Lansdowne School in Lambeth achieves Centre of Excellence status for the second time.
A Vibrant School
Lansdowne School is a vibrant school. There is a strong focus on pupil progress, pupil well-being and pupil achievement. Teachers are clear about their purpose and are one hundred percent behind the school leadership and the vision of the school.
At the start of the day during briefing, teachers were celebrating the fact that one pupil in year 13 had an interview at Camberwell School of Art that day, an enormous achievement for a pupil from a special school. There was great excitement throughout the day as this news permeated the school. The whole school was genuinely willing the pupil to succeed.
A Calm and Orderly Start
The start of the school day at Lansdowne is calm and orderly. Some pupils have breakfast and others make use of the creative environment outside to begin their day. When it is time to start lessons, pupils line up with their tutors and wait patiently until it is their turn to lead into the building. Pupils are calm and relaxed and respond to their teachers positively and happily. Pupils are ready to begin their day at Lansdowne and get straight down to work with a real sense of purpose. Routines are well embedded and pupils demonstrate independence skills as they follow their routines gently guided by the staff around them.
The new school building is beautiful, filled with light and space for pupils to move freely around making use of the break out spaces. Displays reflect the dynamic curriculum and work that pupils have participated in. Pupils make use of colour coded timetables to promote independence. Some displays use ‘communicate in print’ to ensure that all pupils can access them. The displays reflect the happy and thriving pupils who visibly enjoy all that is on offer.
Parents Help and Support the School
Parents give much practical help and support to the school. The Parent Governor said, ‘I am happy if the children are happy’. Parents devote time to support the Enterprise events that take place. They plan their help and support at ‘coffee mornings’ organised by the school to facilitate the parent group. Parents value the life skills that pupils gain from the Enterprise events and think it is a very useful thing to do. They can see their children using money in real situations. There is also an after-school club that focuses on enterprise. It is clear that pupils are enjoying all the very practical activities and they are having an impact. There is a sense that parents join together to support each other and help solve problems for each other whenever they can. The school welcomes the support from parents and they are confident in their dual role and can see the impact of their work. This is extremely impressive.
Pupils Get on Very Well with Each Other
Pupils get on with each other very well which is unique in a special school where social interaction can present so many difficulties for pupils. This was evident in a number of situations. At lunch time pupils demonstrated very good social skills, talking quietly to each other in groups around tables. Joining in group activities after lunch for example, in the football cage, the dance group in the hall, pupils using the library and the breakout spaces. There is a sense that pupils enjoy being together. Most impressively, were the ‘reading champions’ who were pupils of a higher-level helping pupils to read more fluently. The reading champions take a note of which words a pupil may be struggling with and then this information feeds back to the guided reading sessions for more repetition. Pupils were very happy to be together when they were reading and the concentration was remarkable. Pupils enjoy having rewards. They collect ‘praise postcards’ which they can use to redeem money and spend in the school shop. Another way the school has found to help pupils understand money and reinforce maths as a life skill.
Work Experience is Very Well Embedded
Work experience is very well embedded in the culture of the school and given a high priority. Two pupils presented their work experience and were able to say how it had helped them develop skills and what they needed to work on to be able to move on to employment in the future. They both agreed that they had gained so much confidence.
Monitoring Strategic Progress
The Chair of Governors is very passionate about the school and is fully involved in monitoring its strategic progress as well as watching the pupils grow and develop into confident young learners. She spoke of the environment allowing learning to take place, how pupils were able to manage themselves and the attention to detail by staff that made such a difference. She was aware of the developing work in life skills, enterprise and accreditation that was making such a difference to pupils. She spoke of how she had witnessed two pupils who were new to the school from a war-torn country, playing, running, smiling and enjoying themselves at Lansdowne within a very short time of arriving at the school.
A Rich School Curriculum
The school curriculum is rich with visits, visitors, trips away, charity fund raising, marking events, sharing ideas in assemblies, celebrating success, getting involved, being active, supporting life skills and there is a real buzz around the building with so much going on. A scrap book records all these moments in photographs. In the last few months Lansdowne has taken part in five fund raising events, five employment events, ten multicultural events and assemblies, twelve visits, a mental health week and school elections for Head girl and Head boy. The maths department have started to differentiate their visits to support the maths curriculum by taking pupils to a variety of events and grouping pupils according to their maths levels rather than taking whole tutor groups. The most recent trip ‘Clue Quest Escape’ based on problem solving and enquiry followed this format and was very successful. This is an example of how the school is constantly seeking to improve the way that pupils can learn and gain more from an experience.
Working with the IQM Cluster
The school works closely with local schools. La Retraite, a Catholic Girls School places pupils on work experience each week. Pupils from St Andrew’s Primary School ASC Unit visit weekly to use the sensory room and sensory garden. Lansdowne has found great benefit from working in the IQM cluster of schools and two meetings have taken place this academic year.
Preparing for the new Inspection Framework
Discussions with the Executive Head and Head of School confirmed a rigorous approach to the continuing development of the school. Plans are being discussed to develop a post 19 provision for pupils who would benefit from a further school led provision before moving on to college or training. The leadership team are thoroughly preparing for the new inspection framework that is being introduced in September 2019 and are well on their way to meeting the targets for this on their school development plan.
A Strong Ethos of Collaboration
There is a strong ethos of collaboration at Lansdowne in the whole community, from pupils to parents, governors and staff. The pupil is central to the focus and there is a great ambition to keep on improving and being mindful of pupils and doing the best for them. There is a commitment to training, monitoring and evaluation. The school responds to new requirements from government and directives and there is documentation to evidence all the work that is being undertaken.
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