Peartree Primary School in Welwyn Garden City has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
Inclusive Practice and Nurturing Ethos
Peartree Primary School is a welcoming and happy school that prides itself on its inclusive practice and nurturing ethos. This was the school’s first IQM assessment. On my visit to the school, I had the opportunity to verify information provided on the self-evaluation form using the sample of the documentation provided, a learning walk, lesson observation, discussions with a range of staff, pupils, governors and senior leaders. In addition to the above, prior to my visit to the school, its website provided key information about the school’s policies and practice.
The school is situated in an area of Welwyn Garden City with higher than average levels of deprivation, mobility and special educational needs; this is reflected in many of the challenges the school faces. There are approximately 195 pupils on roll from Reception to Year 6, with a bulge class in Year 1. The school has a local authority funded Nurture Group for identified pupils in Key Stage 2 with attachment needs. 30% of pupils are subject to intervention from social care, 30% have special educational needs, 23% are entitled to free school meals, 55% are entitled to Pupil Premium funding; there are 9 traveller pupils and 6 looked after children.
Safeguarding is a Priority
Safeguarding is high on the agenda at this school; this is evident from the posters around school including on the backs of staff toilet doors with details of the designated staff. Senior leaders spend extraordinary amounts of time on safeguarding referrals, meetings, liaison with professionals, pupil and parent support. Staff care about the well-being of pupils here and their actions often go beyond their responsibilities as a school. This is evident with a family of pupils who have recently been taken into local authority care. The school has worked closely with social care professionals to make sure that evidence required was collected and presented on a daily basis to safeguard pupils. The school has arranged a short daily meeting for the siblings before school as they are now in different foster homes as this gives them an opportunity to see each other and air competitive grievances without them affecting the smooth running of the school day.
Well Equipped to Manage Special Educational Needs
The school is well equipped to manage a range of special educational needs and vulnerabilities. This is reflected in the training provided for staff but also the support that they provide for each other. The Headteacher recognises the emotional strain on her staff who deal with safeguarding cases and has prioritised funding for supervision for the Deputy Headteacher, Family Support Worker and Learning Mentor. The Headteacher has coaching support. The social worker I met on the day of the assessment reports that the school has a good reputation for understanding and catering for individual needs. “It’s an unusual school but it’s amazing – I’ve never worked with a school like this…they know the needs so well.” School staff advocate for their pupils and parents, ensuring that parents are supported to understand what is happening with social care processes. Senior leaders have enhanced the work and impacted on the practice of the social worker by modelling how to differentiate explanations of processes to parents using colours and visuals. “Without this type of support in school, there would be increased demand on services.”
Pupil Progress is Impressive
The school’s attainment data is poor and below floor targets, however pupil progress is impressive as is the personalised provision in place. Challenging behaviour is well understood as a means of communication and staff recognise the importance of developing positive relationships with pupils and parents. A new member of staff informed me that on her first visit to the school prior to her appointment she was “blown away by the inclusion and nurturing ethos of the school.” Staff are proud of the inclusive nature of the school’s work and of their achievements with complex pupils with vulnerabilities. They feel equipped to deal with the challenges of their roles as training and support is provided. One parent said, “The word can’t doesn’t exist for my daughter and it’s the same for her school.”
A Very Welcoming School
The most impressive aspect of the school’s work that I came across on my visit was the welcome they give pupils and their families who have failed in schools elsewhere and their commitment to providing these pupils with the best education they can, even if it is only for a short time. Staff build strong links with parents of these pupils and review strategies regularly for maximum success.
The Governing Body is Invested in Inclusive Ethos
The governing body shares the Headteacher’s vision and values and is invested in the school’s inclusive ethos. Following the February 2016 Ofsted inspection, the Headteacher explained to the governing body that to attain an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted grading the school would need to turn pupils with special educational needs and vulnerabilities away and lose some of its inclusive identity. It was agreed that the school has a responsibility to its community and that inclusion is at the heart of the school’s work, so it should continue to develop this rather than seeking to achieve ‘Outstanding.’
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