Platanos College in Lambeth has achieved Centre of Excellence status.
Platanos College (PC) is a mixed secondary school located in the Stockwell area of the London Borough of Lambeth. The school is part of the Platanos Trust, which is a family of schools with common goals. The aim of the Trust is to raise standards and to prepare pupils for the challenges of the 21st Century. They recognise that society is changing rapidly and believe that schools, colleges indeed all educational institutions need not only to keep up with change but need to be instrumental in leading change. The school converted to Academy status in February 2011.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs
In many respects Platanos College is a challenging school in fragile circumstances. I use the word ‘fragile’ to describe the social context in which the school sits. Where the impact of crime, housing and gangs and more, combines to impact on the lives and well-being of a significant number of students and their families. This manifests as social, emotional and mental health needs. The majority of pupils with these complex needs are overwhelmingly SEND and from BME backgrounds.
Building Community Relations
Pastoral managers and senior staff are on gate duty at the start and end of each day. They also cover the bus stop nearest to the school. They manage the flow of students on route to school. This builds community relations by making a positive contribution to cohesion. The school writes to local businesses and invites them to contact the school with any issues or questions further building positive relationships.
A High-Performing School
Despite the challenges of context Platanos College is a high-performing school for pupils aged 11-16. The College received its third, successive Outstanding Ofsted rating in 2014/2015. The first and second rating were prior to converting to academy status.
Sources of Evidence
This was the school’s first IQM experience to assess the suitability of Platanos College becoming an IQM Centre of Excellence. During my visit I was able to verify information from the self-evaluation by cross-referencing with a range of documentation provided by the SEND lead. Combined with learning walks, conversations with a range of stakeholders including staff, pupils, parents, governors trust members, senior leaders and an educational psychologist. In addition, the college website provided key information prior to my visit.
Providing Tailored Support
Platanos College is a school at the heart of its community going well beyond the extra mile to identify individual needs in order to provide tailored support for pupils and their families. The school effectively uses the community as a classroom building capacity through external partnerships.
Pupil Premium Funding
The school publishes it use of the Pupil Premium, actions and interventions on the school website. They are committed to narrowing the gap for this group of pupils and carefully monitor the provision and its impact on students.
Pupils are Well Supported
Pupils of all abilities are well supported through interventions, quality first teaching strategies and resources. Outside agencies work closely with the school to provide a range of effective support. Good examples of this include the work with local colleges, the uniformed services, faith communities, an organisation called ‘Roots and Shoots’ who offer a vocational course in Landscaping twice weekly for six pupils in year 10. ‘First Story’ an organisation which places professional writers into secondary schools. Writers work with students and teachers to develop creativity and improve communication skills. They raise aspirations and give students the skills and voice to achieve them. This work is captured in an Anthology of works, which illustrate the life stories, relationships and experiences that some pupils have had.
Working with External Organisations
This is just one example of many external organisations that come into Platanos College to work with students. This partnership approach promotes a sense of cohesion throughout the school and within the wider community setting. Pupils report that they feel safe at school. They are supportive of each other and aware of the school’s safeguarding procedures and who to talk to if they need to.
Staff work hard to develop and sustain positive relationships. Vulnerable students, including and possibly especially those with special educational needs, are identified early on in order that the curriculum can be personalised to meet their individual needs. There is a very strong sense of we will find a way to do whatever is needed, despite the far-reaching financial restraints schools are facing today. Platanos is an outward looking school which effectively collaborate with a variety of community and voluntary organisations in an effort to secure the best outcomes for all pupils.
Flexible and Creative Staff
Staff are flexible and creative in their approach. They recognise and value the support they get including CPD. When I asked staff, individually and collectively, for an ‘even better if’, they genuinely struggled to think of one, telling me that they had many opportunities to feed concerns back to leadership on a regular basis. Similarly, if they had ideas or wanted to try something new they were encouraged, listened to and supported.
The Headteacher Designate me told me,
“we support children to be independent. We are a large school of 1,016 pupils and we have developed structures for them with inclusion in mind.”
Very Strong Pupil Voice
Pupil voice is very strong. Those I met were a pleasure to talk to, they are so proud of their school and take their responsibilities very seriously. Pupils told me that they enjoy coming to school, they feel safe here and are listened to. I asked pupils what they liked most about their school:
“At Platanos College I enjoy how the teachers push you to strive and achieve your goals. They also challenge you quite a lot which I like because it shows that they believe in you and that you are able.” (Year 8 pupil)
“The PE department is really amazing. There is a huge pitch for football and netball, two extremely popular sports. There are a couple of gyms as well as a large indoor basketball court. There are smaller outdoor courts.” (Year 7 pupil)
“They really push us to do better and to work hard. They also give us lectures which motivate us.” (Year 8 pupil)
“I love the art department because we learn a lot about different artists and art styles. It also has good resources and the teachers help you when you get stuck.”
“I like the trips and you make lots of friends.”
“What I find good at this school is the extra clubs like centre of excellence in various subjects for example in maths you are pushed to do more and in science they opened a STEM club to support people who want to go further. Right now they are making a formula one car powered by electricity and each group make them step by step out of cardboard and will race them to see who wins, how fast the car goes and the design.” (Year 8 Pupil)
“The motto Attitude determines Altitude is a very heartwarming motto which keeps the students heads up high.” (Year 7 pupil)
The inaugural issue of the KS4 Newsletter was launched at the end of the Autumn Term 2018 and is now published termly. It was intended as a publication written by KS4 pupils for KS4 pupils. However, I suggest that it is much more than that. It is a valuable school resource which informs, educates and supports all students at the school and their parents as well as the local and wider community.
Roles of Responsibility
In particular the magazine enables pupils to take on more roles of responsibility such as interviewing and editing. It gives them opportunities to make positive contributions to the community. It develops reading and writing skills. It provides information advice and guidance. It promotes the school, Platanos Trust and the Vision to a much wider audience and so much more.
Sharing the Magazine Widely
I thoroughly enjoyed looking through the magazine, I can see how it has improved over time and would suggest that the school considers sharing the magazine with a wider audience, including business, if it is does not already.
Inclusive, Friendly and Welcoming
Platanos College is an inclusive, friendly and welcoming school where every child is supported to be the best they can be. Here Attitude really does determine Altitude. The school has much to be proud of.
Over two days I talked to many people and looked at a great deal of information. I have not been able to include everything I saw and heard, but have, I hope, captured the essence and ethos of your school. Personally, it was a great pleasure for me to visit your school. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you.
A Word of Thanks
My thanks to the Headteacher Designate, Mona Taybi and the SENCO Angela Henry who led the process from start to finish and who fed and watered me and made me feel very welcome. To all the staff, parents, pupils and governors I had the pleasure of talking to and to the CEO and Trust members. Thank you for your time, pragmatism and honest reflections. I wish you well on your development journey and look forward to seeing your many exciting plans coming to fruition.
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