Outwood Primary Academy Lofthouse Gate in Wakefield, achieves the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award with Centre of Excellence status.
Outwood Primary Academy Lofthouse Gate is part of the Outwood Academy Trust. It is located in the Cathedral City of Wakefield. It is a two-form entry Academy with 419 on roll including the Nursery provision. It is situated discreetly in a modernised Victorian building. Pupil Premium within the Academy is below national average at 7.86% with FSM at 5.48%, 0.5% LAC, 3.8%, SEND K, 1.9% SEND EHCP, 5.5% EAL, 0.2%. Overall attendance currently stands at 97.06%. The Academy is 89% British Caucasian.
Putting the Children First
However, there is nothing discreet about the inclusive practice that children and families are experiencing. As a family of Academies, they believe in ’Putting Children First’ and both children and parents are falling over themselves to reiterate this. Children and parents got emotional when talking about how the staff and leaders support them in their learning journey. One parent stated:
“Nothing is too much for the Academy, children are all treated as individuals.”
There is Exceptional Support From The Trust
The Academy always comes back to the ‘Why?’. This process focuses the Academy community on delivering high-quality teaching and provision that enables children to excel. The support from the Trust is exceptional and it aids leaders and staff to focus on the individual child.
A Very Welcoming Academy
Outwood Primary Academy Lofthouse Gate is an Academy where consistent high expectations of pupils have transferred into positive outstanding outcomes for all. You are greeted by the Principal with a huge smile, who on the way to her office speaks to a child and comments on his smile. This sets the tone for the day and this care underpins the Academy. It is a very welcoming and supportive Academy, with a relentless determination to provide the very best education for every child both academically and holistically. Children are firmly at the centre of everything for all members of the Academy, with a focus on creating a culture of success and a positive climate for learning.
The Academy’s Objectives Are Clear
The Academy is explicit in all that it does and articulates its aims and objectives clearly. The Academy believes that the quality of education a child receives empowers their future choices and life chances and they pride themselves on ‘Children First.’ The SLT has an unwavering commitment to attaining the highest standards and ambition to provide a ‘first-class’ educational experience for every child. The leadership’s commitment to leading SEND practice and inclusivity is testimony to the importance of her belief that all children can achieve. Systems and practices have been put in place to support the most vulnerable children so that they have a sense of belonging, trust, and are given the skills and attributes to take ownership of their own personal development. This may be behavioural where children are able to self-direct and take themselves off and self-regulate, or academic, where they are given a personalised curriculum so that they are actively involved in their own academic development. The Academy places high importance on the mental health of both staff and children which is intrinsic to how they work within the Academy and not seen as an ‘Add on’. This is evidenced in recent awards at the highest ‘Gold’ standard e.g. Leeds Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health.
Everyone Supports the Children
Lofthouse Gate Academy believes in harnessing children’s unique skills across all areas of the curriculum as well as their life skills, tailoring learning to best support their future goals. This is evidenced by the values that children are not only able to articulate but also displayed in their actions around the Academy. One of the Mental Health Champions stated,
“If we see someone who looks lonely or is down it’s our job to support them…Making them happy makes me happy.”
The Academy Council and Reading Champions were equally as mature in their outlook on how they are given the independence to support other children and those in the community. For example, they regularly lead assemblies, competitions, provide feedback to the leadership on areas of development, and support local charities. This led one family to take these values on for themselves at home. One child described being visited by the local MP for the litter picking that he and his family had undertaken in their community after the Academy had initially studied litter in the Diploma course they provide. This Diploma is run within the curriculum and has a huge impact on children and parents, with a programme of study each half-term for year groups. This can be in the form of protecting the environment, to making cards and cakes to take to the local care home. This develops an understanding of their responsibility to the local community. The children and parents openly described how they flourish because they are happy, healthy and safe.
The Leadership is Inspirational
Due to the systems of support built around the Academy, children achieve extremely well from starting points. The Principal and the leadership team provides infectious and inspirational leadership. The systems, support and training for staff have created an unwavering focus on raising achievement and improving the quality of education for all children. As a result, outcomes are above national averages at Reception 85% (national 72%), Year 1 Phonics 90% (national 82%) Key Stage 1 reading 89% (national 75%) writing 84% (national 69%) maths 90% (national 76%) and Key Stage 2 GDS 42% (national 11%). KS2 combined attainment was above national at 93% (national 65%).
The Academy’s Vision
Leaders have an ambitious vision for providing high-quality education to all pupils. Their vision of:
‘Children first, raising standards, transforming lives,’
is understood by staff, pupils, parents, carers and the wider community. This vision for excellence is central to the shared policies and practices of the Academy and has contributed significantly to the Academy’s continuous and sustained improvement. In the view of parents and staff, it is not the systems and processes that make the Academy, it’s the leadership. Their open, transparent and visible leadership has built a team that expects high challenges but with a low threat. There is a culture and climate that has been created where the team learns and develops together and supports each other. This attitude has clearly been transferred, explicitly of course, to the children! Parents strongly agreed that the Academy is well led and managed and stated they,
“Don’t want anything to change…they are truly amazing and supportive to me and my child.”
The SENCO Team
The SENCO team is highly effective, inspirational and highly valued throughout the whole Academy community. The communication and relationships that the SENCO has developed with all stakeholders is a key element in why children in her care are able to make progress and achieve. Her contribution to the support and wellbeing of children’s families has a direct impact in supporting parents and for them to tangibly see their children attain. She has developed relationships that have enabled parents to challenge themselves in believing what their child can do and with the innovative ‘Learning for Living Programme’ which is supporting children with learning difficulties to develop skills that will support them in life and their transition through education. This is evident when a parent was able to describe their reluctance in their child taking part in the Diploma element of bike-ability. The Academy challenged the parents who felt that this was not possible for their children. The Academy then arranged for an appropriate bike and then contacted the parents to witness the joy of their child taking part.
Difference is Accepted by All
All leaders ensure that the children are successful, are highly visible and accessible. Through their interactions with children and staff, they communicate and model high expectations of behaviour. They immediately support staff in addressing any behaviours which are not in keeping with the shared expectations of;
‘Be safe, be respectful and be responsible.’
Behaviour incidents are rare, and children stated that bullying doesn’t happen! Difference is accepted by all children and when challenges occur staff explicitly support children in their understanding of need and adaption to meet needs. The leaders of the Academy have recognised the importance of transitions within the Academy and actively praise children at every opportunity. There is a deep culture of continual self-reflection, development and improvement by understanding that behaviour is a manifestation of unmet needs. The Academy works tirelessly in working to meet this need by having outside agencies support in the training and development of staff. This includes educational psychologists, speech and language, physiotherapy and occupational therapy to name a few. This has led the Academy to work alongside the Trust Director of SEND Primary to develop and trial a SEMH tracker which supports staff in making reasonable adjustments to their classroom practice to meet needs. The Academy will, actively and with rigour, monitor the impact of any interventions and put in support if children are not making the expected progress.
The Academy Adapts to Meet All Needs
Planning and provision are continuously monitored, adapted and changed to meet the needs of the children. Ongoing assessments scaffold children’s learning pathways and are reactive to individual needs. There is a secure culture where staff are not afraid to change the direction of learning and reshape their lessons to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be successful.
Inclusive Learning for All
Leaders carry out regular learning walks to ensure high expectations and promote inclusive learning for all. Staff praise the open-door policy which allows SLT to provide instant feedback, so staff can act rapidly to improve learner engagement and achievements. Children’s assessment using the SEMH tracker, CPP documents and Praising Stars is used during these learning walks to ensure all learners are receiving a quality education, tailored to their individual needs.
Staff Feel Deeply Involved
There is a culture of continuous professional development and coaching. Leaders provide day-to-day support for developing teachers’ subject, pedagogical content knowledge in order to enhance the teaching of the curriculum. There is a well-planned and structured programme of continuous professional development, it is focussed and valued by staff. Weekly learning and performance time provides staff with an opportunity to reflect on their practice and develop a shared understanding of effective teaching and learning. As a result, staff feel deeply involved in their own professional development, creating a climate of challenge, support and highly effective and innovative teaching.
Leadership Qualities are Exceptional
It is clear leadership qualities from the Principal and Senior Leadership Team which have played a major role in creating such a reflective and continually developing Academy. Thank you for a most informative, inspiring and well-organised visit.
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