St Mary’s RC Primary School in Uxbridge achieves the Inclusive School Award for the second time.
St Mary’s Catholic Primary is an excellent example of inclusive practice. The Headteacher, Assistant Headteachers and staff are passionate about the progress of all the children in their school. The children attain well at the end of Key Stage 2 and progress particularly in Maths over the last three years has been well above average. As a school with over 24 languages and a high deprivation factor, the value of good language development is a key focus of the Leadership Team. Leaders commented that in Early Years almost “fifty percent of the new intake have no language and only communicate by pointing at things in the classroom”. The team has therefore focused on further improving the children’s skills with reading and writing addressing both areas through high quality “vocabulary and language development”. Strategies that have been implemented include the introduction of Storytime Phonics in Reception, interventions that introduce objects, support for parents, linking an adult with a child for daily reading sessions, the development of reading corners in each classroom as well as the purchase of a new Library Bus. As the new strategies are in the early stages there was not yet evidence to reflect the overall impact of improvement.
Supporting Children and Families
As an inclusive school the importance of supporting children and families was extremely high during the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent return to school. The school had invested in Purple Mash as an IT curriculum resource, prior to the pandemic. Staff planned sessions that parents could access with their children online and if unable to access provided hard copies. Staff had also planned learning using workbooks that children were able to take home in the immediate instance. Staff also supported individual children who needed extra support with specific differentiated activities. In Early Years the team focused on practical activities such as growing plants. Staff linked the plant growing to the children understanding the value of nurturing and caring for a living plant is as important as looking after yourself. Parents commented on “how well the school team listened to them during lockdown” even completing “EHCP annual reviews using Zoom and making sure all the paperwork was in place”. The work and support that the staff team demonstrated during recent months reflect a number of the school’s aims including “everyone in the school community will work together to support each other”. Throughout the virtual day the sense of St Mary’s working together as a “family” was tangible reflecting the aim “to be a family with Jesus at the centre of everything we do”.
Leaders reflected on the most appropriate way for pupils to transition both into and out of school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Year 6 pupils had the opportunity to take part in a virtual tour of their new schools. Staff were able to hold Zoom meetings with key staff as part of the transition timetable. In Early Years the Reception team shared pictures of the environment and sent letters to parents prior to the children starting school. Staff were intent on “making the experience as live as possible”, planning a gradual introduction to the new term with stay and plays and then extending the day to lunchtime and finally an afternoon finish. Staff commented that the impact of the planned transition had been very positive with the “Reception children settling well”. The rest of the school has also returned and a pupil commented “it is way more fun to be back in school than at home”. The team focused on supporting individual children through phone calls as well as an individual welcome as they arrived in school. The school has also completed a Wellbeing Week as part of their Recovery Curriculum offer to pupils to support their emotional wellbeing. As a school that focuses on the individual progress of pupils, staff have baselined children in order to plan learning that quickly fills the gaps.
Promoting Inclusive Values
Leaders have established good systems and structures to enable the school to promote its inclusive values. Leaders have developed a clear monitoring plan that reflects the high expectations they have of the staff team. The impact of the rigorous approach to monitoring enables leaders to regularly self-evaluate and then to reflect on planned developments across the school. As a team they have developed a monitoring template that focuses on three areas – teaching and learning, visual support and behaviour support. Leaders traffic light each of the areas to highlight progress and understanding of teacher needs and developments. It is a very clear approach that enables leaders to be focused, identifying potential CPD needs as well as maintain accountability of the whole team. Subject Leaders have been developed to create an improved distributive leadership approach across the school and maintain whole team focus on developments and impact. Staff commented that they felt supported by the Leadership Team and have benefitted from the opportunities that they had whilst the school was a Teaching School.
The Learning Environment
The school is based in Uxbridge and was established one hundred and twenty-five years ago which creates the challenge of a Victorian building. The team has created a range of learning environments that meet the needs of the children. The entrance to the school includes a reflective courtyard that encourages the children to have a quiet moment within their day. The outside areas have been divided to reflect the different phases of the primary years and in each area, staff have considered how to promote learning opportunities. An excellent example would be the wooden house on the Key Stage 1 Playground that enables children to continue to develop their imaginative and story-telling skills once they leave Reception. The Key Stage 2 Playground also offers a quiet area for children to use at lunchtime to “play boardgames, read or just have time to chat together”. Internally staff have made best use of the rooms providing an IT suite as well as classrooms that are consistent in displays. This consistency reflects the rigour and high expectations of the leaders with staff committed to using the non-negotiables that were created together as a whole school team. The school team were also very proud of the one hundred- and twenty-five-year celebration that had occurred in February 2020, sharing photos and accounts of the Victorian day that children had taken part in.
Curriculum Reflects Pupils’ Needs
Leaders have spent time adapting their curriculum to reflect the needs of the pupils of St Mary’s. The school buys into a number of different curricular models that are then adapted to ensure that the pupils learn about their local environment as well as the wider world. An example of the adapted changes would be looking at the History curriculum which consider significant historical people in the local area as well as ensuring that pupils make local visits. As a school the team has identified, as part of their curriculum intent, that they want to offer children “life experiences outside of school though local visits, visitors and workshops in school”. The school development focus of vocabulary has encouraged teachers to use Knowledge Organisers to support children in understanding the planned learning in the Foundation subjects. Pupils were positive about the opportunities they have had to visit different locations and to take part in events such as the WE celebration at Wembley Stadium.
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