Coedcae School has made effective use of the skillset of staff to ensure targeted support for vulnerable learners. A stronger focus on inclusivity has enabled more pupils to maintain their school place without the need for a managed move to another provider. Individual morning mentoring sessions, social stories group sessions and bespoke accelerated reading groups, as well as early morning nurture clubs, are part of a strategy to build trust between vulnerable pupils and their adult key workers.
Information about the school
Coedcae School is an English-medium, mixed 11-16 secondary school situated in Trostre, Llanelli in the county of Carmarthenshire. There are 820 pupils at the school. Pupils are drawn mainly from the neighbourhood around the school and from further afield within the town of Llanelli. Around 25% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. This is much higher than the national average of 17%. Around 44% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales. Around 60% of pupils are on the school’s additional needs register, which is well above the national average of 22%. Four per cent of pupils have a statement of special educational needs, which is above the national average of 2%. Ninety-six per cent of pupils are from a White background and most pupils come from English-speaking homes. A small number of pupils speak Welsh fluently and around 7% of pupils have a language other than English as their first language. The headteacher has been in post since 2012 and the senior management team consists of a headteacher, two deputy headteachers and a senior teacher.
Context and background to the effective practice
School managers carried out a robust self-evaluation exercise, which included evaluating the effectiveness of inclusion and support services. Historically, a number of learners had been undergoing a managed move or permanent exclusion, or had entered specialist provision in PRUs within Carmarthenshire local authority. Following consultation with staff and pupils, leaders concluded that there was a significant strength in the skillset of staff at all levels at the school that could allow for the planning of an appropriate curriculum and targeted support for vulnerable learners. This meant that, with appropriate funding and provision, more pupils could successfully maintain their school place without the need for a managed move to another provider.
The school therefore started to strengthen its provision for vulnerable learners. Policies and procedures were crafted so that they encapsulated the school’s new and stronger ethos of inclusivity. Due to financial constraints, the school had to work hard and creatively to identify the most beneficial and effective training and guidance for its staff. Leaders focused on areas that would provide its staff with a greater understanding of social and economic issues affecting its pupils and their families. Training was given to all school staff in attachment awareness and in emotional coaching. Whole-school training focused on ensuring that staff understood the importance of empathy, tolerance and patience during any behaviour support programme and staff were trained in restorative approaches to behaviour modification. All staff were trained in person-centred planning and the school produced a valuable person-centred toolkit for its staff in order to support them in their work with vulnerable pupils. A new school policy was adopted to ensure that any child who began to show signs of emotional or behavioural difficulty would have timely access to a key worker of his or her choice. To this end, a number of staff at all levels opted to train as either in-house family liaison officers or pupil key workers. This included support staff, administrative staff and the school youth worker as well as teachers. These key workers and family liaison officers play a vital role in the school’s Team Around the Family (TAF) support and planning meetings.
Description of activity
The main driver in promoting an inclusive ethos at the school is the ‘Behaviour for Learning Policy and Guidance’. Through this comprehensive policy, the school has mapped out the direct link between pupil inclusion and support and targeted teaching and learning. Bespoke literacy and numeracy packages are planned for vulnerable learners as well as opportunities for individual morning mentoring sessions, social stories group sessions and bespoke accelerated reading groups. Early morning nurture clubs take place, which build trust between vulnerable pupils and their adult key workers. Older pupils who display more negative attitudes to learning or signs of disaffection are given valuable opportunities to work with established partners of the school, for example through beneficial basic skills and life skills programmes provided by Swansea City Football Club.
As part of the choices at key stage 4, all pupils choose an option from the ‘Enrichment Column’. More able pupils study extra GCSE courses, for example in sociology, psychology or an extra modern foreign language. In addition, there is a broad range of vocational and enriching courses to choose from, including a cookery course written by a well-known celebrity chef, extended work experience, handwriting skills, catch-up literacy and numeracy and valuable social skills programmes. These options provide valuable experiences for vulnerable learners and often provide them with a vital alternative curriculum which supports their attendance at school when they otherwise might choose not to attend.
The school’s youth worker also provides bespoke courses for individuals with particular emotional needs. The school has worked hard to establish many valuable and successful partnerships with organisations, which provide beneficial experiences and training for young people, such as the Fire Service’s Phoenix Course and Scarlets’ Rugby Club’s Tackle Project.
Key workers organise regular break time meetings with refreshments for teaching staff of the individual pupils they are responsible for to gather information on standards and attitudes to learning and behaviour. Pupils’ one-page profiles are working documents that are regularly updated by key workers and shared with staff. Behaviour plans are simple and manageable. They have only two sections – ‘concerns’ and ‘agreed terms’. These two documents form the basis of all discussions on pupils in the regular TAF meetings.
Impact on provision and standards
Leaders have found that maintaining a consistent level of focused intervention, together with a positive, productive relationship with parents, resulted in better attainment and attendance and improved behaviour for pupils at risk of exclusion. Over time, the school has seen a notable reduction in the number of fixed-term exclusions and in managed move requests to the Local Authority Moderation Panel. The whole-school ethos of inclusivity and support and its emphasis on showing empathy towards all pupils have had a positive impact on pupil wellbeing and attendance.
The strong focus on continuous professional development for teachers and support staff in inclusion matters has strengthened the school’s ability to provide for the most vulnerable and challenging learners without the need for external support. Staff have benefited from valuable and beneficial training from established professional bodies. For example, the Carers Trust provided training on pastoral support and staff learnt how to support children whose parents are in prison from the Invisible Walls charity.