improve and develop its practice specifically for its varying cohort of learners. The Leadership Team ensures that capacity is built into their school improvement planning to ensure that their ambitions can be met. However, this is not in a way that adds excesses to time or workload. Accordingly, capacity is developed to ensure staff are given designated subject time within the school day to monitor subject areas and additionally, staff spend two hours with the SLT every half term, off timetable, for curriculum development time. Staff are supported to develop the curriculum effectively and are invested in through wide ranging CPD opportunities (that are always open to teachers and support staff) and through activities to promote wellbeing, such as staff yoga, quizzes or early finishing times for birthdays. The Governing Body explained that,
“Staff have bought into everything within the school because of the investment they have felt in themselves…They feel valued.”
The school celebrates the achievements of its community. It has a variety of accreditations in areas such as ICT, sport and PE and also in being an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) Friendly setting, demonstrating its commitment to providing the best education for its learners. In line with the motto ‘Everyone is a star and can shine in our learning community’, parents commented that they felt as though their children’s achievements were consistently shared with them and celebrated through aspects such as postcards home, scheduled formal meetings, informal meetings or an invitation to a special lunch with the Headteacher.
Governors Challenge and Support
Governance is strong at Knowsley Central Primary School. Governors play an active role in the challenge and support of Senior Leaders but also through wider aspects of school life. Governors were able to clearly articulate the role they play, through sub-committees and monitoring areas such as teaching and learning. Governors run coffee mornings and organise questionnaires to better understand the needs of the learners and parents and feed into school improvement. The Governing Body has a very specific skills base and uses these effectively to support the school in areas like health and safety and safeguarding. The Headteacher explained the importance of CPD in the school for progression and in line with this, all Governors have a bespoke package of CPD, in order to fulfil their roles with efficiency. The children also understand the role the Governing Body plays and have assemblies that give information about them and their roles to develop relationships in the school community further.
A Personalised Approach
The learning environment, much like the curriculum at this school, is developed with a personalised approach to meet the needs of the learners. The classrooms are spacious and well organised as ASC Friendly classrooms, for example, displays all front facing so the classroom is not over stimulating. Classrooms are organised with workstations to enable the children’s learning and help them to be independent. Resources are also skilfully used to promote success and depending on the needs of the children, they are provided with levels of scaffolding to ensure they are successful: based on the level a child is working at on the school’s Learning Pathways, they may be communicated to about their work using a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and use ‘choose boards’ to communicate with adults or in different circumstances have work strips which help them to identify ‘now and next’ tasks that can be completed independently. All classes have consistent features that can be built upon to be more complex based on the level of the children. Examples of these features are:
• Visual timetables (sometimes with physical reference objects like a knife and fork to denote lunch time).
• Voice levels (to show the level of noise that is acceptable in the class at any given time, with corresponding number descriptors).
• Feelings boards (which help the children to articulate feelings by referencing them to Lego characters faces).
• Traffic light cards with sign language symbols (which act as visual clues to help guide children’s behaviour choices).
Additionally, their environment provides the necessary sensory diet for their children, all classes are set up for sensory play and experiences; they have four Sensory Circuit areas, two sensory light rooms, several break out/safe space rooms and playground spaces with a variety of equipment such as hanging bars and a newly installed trampoline area.
Understanding their Children’s Needs
It is clear that the staff at Knowsley Central Primary School really understand their children’s needs. They have excellent methods of assessment, to accurately understand all their children’s needs and place them in the correct Learning Pathway and class of peers, grouping children according to stage not age. Progression of learning is regularly assessed. Parents commented that they always know what their child is learning, why they are learning this and what their next steps are. Across the classrooms, children’s learning needs are specifically plotted using Blank Levels and Attention in Levels and Strategies; adults fully understand how to communicate with their learners, how they learn, levels of attention they learn with and strategies to aid them in their learning.
A Range of Wider Experiences
The school gives their children a range of wider experiences. They excel in sports participation and have received numerous local accolades for sports achievement, alongside accreditations for their commitment to sport in school and the wider local context. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school would regularly organise visits for learning outside the classroom to locations such as local religious buildings, local libraries, local supermarkets, Knowsley Safari Park and Chester Zoe. Support staff noted that they aim to have as many staff members trained to drive the minibus to enable as many visits as possible.
Meeting Children’s Specific Needs
The Headteacher explained that due to the complex needs of their learners, the school had organised a termly professionals’ clinic, attended by a Senior Paediatrician, Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Educational Psychologist, Senior Leaders and relevant teaching and support staff. These clinics were used to assist in understanding how to meet the very specific needs of certain children. These sessions had had a huge impact on the young people and their families who were involved.
An Incredibly Open Learning Community
Knowsley Central Primary School is an incredibly open learning community, facilitated by a strong and confident Senior Leadership Team. The Headteacher explained that,
“Staff drive school improvement…they spot gaps in the curriculum and data. As leaders we then look at the timescales to make this improvement happen – but all the time we consider their wellbeing.”
The school all works together cohesively and effectively as a team. This team has strong relationships built upon trust, this is evident and articulated by all staff. Every member of staff and person on the Governing Body is aware of the priorities of school improvement and these priorities on the day of assessment were explained by all, support staff, teaching staff, senior leaders and Governors. The Headteacher explained that,
“Positive challenges are no problem at all.”
Everyone is involved and encouraged to support and challenge the development of Knowsley Central Primary School.
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@example.com for further details.
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