Promoting pupil and parental engagement

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Cwrt Sart  - pupil and parent engagement image

Cwrt Sart Community Comprehensive School has adopted a number of strategies to promote pupil and parental engagement. Mentoring sessions enable useful 1:1 teacher / pupil discussions and agreed subject-based targets, Year 10 peer mentors work with younger pupils, and a parent support group set up by the ASD unit enables parents to discuss progress and celebrate their children’s success.

Number of pupils: 422
Age range: 11-16 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2015

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Cwrt Sart is an 11-16 English medium comprehensive school serving the communities of Briton Ferry and Melincryddan in Neath Port Talbot.  There are 422 pupils on roll.  Just over 37% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. The school’s intake includes the full range of ability.  The percentage of pupils with special educational needs is 33% which is higher than the national average of 20.1%.  Twelve per cent (12%) of pupils are statemented compared to the national average of 2.4%.  This is due in part to three units being attached to the school, one for pupils with hearing impairment, one for pupils with speech and language difficulties and one for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder.  Under local reorganisation of schools, Cwrt Sart is due to close in August 2016 and will merge with two other secondary schools and one primary school to form a new 3-16 school in Baglan Bay.

A significant factor in ensuring the ongoing success of the school is the very high levels of pupils’ engagement in all aspects of the life and work of the school.  The leadership at the school identify this as a strategic priority and consider pupils to be their key strategic partners.  The Deputy Head was appointed as Acting Headteacher in January 2013 and was supported by a senior management team who were all initially appointed, from within school,  in an acting capacity.  The shared vision was simply to make Cwrt Sart the best school ever to close.  That vision was shared with staff, pupils and governors.  

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school applied a number of interlinked strategies:

  • An effective monitoring and mentoring system, already successful at key stage 4, was extended into key stage 3. All pupils are reviewed three times a year against their school band (a global grade linked to minium expectation at the end of each key stage). The data identifies groups of pupils at risk (e.g. FSM. LAC, SEN, MAT, gender) and applies specific support strategies. Reviews for all pupils take place with clear subject based targets being discussed and agreed upon with subject and form teachers. The strength of the system lies in the quality of discussion between pupil and teacher.
  • Year 10 pupils apply to become peer mentors and work successfully with younger pupils across key stage 3. In addition to providing ongoing support to develop wellbeing, self-esteem and an improved attitude to work, peer mentors also help pupils to develop numeracy and literacy skills. The mathematics department, in particular, has identified a specific group of peer mentors who support the development of numeracy skills at key stage 3.  Literacy mentors also promote use of the library through competitions.
  • Peer mentors have initiated further activities that enhance their work to provide social and emotional support to pupils.  For example, a group suggested a Memory Garden and successfully sought funding from the school for this garden which was designed as a place of solitude for pupils to reflect upon any problems they have, and to remember loved ones. This has already proved to be particularly helpful to a number of pupils. 
  • An already successful School Council has been enhanced by the creation of four new whole school committees, adding to the eco committee, who now feed directly into the year and School Council agendas. The four new committees evaluate and advise on ‘Teaching and Learning’, ‘Community’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Healthy Schools’.  A school governor is a member of each committee, and of the School Council, giving pupils direct, and ongoing access to the governing body.  The committees report back to the leadership team and governing body. 
  • Most subjects now have pupil ambassadors to feed pupil opinions into departmental planning.  Regular surveys of pupil opinion feature in every subject review conducted.
  • Partnership with our feeder primary schools is excellent with regular meetings of senior staff. Close work takes place between subject staff to develop numeracy and literacy. A successful transition project to develop literacy, reduce boys’ underachievement, and tackle the impact of deprivation led to a successful multi-media presentation at a local theatre attended by a number of local dignitaries. The project included a local poet and the use of emerging technologies and was based on Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.
  • A successful parent support group has been set up by the autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) unit.  This group has formed a strong bond and they meet regularly to discuss progress and celebrate the success of their children. The school is planning to develop further parental involvement in the school and has funded the training of two key staff who can now deliver Parentalk, a parenting skills course.  The objective is to create opportunities to engage parents in a whole range of curricular issues.  Parents’ views are also surveyed regularly at Parents’ Evenings and at other times of the year using software to collect and analyse data.

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

Ninety-four percent of pupils agree that the school listens to their views and makes changes they suggest.*

*(national average, 70%)

  • Approximately 35% of pupils are regularly engaged in school decision making. Nearly all pupils agree that they are encouraged to do things for themselves and take on responsibility.  Sixty-three percent of pupils agree strongly that the staff respect them and their background (national average, 37%).
  • Over the last four years, performance in key stage 4 in nearly all indicators places the school consistently in the top 25% of similar schools based on eligibility for free school meals. The performance of boys and of girls is consistently higher than the family average.  Pupils eligible for free school meals perform better than similar pupils in the family and Wales in all indicators. 
  • Attendance has placed the school in the top 25% of similar schools based on eligibility for free school meals for the last four years
  • The borrowing of books from the school library has increased by over 300% in the last three years. 

How have you shared your good practice?

A number of schools have visited to see our practice in peer mentoring and monitoring of performance.  Presentations have been made to the LA’s 14-19 group and to an iNET Aspiring Leaders group.