Leasowe Nursery School and Family Centre in the Wirral has become a Centre of Excellence.
Leasowe Nursery School and Family Centre is an extended school providing fully inclusive and integrated services for children from birth to 4 years and their families, with 195 children on roll at the time of the assessment. The Centre is open from 8 am to 6 pm on week days, 50 weeks of the year. The Centre developed from a maintained nursery school, Early Excellence Centre and Phase 1 Children’s Centre. In 2015, Leasowe was de-designated as a children’s centre and now provides family services through an SLA with Wirral Council. The Governing Body oversees all the services delivered through an integrated approach. The good progress children make and strong partnerships with families is underpinned by a close working relationship with a range of teams within the Centre and partner agencies, as observed during the assessment.
The Leasowe estate that surrounds LNSFC is a strong and supportive community in an isolated position, bounded by the Wirral coast, motorway and light industrial development and benefits from a good range of community facilities. The cohort of children has significantly changed over the last 6 years, with a significant increase in numbers of children with complex needs due to earlier intervention through extending the provision for 2 years old funded children and higher numbers of children with SEND referred to LNSFC from other agencies such as health, local authority and partner settings where they feel they lack the expertise to meet the needs of children.
Inclusion is at the Heart
Inclusion is a natural part of what happens on a daily basis at LNSFC. Everyone I spoke to during the assessment from staff, volunteers, governors and parents were happy to share their extremely positive feelings about LNSFC and celebrate its vision as a superbly inclusive and successful setting and referencing frequently that they feel part of ‘The Leasowe Family’.
Unique Culture and Ethos
During the assessment I was able to experience the unique culture and ethos of this as a truly outstanding setting. This is clearly encapsulated in everything that happens here, as a school, as a family Centre and as a vibrant part of the local community.
Their vision statement: Every Child, ready for school, Every Family, welcomed and valued, One Community, one voice, strong and united, clearly demonstrates everything the setting, its staff and governors believe in and strive to achieve on a daily basis. This was clearly seen on numerous occasions during the assessment in interactions between staff and children and between staff and staff and between staff and parents. It was clear to see in classrooms and outside in their superb and extensive outdoor learning environments which includes a great Forest School staffed by two well qualified practitioners that the children regularly use, as evidenced from the group of children using it during the assessment. They were fully kitted out in waterproofs provided by the school, actively engaged and thoroughly enjoying their outdoor learning; with interactions amongst children and between children and staff. This inclusion pervades every part of the school and is truly ingrained in every fibre of its being. I was impressed by the enthusiastic and happy children and by the shared inspirational and aspirational vision not only of the Headteacher and the Senior Leadership Team but by all of the staff employed or volunteering in the setting, who are committed to inclusion in its broadest and best sense at all times in their hectic and often long day.
Adult Volunteering Programme
LNSFC has a well-established adult volunteering programme that supports adults working in the school and can then lead to qualifications through the onsite adult learning hub and employment in the school as practitioners. The school should be congratulated on this supportive and inclusive programme that not only helps children within the setting but supports adults into employment. This inclusive approach is also encapsulated by the SENCO who recently was put up for an award by CAMHs – The Child and Young Persons Mental Health Award as recognition for her work in this arena and was ‘Highly Commended’. She also recognised that the setting was receiving a higher number of children with additional needs and that they needed to alter their provision to ensure that they were included and made appropriate progress. Therefore, through research, she identified the needs and set up a new provision this year that caters for the needs of this group – The Octopus Room. She has also worked on a new assessment tool as the current tool used was not subtle enough to measure the complex needs of the children. It will be interesting to see how both the Octopus room and the assessment tool develop. It is a great credit to the SENCO and the inclusiveness of the setting that such innovative practice is encouraged and developed to meet need. This sits alongside the use of Narrative immersion in LNSFC that, through dramatic play, children are given the chance to imagine and recreate experience. Stories that teach children about themselves and their families, human relationships and the world around them a key attribute at this age.
It is clear to see that the children really enjoy coming to Leasowe Nursery School. There is a superb sense of care and nurture within the LNSFC and the community surrounding the school, where every member is valued for who they are and what they might become. From when they enter children make good progress and even excellent progress at times. Teachers plan very carefully to identify and meet the needs of all children utilising the skills of the support staff that are highly skilled and work as key professionals alongside teachers and Family centre staff. There are superb relationships between children and the staff and every member of staff is a positive role model for children. There is very much a family feel to the school and its community, with superb systems in place to support the children and their families. LNSFC ‘knows itself’ really well and has the highest expectations of all its members.
Adults Feel Valued
Adults employed at LNSFC feel valued not only by the Senior Leaders in the school but by the children and their parents. Again, I saw evidence of this on numerous occasions in classrooms and in outdoor learning areas. Everyone works closely together as a team, support for children in the classroom and the outside learning environments is exceptional. Physical access in and around the school is excellent. The building is clean and well decorated, the outside area is free of litter and is very well resourced with good quality teaching and learning materials and children were seen to be able to access all of the resources they needed for their learning, socialising and play.
Exceedingly Positive Parents
Parents spoken to during the assessment were exceedingly positive about the setting and felt LNSFC was excellent at identifying need and intervening at an early stage to ensure issues are resolved, a fantastic accolade for the setting. Parents felt that it is an open and honest place, where they feel comfortable, listened to and valued and where not only will children be supported but they know they will be supported as a family. It was very clear that they felt the LNSFC is an exceptionally inclusive environment for their children and that they would not consider any other setting. They said that they always receive a very warm welcome and that staff are willing to discuss any issues and support their children. School communication with them is very good and the school is proactive in letting them know how well their child is doing without them having to ask for the information all the time. In fact, there are multiple opportunities for families to visit the school and see their children’s work. The school places the highest value on the relationship it forms with the families it serves, as it realises the benefits of engagement for their children and their families. An example of this is the Craft and Chat group, a group of parents who meet regularly once a week at the school. They are involved in crafting and chat about issues in their lives or about what is happening locally and through this supportive process are able to move forward with community issues. They also support the school with fundraising and are a catalyst for consultation and feedback on issues that the school need parental feedback on. I had an informative and interesting discussion with the group during the assessment and it is clear to see that they are highly supportive of the school and all agreed that it is a superbly inclusive place that supports their children and the community as a matter of course and often go beyond what is expected to support them. As a Nursery School and Family Centre they should be justifiably proud of their work in this respect. However, they also share this expertise via Early Year Quality (EYQ) training that was established in 2013, by both Leasowe and Ganneys Meadow Nursery Schools and Family Centres. Both settings understand the complexities of developing Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) provision for children from birth to five years and are therefore well placed to offer a wide range of training to those schools and EYFS setting providing care and learning opportunities. Their trainers and advisors are knowledgeable and skilled in all aspects of early years child development. They bring a wealth of experience as practitioners and are up to date with current research and practice in their field of expertise. EYQ have a training suite at both centres to facilitate training opportunities. This is a great example of an outstanding setting using its expertise to provide training for other settings.
Highly Effective Governors
School governors are highly effective and a stable group with a wide-ranging skill set that effectively supports the Headteacher and Senior Leaders in providing a superbly inclusive provision for the children and families. They visit the setting as often as possible and are well informed about the work of LNSFC and the progress that the children are making. Governors support the school effectively and are knowledgeable about the strategic plans for the school. They understand their role and use this to drive and hold staff accountable for the progression of the children. They are well trained and knowledgeable about the school and provide both support and challenge to the school. They know that their contributions are valued by the school.
LNSFC was deemed as ‘Good’ during their most recent Ofsted inspection in November 2014 with leadership and management graded as ‘Outstanding’, where Ofsted stated, ‘An inspirational headteacher, very effectively supported by a talented staff team and a knowledgeable and dedicated governing body, is driving the school forward. Outstanding leadership of the provision for disabled children and those who have special educational needs, and excellent leadership of teaching by the recently appointed senior teacher combine to give enormous momentum to the school’s rate of development. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement from the evidence seen during learning walks and discussions with all stakeholders during the assessment. In fact, I would say that since this inspection LNSFC has continued to progress and is now outstanding across the board. Leadership here is inspirational and aspirational, that sits alongside professional, highly motivated and enthusiastic staff with a great passion for teaching, for supporting and developing their children and their families and the community that they serve.
The Heart of the Community
LNSFC is at the very heart of its community as evidenced throughout the assessment from multiple discussions and conversations with staff, parents, governors and volunteers who spoke about the superb inclusive ethos of the school. Inclusion is not an additional part of the setting, seen as an add on but is ingrained in the very ethos and culture at the heart of the setting and part of everything that happens, where staff, governors, children, external agencies and parents work in partnership to ensure the best for all. As you walk into LNSFC you are enveloped by their extremely welcoming, friendly atmosphere, where they make the most of their building and their extensive and well maintained outdoor learning areas. LNSFC is a place where everyone involved is listened to and valued. It was clear to see that all children, staff members, parents and visitors feel that they belong to The LNSFC community. This was reinforced time and time again during the assessment in all areas of the setting and in discussions with all stakeholders. A particular aspect of this is the fact that Wirral Lifelong and Family Learning Services also has a base within the LNSFC building that offers free or affordable qualification-based courses and workshops to local people aged 19+. Thus, it is accessible to parents and families within the local community and has allowed adults volunteering in the setting to gain qualifications and then employment within the school and locally. This is a great advantage for the community and demonstrates the unique but superbly inclusive nature of LNSFC.
Bespoke Package of Care and Support
Set alongside the Commissioned Services Team (CST) that was part of the Phase 1 Children’s Centre on site and for the last three years the 4 Early Childhood Family Workers have been part of the Family Centre and provide a suite of bespoke packages of care and support for families in the locality and are often the lead professionals on TAFs etc. With their vast knowledge and understanding of local services they can also signpost parents and families to other professionals not directly linked to their expertise but speeding up the process for the parents/families in need. A great example of a superb inclusive provision with a local community catering for the needs of the community.
There is a calm but vibrant feel to the setting within an enjoyable, happy, nurturing and purposeful learning environment that sets the tone for teaching, learning and play. In my opinion, from the evidence of the assessment, the emotional and educational support for all children and the staff is an outstanding feature of LNSFC and is a key element in its success and why it is valued not only by the local community, but by the staff and the children. The staff regularly go beyond what is expected to ensure successful outcomes for the children and families. Staff morale is exceptionally high and excellent relationships were evident throughout the visit between staff, children, parents and governors. There is very much a family feel to the setting where everyone works to support each other to achieve the best for themselves and the children and families in their care.
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