Moorside Primary School in Ripon achieves Centre of Excellence status.
Moorside Primary School is a single form entry Primary School and Nursery with 179 pupils on roll. Until recently, the Junior and Infant schools were separate organisations although they were situated on a shared site. The amalgamation was an extremely challenging time for the school community as the infant school had been classified as a school requiring ‘Ofsted Special Measures,’ whilst the junior school retained a judgement of ‘Good’. Prior to the amalgamation, the schools collaborated through a temporary period of shared leadership. However, the tenacity and determination of the current Headteacher of the newly established primary school, was pivotal in the creation of a new identity for the school. Moorside Primary now has far greater sustainability, is respected by the local community and is enjoying the benefits of a refurbishment. The new buildings have improved the learning environment and there is an overarching aim to sustain, high quality provision.
Thirty nine pupils have a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND) and an increasing number are in receipt of Pupil Premium funding. Four pupils have Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) and 2 more are in the process of being assessed. The school was commended by Ofsted for its work with SEND pupils. Deprivation levels are significant with many families coping with housing and employment issues. 68% of families occupy supported housing and 32% are in receipt of Pupil Premium funding, a percentage that is increasing. Attainment by pupils is improving and the school has increased its standing and popularity within the local community.
Commitment to Inclusion
Unfortunately, the IQM Lead was unable to be present for the assessment but the success of the day was testimony to her hard work and meticulous preparation. The highly detailed documentation demonstrated her thorough preparation and commitment to inclusion.
A Successful School with Committed Staff
The Headteacher has led the school through an incredibly challenging time, from a difficult amalgamation of an Infant and Junior school to the establishment of Moorside Primary and Nursery School. Initially she was a Senior Teacher in the Junior school but was redeployed to work in the Infant School which had just become subject to Ofsted Special Measures. Pupil achievement was low and a plan was in place for the school to be closed. This demanding experience helped her to develop an understanding of the anxiety being experienced by both school communities as she worked tirelessly to rebuild confidence and self-esteem of the staff. Over time, she gained the confidence of parents of children in the schools and as a newly appointed Headteacher took control of the successful transition to the new provision. Her ability to build a team based on inclusion, respect and aspiration has helped her develop a successful school with committed staff who are equally determined to be part of a learning environment that is ‘as good as it can be’.
Growing a School
At the beginning of her journey as a Headteacher she organised a ‘Visioning Day’ so that she could hear and take on board the ideas, hopes and aspirations of all staff and Governors. Outcomes generated through discussions were fed into the first development plan for the new school and provided a blueprint for future action. In her own words she began to ‘grow a school’
A Vision for Excellence
The Headteacher’s vision for excellence is demonstrated by the way she has developed her staff, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Whilst she has entrusted key tasks to others, she retains an insightful overview of every area. The well-established Inclusion Team involves the SENDCo who has overall management, the Parent Support Worker who leads outreach support for families, the Nurture Leader who focuses on the social and emotional needs of pupils and the Inclusion Leader who has responsibility for the IQM Self Evaluation Report and other day-to-day aspects of inclusion. Members of the team work closely with the Headteacher to ensure high quality provision for all pupils but especially those with additional needs. Inclusion and nurture are given the highest priority which is demonstrated by having a Nurture Leader in the Inclusion Team. The school philosophy states that ‘nurture groups turn children’s lives around, ensuring no child is left behind and are also an excellent ‘sharp end’ intervention. They allow teachers dedicated time and a framework through which to work with individual children’.
The school benefits from an exceptional Governing Body with strong leadership by the Chair and Vice Chair. In a short period of time they have established a strategic direction to ensure that the support the Governors give to the school is appropriate and well planned. Again, there are clearly defined roles and responsibilities; Governor visits to the school are recorded on a generic proforma which is used as a prompt to give feedback at full Governing Body meetings. One Governor noted that the positive relationships with parents are a result of the school becoming a welcoming environment. Similarly, Governors have established excellent relationships with the Headteacher and have managed to blend the role of ‘critical friend’ with that of ‘ardent supporter’. The Headteacher is extremely appreciative of the knowledge and life experience Governors bring to their work for the school.
The School Staff Pulled Together
During the first lockdown, the entire school staff pulled together to serve the local community. Children of key workers were welcomed and this service was extended to pupils from other schools that were unable to open. The school quickly recognised a need for nursery care for very young children and babies, so the provision was extended to provide childcare for children below the age of 3. Staff gave freely of their time and had the need arises, were prepared to offer Nursery care seven days a week.
Supporting Children and Families
The Parent Support Assistant (PSA) coordinated contact with families and ensured that parents of children with additional needs received extra phone calls and doorstep visits. Teachers also maintained close contact providing home learning packs and giving encouragement to pupils and advice to parents. One Governor emphasised that the staff had gone ‘above and beyond all expectations’ by the way they had reached out to families.
Parents who met with me reiterated many positive comments about their relationships with the school. One parent whose child has additional needs expressed her gratitude for the way she is supported and described how the Family Support Assistant had accompanied her at her child’s appointment. During the first ‘lockdown’ staff had read bedtime stories online so that pupils could maintain a link with their teachers and parents could have a break. The majority of the Year 6 pupils were in school before the end of the summer term and the mother of a child in the class described the leaver’s assembly and the efforts made by staff to ensure that the pupils had a memorable fair well celebration, in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions. Pupils from different year groups contributed to the day and explained the meaning of the Moorside motto, PRIDE which stands for Presentation, Respect, Independence, Determination, Enthusiasm, summarising the acronym as ‘being kind’.
Highly Competent Teaching Assistants
Teaching Assistants are regarded as highly competent, well-trained professionals who work closely with the teaching staff often ‘noticing’ the additional needs of pupils before they become a significant issue. Their professional knowledge and experience is a powerful attribute and their skill in removing barriers to learning is exemplary. Their love of their work is tangible and they feel highly valued. They described many successful intervention strategies they have used, demonstrating their knowledge and professionalism. This support staff team is a tremendous strength of the school.
Positive, Proactive Relationships
Positive, proactive relationships between teachers have built a highly effective team. Professional support is a strength and during a meeting with an NQT and her mentor this became very evident. Regular meetings with a sharp focus have helped the development of the NQT who also commended the wider teaching staff for the support they have given her. The competency of the mentor is clear and her positive communication skills and modelling of teaching are important factors for the success of the NQT.
Data Scrutiny Informing Next Steps
Similarly, teachers with a responsibility for assessment and the tracking of pupil progress gave detailed explanations of the school’s approach to data scrutiny and how it can inform next steps for teachers. Data is continually updated and anomalies are quickly identified so that an intervention can be introduced. In order to understand the whole child, including their mental wellbeing, the school is using a colour coded resource which gives information about academic achievement and mental health issues that may be affecting progress. The resource, which is informed by reliable assessment tools, provides ‘at a glance’ information so that teachers can identify cohorts or individuals needing support as well as those who have made significant progress.
An Inspirational Headteacher
My online visit to Moorside Primary School and Nursery was made memorable by the strong sense of teamwork under the leadership of an inspirational Headteacher. The determination of all staff to understand the complexities of barriers to learning and a commitment to serve the local community are the hallmarks of this inclusive school.
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