Prince Albert Primary School in Birmingham has achieved Flagship School status.
Prince Albert Primary School is a much larger than average primary school consisting of 736 pupils which Ofsted judged as ‘outstanding’ in February 2015. The vast majority of pupils are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage and speak English as an additional language. Prince Albert is within an area of high social deprivation: top 2% most deprived wards nationally, they currently support 30% of pupils who are eligible for pupil premium funding and 29% of pupils identified as SEND, which is significantly above national average. The staff are acutely aware of the demographics, yet the expectations and standards of presentation, learning and behaviour belies these statistics.
The school is entirely inclusive, with pupils informing me proudly, that every child is accepted by all and that they have not experienced, or even known bullying and that everyone has a friend. The ethos of the school is not denoted by posters and statements of inclusion adorning the walls, rather it is clear through the behaviour and culture of expectations. There is no bold welcome sign in all of the languages spoken, they do not need these gestures to show that the diversity of language is appreciated and valued. Instead there is a notice board filled with images of staff, their children and families to highlight to visitors, that their provision must be good enough for their children, there is no compromise on standards.
There is a significant investment in the development of staff, the Inclusion Leaders are both members of the Senior Leadership Team, they are outstanding practitioners and were both supported to attain the National SENCO award and one is a Bell foundation licensed practitioner. The skills they have developed ensure that the increasing number of pupils in KS1 with complex needs, are identified quickly and the provision is swiftly developed to meet their needs. The nurture group provision is impressive and the Headteacher has invested a great amount of resources to this by developing the caretakers house known as the Nurture environment spectacular. The building is unidentifiable as a former house but has been developed to ensure that 6 high need vulnerable pupils have a safe, purpose-built provision. The stimulating sensory equipment, the embedded routine, the visual timetables and the differentiation of tasks were all needs led. The Inclusion Support Workers, work attentively, patiently and supportively with pupils who could not communicate in the traditional ways. When I observed the opportunities for the children to make a choice, it was emotionally overwhelming as these children had voice and are heard by the talented staff.
A Range of Enrichment Experiences
At Prince Albert the Leaders take pride in their broad and balanced curriculum that provides a range of enrichment experiences. They are currently developing the ‘PA Promise’, which is a programme of enrichment that they ‘promise’ that pupils will have access to over the 8 years they attend our school. This is a vital element of the enrichment the pupils need from an area with pockets of extreme deprivation. They have included opportunities such as, learning to ride a bike, a visit to parliament and a residential trip. Their curriculum is designed to give all pupils the knowledge and skills to apply what they know with increasing fluency. Themed units of work ensure that these skills are clearly linked to the knowledge pupils need to learn in each area of the curriculum. The units are organised to ensure that throughout the day pupils have opportunities to work directly with the adults, but they also have opportunities to consolidate and further their learning whilst working independently or with their peers. Each ‘theme’ is enriched by ‘WOW’ experiences and a range of themed weeks throughout the year, such as ‘celebration of culture’ and ‘enterprise week’. The unit-based curriculum in the early years was organised chaos. The pupils were afforded great amounts of trust, engaging in seemly unsupervised messy play, whilst other academic teacher led session took place simultaneously. I was nervous for the teacher as I observed pupils painting with bright blue paint, but they responded to the trust with great responsibility and the behaviour was exemplary in such a busy, well managed and exciting environment. They stand firm in their belief ‘pupils’ personal development is the most important aspect of school life’. Without the development of these ‘soft’ skills the ‘hard’ skills cannot grow they believe, this is most evident in the Nurture group where the basics skills are practiced, assessed and developed with patience, understanding, empathy and dignity. In the wider school there is also an appreciation for life experiences, with a large offer of extra-curricular activities that run throughout school including: art club, reading club, basketball, football and many other sporting opportunities. Pupils have opportunities to take part in many enrichment opportunities during their time at PA. These include theatre visits, residentials, visits to parliament, learning to play an instrument alongside range of Wow experiences that enrich the curriculum.
Pupils can apply to be a member of the school council, a prefect, a peer mediator or a member of the community cohesion team. It was stated that they have several junior PSO’s in school, these pupils are currently working on a project with the local PSO’s.
Upholding School Standards
The pupils emanated pride when they were chosen to wear a peer mentor or prefect jumper, they were easily identifiable and wore them with such pleasure and gratification. As we travelled around school, the prefects upheld the school standards, quietly putting things back in place as they walked past, praising younger children and opening doors. They were courteous, articulate and knowledgeable; they spoke the language of the school values in way that evidenced that they were not words to be repeated verbatim, rather it was within their DNA.
Growth and Change
There is a great emphasis on the holistic needs of the children, with the school endeavouring to support Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs for before they push Blooms taxonomy of learning. Their belief that the child will blossom if they have strong roots, which lay the foundations for effective learning and their outstanding outcomes. Pupils are taught about the importance of looking after themselves and their brains. A member of the SLT is trained as a ‘Youth Mental Health First Aider’, supporting staff in identifying symptoms and signposting pupils and families for support. Pupils are also taught how to eat healthily and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Their ‘growth and change’ programme teaches children about the physical and emotional changes that happen to their bodies as they grow up and approach puberty. Staff take every opportunity to support their learning and emotional and social needs.
Outstanding School with Outstanding Achievement
Prince Albert is an outstanding school with outstanding achievement; in a challenging context of deprivations and bilingual families, where English is the secondary language. It is a considerable achievement that the majority of pupils are making good or better progress, as evidenced through internal assessment systems, pupil’s books and other monitoring activities. For the past three years, KS2 SATs results have been above national in all areas and pupils are making strong progress across school. End of KS1 results for the past three years have generally been in line with national figures. The pupil premium gap has closed as pupils in receipt of pupil premium funding perform as well as other pupils across school. Pupils identified as SEND make strong progress based on their starting points, evidenced by the bespoke assessment told they have created and the supportive curriculum that gives all pupils the opportunity to succeed. Across all year groups pupils on track to meet age related expectations in reading range up to 81%, in writing 79% and maths 83%. Initiatives constantly strive to close the gap and pupils are responsive and appreciative of ‘keep up’ and ‘catch up’ sessions and were vocal in their love of learning. These personalised interventions are monitored and reviewed, in order to ensure that underachievement is addressed, with no margin for complacency in staff and students alike. The early years provision comes with its own challenges, with many children having a limited access to English, from deprived families with limited experiences. EYFS provision is remarkable, the quality of the teaching, support, learning environments and the engagement of children is high. The quality of the teaching assistants within the EYFS is very strong with many of the staff having a specific early year’s qualification.
There is little staff turnover and the staff are overwhelmingly positive of their leadership most notably of their Headteacher, whom they described as supportive and exceptional. The Headteacher is an accredited NPQML lead trainer; several of the staff are currently working towards NPQML accreditation.
Professional Learning Programme
Many staff also take advantage of the ‘Trust led’ professional learning programme, they appreciated the personal investment in themselves as part of her team. The quality of teaching and learning at Prince Albert is highly effective with 100% of teaching good or better. The NQTS have a rich induction into the consistency of teaching and learning, which has been achieved through shared practice, high quality CPD, support and high expectations. The behaviour for learning was exemplary and there was a culture of transforming teaching styles to meet the needs of the child rather than sanctioning behaviour. I noticed a pupil who refused to engage with the class activity, so the class teacher had a work station where she could engage in learning, in her preferred way; this was inclusion at its best, the pupil was not punished, instead nurtured to develop at her own pace. It was inspiring practice that was visible in every classroom. I observed teachers providing pupils with clear feedback, written in class books and given verbally, which enabled pupils to stretch and challenge themselves to improve their work and deepen their understanding.
Grateful Parent Group
I met with a parent group who despite the language barrier were grateful for the bespoke provision for their children. They expressed their concern at the shortage of special school places, further explaining that they were initially hesitant about accepting a mainstream place for their child. I believe that the provision they offer is on a par to any autism resource base, if not better and this was a sentiment fully supported by the parents. I doubt that even when a special school place becomes available that they will opt to change their child’s named provision as they have seen such progress and have so much support from the Inclusion Team. In the wider school, regular workshops and coffee mornings are held throughout the year in order to inform and support parents. ESOL classes are held weekly and regular family learning sessions support parents to work effectively with their children. The leadership team have ensured that parents are welcome to see the school in working practice and have offered ‘parent walk rounds, giving all parents the opportunity to have a guided walk around school during the day with the Headteacher focusing on the school values and our approach to learning. Parental feedback has been extremely positive after seeing the learning in action, parent workshops are held throughout the year to support parents in helping their child at home and as an opportunity for parents to be part of school life, for example, a family expressed their gratitude at for staff training them to use communication symbols at hoe to encourage communication and structure.
Safeguarding procedures are effective and staff are proactive in ensuring that pupils are safe and happy at all times. Staff are trained in protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremism; staff are quick to address any concerns and challenge views that need challenging. All staff actively promote British values not only through the school values system and daily collective worship but through providing a broad and balanced curriculum which works towards preparing pupils for life in modern Britain. Pupils are encouraged to be responsible members of society in the school and wider community.
Commitment to the most Vulnerable
I have the upmost faith that Leaders know the strengths and areas for development of the school and leaders, at all levels, are determined in their focus to continually improve standards for all pupils. My time at Prince Albert was incredible, I was greeted by staff and pupils with such consistent, excitable and genuine welcomes. This was an honest presentation of the daily consistency. Their commitment to the most vulnerable SEND pupils, to change their provision they an offer, instead of seeking alternative special education places, is commendable. Commitment, innovation and outstanding are synonyms for Prince Albert. Their approach to the curriculum is focused not only on the school values but also on our drivers, which are communication, independence and socialisation, ensuing every child can achieve and experience success. The staff simply know and love the children, some commuting from Derbyshire to serve this community. The passion and humility of the leadership team during feedback was the final piece of evidence, that the achievement wellbeing of the children and all in their community, is all that matters.
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