North Lakes School in Cumbria achieves the Inclusive School Award for the second time.
North Lakes is an average sized 7 to 11 junior school with 224 pupils on roll serving a mixed tenure housing estate in Penrith, Cumbria. It also has a Strategically Resourced Provision for Special Educational Needs which provides for children with severe and profound difficulties from across the Eden Valley. A below average proportion of pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds while an above average proportion speaks English as an additional language. The school was graded as ‘good’ by Ofsted in all areas in 2013.
Warm and Inclusive Atmosphere
North Lakes is a school where children and their families are welcomed into the warm and inclusive atmosphere and are given a voice. The wellbeing, social and emotional needs and inclusion of children is given as high a priority as the academic needs so that the whole child is nurtured. The Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher, who is also the Inclusion Manager/SENDCo set the tone for inclusion and ensure that the vision is communicated clearly so that there is a determination and willingness from staff to support the school in its drive to move continuously forward.
The Headteacher, staff and governors lead by positive example, holding high aspirations for their pupils and working relentlessly to provide equality of learning opportunities for all children in school regardless of gender, race, age, or disability. They are committed to providing equal opportunities for the academic curriculum, sport, music and the arts to enrich the lives and better the chances of the pupils in their care. This extends to the wider curriculum and after school clubs. There are high expectations for every child to achieve their best. The whole school team strives to remove barriers to learning, however these may be presented and collaborates to find solutions. This desire to see children achieve as well as, or better than, their peers academically ensures that many successful strategies, systems and processes have been embedded and that reflection and research is used to inform future provision. The impact of this can be seen in the most recent statutory assessments which demonstrate that gaps are narrowing, and pupils are making good progress. In 2018 the school exceeded national expectations in all three areas.
A Warm Welcome
Visitors experience a warm welcome as they enter the clearly signposted school and are met by friendly, efficient office staff. It is here where the vision and values of the school are displayed for all to see and where pupil contribution and voice is shown to be valued. The Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher lead the school by example.
The Resourced Provision is physically based within the heart of the school building and is accessible to all which serves as a metaphor for the aims and vision for the school. Within the Resourced Base specialist equipment and assistive technology are used to meet the individual needs of the pupils, for example through sensory programmes, Vitalift Smart Board and My Choice pads for Makaton. It is, however, also highly immersive, practical, physical, social and creative, for example they are regular visitors to the local supermarket where they shop for ingredients for cookery; they also engage in weekly riding and swimming lessons.
Calm, Happy and Purposeful
The environment in school is calm, happy and purposeful. Respect and tolerance are key values which are demonstrated through positive relationships and the examples of colourful artwork, displays, prompts and scaffolds as well as celebrations of pupil achievement. A display about British Values, for example, reflected life in modern Britain whilst celebrating the languages, cultures and the positive contributions of the different nationalities in school. Many displays reflect the school’s investment in P4C, demonstrating pupils’ use of enquiry, knowledge of the world and emotional wellbeing. During assemblies, singing is joyful and of a very high quality as music is a key feature of this school’s success.
Pupils engage in many community events, charities and projects and there are many examples of the positive praise given when North Lakes pupils have participated in events outside of school. As one staff member said, “Our school goes out to be seen and we are always amazed by what our pupils can do”.
An Exciting and Innovative Curriculum
The curriculum is planned to be exciting and innovative with pupils enjoying highly creative cross curricular links. This makes learning memorable for pupils and they enjoy a variety of themed weeks which are brought to life by an exciting range of trips, visits by artists, musicians, dancers, historians, poets and authors.
“The curriculum caters well for pupils’ needs and makes a strong contribution to their good spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” Ofsted 2013.
Imaginatively Designed Spaces
Spaces around school have been designed imaginatively to provide learning, nurturing and therapeutic bases, such as a sensory room, greenhouse and garden, nurture rooms, ball pool and food technology room. The large outdoor area provides further opportunities to enhance and enrich the curriculum. The fore playground houses a games area to include chess, swing ball and Connect Four as well as a wooden trim trail. At the rear of the school there is a small climbing wall and an astro-turfed Multi Use Games Area which is accessed by pupil groups on a rota basis. The provision of a scooter and cycle track to promote physical fitness has been a very popular addition and one which was decided by pupils themselves. Beyond the well-maintained playing field there is a woodland area which the school is beginning to develop as a Forest School to promote physical and emotional well-being. Pupils in the resourced base are integrated into mainstream life and all spaces and equipment can be shared, for example, access to the garden, ball pool and sensory room – inclusion can be seen in practice as mainstream pupils are very accepting despite disability or needs.
Motivating and Engaging Lessons
Lessons are motivating and engaging with a focus on developing vocabulary, reading, language and oral preparation. Leaders have a clear idea of where to improve and whilst achievement has shown improvement over the years, particularly in reading, the drive is to encourage application throughout the curriculum. This was evident within a maths lesson where pupils were discussing various strategies to apply to a problem, in an English lesson where pupils used voice recorders to orally prepare sentences before writing and in the resourced base where staff modelled and scaffolded the learning of new vocabulary whilst baking.
Relationships between staff and pupils are excellent and pupils thrive within the atmosphere of care and challenge. They cooperate and work harmoniously and are confident to contribute within lessons. They are helped to reflect on the 5Rs to build learning power, showing growing independence and resilience when facing challenges. The school uses technology exceptionally well and provides access to 32 mobile laptops, 48 iPads and a Visilift Smart Board.
Teachers and support staff communicate very well with one another and share planning, marking and assessments so that they get to know each individual’s learning needs, maintaining a strong focus on inclusion. They collaborate so that good practice and specific training can be shared. Support staff agreed with a comment made “If we have something that works for a child, we share it with everyone.” Staff differentiate according to need, breaking the curriculum down and sharing targets with pupils, setting small steps that are relevant and achievable for those who need this. This gives them frequent opportunities to celebrate and reward success. Leaders have supported access to quality CPD opportunities, linked to school need, personal interest and educational agenda and this commitment by leaders has helped cultivate expertise for example in Mathematics, Computing and in delivering specific interventions. The tracking and assessment system is highly supportive and the rigorous monitoring and target setting is used to highlight swiftly where interventions or catch up may be needed. The impact of this has been seen this year as standards have risen and gaps have narrowed and even closed most recently, although cohorts significantly vary year on year. 2018 saw strong results in attainment with very high average scaled scores (109 R; 111 GPS; 107 M) and high percentages of pupils reaching the expected standard (94% R and GPS; 89% W and M). However, the school is not content to rest on its laurels and continues to help pupils move towards mastery and greater depth. The SENDCo is also looking into effective ways in which the smallest steps made by the most vulnerable pupils can be measured for progress.
Self-Esteem, Resilience and Independence
Children’s self-esteem, resilience and independence are encouraged as teachers promote the process of learning how to learn through the 5Rs of Building Learning Power and Growth mindset. Teaching assistants work alongside teachers within the class to provide swift support for any learning misconceptions and also provide specific withdrawal to deliver recovery programmes such as Lexia, Phonics, SULP and Little Bridge World. A pupil commented “Our teachers are the best here because they listen to you and help you”.
Polite, Helpful, Articulate and Enthusiastic Pupils
Pupils enjoy the interaction they have with each other and their teachers. They are polite, helpful, articulate and enthusiastic, showing they value their school and respect adults by their exemplary behaviour in and around school. They speak highly of staff and trust them to help with their needs. Pupils help to define the Golden Rules each year so that they are meaningful and relevant and they are subsequently happy to follow these. The most important rule is “We treat others how we would like to be treated” and this is reflected in their attitudes towards one another. They enjoy the rewards that they achieve for their positive behaviour and are particularly proud of the way the school celebrates their achievements, which encourages them to engage in more and do even better. They have roles within tuck-shop, as playground buddies and as volunteers, for example as readers. They give willingly of their time, as one pupil said, “I like to be a role model and care for others” and another “I love to help other children, it means I have more friends.”
Roles and Responsibilities of the School Council
The School Council is proud to have their roles and responsibilities, understanding what is expected of them because of the good support they are given. They listen to the views of their peers and voice their opinions articulately. They want their school to be a happy place and for all to be safe. Pupils statements include “We have to stand up for what is right and make the school a better place, making sure no one gets left out”. The school provides regular opportunities to discuss values such as tolerance, respect and kindness through assemblies, P4C and anti-bullying week. “We’re all different so we respect that and include everyone”. Pupil voice is listened to, they affect positive change such as the scooter park, class pets and a Science Week and influence the many extra- curricular opportunities, with one pupil noting “There are clubs for everyone depending on what you like and you can do just about every kind of sport.”
Parents are very supportive of the school and were eager to demonstrate the positive relationships they enjoy. All of the parents spoken to commented on the excellent communications, praising the range of technology and social media used that keeps them informed and which allows them to support their child at home. They were equally appreciative of the accessibility of staff and the warm welcome they receive when they call in or telephone. Comments included “The front office is excellent at giving you the information you need. There is always a smiling face when you come in which makes you feel better if you have a problem”. They love the family feel to the school, that the Headteacher knows every child as an individual and the extensive range of extracurricular activities which means everyone can find something which engages them. This results in pupils happily accessing interventions without fear of stigma. “Staff help children without them realising they need help, so they want to be part of it”.
Parents have high regard for the work of the SENCO and the actions taken and strategies applied that have led to success. “The school never stops pushing for what is best for my child and as parents we’re pushed to help them become independent”. They feel supported during reviews and trust the school. One parent was keen to describe the positive changes and rapid improvement in progress seen in her child saying, “I moved my child here from another school, it was the best move ever”.
Pupils with EAL are Well Supported
Pupils with EAL are given good support to settle quickly to learning and develop socially. A parent was delighted that her child speaks English so well now and has been helped in every aspect to become part of this friendly school.
The school offers many opportunities for parents to be involved, through social events, learning activities and volunteering and parents are eager to engage, for example a parent is learning Clicker 7 alongside her child, so they can access it from home together and she is able to help her child learn. There are many forms of open events and celebrations where parents are invited to join in or share in their child’s achievement through assemblies which educate, inform and celebrate and they are happy to take this up. Parents have established a PTFA to help the school fund raise and are active within the community. A parent spoken to said, “I’m proud to be a part of this school, who wouldn’t be?”.
Close Links with Local Schools
There are close links with local schools through the Penrith Hub partnership and North Lakes has formed a partnership with All Saints Cockermouth, also a Strategic Resourced Provision, with a view to sharing best practice, supporting with moderation and audit to benefit both schools. It has emerging links with a TSA which are to be further explored as the school has much to offer by way of qualified support and expertise as well as a desire to improve the skills of its own staff. It is outward looking when brokering support for vulnerable pupils and their families and has an extensive network of agencies to draw upon.
Governors are Challenging and Supportive
Governors challenge and support and have been instrumental in ensuring value for money and driving plans forward. They know the school well and are clear about what is needed to make it even better.
As well as the IQM Inclusive School Award, North Lakes School has gained many awards which recognise its drive and ambition for children such as Arts Mark Gold, Sing Up Platinum, Sapere Gold, holds the Golden Apple IT award and is a Computing Lead School.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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