Star Academy in Stoke-on-Trent has achieved the Inclusive School Award again.
Star Academy is an increasingly popular, one form entry primary setting with a private two year funded nursery on site. The academy serves an area of high deprivation. There is an increasingly diverse intake. Eighteen percent of pupils have special educational needs with 13% on roll having significant additional needs. In addition to being an IQM Centre of Excellence, the academy is a Royal Shakespeare Company Associate and a Royal Academy of Engineering STEP school.
The school has made impressive progress since being placed in ‘Special Measures’ in June 2011. At its last inspection in January 2015, the school was judged to be ‘good’ in all areas and indicators suggest that it has continued to improve.
The Academy’s Aim
The academy’s website states that: “At STAR we are committed to providing excellence for all our pupils. Our aim is to support every child within the Academy to achieve through a nurturing and inclusive ethos. We welcome all children into our community and aim to support them to reach their full “STAR” potential.”
IQM Centre of Excellence
It continues to proudly boast that it holds the IQM Centre of Excellence award. It is evident that this is not simply another badge of accreditation but a way of life for all at Star. The Principal delivered a presentation to The Academy Transformation Trust SENCo forum on IQM. The quality of provision for children with complex needs and the pastoral support afforded to all is commendable. The tireless work to develop a secure, wraparound and caring environment that promotes a good sense of wellbeing is to be applauded. In one discussion with the Principal, she summed up neatly the ethos that she and her dedicated staff have developed: “It’s never “no” it’s “how”!
The Academy’s Hub
The Academy’s ‘Hub’ which was the venue for our recent IQM Inclusion Cluster Group meeting hosted by Star, has continued to be a valuable addition to the site. Over the past twelve months it has been increasingly used by parents and social workers as a ‘neutral’ venue for their meetings and for supervised contact for split families. Provision for pupils with additional needs is impressive.
Children are Excellent Ambassadors
The children are excellent ambassadors for their school. They are polite, courteous and confident and their behaviour is excellent. Pupils are aware of how behaviour can impact on the progress they make and therefore strive to maintain good standards of learning behaviour supported by the Learning Ambassadors’ programme. Members of the Junior Leadership Team were articulate and spoke highly of their school, valuing the opportunities they were given. A recent example is the introduction of the Police Cadet Training which is supported by the PCSOs.
Pupils Making Expected Progress
Although pupils do not reach national standards in reading, substantial and sustained progress has been made. When compared to national averages, the proportions of pupils making and exceeding expected progress in reading, writing and mathematics are high.
Staff benefit from regular, good quality CPD including the use of video technologies to record and reflect upon practice. Teachers and support staff plan effectively and are skilful in adapting in response to identified learning needs. The breadth of the enrichment programme at the academy is impressive and supports the curriculum very well.
Parents were extremely supportive of the academy and appreciative of the dedication and energy of the staff. One parent was moved to say that “they go beyond expectation” citing examples of how the staff have supported her and her children during difficult times. This year, the academy has created a new role, SEN Support Officer, who has added greater capacity particularly for families who require additional support. A social worker who had been working with one of the families wrote to the school:
“The support that you have provided for the family has been outstanding and from my perspective and experience goes above and beyond your duties.”
‘Early Words Together’
In Foundation Stage the academy has run a successful ‘Early Words Together’ programme, where parents have worked alongside their children and school staff. The programme aims to help to get families reading together and enjoying books. A new programme called ‘Together we Learn’ (created by Stoke on Trent) will be running with the new intake in autumn 2018.
A Developing Governing Body
The Local Governing Body is constantly developing. Members are receiving comprehensive training to hold the academy’s leadership to account. The team is committed and comprises a range of expertise which is used to support and challenge leaders. Safeguarding is robust and a strength of the academy.
The academy continues to expand the opportunities it offers to its pupils and families. Part of the Pupil Voice has been used to make enrichment activities relevant and thereby increase participation. Careful tracking of each pupil is analysed so that no one misses out on these enrichment activities. This year the academy has worked with the local cricket club who have sent ECB qualified coaches to offer coaching sessions at school and at the club. The academy’s work with Stoke City FC continues to provide fabulous opportunities including the Premier League Primary Stars project. Other examples include working with rival Potteries football club, Port Vale who provide Baby Boomers, which introduces football for Yrs 3-7 pupils.
Developing and Sharing Practice
Star Academy is constantly developing its practice and sharing it with other schools. This is a highly inclusive and successful school which is seeking to improve still further and can offer valuable support to other schools. Leaders recognise the value of external support and challenge in school improvement and it is quite clearly proactive in seeking out useful sources of help and advice. In many respects, the school is very active in reaching outwards and engaging with communities both locally and further afield. As an IQM Ambassador, I was delighted that Star Academy was represented at the first IQM Inclusion Cluster meeting, hosted the second and has demonstrated commitment to supporting this venture into the future.
Commitment and Belief
This vibrant academy is driven by a strong, palpable and unwavering commitment to, and belief in, their pupils and their community. The Principal has a clear vision for the school and she is active and highly visible in leading by example. She is highly respected by students, parents, staff and governors and she is quick to acknowledge the loyal support of her hardworking staff and governors in supporting her to provide a highly positive and inclusive provision. Although she will be moving to a new position in another school at the end of summer, she leaves behind an impressive legacy.
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@example.com for further details.
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