Newhey Community Primary School, Newhey in Rochdale, Lancashire, achieves Flagship School status.
There is a true community ethos at Newhey Community Primary School. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the school has focused on keeping everyone in their community safe and supporting their emotional health and wellbeing as a priority. The school Leaders were open and honest in their dialogue throughout the day. The school, like most schools nationally, has been impacted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic but this has not deterred them. The Leaders explain how the “standards haven’t slipped” and their “expectations are still high”. They feel they have achieved the perfect balance between support and driving the school forward this year. The school continues to build on its good practice. Progress in phonics at Key Stage 1 and progress at Key Stage 2 overall is not where they had anticipated but hopefully staff will be able to make quick gains next academic year as the systems in place are robust and accurately targeted to get the appropriate interventions and support where needed.
Wellbeing at the School is Vital
The commitment to supporting the school community’s emotional health and wellbeing is demonstrated through the employment of a fulltime Emotional Literacy Teaching Assistant (ELTA). Through her role, she has had a hugely positive impact on the day-to-day wellbeing of pupils and staff. In her words, she:
“loves the job and knows that she makes a difference to children and staff every day.”
Although the job is challenging, she has high levels of job satisfaction due to the impact she has in her role. Targeted support is identified and planned accurately where it is needed via a screening process, but the ELTA is also intuitive and reactive. The support she provides responds to individual needs as they arise. She employs a bespoke approach and has a unique skillset. She uses ideas from other areas such as the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) programme resources, the Anna Freud approaches, and various other ideas taken from the plethora of research and training session she has engaged with.
Experiences of Lockdown
Following the return to school after lockdown, the ELTA obtained information about pupils’ experiences of lockdown through questionnaires with the children who access her interventions (one sixth of the school’s pupil population). She has employed the Southampton Programme Emotional Wellbeing Questionnaire to plan the emotional support provision for September. All Key Stage 2 children, and the pupils moving up to Year 3 have been assessed. The teachers have also completed the questionnaire. The results will determine the intervention plans for the next academic year.
The School’s Open-Door Policy
The impact of parents’ own mental health and wellbeing on their children is huge. The Headteacher and Emotional Literacy Teaching Assistants’ roles link together to support parents. They say that parents know they have an open-door policy. They signpost parents to support where needed for example, through early help assessments. Before Covid-19, they would meet with parents for coffee mornings which gave them an opportunity to talk through any anxieties or concerns they may have had.
Everyone Reads in Class
The focus on reading for pleasure is already having a positive impact across the school, especially in the English Coordinator’s own classroom. The focus for the project next year will be to embed the strategies and achieve more consistency across all teachers. During the pupil voice, it became apparent that not all teachers are reading aloud to their class for pleasure each day although the ERIC time (Everyone Reading In Class) has been successfully embedded.
The Staff and Pupils have Excellent Relationships
The Headteacher describes how there are no behaviour issues at the school. There are no fixed-term exclusions as there is no need for them. The children are respected, and the staff have built excellent relationships with pupils and parents. Staff are extremely focused on pupils’ wellbeing and make all decisions which have their best interests at heart. They are present at the school entrances at the start and end of every day.
An Inclusive Approach to Teaching
Pupils make good progress academically too. Leaders understand the importance of endorsing an inclusive approach to teaching and learning which leads to successful outcomes for all learners. The Leaders’ previous focus was on trying to get all pupils to meet age-related expectations whereas now, in pupil progress meetings, the focus is on increasing the number of pupils who are capable of achieving at ‘greater depth’. The latest data shows pupils have made significant gains in their progress throughout this academic year when compared to September’s baseline assessment.
The ‘Good to Be Green’ Award
The pupils spoken to as part of the review process talked about how the teachers “guide them through their learning”. They explained the ‘Good to be Green’ behaviour reward system in detail and talked about all the rewards and incentives offered, including the Dojo points and weekly certificates. They are happy at school and enjoy socialising with their friends. It was a pleasure to talk with the friendly, articulate pupil representatives.
The SEND Provision is Growing
As an inclusive school, with a growing reputation for its SEND provision, the Leaders are seeing an increase in the number of pupils joining the school who are supported through Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). From September there will be 15 pupils, therefore the Headteacher, who is also the SENDCo, has employed more staff. To provide an additional layer of support, a teacher is undergoing the SENDCo training. The Headteacher intends to return to basics with all teachers and Teaching Assistants to provide CPD on what good quality-first teaching looks like in practice. There will also be One Page Profiles training to look at what the individual needs are and make any reasonable adjustments. They will evaluate the learning environment and raise awareness amongst children to develop an understanding and mutual respect amongst peers.
A Revamp to Reception
To address gaps in phonics development following the periods of lockdown and disruption to learning this year, the school has revamped the teaching in reception. They have retrained staff and integrated more phonics sessions into the Early Years Curriculum. They use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds phonics programme. Following a comprehensive reading audit, carried out by the Rochdale English Hub, the school has spent £1000 to buy decodable books which are matched to the scheme. In September, a part-time intervention teacher was appointed to support pupils to catch-up with their learning.
The Governors’ Meetings
The Governors’ meetings have continued remotely. The school shared data from the baseline assessments which highlighted the significant impact the Covid pandemic has had on progress. Pre Covid-19, the subject leaders would meet with their Link Governors but now they produce a detailed subject leader report. The Governors have managed to visit the school at certain points, when it was safe, and they were very positive about the measures the school has taken to keep all in the community safe. They have been kept up to date on all aspects of school development with staff and pupils’ wellbeing being a priority on their meetings’ agendas. Inclusion is integral for Governors; they always start the meetings with an inclusion focus.
The Learning Packages
Through the remote learning package, the school provided a daily blog alongside links to resources and websites with Zoom sessions twice a week. Pupils followed the same curriculum as they would in school. Although the school ensured that all pupils had access to the internet at home, they recognised that many were sharing devices with siblings hence their decision to set daily tasks and not teach live lessons. Engagement levels with remote learning varied due to the school’s diverse population and the socio-economic influence. The staff made phone calls to parents if they had not logged on each day to encourage better engagement. They feel the disparity in learning experiences has impacted on overall progress.
Reading for Pleasure is Vital
A priority area of the school’s development is reading for pleasure, hence the Flagship Project focus. The English Lead is part of the ‘Reading for Pleasure’ Rochdale group and is deeply passionate about this whole-school project. The aim is for all pupils to finish Key Stage 1 as free readers. They want to instil a lifelong love of reading which will support pupils’ progress and development across the curriculum. In reading lessons, the school has implemented the Literacy Shed’s VIPERS approach. According to the Literacy Shed Plus website, VIPERS is “an acronym to aid the recall of the 6 reading domains as part of the UK’s reading curriculum” and it stands for “Vocabulary, Inference Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval, Sequence or Summarise”. The English Coordinator has noted a remarkable difference since the introduction of the VIPER strategy. Each teacher decides which texts to read with their individual classes. They aim to introduce pupils to a larger range of diverse authors. To broaden pupils’ knowledge of authors and widen their choice of books, they held a competition to read books from 12 different categories including: a local author, a female author or an Asian author etc.
Parental Engagement is a Focus
To gain staff buy-in, the English Coordinator shared national data about the impact of reading for pleasure on a child’s holistic development. The school also carried out their own feedback questionnaire with Key Stage 2 pupils. The results showed that the majority of pupils were not read to at home. Parental engagement is a focus for the initiative with parental workshops to educate parents on the importance of reading for pleasure and offering support on how parents can access books. To promote reading for pleasure, there are various allocated reading zones throughout the school with themed book corners. The idea is for teachers to read a book with pupils for 15 minutes per day “just for fun”. This is not yet consistently happening across all classes but is part of the focus for the Flagship Project. During ERIC time, pupils read a book from home or the school library and all adults in the class read at the same time.
The Vision is for Reading to be Engrained
The school plans to broaden pupils’ horizons through the reading for pleasure project. The Leaders are working with TAs and teachers on how to choose appropriate books for their classes. They want to link reading books to the wider PSHE curriculum and specific cross-curricula themes. Leaders are aware that their school demographic is not an accurate reflection of the country’s societal demographic. Therefore, they are advocating stories from different cultures. There have been fantastic gains made already towards this school development area, but the vision is for reading to be engrained in the culture and ethos of the school.
The School if Fully Committed
It is clear from the review process that the team at Newhey Community Primary School continue to be fully committed to inclusive practice and the impact of their work towards the IQM Centre of Excellence targets over the past 12 months has had positive impact.
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