St John’s Angell Town Primary School, Lambeth has been assessed and become a Centre of Excellence.
St John’s is a single form entry primary school with a 35 place Nursery serving the parish of Angell Town within the Coldharbour area of Brixton. This is an area of high deprivation, twice the national average, with many children living in overcrowded circumstances on the Angell Town estate. Pupil mobility is high. 76% of the school population are of Black African/Caribbean ethnicity with 65% of the pupils having English as an additional language. 48% of the children are eligible for free school meals. The school which is brand new opened in September 2016 on the site of the previous school. The children leaving Year 6 go to a variety of high schools in Lambeth and beyond.
“Learning to Make the World a Better Place”
The mission statement of St John’s reads, “Learning to make the world a better place” and this is certainly embedded in everything it does. For many families, the school offers a safe haven for both children and their parents. Inclusion is at the heart of this school and is high on its agenda. School leaders recognise that learning cannot occur for their children if inclusion isn’t in place first. One mother told me that she would, “Cry every day before I found St John’s!” Another explained that when she did not have enough food to feed her family, the school not only gave her child a free school meal each day, but also sent her home each afternoon with a packed dinner! The staff at St John’s make it their business to help every family in need; whether it be helping to complete forms; or help with housing and food etc. However, this is not a school community bathed in self-pity, but rather one that encourages its children to look to support those who are worse off than themselves, as their work with refugees shows.
Good Progress has been Made
Along with Inclusion there is a drive to ensure that the children meet expected standards and whilst this has been difficult to manage in temporary accommodation, the Headteacher is confident that the end of Key Stage scores and in year progress tracking will show that good progress has been made. Meetings with Science, IT, English and Maths coordinators showed enthusiastic staff, knowledgeable in their areas and dedicated to doing the very best for their children.
Communication is Strong
Communication is a strength at St John’s. The staff meet for briefings every Monday and Thursday before school, with a longer staff meeting once a week. On a Friday morning, small class based teams meet to discuss the children with greater needs. The information from these meetings is logged into a central computer system so that members of the SLT and Inclusion Team can see it. The staff feel that this has made a huge difference in ensuring that the needs of individuals are known by all. A visiting head of humanities from a local high school was impressed by the system and has introduced it at her own school. Parents feel that the school communicates with them very well, via newsletters and texts. The open-door policy means that they can come and speak to teachers before or after school and the SLT are always available for discussion. Parents find parents evenings, where their child’s strengths and weaknesses are discussed, useful.
A Solution for Everything
The SENCO leads inclusion. She is a long serving member of staff with a great knowledge of the community and its families. Parents explained that she stands at the gate each day and can tell if something is wrong. They talked about how she acts upon their issues immediately. They have a similar relationship with the headteacher who they believe can “Solve all problems and has a solution for everything!” They spoke about the time and care given to them by these senior leaders and are most grateful for it. The SENCO is very knowledgeable and ensures that all stakeholders, including governors, are kept up to date with the inclusion agenda. She speaks knowledgeably about individuals on the SEN register, about their family backgrounds, the support given and progress made.
A Very Spacious Building
The school is a new build and has space for expansion to two forms. The design of the three-storey building gives it a very spacious feel. There are many breakout classrooms for interventions to take place. Beautiful art work lines the walls of the corridors and stairs, much of it completed by the children under the guidance of the artist in residence who has her own style known as the ‘Quadrangle’. Several children said that art was their favourite lesson in school. The Big Draw, one of the biggest drawing festivals in the world, is to be held at St John’s next term and they plan to showcase their Quadrangle art work. As well as art lessons, the school also runs an art after school club which is attended by both children and staff. Displays in the corridors and classrooms show a good quality of work including displays on Myths, The Crunching, Munching Caterpillar, British Values and E-Safety. Working walls are also evident in all classrooms. Near the Headteacher’s room is a display that teaches parents the importance of listening.
Teaching is Good
The school has a nursery with 35 places. Children enter it at significantly low levels, but as a recent OFSTED report stated, the teaching is good. “Attainment by the end of Reception is rising, giving children an increasingly firm platform for Key Stage 1.” Data at the end of the EYFS shows that the children who have attended Nursery do better than those who join the school in Reception. Home visits play an important part in the transition into Nursery. All children are given a library card during this visit.
The school has Christian values and these are displayed in the corridors. There is an expectation that the whole community will follow these. Children and staff speak respectfully to one another and are very welcoming to visitors. The whole school visits the church weekly.
Children Feel Safe
The children feel safe at school and know who they can talk to if they have a problem. They listed many adults whom they would feel happy to confide in, including: their teachers, the Headteacher, their TAs and the mentor, but they also felt that they could confide in one another. They discussed the role of the Peer Mediation team who try their best to resolve issues between children. They feel that they are well trained and emphasised the importance of following the Peer Mediation steps. If they felt that the problem was too difficult to solve, they knew they needed to seek adult support.
Staying Safe Online
The children were also very aware of E-safety and were able to discuss at length how they could keep themselves safe online. They discussed many of the lessons and special E-Safety days that they had been a part of.
Staff Well Trained in Safeguarding
Staff are well trained in safe guarding and there are clear reporting procedures in place. Teaching assistants are split into those who support all children within the classroom and those who work on a 1:1 basis with children with specific special needs, although the school ensures that children do not become over reliant on one particular Teaching Assistant. TAs also take responsibility for some interventions including support for children receiving speech and language therapy, Lego therapy, narrative groups and Toe by Toe. There are also three Level 4 TAs who run targeted sessions for children after school from 3-4 pm. A popular Breakfast Club is also run by a HLTA. Teachers and TAs lead Saturday morning booster clubs which are well attended.
Plenty of Opportunities for Staff to Develop their Skills
Staff feel that there is plenty of opportunity for them to develop their skills, through attendance on courses; Lego Therapy, Safeguarding, Makaton, and ASD awareness to name a few. They also felt empowered by the senior leadership team who allow them to research and follow some of their own ideas for interventions. Teachers spoke of the importance of the 4 days each year which are set aside for planning; these days give teachers the opportunity to plan together.
Integrating with Families
The school expands its interventions into the community taking advantage, for example, of a nearby riding school, Ebony, to target individuals, as well as an outside counselling agency CHIPS. Individuals also have outreach support from a local autism unit. The SENCO spoke positively about the support given to the school and to families of autistic children, including a recent workshop on how to handle puberty. A discussion with a leader from the charity Football Beyond Boarders felt that his charity had great successes within the school for the following reasons, “They (the staff at St John’s) know their pupils so well; they are extremely nurturing and non-judgemental; for St John’s it is all about integration with the families!”
The school employs a Behaviour and Wellbeing Counsellor for one day a week. The support that the counsellor is able to give parents in this time is exemplary. Parents explained that they were able to ring her at any time, whether she was at school or not, that she would help them with a multitude of issues and would even attend appointments with them. They felt that she, “Helps them beyond her job!” OFSTED 2017 said, “The school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare is outstanding”.
Sharing Expertise Through Cluster Groups
The school is part of many cluster groups allowing staff opportunities to share expertise. One such group is the Brixton Learning Collaborative where coordinators and teachers have the opportunity to moderate work between schools; SENCOs meet to share good practice and school councils visit one another. The cluster also offers opportunities for inter school projects. The children recently took part in a song writing project. St John’s often hosts cluster meetings as they have the space in their new building. They are also currently working on their Sensory Room with a neighbouring primary school. Furthermore, St John’s is part of the Southwark Diocese of Schools, again attending meetings and sharing good practice. The SENCO plans to share information about the IQM at the next meeting. The SENCO also attends the Lambeth SENCO network.
A Strong School Council
The school has a strong School Council, members are easily spotted as they wear a different colour jumper. The children feel that their ideas are listened to by the staff. They spoke about the work done to support the plight for refugees; about the marches that they had attended and their visit to parliament to lobby their MP. Displays in the school corridor demonstrated the support given to the refugees by the school. The Headteacher also spoke about inviting 12 refugee families to the Christmas Celebrations. The children had made gifts for these families and each was presented with a hamper.
Many Opportunities for Children to Take Responsibility
There are many opportunities for the children to take responsibility. As well as the school councillors, peer mediators and prefects, older children take responsibility for reading with younger pupils. The children also described the role of the play leaders who ensure that everyone has somebody to play with at break times and who regularly reward kindness and good friendships with stickers!
An Active Group of Parents
St John’s has an active group of parents and staff who fundraise for the school regularly. The previous weekend had seen them host the school fayre, which the children had thoroughly enjoyed. The proceeds from the fayre were to be split between helping those who lost everything in the Grenfell Tower Disaster, a donation for the restoration of the church roof, and a third to the school to help fund Year 6 leavers celebrations.
Good Attendance is High on the Agenda
Good attendance is high on the agenda at St John’s. Fortnightly meetings occur between the attendance coordinator and the Headteacher. Systems are in place to target children with poor attendance and persistent absenteeism. The school offers free breakfasts as an incentive. Staff will also visit local residences to bring children to school if there is a need. Families have two weeks to show an improvement before further steps, including EWO input, are taken. There is a trophy for the best class attendance. Lateness was an issue, but the school gate now closes at 9 am and this has improved figures. Attendance is also highlighted on the weekly newsletters to parents.
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