The Guardian has been talking to head Becky Ingram who says leading a school with a diverse cultural mix has its challenges, but we all want the same things for our children…
…What everyone has in common is the school and its values, according to Ingram.
An inclusive culture has been created by making people feel that they are all part of one community, and have a shared vision for how it works. “Most parents want the same thing for their children,” she says. “They want them to be happy, healthy and to make progress, and that doesn’t change, no matter what your cultural background is.”
Ingram, who originally worked as a teacher at the academy, says that the school has always met the pastoral needs of the community well. The big challenge, however, has been the drive for attainment.
“The level of family need and work around keeping children safe can sometimes dominate school improvement,” she says. “You have to make people see that raising standards isn’t about trying to prove something to an inspection team, it’s about empowering someone to be confident and successful in their adult life.”
…One of its recent big successes has been attendance, which last term it stood at 96.1%. “That’s quite unusual for a school with this sort of demographic,” Ingram says. A combination of strategies – from a minibus to pick up students, to a team of people who visit homes when there’s persistent absence – has achieved this.
The school has also seen significant improvements in results for English and maths, mostly thanks to teaching in smaller groups. In year 6 this has been happening for a while, but pupil premium money has enabled it to expand into year 5 too…
For students who join the academy with little or no English, intensive support is provided. When children first arrive, a higher level teaching assistant works with them as part of a small group for an hour each day. The majority of time they’re in mainstream classes, though. “There will [always] be somebody in that class who, even if they don’t speak the same language, has experienced the same sort of trauma of being dropped in, and they’re the best people to help,” she says. “Our children are so welcoming because they’re very used to having new students join…”
I spent an inspiring day recently at the amazing Hannah More Primary School in Bristol where head Sue Ramsay and her team have achieved a similarly strong sense of one community, in part through the work they do running classes and learning activities with parents. Great work in both schools.
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