Ysgol y Castell, Carmarthenshire, ensures that pupil voice is at the heart of planning, provision and evaluation. Pupils and their families work with staff and supporting agencies to plan focused learning activities. Staff ensure that pupils feel included and valued.
Number of pupils: 254
Age range: 3 - 11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: June 2014
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Ysgol y Castell is situated in the town of Kidwelly, about nine miles to the west of Llanelli In Carmarthenshire. The school caters for pupils between three and eleven years of age. There are currently 254 pupils on roll, organised into 11 classes. The number on roll has increased steadily over recent years. Approximately 23% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, which is slightly above the national average of 20%. The school has identified 20% of pupils as having additional learning needs, which is in line with the national average. Very few pupils have statements of special educational needs. Most pupils speak English as their home language, with very few speaking Welsh at home. The local authority looks after a very few pupils.
Ysgol y Castell aims to provide a caring, happy and respectful environment which allows pupils to realise their full potential, both academically and socially. Individual qualities such as independence of thought, self-discipline and pride in one’s appearance and work are important and staff also stress the importance of respect for others, team work and community spirit. This is reflected in the school’s motto: Care, Share, Believe and Achieve. The school aims to equip its pupils with the knowledge, skills and values to enable them to be responsible, well-rounded, caring members of, not just our local society, but of the world. Staff encourage pupils to respect and value similarities and differences and to be curious about other communities, countries and beliefs.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
The school has adopted ‘Person Centred Principles’ as the central process to ensuring the pupil’s voice is the focus of all its planning, provision and evaluations. In practice, this means that pupils and their families work collaboratively with staff and all supporting agencies to help plan appropriate and focused learning activities. The system has been embraced by all pupils, families and staff to develop one-page profiles for every pupil, which ensures a pupil-centred approach to all teaching and learning in every class.
A structured and robust system of tracking, evaluated each term, ensures that all learning needs are catered for. When pupils, parents, staff or agencies raise a concern, the school organises a collaborative problem solving discussion focusing on what is or is not working. This helps everyone to suggest immediate actions within the school or home, with a focus on setting targets and planning the necessary support for the pupil and family.
Staff within all classes have high expectations and provide support
Staff within all classes have high expectations and provide support through universal provisions that embrace the multi-sensory methods of all structured teaching programmes to ensure all pupils feel included and valued. Staff incorporate visual timetables and prompts, frameworks, thinking maps and tools, social stories and multi-sensory resources into all learning to reduce barriers.
The school provides additional targeted group support and tailored approaches to support pupils, according to their immediate needs across all aspects of development within each class. These include:
- personal centred activities embedded into the personal and social education scheme and linked to a whole school theme and a weekly assembly to reinforce the key messages;
- additional group and individual time for pupils to take part in activities with key adults to help them to express and communicate their feelings, feel good about themselves, raise their self-esteem, and improve their social skills in a reliable, safe and supportive environment;
- implementing the Carmarthenshire Speech and Language and Communication tools and programme;
- providing a structured phonic programme.
- providing a visual and multi-sensory mathematics structured resource programme;
- providing a motor skills developmental programme; and
- providing a wide range of out of hours provisions. These include a range of staff led after school clubs which changes half-termly to meet pupils’ interests, a school-based after school provision for pupils to socialise and play until 5.45pm, breakfast provision, links to community-based clubs, residential visits within Wales, the UK and the opportunity to participate in a bi-annual overseas visit through links with European schools and with an emphasis on establishing relationships.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
The whole approach has had a 100% positive response from pupils, parents, agencies and staff who feel that the school listens to their views as an integral part of each review.
Through the active school council, pupils have collaborated to review all aspects of the school and made changes to policies showing a positive increase in both pupil and parent questionnaire results. Pupils who are eligible to receive free school meals achieve as well as those not eligible at the end of the Foundation Phase and key stage 2.
Pupils identified as having Additional Learning Needs display excellent value added progress and achieve all targets set. The school tracks behaviour closely and the problem-solving collaborative approaches have eliminated exclusions.
Attendance continues to remain high - above 94% with effective monitoring procedures in place.