Pupils at St Joseph's RC Primary School are encouraged to take on a wide range of responsibilities to improve their leadership skills. Children from Year 2 to Year 6 make up the School Parliament. This has an effect on pupils’ independence, collaboration skills and attitudes to learning. By developing actions that will impact the school, pupils feel valued and are developing into confident individuals. This sense of ownership ensures that they are motivated and helps them to improve their problem-solving skills.
Information about the school
St Joseph’s Voluntary Aided Roman Catholic Primary School is in the Archdiocese of Cardiff, and is situated on the eastern outskirts of Newport. There are 215 pupils on roll, aged between 4 and 11 years.
The average proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals over the last three years is about 11%. This is below the average for Wales, which is 18%. The school identifies around 18% of its pupils as having additional learning needs, which is below the national average of 21%. Around 31% of the pupils are from varied ethnic backgrounds with 19% of them learning English as an additional language.
Context and background to the effective or innovative practice
Pupils at St. Joseph’s RC Primary School from Year 2 to Year 6 are members of nine ministries that make up the School Parliament. These ministries are instrumental in contributing to school improvement, identifying school priorities, making links with the community and developing an awareness of global issues. Pupils are encouraged to take on a wide range of responsibilities, resulting in a whole-school approach to distributed leadership whilst developing and enhancing their leadership skills.
The school has a strong family ethos and a clear vision focusing on developing the whole child. The staff act as good role models in developing a caring environment where all are valued, respected and encouraged to celebrate their individuality. The school has great links with all stakeholders and the local community, contributing to a nurturing and caring all-inclusive environment with wellbeing at the heart of all they do.
An outstanding feature of the school is the effect the School Parliament has on pupils’ independence, collaboration and attitudes to learning. Pupils from Year 2 to Year 6 belong to one of nine ministries that comprise the School Parliament and each group leads on their area by developing actions that will impact on the school, the community and, where possible, the wider world.
Description of nature of strategy or activity
The ministries include: Digital Leaders, Guardian Angels, Criw Cymraeg, Communication and Enterprise, Chaplaincy Group, Mission Team, Curriculum Team, Healthy Schools Leaders and the Eco Committee. In each of the groups the chair and secretary are elected and they comprise the Cabinet who, along with the whole school, elect a Prime Minister and Deputy, who meet fortnightly with the headteacher. Each ministry devises action plans at the beginning of the school year and each week they meet to distribute roles and put their plans into action.
The secretary and chair take minutes and the group delegate roles. The staff’s role is mainly to facilitate. The impact on developing pupils’ independent learning is highly effective and all pupils have a valued role within their ministry. The pupils have a sense of purpose and a dedication to their groups and the associated activities. For example, Digital Leaders prepare timetables and support and train other pupils and staff, and the Guardian Angels visit the local nursing home to play board games with the residents.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
The pupils work purposefully and collaboratively. They access relevant IT independently to research, email, and write letters, minutes and newsletters. The seamless use of key skills to carry out their roles is a successful feature of the approach. Pupils are more aware of the four core purposes of the new curriculum for Wales through the work of the curriculum team, who drive this work and unite them with a common purpose.
There are worthwhile opportunities for the groups to present to the rest of the school and pupils work collaboratively, with limited staff input, to deliver their messages in a comprehensive and confident way.
Pupils are developing into confident individuals who are an integral part of their ministry. The pupils feel valued, and know that their voice will be heard and that they are impacting on many areas of school life. The cross-phase and cross-year group approach provides opportunities for positive role modelling without any requirements for older pupils necessarily to have the lead roles in their groups. The pupils vote for the best person for the job. Pupils have a well-developed attitude to their learning, and are developing into lifelong-learners that are constantly acquiring further leadership skills.
A sense of ownership ensures that pupils are motivated and have an active role to play at the school. Pupils become evaluative and reflective, and appreciate that not all ideas are feasible. They are developing resilience and problem solving skills effectively. They understand that with thorough planning, determination and team work great things can be achieved. The pupils are proud to represent their ministries and know that they can impact positively on school improvement, the local community, and the wider world.