Timbercroft Primary School in Greenwich has achieved Flagship School status.
Sharing Excellent Practice
A lot of developmental work has once again taken place in the last year since the 2nd review. The school has developed its leading role in sharing its excellent practice on all aspects of inclusion across its trust group of schools. The Deputy Headteacher/ Inclusion Manager continues to be an SLE within the trust and supports the other schools’ SEND leads to develop their inclusive practice. She has provided excellent leadership and support to develop consistency across the schools in terms of SEND policy and strategies and will be taking up a headship within the group of schools in September. This is a mark of the superb work on inclusion that she and the Headteacher have developed over the past few years within Timbercroft and will ensure that their inclusive practice continues to be replicated and disseminated, both within the trust schools and beyond.
The school has continued to develop its very motivating ‘entrepreneurial curriculum’, under the leadership of the Assistant Head, who works with teachers to help plan their very creative topics with ‘Big Outcome’ celebrations, including a furniture auction, a theatre trip and a seaside trip. An annual ‘Aspiration and Achievement Week’ held on the week of my visit and culminating in a special day when pupils dress up in costumes to represent their possible future job, which took place on the day of my visit, organised by the Deputy Head, was very exciting and motivating in encouraging children to think positively about the future and to reflect on the skills and attitudes they need to achieve their goals. They explored a wide range of vocational areas with many visitors, some of whom were parents, attending the school to talk about their jobs and to lead sessions for pupils. These included police, a medical librarian, an architect, a helicopter pilot, a shop worker and fire fighters. The wonderful assembly and parade of their costumes at the end of the day was a very memorable experience for all concerned. Children treat each other with great respect and encourage each other to participate: they are a true credit to the inclusive work of the school.
Wonderful Learning Spaces
A tour of the school with the Assistant Head in charge of the curriculum through all classrooms and halls once again highlighted the wonderful learning spaces that all teachers have created with amazing displays and reading areas, based around the exciting topics.
Creative and Inspirational
The rooms are very creative and provide inspirational learning spaces for children with working walls and topic-based displays that support children’s learning. A great deal of effort is made by all staff to create this positive learning environment and they should be congratulated for their work on this. The halls are also now beautifully decorated with examples of pupils’ written work, of their work in the topics and of the school’s values. One hall, for example, celebrates the ‘Big Outcomes’ while another highlights the school’s reading and writing. A new kitchen has been created this year for pupils enabling them to cook as part of their topic work as well as enabling a cookery club to be introduced. Parents will be included in the use of this facility in the coming year. In lessons pupils collaborate very well together and work in small groups led by their teachers and support staff. Each classroom you enter here always makes you feel excited at what you might find and lessons observed in years 2 and 5 illustrated the inclusive nature of learning with children working in groups and pairs with the support of their teachers and support staff. One group of children in year 2 was working on sensory activities with their teacher, a TA was working with 2 pupils on speech and language issues and one child with ASD from the class was doing an activity in a nearby room with a small group of children and his LSA to develop his social, speech and communication skills. In the year 5 lesson pupils worked collaboratively on their history activity, based around democracy in Ancient Greece, once again some pupils received help from support staff and one child with SEND worked with his LSA at his work station. In both lessons pupils were focused and actively engaged in their activities. In a Lego therapy session the 3 children cooperated very well together and used very good communication skills, led by a highly skilled and experienced member of support staff. Relationships between pupils and staff are superb as is the behaviour and collaboration of children in their groups. In all sessions visited children were thoroughly engaged in listening to each other and to the member of staff, in discussing their learning and exploring issues together.
Partnership with Parents
The school works very closely with parents and has an open-door policy, which means that parents are able to come into school to speak to staff when they have any worries or concerns. In addition, regular open sessions and workshops on issues such as phonics, reading and Maths, ensure that parents are able to support their children’s learning at home. There are also many other opportunities for parents to be engaged in the work of the school, for example, parents are also involved in their children’s topic learning and attend the wonderful ‘big outcome’ events at the end of each topic. Parents are delighted to attend these events and to see the learning and progress that pupils have made during each topic. Parents are currently looking forward to the school carnival in July when they will contribute food and other activities relating to their different cultures. This year, as part of the school’s mental health priority, parents have been able to receive support from a learning mentor and the Headteacher finds they are increasingly willing to open up about the mental health issues they face. Parents spoken to, one of whom is a school governor, were delighted with all aspects of the work of the school and their involvement in it. The parent governor emphasised how the needs of children are at the heart of the work of the school and how its values are highlighted in all aspects of its work, for example, through the school song, which stresses that everyone can succeed and everyone has something they are good at. Another parent of a child in nursery explained how the school has supported her child’s SEND, “ She has improved dramatically: they take time with her and give her the attention she needs. They also understand her, they keep me informed about everything. I was nervous for her, but I am fine now because they care for her and she loves them”. She explained how all the teachers know her child, even the Headteacher. She values the monthly drop-ins to see how the children are getting on in the nursery. She uses now and next boards at home as well as creating a sensory area for her daughter at home, “She has gained in confidence and all the staff welcome her. It’s a really good, caring school and now I am excited, not scared that she is going into reception”.
Pupils are genuinely at the heart of the school’s purpose and everything staff do is always for the benefit of the children. The school ensures that pupils are listened to and have opportunities to give their opinions and to make changes, for example, recent improvements to school lunch arrangements and planned additions to playground equipment. They also have input into school event planning and school policies, such as the anti-bullying policy. Pupils are able to represent the school by taking on roles such as the school council and playground buddies. These roles help pupils to develop their self-confidence and leadership skills. During Aspiration and Achievement week pupils apply to take on school roles, including Headteacher, teacher, receptionist, and site manager. Pupils spoken to during the visit explained how they enjoy these opportunities that the school provides for them – one mentioned how he had applied for the job of teacher and had planned and taught a lesson for his class. Pupils I met on the day were happy, engaging, positive, motivated and reflective and were able to articulate their feelings about the school. Pupils spoken to, representing all year groups, gave very positive views of their school and their learning,
“The Aspiration and Achievement week is very enjoyable – visitors tell us about their jobs, for example, a designer and an architect. They inspire us and I have now started to design my own car at home”,
“I have been inspired by someone who is self-employed and made his own company”,
“I enjoy all the fun learning we do”, “It’s really educational – no other school would match it”,
“Everybody is included and behaves really well”,
“Like in the motto, it’s clear that all staff really care about us and they help all the children who need extra help”,
“If you’re not interested in something, they will motivate you to get interested in the subject or the sport or whatever it is”,
“Everyone is accepted and everyone likes learning”, “We like the food and we made cheesy swirls in our own kitchen”.
Staff are Valued
Teaching and support staff are valued for their skills and expertise: classroom teaching demonstrates excellent practice and teachers are continually reviewing and further developing their skills to meet the diverse needs of all children. Support staff play a vital role in the school, leading interventions within their year groups and supporting in class. The school develops its staff extremely well and they know they are valued and listened to. They are trusted by the leadership team and are given opportunities to try out new strategies and to offer suggestions that they think may work for individuals or groups. They have great enthusiasm for their work: their teamwork is exceptional with every child’s needs being a key priority and they go out of their way to think creatively about what might work for each individual. All staff spoken to were extremely positive about the school. They know they are very well supported and, as a result, they work extremely hard to ensure that children get the best possible experiences. Teachers pride themselves on their exciting and innovative curriculum, which is engaging for children and they are continually trying to enhance learning opportunities for their pupils.
Support for children with SEND and challenge for more able children are both areas of particular strength here with teachers finding various ways to encourage independence and deepen learning. Consequently, pupils are actively engaged in learning; they are able to self-assess and reflect on their own learning and they make excellent progress. Support staff are also continually developing their skills and expertise. They support children on a one-to-one and small group basis and are able to focus on individual needs and ensure that targeted children move forward in their learning. Interventions that have been proven to be very effective are provided, including Lego Therapy, Lexia, Plus 2 Power of 1, Toe by Toe and ‘Dynamo Maths’. CPD is a high priority here and support staff have found the triad system of observations very useful in enabling them to share their ideas and best practice with their peers. Mental health has been a priority this year with all staff having received training in mindfulness strategies. A group of staff I met with on the day highlighted their superb teamwork and the desire they have to do their very best for the pupils,
“Staff are all included here, we all support each other, for example, class teachers will help support staff with resources and ideas”,
“We’re all a team: the best outcomes are created for children and our ideas are valued – no matter who you are. We’re all asked for advice – you can walk into any room and someone will give you the help you need”,
“We think outside the box and we encourage the children to do so”,
“There is constant AFL and teachers and TAs make adjustments to the plans – it’s not criticism, it’s help”,
“When I was new to the school I struggled with behaviour at first. Everyone helped, I made a plan and I now think I have done very well”,
“Learning is happening here all the time. Our children are a credit to us”,
“There is excellent communication with teachers across the year groups and we warn each other not to do something if it hasn’t gone well. Everyone is flexible to meet all needs and we don’t wait for a diagnosis, for example, of an individual child – we act quickly”,
“If you want to observe someone it’s open door – we don’t get stressed out if someone wants to observe us”,
“We also focus on their mental health – we have had mindfulness training recently and everyone has introduced breathing techniques into their day. We have also trained parents to do this at home.”
A Supportive Governing Body
The school has a supportive Governing Body who provide appropriate support and challenge and are actively engaged in the life of the school. Two governors spoken to on the day highlighted the school’s excellent inclusive practices and the focus on the needs of all children as its core purpose. The school works closely with its LA cluster group and is also part of the Maritime Group of 7 schools. Its CEO spoke of the excellent inclusive work of Timbercroft, how it has flourished in recent years and the crucial role it plays within the trust. In particular he stressed the school’s very high standards of behaviour and expectations, the curriculum for all and the dedication/commitment to SEND. He highlighted the huge impact it has had on the rest of the schools in terms of inclusion and meeting the needs of children with SEND. He also pointed out the excellent work with parents and how the school never gets any parental complaints. The Deputy Head is currently the SEND lead for the trust and spends 1 day per week on this work. She holds regular meetings with the SEND leads and helps them to compile and deliver their action plans. She has also helped to transform one of the school’s resourced based provisions and has looked to see how the schools can support each other with Timbercroft being the model of superb practice for all the other schools to follow. The school is also leading the way on its work on mental health and this will continue across the trust in the coming years.
Excellent Inclusive Practice
Exceptional features of this school continue to include the ethos of including, listening to, challenging and supporting all children; the excellent behaviour, self-confidence and positive attitudes of pupils; the motivating and challenging curriculum; the excellent teamwork and inclusive practice of teaching and support staff; the excellent partnership work with parents; the exceptional support for children with SEND; the wonderful learning environment in all classrooms, including superb displays and the overall positive, happy, supportive, family atmosphere of the school.
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