Inclusion and Sense of Belonging
St Nicholas CE Primary Academy is a two-form entry primary school that is part of the Aquila Multi Academy Trust, consisting of 16 primary schools in East/Mid Kent. It is based in New Romney, a coastal town on the Romney Marsh, an area with a very low index of deprivation, high levels of Special Education Need (SEN) (in part due to the specialist resource provision on site) and pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSMs) and/or Pupil Premium (PP) grant and a small number of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Pupil mobility is significant.
St Nicholas CE Primary Academy is a school where inclusion and sense of belonging are articulated and evident as central to the school ethos and, in the words of one member of staff, “everybody matters”. The school has a distinctly Christian ethos that informs their approach; “Learning, loving and encouraging through Christ”. All stakeholders expressed feelings of trust, respect, collaboration and understanding. When asked what made the difference one parent said, “people really care, and we feel listened to”.
Unique Needs of Children
Leaders actively seek to address the unique needs of children and their families with compassion and kindness. There is a clear analysis of need leading to detailed action planning and prioritising to meet the individual needs of their children and families. They are ambitious and single-minded in striving to address barriers and, “do what needs to be done”. School development priorities include a drive to improve attainment, to increase teacher expertise in adaptive teaching and to provide professional development that impacts their teaching. There is a feeling that all staff are in this together and collaboration is highly valued. Instructional coaching conversations support staff development and have a positive impact on the culture of development.
The school’s curriculum is engaging and relevant for children, designed to, “plant seeds” that enhance cultural capital and promote aspiration and, “open their eyes to the rest of the world”. Core aims include developing children’s cultural capital, broadening their understanding of the wider world, increasing social mobility and valuing inclusivity. Local themes and places inspire opportunities to engage in new experiences, for example, visiting local towns, attending a performance in a theatre, dry slope skiing, outdoor learning and a residential event. Through these challenges, children are encouraged to have their “time to shine,” to recognise that we all have different strengths and to feel inspired.
Sense of Pride
There is a real sense of pride in “The Hive” a specialist resource provision, which sits within the heart of the school to cater for children with Autism. This calm space provides opportunities for children to access learning in a nurturing, supportive environment in which they are challenged to make progress. The principles of the ethos and design of this environment are also evident around the school in purposeful low-key displays and positive encouraging interactions between staff and children.
Despite high levels of mobility, children make good progress, particularly those that are ‘homegrown’ and there is an improving trend in attainment data. Governors are confident that “no child is left behind”.
Wellbeing is a strength at St Nicholas CE Primary Academy with significant investment in creating a large team with specific expertise to support children’s emotional and social development including Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs), Family Liaison Officer and learning mentors. During the tour of the school, it was lovely to hear genuine laughter in the corridors!
Staff are positive role models and are collaborative in their ambition to engage all children equitably. They value resilience, enquiry, independence, aspiration, ambition, involvement in the community, perseverance, friendship, trust and respect. Children explained that they can ask questions, everyone tries their best and they support and help each other.
Leaders are Visible
Staff know their families well and provide practical resources including access to essentials such as food, travel to attend appointments and signposting external agencies. School leaders have taken steps to address persistent absence and lateness and support transitions for children moving in and out of the school so that all children can learn and make progress. “Hug pebbles” support children with transitions into school, leaders are visible before and after school and there is a non-judgmental approach to engaging with all children and their families. This has led to an improvement in attendance and promoted positive habits that will improve children’s life outcomes.
Parents/carers were overwhelmingly positive about the school and staff, and the recent Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) Report (2023) acknowledged the exceptionally strong partnership and the positive impact that this has on people’s lives which leads to lasting change. Parents appreciate the dedication to their children and the support offered. They described staff as, “supportive, friendly, accommodating, caring, understanding and approachable”. One parent appreciated the fact that, “they know your name, have time for us, put us at ease and find out what is going on and do not judge”. Another parent praised the open-mindedness and flexibility of staff and the independence that their child had achieved despite the adversity they had faced and that they are, “settled, happy and growing in confidence”.
St Nicholas CE Primary Academy is a wonderful example of an inclusive school where people come first. There is a determination and commitment to do what is necessary, going above and beyond to enable children to make progress and experience success.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: [email protected] for further details.