Phoenix Primary School Liverpool in Merseyside, achieves the Inclusive School Award with Flagship School status.
Children at the Heart of Everything
Staff at Phoenix Primary School approach every aspect of school life with the children at the heart. They say:
“Every child matters.”
That everything they do is:
“Geared towards meeting pupils’ individual needs.”
There are no fixed term or permanent exclusions as exclusion is not part of the ethos. Staff are proactive in their responses to the children and describe it as a “sixth sense.” The support for pupils’ mental and emotional wellbeing is a real strength. The comprehensive, whole school THRIVE approach ensures that all children receive targeted support to allow them to flourish. The Home-School Link Officer works effectively with parents and teachers to provide a comprehensive support package.
Parents in Partnership
Relationships with pupils and parents are excellent. The parents who were spoken to as part of the review process all described how their “children are very happy” at Phoenix Primary School. They would fully recommend the school to prospective parents. The parents of children who access the Enhanced Provision talked about their years of struggle with other educational establishments and systems prior to obtaining a place at the Enhanced Provision. Since their children have joined the Enhanced Provision at Phoenix, they say their:
“Faith in the education system has been restored.”
They talked about the supportive transition process and how well staff cater for complex needs, especially pupils with autism. One parent explained how his child enjoys attending school so much now that he asks if he can go at the weekend. He magnanimously shared that the school has:
“Improved my child more than we could as parents which has made our home lives so much easier.”
Another parent explained how she is:
“Very impressed with the school.”
so far and that the,
“Teachers understand [her] daughter very well and try to make everything easier for her.”
Regardless of how hard it is for a child to communicate; the staff seem to understand them. All comments from parents were highly positive. A parent stated that he:
“Couldn’t have wished for a better school.”
for his children due to,
“How welcoming and friendly.”
the staff are, and that they seem to,
“Understand every situation and child.”
One of his children, who has complex SEN, does not want to go home at the end of the day due to his enjoyment at school. They all agreed that they:
“Couldn’t praise the school higher.”
Communication with home is excellent. Parents told me that the school is:
“Amazing with parents as well as children.”
The teachers will discreetly speak with parents at the end of the school day if there have been any issues or to pass on praise. They also send out regular questionnaires to ask parents for feedback on their approach. Due to the diverse geographical locations and difficult circumstances faced by some families, the staff collect many children in the school minibuses to bring them into school in the mornings. The school try to engage parents from as soon as the child joins the Early Years provision through sessions such as ‘stay and play,’ which break down barriers. Pre-Covid, the staff would invite parents into the family room for informal ‘gab and mag’ group sessions. The sessions proved extremely popular and after a few weeks, staff started adding different activities, such as yoga and self-esteem building, to support parents’ wellbeing. To continue to support the parents from the group throughout the periods of lockdown, the Family Support Worker set up a WhatsApp group where she would post positive messages and signpost them to the external support available.
Active Social Media
To provide regular, informal communication with all parents and carers, the school is active on Facebook and Twitter. Each class has their own page to share the learning and enrichment activities as well as the successes of the children. Throughout lockdown, the school employed ‘Class Dojo’ and ‘Tapestry’ as forums for communicating with parents and sharing the learning activities. In Early Years, the engagement during the first lockdown was only 30%, however during the latest lockdown, 69% of parents engaged with the home learning provision. The EYFS Lead made little face masks for the mice which all children have at home as part of the home-school transition strategy. She delivered the facemasks for the mice to every doorstep to help prepare the young children for the Covid-19 safety restrictions and changes in place.
Calm and Focused Environment
During the learning walk, I observed excellent attitudes to learning across the school. The environment was calm, and pupils were focused on the learning, demonstrating high levels of engagement. All the pupils welcomed visitors enthusiastically and are keen to share their learning. The Head Boy and Head Girl carried out the tour with professionalism and they are clearly proud of their school, showing off all the classrooms, displays and additional learning areas. The school benefits from a range of specialist spaces to enrich pupils’ daily experience including a sensory room, the 4D immersive learning and relaxation room, the R room (a dedicated calm space where restorative therapies can take place) and the recently developed roof-top garden. The learning environment is vibrant and celebrates pupils’ achievements. For every minute you spend at Phoenix, you are fully immersed in the inclusive, welcoming ethos and it is hard not to feel happy and uplifted.
The Headteacher is fantastic at developing her staff. She has trained many staff in school including teachers who were previously employed as TAs. Due to the diverse population and various significant SEN, it is an:
“Exciting, interesting school.”
but can be a very,
“Challenging and busy place to work.”
Staff must get fully on board with the ethos and have a true passion to make a difference to pupils’ lives. The Headteacher is excellent at recognising potential in people who would be a good fit for the school. Once she finds these special staff, the Headteacher provides many opportunities for career progression to retain a high-quality team. To support Subject Leaders in managing their work-life balance, the Headteacher allocates additional time for monitoring and planning. She believes that:
“If you give staff quality time you will get quality back.”
Leaders are always encouraging staff to better themselves, with a focus on staff who have particular areas of interest and encouraging them to pursue their ambitions. Succession planning is prioritised by the Senior Leader and Governors. For example, a teacher has recently completed the National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator and is currently shadowing the SENDCo so that eventually she will be able to take on the role. This crossover period means that the high-quality provision is sustained.
Critical, Well-Informed Friends
Governors describe the inclusive culture as a “community” ethos. They feel the school provides a well-balanced social and academic experience with an individualised approach which works for each child. They are proud of how the school has handled the Covid-19 pandemic. One Governor explained how “the strong and clear leadership continues to prioritise the needs of the children above all else and this approach informs all decision making.” The Governors have managed to visit school at various points throughout the year, in accordance with Covid-19 risk assessments. They have spoken to the children and visited classrooms to not only monitor standards but ensure that pupils’ and staff’s wellbeing is being looked after.
Learning During Lockdown
During periods of lockdown, all children were given paper copies of the learning packs to ensure nobody was disadvantaged by technology access. There were social groups on Teams as well as live lessons. Thrive activities continued throughout lockdown. The Governors supported Leaders in extending the identified vulnerable children list to allow more children to access the learning in school throughout lockdowns. The school gives the children and families so much support and recognised that many struggling parents and carers, who find it difficult to manage their own lives, would struggle with the home learning. The children genuinely love being at school; it is their safe place. Since the return of all pupils to school, the focus has been on mental health and wellbeing as the Leaders have a firm belief that:
“If children are happy at school, they will learn.”
Throughout the pandemic, there has been no lowering of standards with regards to the overall provision and inclusive commitment. In terms of the impact of lockdown on pupil progress, Leaders accept that there are some areas where they feel children have lost a bit of momentum. Stamina, particularly in writing, has been identified as an area to develop. Next academic year, the priorities will focus on making sure all children are caught-up in terms of learning and re-establishing community engagement work. For the past two years, Leaders have had to be more reactive and less strategic as they have responded to the global pandemic. They recognise it will take a long time to overcome the current situation, but they intend to be able to continue to drive the school forward with a more strategic leadership approach.
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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