Vicarage Primary School in East Ham, London achieves the Inclusive School Award with Flagship status for the second time.
It is a Welcoming School
The school is very welcoming to everybody and it was great to see the school in action. The day started by greeting children and parents at the front gate at the start of the day. This is where the Assistant Head and Deputy are usually found in the mornings and afternoons when the children enter and leave school. Other staff are situated at the various gates in and out of the school. Children and parents are greeted warmly and stop for a chat. The Attendance and Welfare Team were also in action as they waited to greet any latecomers to school.
The Team is like a Family
The Senior Team is made up of the Head and Deputy and five Assistant Heads plus the Early Help Lead (support staff). The team work closely together, and the large staff team feel they are part of a family. Their priority is to meet the needs of the children, families, and community. The SENCO and SEN Teacher outlined the SEND support in the school. Currently, they are the SEND Team although the SEN Teacher is currently being asked to take on other duties rather than the dyslexia support, she is trained in, but her skill and talents are not currently being utilised to the full. The system for awarding EHCP to children is fairly new to the Vicarage Primary School, although schools are being asked to transfer their information into an EHCP. The Borough does provide high needs funding for relevant pupils but realises that children need the EHCP if they move out of the area and when they move on to secondary school and college. The Vicarage Primary School went from a system where there were almost no special schools and special provisions for children with special needs. Almost all children were previously educated in mainstream schools. This has now changed, as the number of SEND children has increased so much. Currently, there are thirteen children with an EHCP, and many have high needs funding. Additionally, there are many more with no EHCP but who receive high needs funding (approx. twenty-five in total high needs funded children in the school. There are others in EYFS who are still waiting to be diagnosed but who require support.) There is currently only one LAC child and one under special guardianship.
Teaching Assistants are Important
There are a large number of Teaching Assistants to meet the needs of this exceptionally large primary school. Many classes in KS1 and EYFS have a class TA, but the rest are mostly one-to-one LSAs. The SENCO works out the timetables and arranges cover as needed. The line management and appraisal processes of such a large team are shared out so the SENCO does not have to do all of them. However, she organises and delivers a lot of training for the important group of people. Training on issues such as autism, wellbeing, speech, and language support, ASD and behaviour management, medical needs and so on. She also provides training for teachers on Quality First Teaching, as well as more specialized training to meet the needs of pupils with complex needs. The Language and Communication Service has provided training for teachers. Following a discussion with the SENCO, it was agreed it would be wise to do further training with teachers around QFT but also on how to make the best use of having a Teaching Assistant or LSA in their classroom. It is important to make the best use of this additional support.
One to One Support is Offered
One to one pupil support is provided by TAs, who may have one child in the morning and another in the afternoon – in order to avoid the Velcro Model and get children used to more than one person supporting them. The aim is to avoid dependency by fostering independence. TAs have 30 minutes every day to consult with the teachers about how they will support the lessons. The school uses Progression Steps to focus on engaging with the planning process for children with complex needs who are unable to access the lesson. One of the Teaching Assistants works one-to-one in the morning and runs specific interventions in the afternoon. They also do sensory sessions and speech and language interventions. They completed lots of training and they are well supported to run these groups. They spent time observing/shadowing the previous TA who was doing the interventions and sessions run twice a week for 3 to 6 months when they are assessed, and a decision is made whether the intervention has met its aim or needs to be amended and extended.
The Safeguarding Team
The SENCO/AHT is also the Deputy Safeguarding Lead and there is a Safeguarding Team that work together to support high numbers of children referred. The school uses SAFEGUARD Software to collate referrals and keep appropriate records. Every member of the Safeguarding Team receives an alert when a concern is raised. They then decide who is best placed to deal with it. Usually, the person who knows the child best will take it on or if one of the team has been working with the child and family beforehand, they will take the lead. They meet fortnightly to exchange information and to make sure appropriate action has been undertaken to support the child.
Wellbeing and Mental Health are Valuable
The Educational Psychologist talked about the importance of wellbeing and good mental health in schools, and agreed that supporting staff in this area will in turn support pupils – “it is all about putting our own mask on before we put one on the children.” The Deputy Head is the designated Wellbeing and Mental Health Lead and is organising a Staff Wellbeing Team to help develop the policy and practice in the school and to identify individuals who might need some peer support.
The School has Positive Relationships
The Local Authority Specialist for Complex Needs, who is another regular visitor to the school stated the partnership with the school is an incredibly positive one and the organisation is always as it should be. The Specialist works with individual children and Teaching Assistants who continue to work with the children and said staff are very accommodating. She trains the TAs and there are lots of different professional specialist teams that provide support in schools and she told me how these teams’ work and talked about some of the interventions that she uses with children.
It is Now a Model School
Early reading is the priority at The Vicarage Primary School, and there are two Assistant Headteacher’s who are currently driving the progress in this area. They are working all through from Early Years to Year Six. The school uses Read Write Inc which they tell me is the same as synthetic phonics. It is about pure sounds and the tiniest sounds. They found it was so successful in a neighbouring school that was one of the first schools to take it on board. The Vicarage Primary School is now used as a model school. They are training teachers and Teaching Assistants and they model the practice themselves in the classroom and in training. The school is also prioritising writing and have introduced weekly creative writing sessions, which are very structured but are designed to develop writing for pleasure. The two colleagues are obviously experts in developing reading and are extremely enthusiastic about their roles. In turn, they can enthuse staff and children across the school.
The School Has Much to Be Proud Of
One parent said she always found the school supportive. They started as a volunteer and did this role for over a year and she had potential and she secured a paid job as a TA and has had lots of training and development whilst she has been at the school. The staff build close bonds with the children they are supporting and learn how to communicate with the children. The Vicarage Primary School is a large school with a big heart. The children come first and everything possible is done to meet their needs. Everyone goes the extra mile for the sake of the children. They have much to be proud of.
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