New York Primary School in North Shields has achieved Flagship School status for the second time.
New York Primary School had managed to make so much progress towards its Flagship Project which is highly commendable and no easy task when one considers the unprecedented disruption to the school year caused by the global pandemic. New York is a large primary school with 355 pupils on roll and already holds IQM Flagship School status.
The IQM Coordinator returned from a period of maternity leave in April which was in the middle of the original COVID-19 national lockdown. At this point, New York Primary was open for children of key workers and vulnerable children and operated with various measures in place to mitigate against the spread of the virus such as, enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing wherever possible. The staff team were split into shifts, with some staff in school and others working from home at any one time. This was a completely new way for the staff to work and for the school to operate, but New York Primary School more than rose to the challenge and, whilst certainly not easy, the staff team should be commended for the way they maintained a clear focus on children, families and community at this difficult and unprecedented time.
Relentless Support for Families
One such example of the school’s continuing inclusion focus during the pandemic was a relentless support offer for families in terms of behaviour management and keeping children on the straight and narrow. This was often done “informally” and incidentally, but happened often enough and regularly enough for it to become part of the school’s “hidden” offer during the original lockdown, with staff members seizing opportunities such as when delivering food parcels, to engage in socially distanced physical conversations with families and children about the individual challenges each household faced. This included offering pastoral support; managing home-learning expectations; sympathetic listening; tough love; TLC: in effect, drawing on the whole gamut of possible responses to give each family the bespoke advice they needed. For this, the school should be congratulated, a careful and caring response to the needs of its community was clearly evidenced and speaks volumes about the inclusivity on offer at New York Primary School.
The Magic of New York Primary School
As referenced in the paragraph above, the school staff took to delivering food parcels to households during the original lockdown. The Local Authority provided food parcels, and latterly vouchers, to assist families during the pandemic. School staff volunteered to distribute these and took to printing the vouchers at school so that they could be physically delivered due to their intimate knowledge of their community and their belief that home-printing facilities would be non-existent for large numbers of the households of their pupils. This may seem like a small detail but that is the magic of New York Primary School. The magic is in the detail and the cumulative effect of all that magic in all those details is what makes it such a great school and describes why it is a national flagship for inclusion.
Inclusion Ethos and Philosophy
Rather uniquely, the school would also deliver some of its food parcels to the elderly population in the community. New York Primary School already had a “history” of doing this with a Tesco trolley in the school which would be filled over time and then distributed to the elderly. This continued over the original lockdown and helped to support those in sheltered accommodation. A school which reaches beyond its own pupil base and further into the community is one that has an inclusion ethos and philosophy at its heart and they can be rightly proud of the wider role it played in serving and supporting its estate during the pandemic.
Dedicated to Her Pupils and the Local Community
The Headteacher deserves special recognition in this space. In October 2020 she was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to education. She was commended for her dedicated work in supporting her pupils and local community at the height of the pandemic. A report on the ITV News Website reads, “The school is in one of the most disadvantaged areas in North Tyneside, with 38.6% of pupils in receipt of free school meals; the national average is 23%. The Headteacher delivered packed lunches to both isolating and vulnerable families. She also delivered support packages to elderly residents and kept in regular contact with the local police force to help them support vulnerable people.”
Community Service is Evident
Community service is evidently a hallmark of New York Primary School and the global pandemic shone a light on this important aspect of the school’s work. During the original lockdown the school maintained a contact-log across all of its pupils and families, storing this digitally on Google Drive so that all staff members could contribute to the “visibility” for families. Keeping in touch, being available and having a high visibility are all key to good relationships and the school ensured this was a defining trait during COVID-19 so that their pupils and families never felt abandoned and were constantly reassured.
Meticulous Tracking of Work and Progress
A truly breath-taking mind-mapping project demonstrates in a powerful and visual way all of the work that each year group did for English and Maths over the lockdown period; another shows the learning response of the whole school. In terms of a remote learning package over lockdown, New York Primary School reacted quickly and made a comprehensive home-learning offer. This comprised of weekly learning grids which the school ensured were set out in a consistent style. Aware that not all homes had access to printing facilities, learning grids and associated resources were printed at school and distributed when families came into school to collect packed lunches. The school also devised and kept a ‘Remote Learning Log’ – an ongoing record of what learning was sent out, who had completed it and when and what feedback had been offered. This enabled the school to track learning throughout its period of enforced closure to the majority of pupils.
Learning Throughout the Pandemic
Plans for the re-opening of New York Primary School post-lockdown began early on, with a recognition from the school’s Leadership Team that this would require careful consideration. The school did a tremendous job in terms of getting all children back before the summer (except those children whose parents chose for them to stay at home – although the vast majority did come back). This offer included 4 full days at school with the Fridays designated as a cleaning day (although children of key workers and vulnerable children could still attend on Fridays). The speed at which the school achieved this, due to its early and rigorous logistics planning, has enabled New York Primary School to operate effectively since September despite the heavy requirements and measures required to keep everyone safe whilst the pandemic continues. The operation now consists of forward-facing desks, bubbles, new routines for movement around the school and new lunchtime arrangements. Although, what is most impressive is the way the school has sought solutions which have enabled the breakfast club to get back up and running; after school clubs to go ahead; and EdPs, social services and Speech and Language Teams to work in school again.
Dedication and Care of the Staff Team
The children have settled back into school exceptionally well post-lockdown and this is due, in no small part, to the dedication and care of the talented and caring staff team. The pastoral offer is inspirational at the school, staff wrote keeping-in-touch postcards to their pupils during lockdown and produced welcome back videos to ease their return to school. This is on top of regular parent surveys and ongoing communication in which the Headteacher would turn Government-speak announcements into “parent friendly” messages which were produced in an easy to understand language and style. All of this contributed to the wellbeing of pupils and families, ensuring that their return to school was managed positively.
Proactive in Reviewing Learning
Since September New York Primary School has been proactive in reviewing learning and its curriculum, striving to incorporate missed aspects from the original lockdown into this school year’s teaching programme. The school is investigating the possibility of streaming lessons live from the classroom in case there are future school closures but has already enabled recorded lessons to be available should they be required. This is proactive on the part of the school and further evidence, should it be needed, of its forward thinking and thorough approach for which it is known. Other notable successes in respect of the school’s response to COVID-19 include:
• The school carried on operating over half term and Easter. No staff members complained or moaned, that is not the New York Primary School way. Instead, staff rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in.
• The rota for working in school over the original lockdown generated mixed key-stage staff teams, this has the positive consequence of enabling everyone to work alongside colleagues they did not usually work with. So in that respect, the pandemic actually brought everyone at the school together and made the team even stronger.
• Parents and the wider community were really appreciative of the school and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Biscuits, sweets and flowers were just some of the thank-you gifts that were sent to the school during the original lockdown.
• New York Primary School built on its proficiency with social media and maintained a high visibility and an active presence, especially on Twitter.
• The staff team created a video for the Year 6 leavers, this was a really lovely touch by the school, a kind and moving act that recognised things had been very different for this particular cohort of children in their final year of primary education. Again, it is in these small details that the real magic of New York Primary School can be found. Such was the success of this video, the school may now continue with this for future cohorts post-COVID.
Heart of Inclusivity
The success of the school in letting its heart of inclusivity beat so strong during such a challenging year is as amazing as it is inspirational. The response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was community focused, pupil orientated and staff driven. It happened with strong leadership, careful planning and plenty of elbow-grease. None of that is taken for granted and the school has excelled in this space. Whilst the pandemic has obviously shifted the school’s focus from its normal course of action, they have remained vigilant and responsive to the Flagship project and a further evaluation of its progress towards this follows in the next section of this assessment report. Suffice to say, the school has enjoyed considerable success in building on its inclusion practice.
A Highly Inclusive School
This was a very enjoyable assessment in a highly inclusive school. This report recognises that New York Primary School has a long and rich history in the IQM family of schools, but further acknowledges the continual “forward movement” of best practice, even in challenging circumstances.
Inspiring and Special
A major theme to emerge out of the assessment was one of “detail.” The school clearly sweats the small stuff and its relentless focus on getting the little things right creates an overall effect which is inspiring and special. The word I have used throughout this report is “magic” and the New York Primary School magic is definitely a highly prized commodity. I pay tribute to all of the teachers, but especially the Headteacher and SENCo for creating the right climate and environment for so much magic to happen. The IQM Coordinator leadership has been a positive factor on developing and evolving the school’s approach to inclusion and the evolution has been both logical and well-managed. The Flagship project is a huge component in the school’s inclusion machinery and has clearly been impactful in a positive way on the New York Community.
The Inclusion Journey
In summary, the review has been undertaken successfully. The school clearly demonstrates its ability to respond to initiatives and to build the capacity essential to moving further on the Inclusion journey. I would like to thank the IQM Coordinator for her time during the review, the impact she has and her work on the inclusive journey of the school is keenly felt and I pay tribute to the wider staff team, Governing Body and pupil/family base too.
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