Leedon Lower School in Bedfordshire has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
Creative and Engaging
Leedon Lower School provides a creative and engaging learning environment for pupils living within a socially diverse locality. The Headteacher demonstrates strong awareness of the needs of pupils, staff and parents and his leadership style is based on trust, respect and empowerment of all individuals. He sets high expectations of himself and of others and the whole school community responds to his example. He is perceived as a leader who is very much part of the team. He is responsive to the needs of parents and particularly reaches out to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable; those who have children with disability, those who have children who are carers and those who are foster parents for Looked After Children. He is continually thinking of ways he can support or improve family circumstances and on the assessment day stories were told about how he has empowered staff to reach out to disadvantaged children and families. He is aware of employment difficulties experienced by some parents and has been proactive in helping individuals find work.
Alternative Senior Leadership Structure
The school has a very effective but alternative senior leadership structure. At present there is no Deputy Headteacher, so the Inclusion Team members have significant responsibilities. This team comprises of key leaders for Safeguarding Pupils, Pupil Premium (support and expenditure), pupils with special educational needs or disability (SEND) and a Pastoral Learning Mentor. Team members work tirelessly to identify the needs of all pupils, especially those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged. They fully appreciate that the child must be considered within the context of family and external pressures and are constantly sharing ideas and information about children. They go above and beyond expectations of school staff and support each other in coping with the more challenging situations they face. Home visits often happen and over the past few months they have given support to children suffering the trauma of bereavement.
Similarly, teachers maintain a clear focus on the entitlement of pupils who demonstrate extra talent or ability. The school has developed a creative curriculum which provides many opportunities for enrichment and independent learning. Regular monitoring of pupil progress and thorough assessment systems ensure that the school lives up to the motto in the prospectus that, ‘learning is without limits’.
Well Behaved Pupils
Pupils are very well behaved and happy at school and during a School Council meeting spoke enthusiastically about their education. From observations of interactions between staff and pupils, it is clear that relationships are founded on mutual respect and trust. Adults know and understand the children and give them time to express themselves. They praise good behaviour and manners and connect with the children at their level. Adults around the school smile and laugh a lot, thus creating a warm and happy atmosphere, very conducive to learning.
Working closely with the Inclusion Team, the Pastoral Learning Mentor has developed a unique role and has built strong relationships with many children and their families. She demonstrates empathy for those disadvantaged members of the school community and presents her summary of situations in a totally non-judgemental way. For some time, she has been offering a free transport to school service for children with poor attendance. With other members of the Inclusion Team she uses the school mini-bus to collect children at agreed points and has facilitated a noticeable improvement in attendance figures with one persistent absentee achieving 100% attendance over a period of time. Because of the close relationship with families and the trust that has developed the Pastoral Learning Mentor is able to offer advice and support and make links with external agencies. Her intervention has helped with housing, bereavement, domestic violence and parenting issues to name but a few. She is known and trusted by many in the community and operates a genuine ‘open-door’ policy. On one of the assessment days she swiftly altered her work schedule to meet with a parent in urgent need of help and support.
A Comfortable, Safe Space
The Pastoral Learning Mentor is based in a room to the side of the main playground, providing a private but accessible space for pupils, parents or staff to meet with her. The base, known as ‘The Nest’, is cosy, attractive and well-resourced with activities to help children focus their thinking and express their thoughts and feelings. It also provides a comfortable, safe space for parents to talk. A plaque on the wall summarises the approach to inclusion at the school stating that ‘if you judge you will find it hard to understand and if you understand you will find it hard to judge’.
Trips and Visits
Many trips and visits are organised for disadvantaged pupils and photographs displayed in ‘The Nest’ demonstrate new experiences enjoyed. The Inclusion Team is very aware that some pupils do not need specialist intervention and support, so in order to be fully inclusive special lunches are organised for pupils who might otherwise feel ‘left out’.
A Nurture group meets on four mornings each week and caters for the extra needs of identified Reception aged pupils. They have their own meeting room attached to the main class and also access a well-equipped and spacious kitchen where the staff and children meet for breakfast each morning. Early focused intervention is a key priority and is put into place as soon as assessment data suggests there is a need. Speech, language and social skills are developed within sessions which respond to the immediate interests of the pupils and give them the best opportunity to ‘catch up’ with their peers. Some pupils spend a short period of time in the group whilst others may need to stay for longer. Assessments show that pupils make good progress in spite of their lower than expected starting point, as a result of early identification of need and swift intervention.
There are also intervention programmes for older pupils and ‘Talking Partners’ is now well established. It targets pupils with a range of difficulties including speech, language and concentration and follows a carefully planned repetitive format. The session observed provided opportunities for pupils to answer and ask questions, to read text and to deduce information from a picture. The pupils were encouraged to focus on the questions being asked, to reflect before giving an answer and to listen to the responses of others, all challenges for this particular group. The Learning Support Assistant (LSA) leading the session had prepared meticulously and was able to select props for the lesson from a wide range of resources she had prepared over time.
The IQM assessment took place within the annual ‘Shine Week’. This is planned to give the pupils new enrichment experiences, to challenge their thinking skills and to widen their learning experiences. There was a variety of activities on offer which included making fruit kebabs, preparing the art work for the local Carnival procession, film directing and photography. At the Thursday assembly there was a display of Irish dancing and the pupils were transfixed by the standard achieved. Growth Mindset is a well-established approach to teaching within the school and pupils demonstrate a positive ‘can do’ approach to learning.
Active and Supportive Governors
Governors are very active and supportive of the inclusive culture. They visit the school frequently and carry out learning walks to help them appreciate the inclusive ethos more fully. They have structured meetings with subject leaders and also talk to the school council. Appropriate training has been accessed and individual roles established, with one governor taking responsibility for inclusion. They have a ‘governors table’ at parents evening and are very keen to develop links with parents further.
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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