Westfield Infant School, Hinckley in Leicestershire, achieves Flagship School status for the third time.
Westfield Infant School is a 3-form entry school with 289 pupils on roll. The school has ‘Class 7’, which is a Unit for 25 MLD children. It is widely recognised that class 7 is at the heart of the school and supports the practice of inclusion and quality first teaching across all key stages. A key trait of the school is that staff are passionate, focussed and empowered to improve children’s outcomes from an academic, emotional, and social perspective.
The Headteacher is the Driving Force
The Headteacher is the driving force behind the success of the inclusive nature of the school. He is effectively challenged and supported in driving this vison across the school by knowledgeable and effective governing body, who act with integrity. Together with his hugely effective Senior Leadership team, his research led, and ethically driven style of leadership has given freedom to his team to ‘shine’, this is because the Headteacher leads the team with humility, empathy, and ethics with a
‘children are everything’
approach to school improvement. This style of leadership has led staff to be more willing to take ‘risks’ within a culture of high challenge/low threat. As a result, staff turnover remains stable, with low numbers of teachers and support staff leaving the school. This creates a staff that creates structure, routine, and consistency. This predictability leads to children and staff feeling emotionally secure and safe. Which in turn leads to a sense of belonging, which increases self-esteem, resulting in better outcomes and behaviour. Trust is explicit in the school as values are so embedded. All staff are passionate about the children, and this is echoed by children and parents who stated,
‘Staff are the key to success, they have supported me and inspired me to go on…we are not judged’
(In relation to challenges during Covid lockdown).
Guidance During Lockdown
During the lockdown, the school remained open to continue to meet needs of their children. Staff ensured that work was provided via their learning platforms and via paper form to ensure that all children had access to the curriculum. Staff had regular contact with all parents and children during this period but also the exceptional pastoral team contacted parents daily to provide support, guidance and signpost for parents who needed that extra support.
Draw and Talk
The school continues to move from strength to strength, always evaluating the work that they do and always addressing the needs of every child in the school. A striking example of this was related during a conversation with the Learning Mentor describing the process of ‘Draw and Talk’. This is a child-centred intervention that focuses on supporting the social and emotional well-being of children. Children are impacted emotionally by many different events, struggles and trauma. The technique is intended to allow the child to play, by drawing a picture and process any emotions they are holding internally in a safe and non-confrontational way. The account was related to the fact that a child who was suffering from trauma sat with the Learning Mentor for 30 minutes to draw and talk with her. This child drew for literally five minutes and then just sit without any conversation, staring at the paper.
‘Even when the child appears to do nothing but stare, they are beginning to think and work things out in a safe space’.
This process has been so successful with children that other members of the team have been trained to ensure, especially post Covid, that children have time and support to enable them talk and process.
Respect for our Feelings
The school also has trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSA). They are Teaching Assistants who have had special training to support the emotional development of children and young people in the school. ELSA’s help children and young people learn to understand their emotions and respect the feelings of those around them. They provide the time and space for pupils to think about their personal circumstances and how they manage them. The ELSA programme lasts for 12 weeks, helping the pupil to learn some specific new skills or coping strategies.
Creating Good Relationships
The school is clearly passionate about their children. They are valued as individuals within a caring atmosphere and there is a celebration of all the school’s pupils in order that they feel accepted and understood. These values have permeated into all aspects of the school’s work and now has a significant impact on staff and children’s attitudes. Teachers and support staff know their pupils well and have an excellent rapport with their children. The role of the additional adults in supporting learning and supporting individual children cannot be underestimated,
‘Everyone learning together through work and play is clear’.
Very Happy Children
The children are extremely happy in their school. When asked about what their favourite thing about school is, they answered in chorus ‘Everything!’ When trying to get underneath this chorus the strongest thing that came out was the strength of teaching and the relationships with staff. Even during Covid the school has made every effort to focus on attainment and progress in maths, reading and writing, however, there is also a strong emphasis on a broad and balanced curriculum with the foundation subjects having a high profile. This will be emphasised to an even greater extent over the next year when the school focuses on further developing their curriculum, particularly using the fantastic outdoor spaces and areas for adventure. The children will experience a curriculum that is explicit in its progression with a continued emphasis on enrichment and enjoyment.
The ‘Read 2 Dogs’ Scheme
Although not seen during the review day ‘Jet the Dog’ has an important role in supporting vulnerable children particularly with low self-esteem. The research indicates that contact between children and dogs encourages physical interaction which help puts the child at ease. Jet is part of the Read 2 Dogs scheme which supports children who are reluctant readers. The dog supports them to overcome their fears and is that safe space to read to without judgment. He also supports the children in the ELSA intervention as well and children who just need that petting experience to overcome nervousness around dogs. He really is part of the Westfield family!
Ensuring Children are Heard
The SENCO is extremely passionate in her role in school. She works well with all stakeholders in ensuring the voice of children is heard. During the past year there has been an impact on the knowledge gained to support the children coming into school. As a result, the SENCO together with ‘Class 7’ MLD lead have worked with pre-schools and nurseries to ensure that they have the correct knowledge and understanding of individual need. This has progressed into a strategy of collaboration with five settings, so that they can all support each other with the sole aim of supporting children more effectively. The SENCO has also led interventions within the classroom to support the needs of individuals particularly in EYFS and Year 1 where the school has rightly identified that these children have missed out on skills and knowledge more than most during COVID. Together with the talented DHT they have redesigned aspects of EYFS with class teachers to deliver a curriculum that is appropriate to children’s starting points.
Enthusiastic about Inclusion
The Governors interviewed are passionate about inclusion and have huge knowledge about inclusion and governance. They have been supported by the Headteacher in delivering and living ethical leadership. This is the bedrock of the inclusion strategy and their commitment to the IQM.
‘Think preventative rather than crises’…keeps us ahead of the game!’
The governors lived their actions by attending the last cluster group meeting. The only governor to attend demonstrates that this school has a golden thread of leadership at its core, inclusion is running throughout the school. The Governors agenda is explicit because they are actively involved in seeking views and opinions about how to improve the school. They have questionnaires and monitor regularly, ‘we listen’. This has led to Governors, in conjunction with the Head, developing strategies that give children a holistic school experience, driven by high expectations and ultimately resulting in high outcomes.
Progress of the MLD Unit
This ethos includes the MLD unit. The work that goes into supporting the children, parents and staff cannot be underestimated. The unit consists of currently 25 children. However, some of these children are now in mainstream with various levels of support and intervention. These children add value to the class setting and are welcomed with open arms and fit in seamlessly. That is not by chance, this is the accumulation of lots of strategic planning, training, and support by the MLD lead, SENCO and SLT. The school has managed to go even further, it has taken a child off an EHCP due to the progress they have made. The interventions undertaken to enable the child to make progress in all areas is remarkable and potentially life changing for the child and family. This really should be celebrated and is almost unprecedented.
This could not happen without effective communication. Parents are kept well informed and there is good communication with parents which has been emphasised during this present lockdown. The whole staff team have worked collaboratively to help them support their children at home. Parents interviewed as part of the review could not speak highly enough of the school. They praised the school for the way in which it had supported both them and their children, before, during and after the pandemic. The work in the MLD unit is backed up by one parent who was hugely grateful for the support.
‘My child loves coming to school’.
Maintaining Great Relationships
The school has a good relationship with its local community and local schools. It works closely with the Junior Schools and with the cluster group. It works with all kinds of outside agencies but has learnt not to rely on them but to initiate their own programmes if outside agencies are stretched. The school’s inclusive agenda is being promoted locally and it continues to be a significant influence within the IQM cluster group.
Moving from Strength to Strength
The strong leadership of the Headteacher, his accessibility, commitment to inclusion and improving the opportunities for all children, including the leadership of the SLT, is ensuring that the IQM process is articulated by everyone and are strengths of the school. The school moves from strength to strength in improving opportunities for all children. It has many innovative and embedded strategies to involve and excite all children. Subject leadership is strong, and all staff have a common aim based on the School Development Plan.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
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