Creating an engaging learning environment

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Monkton Priory Community Primary School is a 'window on the world' for its pupils and the heart of a learning community based on equality, respect and doing your best.

Number of pupils: 211
Age range: 3-11
Date of Inspection: April 2016

Information about the school

Monkton Priory Community Primary School serves the Monkton area of the town of Pembroke in the Pembrokeshire local authority.  Monkton consists of a very large local authority council estate, a permanent Gypsy Traveller site and a small number of private houses.  The school has 221 pupils aged three to eleven years on roll, including 33 who attend the nursery on a part-time or full-time basis.  There are 12 classes in the school, including three mixed-aged classes.  The school has two units for pupils with severe and complex learning needs.  Around 49% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is well above the average for Wales (20%).  

The school has identified about 38% of pupils as having additional learning needs.  This is well above the average for Wales (25%).  Very few pupils have a statement of special educational needs.  Around 30% of pupils are from a Gypsy Roma background. 

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school is central to the small community of Monkton.  Most pupils live in the community and around half the pupils are eligible for free school meals.  A majority of the pupils have limited experiences outside the community.

Thirty percent of pupils are from the gypsy traveller community.  There is a permanent traveller site in Monkton and the school has an attached unit for traveller pupils aged 11-16 years old.

The school has strived to create a stimulating learning environment that engages all learners.  Leaders ensure that they place all staff in settings that match their skills.  All staff are committed to supporting pupils’ wellbeing and providing a learning community based on equality, respect and doing ones best.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school has two separate buildings situated on the same campus.  The oldest part of the school is Victorian, with the newest department completed in 2010.  Leaders have a planned programme to maintain, renovate and enhance the different settings and outside areas.  Staff and pupils have worked collaboratively to create learning zones, using vibrant wall murals and modern furnishings.  These themed areas offer a highly creative space for pupils to use for researching, studying and investigating.  In the Foundation Phase, the school has renovated the outdoor provision and designed stimulating areas for pupils to work, including a wildlife area that enables pupils to explore and learn about insects, birds and pond life.

A majority of pupils have limited experiences in places beyond their community.  The school aims to provide a “window on the world” that enriches learning experiences, providing real-life experiences to topics that pupils have studied in the classroom.  The school has used an element of the pupil deprivation grant to fund all non-residential educational visits.  It leases two minibuses that allow classes to explore the local area and other places of interest.  These activities heighten pupils’ understanding of their work.  Pupils in key stage 2 have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of different sporting activities that would not be readily available to them, for example horse riding, golf and judo.  This venture has raised aspirations for pupils and has had a positive impact on attendance.

An ethos of respect resonates from senior leaders and is central to life at Monkton Priory School. Everyone acknowledges that people are all different but that all have an important role in school life.  There is a relationship of mutual respect between all adults and pupils and staff provide positive role models for the pupils.  Nearly all the pupils understand that if they behave appropriately they will enjoy school life and will succeed.  They appreciate that members of staff are there to help, support and guide them and they are central to the school family.  To create a nurturing environment, leaders, teachers and learning support assistants understand the needs of individual pupils, and work with families to promote the schools values and enhance learning.  For example, the school has a trained member of staff who offers counselling for pupils who need additional emotional support.

The school moto “Learning Together” is a shared vision by all staff, pupils and the wider community involved in the school.  It is an integral part of school life.  The school successfully co-ordinates adult education in the community of Monkton and a range of courses are available, from essential skills to a part-time degree.  The school encourages everyone to be part of the learning community, and both staff and parents are actively encouraged to continue studying and to be life-long learners.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The behaviour of nearly all the pupils is excellent. There have been no exclusions over the last six years.

Attendance has increased by 5% in six years with a decrease in the rate of pupils persistently absent.  Pupils want to come to school and their parents understand the strong link between good attendance and high achievement.

There has been an increase in pupil performance, and the gap in achievement of pupils eligible for free school meals has significantly reduced.

How have you shared your good practice?

The headteacher and head of the traveller service have given presentations about equality and diversity.