St Michael’s CE Primary School achieves Flagship School status.
Developed Strong Practice
It was lovely to be back working with St Michael’s school, albeit remotely but the school has ensured it has maintained its strong reputation for supporting, managing and being successful with children with a wide range of different vulnerabilities and needs. Since the last review, the school has developed strong practice through their cluster which has benefited both school staff and governors with visits to schools beyond their local authority.
IQM Cluster Group
As part of the school’s ongoing inclusive journey, personal leadership skills have been developed whilst also developing and promoting the inclusive practice of St Michael’s. Matthew Cuss, the joint SENDCo, is going to train to be an IQM assessor. This is well-deserved and something which will continue to strengthen the school’s resources both internally but also as an outreach to others within their cluster. The school has already found the IQM CPD programme beneficial and the opportunities to carry out assessments will further enrich the school. This has been reciprocated by other schools involved in their cluster with the one hosed by St Michaels prompting feedback such as ‘A really valuable experience to see what best practice is out there and how it looks in a very different setting to ours’ and ‘Seeing and feeling the ethos of a truly community-based school’.
It was exciting to hear the developments of the project linked to vocabulary development for children with specific identified needs. This is a key part of the school’s plan to move forward with their Flagship application. The aim is to target an increase in both EAL pupils at an early stage of language acquisition and also SEN learners with particular speech and language needs and their progress and attainment outcomes in reading via a particular, targeted focus on their vocabulary development.
Child Centred Creativity
Last year the school had secured funding for an ‘Eco Pod’. This was an exciting development which would really enhance the learning environment of the school. The Eco Pod is now fully installed, resourced and staffed with a decision being made for the two-year-old nursery children to use the room in the first instance. The room has been named ‘The Dell’ to reflect its location amongst the trees and its purpose to be a place of calm, nurture and growth for the youngest pupils. The building has had a huge impact already with numbers for 2-year old provision on the increase. It has also allowed an accessible space for parents with the addition of a waiting area. Governors have been thrilled to see the impact and the way it has helped the seamless transition of these children when they move to the 3-year provision. The impact of the two-year-old provision is very evident with progress from starting points being strong. The room has been resourced both inside and outside to enhance that which was already in place. This, along with the added feature of the outdoor area, further enhances the quality of the provision by providing space both indoor and outdoor and an atmosphere of child-centred creativity.
In terms of pupil development and children leading their learning, Year 6 pupils successfully completed the Young Leaders Award via the Archbishops Trust. The award enabled the children in Year 6 to develop their awareness of others and their needs, their own role in setting an example to those around them and their responsibilities to others along with enabling increased pupils’ respect for, and appreciation of, their local community. This led to a natural evolvement of ‘Aspirations week’ which the school takes part in every year through Bolton Council. The school has now developed plans to lead their own bespoke one. The Young Leaders Award affirms the work that St Michael’s is already doing in and around their local community and is testament to the level of engagement they seek to have with their families. To develop this further, the school is looking to the younger children being involved in this so they can begin to look at their place in society and establish firm building blocks. OFSTED recognised this too paying tribute to how the school is setting children up for later life and providing a solid transition.
Further to completion of the Young Leaders Award, the school was looking towards Year 6 being involved in a Lottery funded project ‘CommUnity’ that the school has successfully bid for. This project involves outdoor learning, community projects e.g. litter picking, developing outdoor growing spaces. These ongoing projects clearly demonstrate that school leaders remain fully committed in their drive to focus on pupils’ learning together which is clearly empowering them to become leaders themselves.
Governors Play a Very Active Role
Governors all continue to play an active role in the life of the school to enable very strong school leadership based on excellent knowledge of the school community and context. An example of this was in the recent OFSTED inspection. Governors attended the Ofsted inspection meeting with the HMI, their numbers being so strong that it was commented upon in the verbal feedback that no other school had provided such volume of governors with such passion, knowledge and commitment to the school. This is a real testament to the ‘team’ approach that permeates St Michael’s. Furthermore, Governors are actively involved in supporting the IQM cluster work with the chair of governors visiting other schools with the joint SENDCo and disseminating the good practice to the governing body so they have a deeper understanding of how inclusion permeates all aspects of school life.
Parents Play a Key Part
Parents continue to play a key part in the school’s inclusive practice. There are many strong examples through the Centre of Excellence review of how they are consulted such as parental questionnaires, Ofsted parent view, School Facebook page comments, school sport Twitter page comments and likes etc. Parents also receive regular letters and texts along with being able to access the school website and Parents’ Noticeboards on the front playground. The school website contains a wealth of information and parents are able to contact school via the website if they wish to do so. Again, external validation from the recent OFSTED also shows. strong parental feedback which was wholly supportive. The comments re SEND provision were exceptionally positive and noted by the lead inspector.
Higher Level of Engagement
The relationship the school has with parents has always been at the forefront of everything they do. As a result of their continued efforts that have been embedded over time, the school is seeing a much higher level of engagement. The ‘World café’ has impacted greatly on events such as the school carol service. In previous years there has been limited attendance but thanks to the success of the world café, it has helped to allay fears around attending this particular place of worship. This year in fact, the event was packed!
Social Media Used to Promote the School
Social media has been used positively to promote the school and everything that is going on. Using photographs to show school life has removed any language barriers and allowed ease of access for all families. This means that planned open days are hugely popular and strengthen the parental partnership.
A Safe and Welcoming Place
All this, coupled with the fact that the school was nominated as Bolton School of the year and only the second school in Bolton to be awarded School of Sanctuary status, demonstrates the school’s commitment to being a safe and welcoming place for all. It certainly leaves lasting memories with past parents still taking their time to send messages such as:
‘A sincere and heartfelt thanks to every single staff member who has contributed to our children’s education and progress over the many years. We can’t thank you enough for your dedication, caring and commitment in helping them grow up as strong, caring and competent young girls.’ ‘We will always treasure this time in our lives and will miss you all very much.’
Whole School Atmosphere of Inclusion
There has been a considerable amount of work done by the school since its last review and their commitment to move forward as a Flagship School is evident. I have no doubt that the school will be successful due to their whole school atmosphere of inclusion and aspiration for all within a warm and calm family environment. The school constantly strives for new ideas and new ways to learn. It is a pleasure to continue to be a part of this evolving journey and a huge thank you to all the staff and children for their ongoing commitment and dedication to their inclusion journey.
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