South Green Junior School in Billericay achieves Flagship School status.
Child-Centred Focus of Staff
South Green Junior School is an average sized primary school with 236 pupils on roll. The mobility of pupils is about 5% and staffing remains stable, with low numbers of teachers and support staff leaving the school. Leaders are very knowledgeable about the local context, with many having worked with families for many years. They use this knowledge proactively to protect and support pupils’ well-being. The commitment of all staff is exemplary, and they are led by a strong Headteacher who values the well-being, mental health, commitment and child-centred focus of her staff. The school continues to move from strength to strength, always evaluating the work that they do and always addressing the needs of every child in the school. This is a truly inclusive school in all its aspects.
Supporting Pupils and Families During the Pandemic
The school continues to place the child’s needs deeply at the centre of its work. During the present pandemic the school’s care and attention to the well-being of staff, pupils and parents has been highlighted. During lockdown vulnerable families were encouraged into school, but for those who could not come into school, teachers conducted doorstep visits and kept in touch regularly by telephone. Teachers were bought mobile phones by the school to ensure there was regular contact. During the latest lockdown it was noticed that more families, and more children in particular, suffered with mental health issues and the school continued with pupil progress meetings to discuss these issues and how to address them. All pupils are discussed, notes are taken on each pupil’s progress with agreed strategies and the paperwork shared by all who attend the meeting. Lessons had been learnt from the first lockdown to ensure pupils continued to make progress. Food parcels were available for vulnerable families either being delivered or picked up by parents. A large number of laptops were loaned to families originating from a local company and school resources with the ICT technician ensuring that they were ready for use. During this latest lockdown it was clear who to prioritise and what technical support in terms of laptops and wi-fi was needed to keep families in touch with school work and school support. Staff worked diligently through the closure to ensure lessons were interesting. They provided work that was not just interesting, but fun and pleasurable in order that children knew that they might be missing something exciting. As well as the regular core subject work there were a range of foundation subject aspects to the children’s work. Lessons were videoed and the school now has a range of videos which it can utilise in the future on a wide range of topics. The pupil premium lead teacher prioritised good liaison with the class teachers to ensure parents were accessing the curriculum and if there was no communication after three days, action was taken. Virtual parties, scavenger hunts, year group and celebration assemblies and teachers, disguised as masked readers who read excerpts from a book, made life fun for the children remotely. Staff continued with PDMs and stayed strong as a team during the lockdown. The experiences during these lockdown periods are reflected in the school’s Flagship project for the coming year. Digital readiness and supporting parents with their children’s learning at home were areas that were highlighted during these difficult times and in need of constant support from school.
Supporting Mental Health
On the return to school staff returned strong and appeared ‘mentally healthy’ due to the excellent care they received from the leadership team. Children’s attendance during the first week on return was 98% and staff 100%. Mental health issues were a priority for the school and a review through the Thrive assessments identified those pupils in need of support. Y3 and Y4 are receiving a catch-up programme after school led by teachers and there is an additional teacher supporting the children in Y4 for one hour each week in the summer term 2021 and then every morning for the academic year 2021/2022.
Supporting All Pupils
There are also high quality maths ‘top up’ interventions during the morning sessions to ensure children reach expected levels. The school is also being proactive in supporting Y6 children in their transition to secondary school providing additional support where children require it. NFER assessments were taken in December to give teachers a view on children’s progress and will be given again this term particularly in the absence of national testing. Transition from Y2 to Y3 has continued online with ‘social stories’ about the school, including references to the dining area, library, reception etc and classes giving children in the Infant School a taste of life in South Green Junior School. An introduction booklet to the school provides an excellent breakdown of the school and the support it offers. At lunchtime the children are encouraged to take part in a range of physical activities with the intention of involving every child. In the absence of inter-school competition, the sports lead teacher has set a challenge of covering the miles to Tokyo by encouraging children to run around the playground totting up their miles to reach the miles to the Olympic stadium. The playground markings have been refreshed to help children be innovative and the enthusiasm for sporting activity and participation by all was clear to see at a lunchtime meeting and observation with a very enthusiastic teacher.
Commitment and Support to Parents
An interview with a parent who has two children in the school emphasised the support and commitment offered to children and parents at the school. The parent has one child in Y3 and one child in Y6. The child in Y3 was unable to receive the usual transition from the Infant School due to the pandemic but commented on how supportive the school had been in ensuring all the child’s needs had been met regardless of the stumbling blocks. The parent was contacted remotely and the child given a virtual tour of the school which reassured her immensely. When the girl eventually arrived in school everything that was needed was in place. The Y6 child had struggled at home, but he was contacted by the teacher each week as reassurance. Issues with laptops in the early days were addressed by the school technician. The parent stated that ’South Green Juniors has been amazing. My Y3 child doesn’t feel out of place and my Y6 child will be sad to leave an excellent school’.
The assessor interviewed children from each of the year groups during the assessment. All the children were glad to be back after the lockdown and spoke highly of life at school. The Y3 children thought it was a shame that they were still in bubbles but understood why that was the case. They talked about their worry box in the classroom if they had any concerns and how their online learning was ‘fun’. One child said:
‘My mum didn’t help me at home – we have two cats and a dog and a rabbit so mum couldn’t help me out.’
This reflected the difficulties faced by some children learning remotely. Another child in Y4 said that
‘It was difficult to concentrate with two dogs barking and the TV on’.
In Y5 one child summed up the experience by saying;
‘Yes, finally we are back at school. It’s been a lot of fun – good not to be on our screens all the time – nice to have some fresh air at school!’
Y6 children were more pragmatic;
‘National tests – I’m going to miss them. I want to see my progress. School gets you ready.’
All the children spoke in a positive way about the school. They felt there was a fun factor in their learning and that they were prepared emotionally for their next steps. One Y6 child said that
‘the school deals well with mental health issues’.
Children were articulate, able to look at the situation rationally and give an excellent presentation of themselves and the school.
Strong Leadership by Chair of Governors
The Chair of Governors continues to be passionate about data and ensuring all children receive a well-rounded education. He is instrumental in supporting the direction the school is taking with the curriculum and has every admiration for the way in which the leadership team has dealt with the very difficult times over the past year. He spoke about the professionalism of staff and was fully conversant with the Flagship project. He has led monitoring days
‘Where you can never tell which child is a pupil premium child’
and has a comprehensive understanding of the school’s future developments and practices. His understanding of the school and its families and staff reflects his strong leadership which will be an excellent example to Ofsted Inspectors when they inspect the school.
An Effective Senior Leadership Team
The school has created an effective team of senior leaders and staff who share the vision for the school and the aspirations for all pupils to achieve highly. Together with the senior leadership team and, in particular, the SENCo, the Headteacher has worked effectively to improve the quality of teaching and the access to learning for all pupils. There seems to be nothing that is too much effort or trouble to ensure families have the best possible outcomes. Parents understand the inclusion agenda and are fully behind the school’s ethos. The leadership team continues to be innovative in the way in which it approaches the curriculum for every child and especially for those in greatest need. All staff demonstrate a commitment which goes way beyond that which is expected in most schools.
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