Oakfield Primary Academy Achieves Flagship Status in Kent, achieves the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award with Flagship status.
The first meeting was with the CEO of the Galaxy Trust, who explained how the Trust was set up – starting as a federation but now including four primary schools. Another school is scheduled to join the MAT next year. The CEO said he was passionate about including children with SEN and adopted children as many schools avoid admitting them. The school has built up a lot of expertise in their inclusive practice and around equality and diversity. The school has an SRP for children with ASD and currently, there are sixteen children on the roll. These children are valued for all they bring to the Academy. The school values are based around equality, and they are focussed on providing whatever is needed to meet the needs of children with disabilities, with SEND, black and ethnic minority pupils, those who live in different families and those who are adopted or are in care. They also focus on the disadvantaged group of pupils. They make a number of pledges based on these different groups and appraisals are based on achieving and implementing these pledges.
All Stories Are Important
The area in which the school is located is becoming more diverse and there is a lot more overt racism that must be challenged. The Senior Team lead the way in that the members are culturally diverse, and they have gathered a group of well-known role models to present the different pledge characters. The CEO interviewed a number of these individuals and used their stories to start conversations around diversity. Some of the individuals are famous and some are not but their stories are all important. Staff from all four Trust schools listened to interviews and podcasts and used these as a focus for discussion.
The Impact of COVID
Kent is a huge county and with many different things going on. The county and the school were badly hit by Covid, as was the local area. They have seen a large increase in the number of families claiming Free School Meals. Mental Health and wellbeing issues are now far more common as many families have experienced the negative impacts of Covid. The school did its best to support them throughout the last year but especially during lockdown.
Keeping in Touch
The Academy and Trust kept in touch with staff via Teams and breakfast packages for staff were delivered some mornings, along with other treats to make sure staff knew they were appreciated and supported. The aim was to support the staff so they were in a good place and could support the children. Staff at every level kept in touch with the children and their families in terms of checking up on their engagement with learning as well as their wellbeing via TEAMs. The Trust Board structure was clarified, and the CEO described how this worked and how they offer him appropriate challenges and support. They are an experienced and talented group with great expertise that they bring to the table. They scrutinise the work of the academy very carefully and ask appropriate and challenging questions. The Performance and Standards Committee scrutinise the data provided to them in some detail. They want to know why there are still gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils. There is a Local Governing Body that just concentrates on teaching and learning.
Getting Back to Normal
The hope for September is that the school can return to normal practice. This is what they are planning for but will of course produce Plan B if required. Ofsted are due in any day now and this makes things even more stressful than usual. The academy has a history of growing their own staff and the current Headteacher started as an NQT in the school.
The Headteacher explained this has been a very difficult year in so many ways. Nobody could prepare her for leading a school through a pandemic, but she justified the Academy was really well supported by the Trust and the CEO. Thankfully, the school is fully staffed and will be in September. Year 6 has had a very difficult time with lots of changes in Year 5 and then Year 6 but there are loads of special activities planned for them as they finish their time in primary school.
Staff Wellbeing is Important
Staff wellbeing is a priority and reports to parents have been rationalised as has the marking and feedback policy. Teachers are given a lot of autonomy about how they teach and are not given bought schemes of learning to work from. These are produced by the school teams and there is no formalised way of planning or teaching. They are encouraged to take risks and try something different in the classroom. This is an important aspect of well-being as teachers and support staff need to feel they are trusted to make decisions about what happens in their classroom.
The Assistant Head’s approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing centres around a tiered approach to intervention – universal, targeted and specialist. A tiered wellbeing and involvement assessment (the Leuven system) is used with pupils arriving back after a period of extended absence. This system is to be used to judge the needs of all pupils and to highlight key areas of need in both wellbeing and in pupils’ involvement in their learning. Data collected will be used to inform the Wellbeing Lead, the Senior Team and the DSL of children who require additional support and interventions and of curriculum developments needed in ordered to address trends in pupils’ emotional and social understanding. These assessments enabled class teachers and SLT to pinpoint which pupils would benefit from universal or targeted support and, where necessary, these children also undertook ELSA assessments.
The Transition Back to School
The recovery curriculum was all about ensuring the transition back into school after the latest lockdown and so much time spent at home. Every child had a different experience during this time, depending on their home circumstances. The Leuven Scales helped to identify the children who needed emotional support and help them rebuild their relationships with their peers. Whilst there were plenty of ‘normal’ learning activities there were also lots of team building activities. The Leuven Scales filter children into three categories of need that helps to prioritise those with the most urgent need but also to plan to meet the needs of others.
Looking After Pupils’ Wellbeing
Pupils having a low level of wellbeing on the Leuven scale, are included in weekly group visits to Curley’s Farm (the CEO’s charity provision) to develop an improved feeling of wellbeing and resilience. Others received various levels of intervention including counselling and play therapy. In addition, Ohana, (a Nurture group) runs every afternoon for one year group each day. Ohana now includes breakfast, which is a 30-minute slot each morning that welcomes pupils who struggle to transition into school. These pupils may suffer from anxiety-based school avoidance or SEMH needs. There is also a ‘Chill ‘n’ Chat’ session scheduled for the end of each day where pupils can come and discuss their concerns from the day. This is particularly effective for pupils who may tend to bottle up concerns and then only share once they arrive home. Pupils attend this intervention based on their wellbeing and involvement scores on termly Leuven scale assessments. The ELSA system is used to support those who have scored low on their well-being. The pupils enjoy not just visiting the farm but working on it. The staff there are specially trained to support them when they are there. The school employs a counsellor two days a week and is also available for staff. There is also a Play Therapist.
The Need for Special Resources
In meetings, the specially resourced provision for children with autism was talked about and it was agreed that there is a growing need for such provision in the county and indeed across the country. The SRP panel is used to discuss referrals to the provision. The Assistant Headteacher and SRP specialist teacher works with teachers and Teaching Assistants across the school to help them support and include SRP children in their classrooms. She also does training on managing behaviour and teachers and TAs can come and see her when she holds regular open surgery sessions. Transferring to a secondary provision at the end of Year 6 is a big concern for parents and children and the SRP staff support and empower parents to find a place in the secondary that they want.
The Inclusion Team
The Inclusion team consists of the Assistant Headteacher for SEND and the Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for the SRP. However, they now have a Family Liaison Officer on the team plus two trained ELSAs. There is also a Trust Speech and Language therapist who works across the four Trust schools. There is a Speech and Language Assistant who does therapy with the children. There is also a Play Therapist and a Counsellor who also works across the Trust schools. The sixty Teaching Assistants are class-based and some work as one-to-one TAs with individual pupils who have high levels of need. There are a great many children with EHCPs and there are many more for whom the school is applying for plans and support.
The Safeguarding Team is Vital
The SENCO is a DSL, alongside other members of the senior leadership team, she leads the Safeguarding Team, which includes the Headteacher and others across the school. They use MyConcern to record and report concerns and actions and find this a very useful tool. Safeguarding is taken very seriously and all appropriate actions have been taken over the last sixteen months of the Covid pandemic. It has been a challenging time in terms of safeguarding. Families, as well as children, have needed additional support. Most of the children returned after the 8th March when lockdown was over but those with high needs have found it hardest to come back and to settle back into the school routine. A lot of work has gone into getting them all back in and feeling comfortable in school once again. This has been largely successful.
The Need for Remote Learning
The Academy moved to remote live lessons during the second Covid lockdown. They had learned a lot from what happened during the first lockdown and had made sure they were familiar with the technology and could adapt their teaching. However, they planned carefully and tried things out first to establish what worked and what was problematic. Safeguarding was paramount, they produced clear help guides for staff about what they should and should not do on screen. They used Class DoJo, which was great for every year group and even provided translations into various languages where needed. Parents were kept in the loop about learning expectations and were familiar with Class DoJo. The Senior Team kept in touch with teachers every week to gather their feedback and to help resolve any issues. However, teachers and TAs were very good at using each other’s expertise to improve their own teaching. There was a blended learning offer that included live lessons, recordings, PowerPoints and paper books.
The Curriculum is Pupil Led
The Assistant Heads stated that the Academy curriculum is pupil-led and is part of the learning journey. They aim to make sure the skills and knowledge are covered but make sure they do not get in the way of the story being told. It is an evolving picture and is constantly changing as teachers make suggestions about different aspects of the curriculum and pedagogy.
The School is a PixL School
The school is a PixL school, but it is used mostly for Year 6. It is used fluidly across the Trust, and they have been proactive in developing programmes and strategies for support staff and whoever is running interventions. The Trust used PixL assessments across all the schools and found these were ideal to use instead of SATS. The Arithmetic assessment produced very good results and showed that the pupils now need to move forward in applying the knowledge. Following the assessments, staff worked out what would work well in remote learning and what they would leave to be taught when children were back in school. A complete gap analysis was done so teachers knew what they needed to reteach. Pupil Progress meetings were used to discuss what the numbers/data was showing. There is now a different format to these meetings and class teachers come prepared with clear data plus sound knowledge of each pupil. The first items on the agenda were wellbeing and reading. Progress in reading was very good in lockdown as the Trust purchased MYON (eBooks) that links well with Accelerated Reader and got children really engaged. However, this dropped off as the lockdown continued. Various reading incentives were introduced to encourage the children.
‘Feel Good Fridays’ and Clubs
Writing is the biggest issue for the school and there was less engagement in writing tasks mostly because scaffolding was not possible via Teams. Feel Good Fridays were introduced as screen free days and the aim was to get them outdoors as much as possible. Currently all information about each child is being passed to the new teachers. Many interventions take place daily, in every corner of the school including Ohana, Lego Club, precision teaching for reading, writing and number and group interventions in KS2. These were well run and appeared to engage children throughout the school.
The Academy Keeps Moving Forward
It is clear nothing has stood still this year, and the academy keeps moving forward despite the difficulties presented by the Covid 19 crisis. The Academy are passionate about their work and about meeting the needs of the children in their care.
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