Oakfield High School and College in Wigan has achieved the Inclusive School Award for the third time.
Oakfield High School and College is an outstanding community special school for learners ages 11-18. Situated in Hindley, Wigan and successfully federated with Landgate School in September 2015 to form the Aspire Federation whose motto is ‘Aiming High, Reaching All’. A highly inclusive statement that sits well with the ethos at Oakfield. The school is ranked within the top 2% of special schools for its progress 8 score and specialises in providing an education that gives learners the best possible life chances. It prioritises preparing young people for the future, helping them to develop the skills and qualities needed to positively contribute to their community. A culture of high expectations combined with varied and rich opportunities to allows learners to: Enjoy their learning and celebrate achievements; Develop as caring and responsible members of the community; Make good progress in all aspects of their life and develop confidence and self-esteem. This is supported by their mission statement, ‘Learning today for our tomorrow’ and encapsulates their deep commitment to raising achievement and future aspirations for all who attend the setting. Their transformational learning climate focuses on the whole person, with ‘an unshakable belief that every learner has the potential to succeed and achieve which permeates the school through systems and procedures’.
The Highest Expectations for All Learners
The school and its staff have the highest expectations for all learners, in terms of academic, social, and personal achievements in a safe, caring environment where every learner is nurtured. It is clear from the evidence of the assessment that the staff encourage a commitment to lifelong learning and personal development. Oakfield is a superb school where staff, parents, learners and the wider community share the same aims dedicated to making sure that all aspects of a young person’s development are met. Particularly as on admission, all learners have attainments below the national average for their age and with a wide ability profile and have an EHCP. There is a strong partnership with parents and the community to ensure that every learner achieves their potential and has a strong sense of community.
Delivering Support Programmes
As part of the LA Outreach service, they deliver support programmes for individual learners in mainstream schools. Additionally, they offer bespoke high impact in-reach support for mainstream learners, focusing upon engagement and social and emotional development. This, coupled with their high-quality curriculum development and delivery expertise, leads to exceptional outcomes for learners and staff at Oakfield and their partner schools. Oakfield has achieved a range of national awards at the highest level and is currently leading on the secondary strategy for inclusion and disadvantaged across the authority. The Executive Headteacher has been designated as an NLE and Oakfield as a National Support School (July 2017). Oakfield won the 2018 NASEN Award for Excellence practice in secondary schools and was shortlisted in 2019 for the NASEN Award for Co-production with Children, Young People and their Families. Oakfield has been graded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted three consecutive times.
Sources of Evidence
The one-day assessment of Oakfield High School and College was undertaken remotely due to the current pandemic using Zoom. This did not in any way compromise the depth, breadth and integrity of the assessment process. The information from the Self-Evaluation Report, the school SEF, SIP, website and a plethora of documents and online meetings, were all triangulated to ensure that all elements of the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award, were not just established but were fully embedded in the school’s everyday practice. The schedule for the day ensured that I was able to speak to a variety of different stakeholders who spoke confidently and passionately about inclusion and their experience of inclusion at Oakfield.
Dedicated, Knowledgeable and Skilled Staff
As the assessment unfolded in this vibrant, warm and welcoming school, I found a genuine ambition and integrity amongst all stakeholders that reveals what really matters most. Simply put, learners come first and all learners receive equitable provision and support. The staff are extremely dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled. Their sense of drive and determination to improve the outcomes of all students came through strongly. The implementation of rigorous structures and processes supports the different teams to work strategically and collaboratively together. Strong teamwork amongst the staff is at the core of their relationships. Staff support each other to develop their own skill set. Leaders spoken to in numerous meetings are clear about the vision and next steps for the school. They have excellent reflective skills in their leadership, wanting the best outcomes for all learners whatever their starting points or individual need.
Highest Quality Learning Experiences
Staff are passionate about their learners and supporting them to be as successful as possible. During the current pandemic, the staff have continued to deliver the highest quality learning experiences for all their learners, supporting families to help them learn in difficult circumstances and have gone above and beyond what is expected to ensure they are all supported and can access appropriate teaching and learning. However, through the outstanding online learning opportunities provided, the learners have actively engaged in their education and made progress so that now they are re-engaged with school any gaps having been identified can be closed as quickly as possible. This is a fantastic achievement and supports the superb inclusive practice seen at Oakfield during the assessment. Scheduled discussions during the assessment allowed a superb picture of the school’s intuitive and naturally occurring inclusivity to emerge. It was a privilege to engage in conversations with such enthusiastic, dedicated and professional staff.
Supporting Every Young Person to Achieve
The initial meeting with the Assistant Headteacher and IQM Lead set the scene for the assessment and focussed on a number of aspects pertinent to the assessment including discussions about: The role of the ‘Strategic Alliance Team’ formed across the Federation, to enable Senior Leaders from both schools to lead strategic initiatives across the Federation; The ‘Pathways to Success’ system in school provides effective personal support to individuals or small groups of learners with a similar identified need. Learners are identified for targeted intervention using a range of data such as attendance, behaviour and progress data. Information such as the PASS survey, SDQ, Boxhall Profiles and IPN data is also used to identify the most appropriate form of intervention developing every young person and supporting them to achieve. We also discussed Pupil Premium and the use of funding to support learners and the school’s involvement in ‘Whole Education’.
A Highly Inclusive Setting
I also had a wide-ranging and interesting phone conversation with a parent who was extremely supportive of the school, what it offers her child and how they are partners in the child’s education and worked closely together. The parent felt that the school was extremely inclusive and couldn’t be faulted. There was an opportunity to talk to an external partner from the LA, who had been involved with the school for a number of years who said that the school regularly adapted and adjusted what they do to ensure learners were successfully accommodated and understood the needs of learners and their families very well going above and beyond what is expected to ensure successful outcomes. Both fantastic accolades supporting the school as a highly inclusive setting.
Superb Response to Lockdowns
An interesting and in-depth conversation with the Deputy Headteacher that looked at careers, the school’s superb curriculum offer that caters extremely well for the diverse needs of the learners at all ages and levels, Occupational Therapy, SALT Work Experience opportunities in Year 10 and Supportive Internship opportunities and the way the school engages with their Alumni. This led on to a chance to talk to the Inclusion Community Co-ordinator to discuss the Parent Group that meets weekly and Outreach that is offered to mainstream schools for a wide variety of issues to do with SEND that is extremely well received and is free at the port of call and in-reach opportunities where learners from mainstream schools in Key Stage 4 who may struggle with certain option subjects are offered the opportunity to study more suitable qualifications at Oakfield for part of the week. We were also able to talk about the number of enrichment activities available at lunchtime and the after-school club run on a Wednesday from 3-5pm that, prior to the pandemic, was extremely well received and attended. This conversation was later supported and enriched by a meeting with the Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Parental Engagement and online learning. We were able to look in some depth at the school’s superb response to lockdowns and the way in which they had ensured every learner and their families were able to access learning and had been catered for including video tutorials to show learners how to access online lessons and also contained sensory inputs with equipment for those learners who needed it. It was interesting to find out that this has made learners more independent and that the school is investigating how to include this post Covid.
Superb Transition and Intervention Programmes
Other meetings with a Pastoral Manager and an HLTA focussed on the school’s superb transition and intervention programmes, that the school should be commended for. The meeting with Governors confirmed that Governors are highly involved in the life of the school; they provide appropriate support and challenge and share its inclusive values and high aspirations for all learners. They spoke very highly of the school and its work and were extremely proud of their inclusive values and superb, supportive work with learners and their families. I met an NQT who was interviewed and appointed remotely and was working in a bubble who felt extremely supported by the school and her colleagues and went to great lengths to talk about how she was supported in person and remotely by colleagues outside her bubble as and when it was needed and felt that the school was extremely inclusive and was looking forward to meeting the rest of her colleagues and learners outside her bubble when restrictions are lifted.
Shared Learning and Collaboration
A meeting with the Head of English focused on the school’s curriculum and their involvement with Whole Education, a dynamic partnership of schools and organisations committed to redefining today’s educational offering to young people. As part of the network that facilitates shared learning and collaboration between innovative schools; it exposes teachers to world-class thinking and approaches; and supports effective professional development, enabling its member schools to move beyond delivering the national curriculum to building a stronger foundation for learning to deliver a ‘whole education’. As part of this network Oakfield are a Research School with teachers engaged with innovative research through the network, including projects funded by the EEF and the DfE. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the future.
Inclusive Ethos, Care, Nurture and Support
It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit Oakfield High School and College to conduct their assessment, albeit remotely. The assessment underlined their superb inclusive ethos, care, nurture and support that is at the very heart of their approach to teaching, learning and supporting everyone in their care and was talked about and discussed openly during the assessment.
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