Ranelagh Primary School in Newham has achieved Flagship School status for the second time.
A Highly Successful and Inclusive School
Despite this being an online review due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there was a palpable sense of a school that is highly successful and inclusive. Ranelagh Primary School represents all that is best about inclusive practice. There is an acute understanding of its context and a driving passion to support and have high aspirations for all of their pupils and families. The school is valued by its community and parents and children have great trust and confidence in their staff who strive to ensure that they can “Be the best that they can be”.
Ranelagh Primary School is situated in East London, in an area of high socio-economic deprivation. Unemployment is higher than the national average with a large number of children from single-parent families, this is also reflected in the school deprivation indicator. The school is in the upper quintile with an indicator of 0.51 which is nearly double that nationally. At the last Ofsted inspection in November 2019, the school was judged to be ‘Good’ under Section 8 of the Inspection Framework.
The school is a larger than average primary school with currently 405 children on the school roll. The school is two-form entry and has a Nursery attached with spaces for 60 children. Over 44% of the children are eligible for free school meals (FSM) and this has remained relatively stable over a period of 3 years. It is likely that this figure misrepresents the true number eligible as all school pupils in Newham are given free school meals and so there are many families who, despite being eligible, are not claiming FSM.
In September 2018, the school became a Resourced Provision (RP) for children with Communication and Interaction difficulties, most notably children with Autism. Currently, there are 9 children who access the RP and when at full capacity, it will be 14. The total number of children on the SEN register at School Support is just above national average levels, 16.1%. As a result of how the funding process works in Newham, the number of pupils with Educational Health Care Plan is well below the national average with only 14 children with a plan. This is because Newham is an inclusive Borough and supports Pupils with Exceptional Resource Funding rather than issuing Statements of SEN.
English as an Additional Language
A large proportion of the children do not speak English as their home language with 62.5%, having English as an additional language. Following on from this, a significant majority of the school roll, 93.6%, come from minority ethnic groups. The ethnic makeup of the school has changed considerably over the years with a growing number of White Eastern European children attending the school. Other significant groups are the Bangladeshi and Black African groups. There are 53 different languages spoken in the school.
A Broad and Balanced Curriculum
The school has achieved a significant number and range of externally accredited awards, in addition to the Inclusion Quality Mark (Flagship). These hard earned awards reflect the school’s inclusive practice and its commitment to a broad and balanced curriculum. These awards also stand as testament to the experience, expertise and hard work of a dedicated and enthusiastic staff. I spoke to several of them during my virtual visit and was impressed by their knowledge of the pupils, their families and the community. I saw examples of curriculum planning and resources including the carefully crafted sensory stories and abridged texts which have been produced by school staff over the past two years.
The Learning Environment
Despite this being an online review, the school’s impressive website afforded me the opportunity to visit the school via its virtual tour. The imposing, brick built building has been recently extended to include a brand new Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) space. The classrooms are well-resourced and there is a consistency to the content and quality of display. The new building has also had a lift installed which provides access to all but the top floor of the older building. The outdoor space is equally impressive and provides a good area of hard surface playground, the ‘Park’ which includes soft play and a variety of climbing frames and some raised beds. The Lodge Garden is accessed via a ramp from the main playground and is a peaceful, well-manicured garden area. The school has recently become a Forest School with trained staff and access to nearby West Ham Park were the children can “…saw wood, build shelters, create bug hotels and pond dip.”
Supporting Pupils Through Blended Learning
Since the school’s last review, leaders and staff have had to adjust to coping with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and support their pupils and families through blended learning at home and in some cases, at school. Using Google Classrooms and Google Meet, staff provided a mix of live and pre-recorded lessons. For those families who had difficulty accessing the necessary technology, school staff provided hard copy learning packs for use at home. Every week, class teachers would contact home and safeguarding procedures were adjusted to take account of the new situation. Eventually, the school received 47 Chromebooks and other connectivity devices from the Government scheme which they supplemented with over 50 laptops from the school’s existing resource. These were loaned out as required which consequently increased the accessibility of online learning materials.
Supporting Parents to Assist Their Children
For pupils with additional needs, Teaching Assistants would record interventions aimed largely at supporting parents to assist their children. The school also loaned out resources such as trampettes, rockers and pop up tents. It was clear from discussions with staff, that the capacity and capability of parents to support their children’s learning was utmost in their thinking and planning. School staff hosted several drop-in sessions for parents including workshops and coffee mornings in order to support their role in home learning.
Engaging with Parents
A striking feature of the school, its vision and practice, is the strength of commitment to engaging with its parents. Never complacent, the school has continued to improve its engagement with parents and to this end two staff have trained in the Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P). During lockdown, a condensed version of the parental workshops was organised and following the success of this venture, the school will run the full eight week course in May, subject to the prevailing status of the COVID-19 response.
In discussion with the school’s lead for Community Cohesion, it soon became apparent how much more this school does to support its families and community. The Community Cohesion Lead has formed many outstanding links with the local community including the East London Business Alliance and local retail businesses. Donated food, toys and equipment have been redistributed to families at a time when need has been heightened due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy. The dedication and sheer energy was inspiring as was the breadth of activity and network building. Truly impressive!
The Importance of Parental Engagement
Clearly, the school recognises the importance of parental engagement but it is reciprocal. From discussion with staff and Governors and reading through a variety of documents, it is abundantly clear that the school and parents together have created an exceptionally strong partnership. This partnership has served the pupils and community very well and bodes well for the future.
Opportunities and Experiences
The restrictions imposed on the school due to the COVID-19 pandemic have, amongst other things, called a halt to the usually extensive range of enrichment activities. During normal times, the school would provide opportunities and experiences for children including trips and visits both locally and further afield, including to Spain where they have formed a partnership with a school.
Governors Support and Challenge
Governance is a strength and is fully supportive of school leaders and their vision. Governors bring a range of skills and experience and an abundance of energy and commitment. In discussion with the Chair of the Board, I became aware of many examples of how the Governors are proactive and also strike a good balance of support and challenge. There is a positive relationship between leaders and Governors which results in Governors being able to fulfil their roles successfully, whilst contributing to the life of the school. For example, the Chair of the Board has set up a Police Cadet unit at the school comprising over 50 pupils. Governors regularly attend the monthly coffee mornings and evening events (during normal times) and help to raise money and organise charity events. To this end, the Governors work well with the excellent PTA. Governors are aware of the challenges the school faces and what needs to be improved, they are also extremely proud of the support that the school has in place for families, particularly during the last year.
Working Through Lockdown
The school should be congratulated for the skilful way in which it navigated a smooth course through lockdown. Staff described procedures which were adapted to ensure safety and the continuation of a meaningful experience throughout the partial closure. Since September, further measures have been taken to maintain a safe environment and experience for all who work and learn at Ranelagh Primary School. The work of support and site staff to make the environment safe for teaching staff and pupils is highly commendable.
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