Lyndon School in Solihull has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
It was a real pleasure meeting the staff and pupils a Lyndon School. Following our online conversations it was great to visit and get a feel for the school and to see you all at work. Everybody I met made me very welcome from the minute I walked into the school, until I left. It was lovely to see pupils and staff back at work and obviously enjoying the experience. I know how hard things have been for all schools during lockdown and I know how hard the staff at Lyndon School have worked to keep the school open and to keep education going, whilst ensuring the safety of everyone which is not an easy task.
Ensuring Everyone’s Safety
I met with the Principal and Vice Principal. Both had just returned from one of the many duties of the day seeing pupils into school (staggered starts and various entrances) and ensuring all the COVID-19 restrictions and safety rules were being adhered to. They also had reassuring smiles and words for pupils, staff and parents – and indeed the IQM Assessor.
The new Vice Principal has only been in the school since June and has already established himself with pupils and staff, he also planned my schedule for the day. They were determined to get children back in school and had a really good start in September. They had a three-day phased return and most children came back except those who were on holiday. Attendance is currently hovering at around 94% attendance. At the moment there is one cohort isolating at home – half a band made up of 120 students plus staff in the same bubble. Blended learning is in place for those who are home and they are ready if there is another lockdown or if groups have to be sent home. Staff have worked very hard to find the right combination of paper packs and virtual learning for individuals and groups. Many families are able to access the technology to make online learning a reality but the school has stepped in to support them.
Supporting All Students
Transition for Year 7 pupils was a priority and introductory videos were produced for those who were coming into the school for the first time in September. These were well received and the Year 7 group have settled in remarkably well. Vulnerable pupils received additional support according to their individual needs but they have also settled in to Lyndon School very easily.
Year 10 pupils had 4 weeks of targeted support before the summer holidays and this took the form of various master classes and the school believes these helped to stop any regression in terms of their learning. Currently baseline assessments are happening in class, in all years to identify gaps and to check see if the school recovery plan is appropriate. When these are done and analysed they inform the future trajectory to set targets. In Year 8 and upwards the purpose of the tests is to check to see what has been retained and remembered. The children know this and understand what it is for, so are not getting anxious about them. A decision was made not to assess Year 11 on their return but to have mock exams in January. These will be used as a way of agreeing final grades if it is not possible to take GCSE examinations. The school had already focused on formative assessment as the way forward and they use this to agree grades. This year’s results were as expected and the rigorous moderation processes really helped.
Following our discussion, I then went on a tour of the school, which covers a wide area. Although the building is about sixty-eight years old, it is very well maintained and has had many new additions over the years. Facilities including sports halls, a huge library and various computer rooms are impressive as are the outdoor areas. There is no shortage of space and pupils have not suffered in the current COVID-19 restrictions that ensure they stay in their own designated spaces during break and lunch time. Although the pupils are working in bubbles, they are able to walk to specialist subject rooms and do not have to stay in one area of the school.
A Very Purposeful School
Corridors are home to various displays, which celebrate the diversity and inclusive nature of the school. Classrooms are spacious and well equipped and provide a positive learning environment. The playgrounds are spacious and there are many of them as well as green fields to be used for sport. We met many members of staff as we walked around the school and were able to see what was happening in classrooms. We saw a very purposeful school where behaviour was exemplary and children were enjoying their learning.
Governors Provide Challenge
There is a named Safeguarding and SEN Governor and the Governing Body Meetings are clerked by an experienced colleague who is the Principal’s PA, this role is now changing and the Trust have appointed someone to clerk all the Trust schools. There are two Parent Governors and an ex-parent who is now a Community Governor. There is also a former primary Principal and an ex-student on the team. There are three regular meetings and three standards meetings every year where she states, “we really dig down and challenge things”. They have a good understanding of the data and are able to interrogate the Head and SLT on what it is telling them.
Pupils have Returned to School Positively
I met with two teachers who both said that the pupils have returned in a very positive frame of mind, they are glad to be back in their normal routine. They are even positive about the baseline assessments that are being carried out and understand why they need to happen. They described the process they had gone through to come up with GCSE grades this year and said the moderation process was rigorous with lots of arguing back and forth.
Wellbeing Activities During Lockdown
They told me that the school had been very good at organising wellbeing activities during lockdown, so Walkover Wednesday that normally took place in the staffroom carried on and people organised a number of wellbeing walks. They also said that there were many social events organised virtually that allowed people to meet and support each other. Furthermore they said that their professionalism is respected and there is an openness to discussion and ideas from all parts of the school community. We talked about the many opportunities for CPD to improve their subject knowledge and teaching skills. Things never stand still at Lyndon School as everyone wants to keep moving forward to be the best they can be for the pupils in their care.
Ensuring No Child Slips Through the Gaps
I had the opportunity to observe an inclusion panel meeting with the Vice Principal, the DSL and the SENDCo along with Pastoral Managers and the Attendance Officer and Counsellor. This panel meets regularly to make sure no child slips through the gaps and no one is missed. They share information about each child that is referred or who is already identified as needing support. Any member of staff can make a referral and the referral process is clearly understood by all stakeholders. Referrals may relate to safeguarding or particular learning or emotional needs. During lockdown, the panel met virtually and ensured that the same safeguarding process continued and children were supported. The Vice Principal who chairs the panel says that most cases are on-going as the panel always return to actions agreed at the previous meeting to see if they had been achieved and to track the progress of the child concerned. He is satisfied that the threshold bar they use is appropriate. The panel is careful when assigning particular resources for individuals that there is no cross-over with other agencies.
Safeguarding Processes are Thorough
Safeguarding processes continue to be thorough and although some information is shared with the Inclusion Panel much information is kept confidential and is only shared between DSLs who decide on the way forward. There is good support from Solihull Council who provide quality safeguarding training provided. General safeguarding training is provided annually for the whole staff (and is part of the induction process) and more targeted training is provided for Teaching Assistants and Pastoral Teams. In addition, mental health training is provided for Pastoral Managers.
SEND Provision is of High Quality
Currently there are eleven EHCP plans in place and the Education Psychologist is working with the school to get others completed and submitted. SEND provision under the leadership of the SENDCo is of a high quality. The Vice Principal has responsibility for pastoral matters and he helped to develop the current behaviour policy. It now works very well, and pupils know there are high expectations and know that staff will help them to achieve them. There is a restorative approach with scripted conversations. He says that the new policy and practice and restorative approach is not yet embedded in the culture of the school but it is getting there. There is a new appointment of a Restorative Manager who is now in post and will be responsible for the restorative room. This is a new development year and will be an interesting project to plan and track this year.
Supporting Vulnerable Pupils
I went to a meeting (more of a circle time) with a number of pupils with additional needs. There are nine pupils from Years 7 to 11 with a range of needs and they were keen to speak up and speak out. We had a long discussion and they told me what the school does to support them, and they felt that Lyndon School was a safe environment where they could learn. They said they got lots of specialist support for the issues they were dealing with and often had multi-agency involvement.
Parents and Family Felt Supported
Finally, I was able to meet with parents of pupils with additional needs via Teams. The SENCo and Vice Principal sat in with these meetings and set them up. I spoke to three parents, one with a child in Year 7, one with a child in Year 11 and another with a child in Year 8 plus two others without SEN. They all told me individually how the school had supported their child and them (as parents) before and during lockdown. They said they are in constant contact with the school and if they have any worries they can contact the school immediately. Due to the nature of their children’s needs lockdown was a severe challenge but the school did a lot to help. They all said that there was support for the whole family – not just the child, which was very comforting. The school had helped with the EHC plan process and helped to secure the funding needed to provide additional support. They said communication is the key. We talked about the way the transition process was managed before and during lockdown. They praised the SENCo and the SEND team for their support and said that the pastoral team had also been amazing, joined up working was a real bonus.
School Leaders are Very Reflective
I was delighted to spend time in the school and to meet and talk to so many people including pupils, parents and Governors as well as so many members of staff. The school is a very inclusive school, pupils come first and staff at all levels, go out of their way to meet their needs. The school is well ordered and well cared for. Pupils treat the school as their home and they feel safe and secure when they are there. However, the leadership is very reflective and know there is still much to do. They don’t rest on their achievements and assume everything is perfect, instead they continue to strive to be the best they can do.
Far Sighted and Inspirational
Lyndon School are an inspiration to all their staff and pupils. They are far sighted and are able to see beyond the current crisis, whilst managing it very effectively in the meantime. Staff and pupils trust the Principal to make the right decisions. Staff, pupils and parents said that he was very approachable and always listened to them. Trust is an essential element in an inclusive school.
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