Oakfield Primary Academy in Dartford has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
A Very Popular School
Oakfield Primary Academy is a large school with 723 children currently on role. The school is part of a MAT of 3 schools – Galaxy Trust, and whilst the expectations are the same for the Trust schools, the CEO is keen for each school to keep its own identity. Oakfield serves a large residential catchment area. Twenty-eight different languages are spoken by pupils who come from diverse backgrounds. The school is extremely popular in the local area with some year groups taking 9 pupils above the PAN. Parents describe the staff as, “friendly and professional.”
Inclusion is Embedded
Inclusion is embedded into the ethos of Oakfield and is evident in all aspects of the school’s work. The CEO says,
“Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do.”
Visitors to the school are given a warm and friendly welcome. Discussions with stakeholders concluded that one reason for its success is the excellent communication at all levels, between parents and staff, staff and the SLT etc. Oakfield is used as an exemplar school for inclusion by Kent County Council.
The school is very keen to move forward and there is a great deal of enthusiasm behind new projects, including a nurture provision and a child led focus for the teaching of foundation subjects with “Language as the driver!” Oakfield uses its Pupil Premium to good effect and there is clear data to monitor the outcomes of interventions such as additional support in the classroom, Pets as Therapy, breakfast and after school clubs and support for their young carers.
Stakeholders Kept Up to Date
The Head of Inclusion is very knowledgeable and ensures that all stakeholders, including governors, are kept up to date with the inclusion agenda. Both staff and parents speak very highly of the support that she gives them. The Head of School fully supports the role of inclusion within the school and beyond and is part of the Inclusion Steering Group for Dartford. He is currently focusing on a protocol for managed moves.
The school employs a Family Liaison Officer and a counsellor (offering therapeutic play sessions) who work closely together and alongside the safeguarding lead.
A Well Established Team
This is a well-established team who know the families and the area very well. They are able to offer a multitude of support to parents. They are keen to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with pastoral concerns and are part of a FLO network. They also recently attended Stonewall training. At lunchtime an AT (associate teacher) runs a friendship group encouraging links between the children in the ARC and the mainstream and at the end of the day there are “Chill and Chat” sessions for pupils who need a space to be calm before returning home.
Senior Staff Available
The school is open for pupils from 8.30 a.m. each morning. Parents are welcomed each day by the Head, SLT and Family Liaison Officer who meet them at the school gates. Questions are answered, and issues resolved before the day begins. Interventions also begin at this time.
The grounds of the school are well used. There are two playgrounds painted with templates for games. It was clear, from a game of 4 Square, that these templates are well used. The school also has two adventure playgrounds and an outdoor classroom, the Tipi. Outdoor education plays an important part in the life of Oakfield.
Overcoming Learning Challenges
Each classroom has a Pit display to encourage pupils to help themselves solve challenges in lessons. There were also displays of Stuck of the Week, where children wrote how they had overcome particular difficulties in their learning as well as displays based on British Values, bullying, online safety and autism. All classrooms had learning walls.
A Pupil Parliament
The Head of School has introduced a Pupil Parliament. Children are very keen to be representatives on the four councils which cover all areas of school life from education to the environment. The children feel listened to and confident that their ideas are taken on board. Pens Down on Wednesdays, an initiative to encourage more hands-on learning, was introduced via the Pupil Parliament. There is also a clear rewards system, Green for Go. Stickers are given for good work and good attitude; these can be used to gain a small prize or accumulated for a big one, e.g. lunch at Pizza Hut! The stickers are placed in the child’s journal which is also a contact book between home and school and allows the parent to share in their successes.
Children Feel Safe
The children feel safe at school and know who they can talk to if they have a problem. Staff and governors are well trained in safeguarding, with regular updating. There are clear reporting procedures in place. Clear communication between the pastoral team and the safeguarding leads ensure that information is shared in order to keep all pupils safe.
Enthusiastic Support Assistants
The school has a team of well trained and enthusiastic support assistants, ATs (associate teachers) who feel well supported by the SLT. Communication between the ATs and the Inclusion Manager is excellent. One AT said that despite working as a 1:1, “You’re not on your own, there is always someone to help you, to make suggestions and to listen to you.” They felt encouraged to improve their skills through the many training courses and visits to other schools offered to them and knew that if they had a particular interest in an area that they would be encouraged to pursue this.
Oakfield employs a speech therapist and well-qualified speech therapy assistant who speak passionately about the work that they do at the school. There is a clear process of assessment and they work closely with the ATs, class teachers and SENCO to ensure that the interventions and pre-teaching they offer are effective and followed up in class. The therapist works across the three schools in the Trust offering consistency of approach and from September the team will be opening a speech and language unit in the second of the Trust’s schools.
The Assistant Head in charge of vulnerable pupils has recently completed a piece of research entitled” The Whole Child.” A vast amount of information on every child in the school has been gathered for analysis. The indicators are each given a score. Those children who score highly are then Boxall profiled and this information is used to inform assessments and to support the class teacher. Children with particularly high scores will also be targeted for support from the nurture provision which is due to open in the new school year. There is a great deal of enthusiasm around this project.
An Excellent Reputation
The school has an excellent reputation in the local community. There are many opportunities for parents and prospective parents to visit the school. Each year the school hosts a BBQ for children, their families and members of the community.
Teachers are the Best
The children say that the best thing about school is the teachers, who, “Point you in the right direction if you need help so that you can become independent and help yourself.” They describe the many clubs and opportunities that they have at Oakfield including, thinking, cross stitch and Spanish club, sports clubs and the numerous choir performances, and explain that in many lessons the work is divided into easier, medium and hard and that pupils select which category they should try in order to challenge themselves. They described the steps that they take in order to solve problems. They also discussed the trips that they had been on in recent years; to the theatre, to local museums, to Lego Land and in some circumstances to Rome and Paris. They cited their favourite lessons as maths and PE (for the pupils in the Arc, horse-riding) and spoke of their enjoyment of learning how to use the Scratch program in IT. They agreed that there was always someone to talk to if they felt upset or worried. They are aspirational in their belief that they could become astrophysicists, illustrators, YouTubers and chemists.
A strength of Oakfield is the huge amount of collaborative work that it does both within its own Trust and beyond. During the assessment, the Inclusion Managers from the other schools in the Trust supported Oakfield’s manager and it was clear from discussions that they work closely with one another, utilising each other’s strengths to ensure that all children across the Trust are supported superbly. Movement of staff across the Trust also helps with consistency. Oakfield receives many visitors from other schools looking for support with Inclusion, particularly the ASD unit which offers outreach support. The maths specialist at the school delivers courses for NQTs and the Forest School expert offers specialist outreach.
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