Set within a very built up, deprived area of Exemplartown, Exemplar Primary School is an oasis of calm and purpose which has a significant impact on the lives of the children and families, from two years of age.
I can only hope to capture the essence of the school in this report, based, as it is, on one day in the school.
Exemplar Primary School can rightly see itself as a beacon of excellence in Inclusion working within a broad local group that is working collaboratively to improve opportunities across the area.
The school has a very clear vision, articulated by the head and visible throughout the school, especially within very high quality displays but also through conversation, plans and other visual evidence. The term “Team around the child (TAC)” can be used to summarise the staff approach to the individual needs of the children. The school creates informal, internal TACs to oversee the well-being and educational needs of vulnerable individuals. Parents are fully involved within this process.
The following poem is offered as a summary.
I dreamed I stood in a studio and watched two sculptors there,
The clay they used was a young child’s mind and they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher: the tools she used were books and music and art;
One was a parent with a guiding hand and gentle loving heart.
And when at last their work was done, they were proud of what they had wrought.
For the things they had worked into the child could never be sold or bought!
And each agreed she would have failed if she had worked alone.
For behind the parent stood the school and behind the teacher the home!
Care for children and their backgrounds underpins the Exemplar Primary ethos and exemplifies a fully inclusive approach:-
- Seeks maximum academic success for all children
- Is focussed on the pursuit of outstanding teaching and learning
- Is focussed in the interest of relationships for learning
- Understands and cares for each individual
- Is a loving, fun and humane school
- Works with parents and children to raise standards and achieve excellence
I would want to recognise the substantial volume of work undertaken by the Inclusion coordinator, supported fully by staff at all levels, in collating such a wealth of information available before the visit, that was thorough, interesting, informative and gave a rounded view of the school. Many thanks too, to the different people, staff, Governors and parents who came to share their views during the assessment visit. I’d particularly like to thank the children for their welcome. They were a credit to the school.
The school building is bright, well lit, well equipped and well maintained with main teaching areas and separate withdrawal rooms. There are well used connecting corridors. The building is significantly enhanced by very high quality displays showcasing children’s activities. The children treat the school with respect, enjoying the facilities on offer. They move around the site sensibly.
The children, parents, Governors and staff were very welcoming, positive and ensured that openness and honesty were significant features of the visit.
The vision of the Head teacher, and the Senior Leadership Team is demonstrated throughout the school, as evidenced through the conversations with the school partners, staff at different levels, parents, Governors and children. The vision is enacted by staff who articulate and model expectations, treating adults and children with equal respect, ensuring that the ethos is enabled to grow. Children respond accordingly, evidenced through the classroom visits at different times of the day. The processes which embed the philosophy are developed, modelled and described to ensure that there is clarity across all staff groups. Aspiration is also tempered by realism; possibilities are generated, then careful choice is made. Action is monitored and evaluated. Exemplar Primary School is a reflective school.
The over-riding impression given by Exemplar Primary School is of a school that has an understanding of what it wants to provide to enhance the learning experience for children. There is an energy and enthusiasm within the school which is clearly visible in the attitudes and behaviour of the children. There is a values-based ethos, based on openness, honesty and humanity, which ensures that the Inclusion agenda is assured. It is enhanced by the Rights, Respects and Responsibilities approach, helping the children to articulate their place in the school.
There is very clear leadership, with a number of key staff working together as the SLT, through which developments are shared, enhanced, tested in practice and reviewed to assess impact. As a result the school benefits from the drive and enthusiasm of a supportive management group, which is communicated through the children. Around these hubs is a group of fully engaged, interested and energetic staff, whose voices are being enabled to be heard, but also valued by decision-makers, who encourage thinking and engagement to ensure that all decisions are based on the most secure information. Within this organisation too, individuals are mentored, supported and developed through structured in-house and external CPD.
The school policy for teaching and learning can be described as a dynamic continuum, based within clear themes.
There is developing evidence of:-
1) Analysis of evidence leading to quality information being made available to support
2) detailed planning, including the provision of appropriate resources and staffing.
3) Children in the best practise, actively sharing in their learning journey, which is
4) tracked and reviewed at regular intervals with
5) records being collated and disseminated, allowing the process to be cyclic and developmental.
The school is one where continuous development as a result of self-assessment is an essential element of all processes, ably led by senior managers. Systems are being strengthened as a result of testing and adaptation to need. This process is evolutionary.
Children and their learning is at the heart of whole-school development, with significant work being undertaken to ensure that personalised approaches to learning are a reality for vulnerable children, with a differential approach to the aspiration for all learners. Learning is tracked throughout a child’s schooling. Systems are in place that will ensure that quality information derived from attainment data will be available to teachers to support target setting.
The children are a credit to the school. They were invariably polite, happy to engage in discussion of their own learning and their experiences through their time at the school, although a few found discussion more of a challenge. They are partners in the running of the school, some being given responsibility through a variety of means.
There is significant evidence of good practice in Inclusion, across all categories of need. Inclusion is evident in every aspect of school life, ensuring that Every Child Matters and, as an extension, that every person associated with the school is also fully valued.
The Governing body is a strong element of the development agenda, ensuring that the school is more able to articulate strong reasoning for improvements and initiatives before committing funding. There are a number of active members, with broad expertise which is made available to benefit the school.
Parents express their pleasure at having their children at the school and endorse the view that the school is open, honest and welcoming, to their children and them as parents.
Kahlil Gibran: Teaching:
Then said a teacher, "Speak to us of Teaching." And he said:
No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.
And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.
- Open, honest and humane approach to the needs of the whole school community.
- Very self-aware, through review, quality assurance and good knowledge of school data.
- Planning being developed at different levels.
- Enthusiastic, supportive staff progressing the learning agenda.
- Motivated pupils.
- Parents, Governors and outside agencies able to provide broader support, but also appropriate challenge.
- A community where everyone’s personal and learning needs matter.
Area for reflection.
While there was evidence of differential challenge from teachers in lessons especially in English and maths, there was less clear evidence from children that they could articulate what they were seeking to improve in their learning. It would be worth reviewing the detail of differential challenge across the ability range, where there is potential for less clear articulation of expectation, which in turn might lead to slightly reduced performance by significant class members. See the discussion topic below.
Consider the impact of peer to peer learning dynamics as a model of what is possible, especially the impact within setting, where a narrower ability range might limit visualisation of what is really possible, especially for less able learners.