Wimbotsham and Stow Academy in Norfolk has achieved the Inclusive School Award.
In November 2014 Magdalen Village School, St Germans Primary School and Wimbotsham & Stow Academy federated to become The Bridges Federation, then from the 1st March 2018 became part of the KWEST Multi Academy Trust. The three small, rural primary schools; St Germans Academy, Magdalen Academy, Wimbotsham and Stow Academy are situated within nine miles of each other in West Norfolk. The schools are still referred to as the Bridges School and wish to retain this identity as well as being part of the KWEST. As the two Heads of School operate across the three schools this is an easy distinction from the other schools in the Trust.
Inclusion Practice at its Heart
The Academy trust has inclusion practice at its heart with Inclusion being one of the core values, of which there are 5. The other core values being, Capacity, Community, Independence and Excellence. Each school has its own unique identity. As part of the KWEST Multi Academy Trust which consists of 7 schools, they operate together with one Local Improvement Team (Governing Body) and Leadership Team.
A Caring Ethos
The Heads of School at St Germans, Wimbotsham and Stow and Magdalen, work across all three schools, as does the SENDCO and PSA, with Louise Arrowsmith, one of the Heads, being the contact name for Wimbotsham and Stow. Wimbotsham and Stow is a small rural primary school near Downham Market serving the three villages of Wimbotsham, Stow Bridge and Stow Bardolph. There are also children from Downham Market and local villages. Many parents have moved children from the larger primary schools, preferring the community aspect of a smaller school, also because of the caring ethos of the school, more suited to their children. The school is now over-subscribed.
There are currently 102 children attending the school and 13 pre-school children as of September 2019. Wimbotsham is set in a rural but affluent area with no significant deprivation. As well as the shared Heads, SENDCO and PSA, there are four teaching staff, 5 other TAs plus office, kitchen and caretaking staff. At my time of visit the school had two TA apprentices and a student teacher placement.
A Very Happy Environment
The website states, “We aim to provide happy and supportive surroundings for the children in our care and a place with a wide range of learning experiences to help and ensure the full growth and development of the child – physically, intellectually, socially and morally.” This ethos is evident in all classes and the relationships between staff and pupils. It is a very happy environment.
Excellent Display Work
On entering Wimbotsham and Stow Academy the excellent display work in the corridors was evident. All display is now backed on Hessian, which although was quite an initial outlay, once purchased, it shows the pupils’ work to best advantage. This idea came from a teacher’s visit to an outstanding nursery provision, as something that would enhance the school. Wimbotsham has now been able to back all display boards in the classroom in the same way which makes the classroom display more meaningful as it is the children’s work that stands out rather than the coloured paper behind. The visits to an outstanding primary school, due to a link made by KWEST in the drive to make their already good schools into outstanding schools, is where this was spotted by a member of staff.
All Spaces are Used Effectively
Wimbotsham School is a Victorian Building with every corner, corridor and classroom used effectively in order to create areas for children to read and work in small groups and in the case of EYFS, allows free flow between the main Reception classroom and a quieter area for the new Pre-School children when needed.
I initially met with both Headteachers, Suzannah Hayes and Louise Arrowsmith for an overview of the school. I had previously meet with the SENDCO and PSA, who operate across all 3 Bridges Schools, on a visit to St German’s.
The Headteacher stated her wish to increase the size of the school slightly to accommodate the number of requests for admission. The hall is used for dining, PE and assemblies and may soon accommodate a small library area where groups can also be taught. Space is at a premium, although every inch of available space is used productively and is both clean and tidy with excellent displays that fully demonstrate the inclusive practices in the school. This year the school has celebrated the International Day of Peace and Mental Health Awareness Day. The school is also in the process of accreditation for the Well Being Award.
KWEST is in the process of re-designing the toilets and kitchen; there are currently no cooking facilities on site. KWEST have also provided a lump sum for outdoor areas and the children are fortunate to have several climbing areas, outdoor equipment, a gazebo and a covered outdoor classroom area that the children can access at break times for quieter activities.
Very Happy Parents
In my interview with parents they all stated how supportive and caring the school was. They loved the opportunities to come into the school such as designing Christmas cards that can then be sold, ‘Meet the Teachers’ at the beginning of term, maths evenings, Reading Cafes for the Quest topics, however, they also have the opportunity to speak to staff on a daily basis, both before and after school. Any issues are dealt with swiftly so that they never really develop further. All parents praised the transition process, both on joining the school where the class teacher makes home visits and then preparation for transition to high school. The Year 5 children have already begun work in this area in preparation for the end of Year 6. The school offers the opportunities for parents with children in Reception to stay in school on Wednesday mornings for reading activities with their children. Parents are also invited to Celebration assemblies and come into school to talk to the children about their careers. Each class has a Parent Class Representative who other parents can contact for information etc.
Fundraising for the School
There is a thriving and proactive ‘Friends of Wimbotsham Primary School’, (FOWPS). They have raised a considerable amount of money for the school including a £12,000 grant from TESCOs. They have recently provided Buddy benches in the playground. They take the lead for Christmas and Summer Fayres and all thoroughly enjoy the Harvest Festival which takes place in a barn at the local Church Farm every year. All parents and children are then invited to spend the rest of the day at the farm.
Working with the Local Community
The school also takes part in ‘Carols on the Green’ at Christmas. Unfortunately, the local church burnt down. Stronger links are being pursued with the village Recreation Committee in the hope of future accessibility to land behind the school. This will be beneficial for the further developments that KWEST want for all MAT schools, for Learning Outside the Classroom curriculum. The school now contributes to the village magazine.
Donations to the School
Every year the Fen Man Bike Show takes place on the school grounds and last year they generously donated £1,000 to the school and a further £1,000 to FOWPS.
The EYFS teacher showed me the wonderful Floor Books now used regularly at the beginning of topic work showing what the children would like to learn and photographs of them achieving their targets. They are set out as mind maps with post-it notes, individual children’s names on their ideas and photographs. This idea also came from a visit to an outstanding primary school.
Consistent Management and Tracking
Talk for Writing runs across the school with Tapestry used in EYFS and PIXL from years 3 to 6. Teacher Mentors run across all the MAT schools, with regular Cluster meetings across the Bridges Schools and the MAT. All schools across the Trust use BROMCOM as their management system and PIXL which involves termly testing to track progress. There is subsequent question level analysis to enable teachers to track progress and target specific individuals or groups of pupils with specific needs.
Pupils are Happily Engaged
The Curriculum Enhancement folder shows evidence of activities and events that have taken place throughout the previous year and the start of this academic year. Bridges and KWEST values are celebrated though special assemblies, display and activities, as well as running through the core of the school in everyday work and behaviour. One of the Trustees visits the school termly with a focus on one of the core values of the Trust. On my Learning Walk there was evidence of pupils happily engaging with both adults and one another, in a friendly and productive way.
Support Staff Feel Valued
Support staff felt valued in the school. Communication between support staff and teachers is excellent with some planning opportunities. Two TAs have recently trained to lead ‘Shine Time’ with individual and small groups of children. They are just starting to implement a planned area for this work with lights and cushions to create a relaxing environment for the children, all of whom may be experiencing some emotional behaviours. TAs discuss pupil progress with teachers before the scheduled Pupil Progress meetings with parents. TAs who have worked in other schools felt more comfortable at Wimbotsham because of the inclusivity and working ethos.
The Sports Premium is used effectively to offer a broad range of after-school clubs. There is also after school care plus a breakfast club and parents felt that the person running the after-school care always provided a range of activities to suit all ages. The school Council is still in the process of being re-established this year with new members. However, the children were able to tell me about previous activities and ideas. All children were unanimously enthusiastic about their singing opportunities in the school and at concerts. They also sing for adults in the community with learning difficulties. The Year 6 children were looking forward to their leaving play which seems to be a well-loved event. One of the children had moved from a much larger primary school and told me it was much easier to make friends at Wimbotsham. They talked about the zone boards in classrooms used to show them where they are, moving up or down, with their behaviours, they felt this worked for them.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.