Rowdown Primary School in New Addington, Surrey achieves the Inclusive School Award.
Rowdown is a member of the Fairchildes Academy Community Trust (FACT) and has worked very closely with Fairchildes Primary School who are an IQM Flagship School. Rowdown is a two form entry primary school with morning nursery provision. The school serves a large estate of mainly local authority housing. The school is growing in popularity with the local community. The intake of the school is mostly white British children although the number of minority ethnic pupils has increased in recent years and now stands at just under 40% with 20% of pupils recording English as a second language. The school also has a high proportion of Pupil Premium children.
Committed to Inclusion
Rowdown had always been committed to inclusion but the recent change in leadership has led to an improved understanding across the whole team that inclusion should be at the heart of the school’s vision, values and ethos. The school mission statement identifies that at Rowdown the focus is on “educating the whole child, developing the unique talents and abilities of each child…having high expectations and establishing a courteous, caring and safe community built on mutual trust and respect.” The whole team focus on a “holistic approach to meeting the needs of the children” which reflects their understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. Children are unable to learn and develop lifelong skills of learning and confidence in their own abilities to be citizens of the future if they have not had their basic and emotional needs met.
The school has identified that Pupil Premium funding is directed at supporting pupils in as many different ways as possible. Examples of the provision includes additional staff to support with learning speech and communication, fine and gross motor skills, reading and pastoral support. The school also provides small group teaching of core subjects every morning for those pupils with the most need from year groups one to six. The Leadership Team has identified a significant number of both vulnerable children and families across the school. The school offers pastoral support in a variety of ways including developing a Trust-wide counselling service for pupils and parents as well as offering two mentors in school.
Parents Felt Supported
The impact of leaders’ commitment to the pupils and families in the school was evident throughout the assessment. Parents had felt supported during the recent lockdown with comments such as the “school has been wonderful…providing vouchers for food…when there was no income, the school helped and supported…I see this school as my family”. Staff commented that they had provided food parcels throughout term time as well as the summer holidays. This is a school where all staff are passionate about the children and families in their care and work together as a team to create a school-wide family. All members of the team made reference to being part of a team or family during the assessment. One example that summarised the commitment to inclusion across the school were the words that “we are a big and extended family that works collaboratively as a team around not just the child but the whole family”.
Ofsted Noted School’s Commitment
This commitment was also noted during the school’s recent Ofsted inspection which graded the school as ‘good’ overall although noting that both inclusion and the school’s community work was a strength. Ofsted commented “Leaders have ensured that the curriculum meets the needs of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities. A wide range of therapeutic support is in place. Some pupils have one to one support to catch up. Staff support families well and help parents access the services they require. Staff know pupils well, there is a strong safeguarding culture at the school and all staff are vigilant, they quickly report any concerns that they may have about individual pupils. Leaders work closely with outside agencies, they make sure that families get early help when needed”.
A Journey of Improvement
The school has been on a journey of improvement over recent years. They have benefitted from the support of Fairchildes Primary which has enabled leaders to improve systems and strategies for the benefit of all children. An example of a new system recently introduced has been CPOMs. Staff described the impact of the new system as being “fantastic as it enables the team to pick up on all children”. The introduction of Edukey has enabled a “better strategic overview” with staff reflecting on the values and impact of the tool as a “centralised storage of information for SEND”. Leaders have focused on developing a distributive leadership approach with curriculum leads encouraged to develop their subjects and monitor the impact. The school recognises the value of effective self-evaluation to plan future developments. Monitoring systems have been established to contribute to the continual review of school effectiveness. Leaders were planning an inset to develop the new school improvement plan based upon recent evaluations of data and practice and to reflect the impact of the lockdown. Governors are a key part of the self-evaluation process and over time have increased involvement with school leaders to ensure school improvement . The Trust has changed the Academy committee structure and Governors are adjusting to the new approach.
Improved Understanding of Good Inclusive Practice
The IQM Lead is Inclusion Lead for both schools and has been able to bring expertise that has led to improved understanding of the impact of good inclusive practice. Examples of the impact were identified through staff comments on the impact of the role in “building trust across both staff and parents” as well as being “an amazing line manager”. The Inclusion Team now works in the same office space which has enabled conversations and meeting to occur more effectively. Staff are then able to respond quickly to identified needs and created solutions for either children or parents. There is an improved understanding of the different roles in the team which has enabled both staff and parents to refer concerns to the team.
Shared Training Opportunities
Leaders have also been able to access shared training opportunities which has led to better classroom practice across the school. Examples shared and discussed included the development of Maths Mastery with “regular staff meetings and termly meetings at the Maths Hub”. English has also been developed with the use of Read Write Inc for Phonics as well as strategies to promote reading for pleasure. The English Lead has focused training on Phonics, VIPERS, exploring texts that may engage pupils, as well as creating reading lunch clubs and ensuring that staff read to children during the day. Staff valued the opportunities that they have been given with regards to training reflecting on their own “improved individual expertise as well as the wider team expertise”.
Investing in Specific Staffing Resources
Prior to entry into Nursery or Reception home visits are normally conducted. The school has identified that a high proportion of children are well below their chronological age both in listening and in terms of speaking and understanding on entry. To address the issue the school has invested in specific staffing resources and speech and language provision in nursery and reception. As a member of staff commented we “get in early to develop oracy and speech and language…we have had Elklan training and are able to triage pupils to identify those with the most need prior to the Speech and Language Therapist’s visit”.
Offering High Quality Provision
The Headteacher and the team recognise the value of good early years’ education and are committed to offering high quality provision within those early years “if we get it right in early years, it impacts long term on learning”. The learning environments both inside and outside offered a range of play opportunities which aim to promote the development of basic skills. During the virtual tour there were examples of large boxes being used for imaginative play, mark making and writing for purpose as well as reading areas and maths resources. Staff are encouraged to model language and play to develop the children’s skills. The team is currently trialling the new EYFS framework prior to its implementation in September 2021, this has enabled the team to attend a range of training to support the implementation of the framework.
A Strong Sense of Aspiration
Leaders are keen to create a strong sense of aspiration for all the children and that each of the children is able to achieve their potential as individuals. The school has developed its approach to the basic skills with the implementation of the Maths Mastery approach. Staff noted that they were seeing the impact of the approach with “children’s reasoning skills improving” although there is still “work to do to embed the approach fully across the school”. The staff team has also developed parent workshops to promote understanding of both maths teaching and reading as well as specific days and weeks to engage learners further such as the Primary Maths Challenge. Leaders access the Inspire to Aspire network for some pupils as part of their work on challenging high achievers.
Responsibility and Enthusiasm
Throughout the assessment the sense of responsibility and enthusiasm that the team has developed towards inclusive practice was evident. Comments from members of the team repeatedly reflected that the school is “welcoming and that everyone genuinely cares for each other…a real sense of community and teamwork”.
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