School develops innovative learning experience for pupils

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Pupils playing together while Teacher observes

Cogan Primary School has improved standards and wellbeing throughout the school. Their learning culture has given staff the confidence to share approaches that result in better learning opportunities for pupils. A buddy initiative allows pupils to share their work and discuss their enjoyment for learning. It also provides an efficient source of informal monitoring for teachers.

Number of pupils: 206
Age range: 4-11
Date of inspection: May 2018

Information about the school

Cogan Primary School is in the Cogan area of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan local authority.  There are 206 pupils on roll between 4 and 11 years of age, organised into seven classes.  The school also has a hearing resource base for children from the local authority.  There are currently six children registered in this class.

On average over the last three years, just over 11% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is below the Wales average of 19%.  The school identifies 18% of its pupils as having special educational needs.  This includes those in mainstream classes and in the hearing resource base.  This is just below the Wales average of 21%.  A very few pupils have statements of special educational needs.

Most pupils are white British and speak English at home.  A few pupils come from a minority ethnic background and many of these pupils speak English as an additional language.  A very few speak Welsh at home.

The headteacher took up her post in 2014.  The school’s last inspection was in May 2018.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

The school is an extremely caring community in which inclusive learning is core to its success.  There are excellent working relationships between staff, pupils, parents and the wider community and this helps to create a highly inclusive environment based on mutual care and respect.  A particular strength is the way in which pupils from the Hearing Resource Base (HRB) integrate seamlessly into the life of the school.  The HRB is a long-standing feature of the school and provides specialist provision for pupils across the Vale of Glamorgan who have hearing loss, ranging from moderate to severe.  Currently, the HRB employs one full time teacher of the deaf (TOD), one full time learning support assistant (LSA), and three part time LSAs.  At present, there are six pupils on role at the HRB, although there is capacity for 10 pupils. 

Pupils from the HRB learn alongside pupils in mainstream classes, where adults and pupils consistently use signing and other visual communication techniques sensitively and confidently to support verbal communication.  As a result, pupils from the HRB make good and often excellent progress when assessed against their individual starting points.  Through the system of ‘reverse integration’, pupils from mainstream classes regularly work in the base alongside pupils from the HRB.  This allows mainstream and HRB pupils to develop their learning in a quiet, caring, and supportive setting.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school integrates pupils from the Hearing Resource Base, including those with additional learning needs and pupils with English as an additional language, well.  The school fosters a deeply-rooted, caring ethos of inclusivity that starts as soon as the children join the school in reception.  Everyone is involved and encouraged to participate.  Year 6 ‘Guardian Angels’ pair with reception children to provide help and support during the year.  All Year 6 pupils listen to their partners read and assist school during trips, and this has a powerful impact on the wellbeing and self-esteem of both parties.

The teacher of the deaf and support assistants provide a range of support options for pupils with hearing impairments, including in-class support, withdrawal from class for pre-tutoring, and reverse integration.  The whole school has a positive attitude to deafness and deaf issues and actively promotes inclusion.  All members of the school community embrace communication through sign language.  Adults who lead assemblies use signing and visual resources purposefully to aid understanding amongst all pupils.  The school holds a deaf awareness week annually.  All pupils take part in a national signing song.

School values, especially tolerance and respect, permeate the life of the school and create an ethos of kindness and care for one another.  Pupils and adults actively support one another.  The use of a ‘sign of the week’ promotes communication skills and fosters a deep-rooted understanding of the needs of pupils with a hearing loss.

Older children support younger children as learning buddies, reading partners, and as peer supporters during break and lunchtimes.  This develops a sense of community throughout the school.  All pupils gain a sense of responsibility for themselves and for others to ensure a culture of mutual understanding and respect. 

The school celebrates diversity by ensuring valuable opportunities to learn about different cultures and religions, and the rights and needs of pupils.  Teachers often call upon parents and other members of the school community to share information about their religious festivals and practices.  This helps to deepen pupils’ understanding and promote tolerance and respect.  Links between the school council, the secondary school council and cluster school councils are strong and the pupils work collectively on projects that promote diversity.  As part of the project, pupils produced an informative short film about the life of a pupil in the hearing resource base.  All cluster schools shared this during assemblies.

Staff and pupils use the United Nations convention of the rights of the child across the school to raise awareness and encourage cooperation and tolerance.  Members of the learning squad carry out research and surveys so that they can promote the rights of the child purposefully during assemblies.

The school has highly effective procedures to track and monitor pupils’ progress and wellbeing. Skilled learning support assistants use detailed information about individuals and groups to provide valuable support for educational, emotional and social needs.  The school building is utilised well to provide areas for quiet reflection or intervention in the quiet room or the ‘cwtch’ area.

A range of pupil voice groups contribute to school development and this pupil involvement helps to promote integration and togetherness.  For example, the school’s peer supporters encourage participation, safe play and use of the outdoor provision at break and lunchtimes.  Through this work, they promote friendships and reinforce school values.

The school has worked hard at developing the pupils’ understanding of local history, for example their studies of the nearby Cogan Pill house and the school’s history.  These events bring the Cogan community together, old and young, to celebrate its rich heritage and develop a sense of shared pride.  For example, whole school costume days and role play have been exciting vehicles to promote unity and togetherness.

An emphasis on charity work has been very beneficial in developing global citizenship.  Links with charities have enhanced pupils’ knowledge about other countries and the needs of people and animals.  This awareness and understanding, linked with learning, has led to an appreciation for those in need locally and further afield.

Using the school motto to ‘encourage effort and celebrate success’, all pupils are encouraged to take part in creative arts.  Visiting artists and sports coaches work with the pupils.  This fosters collaboration, teamwork and fair play.  It has also resulted in producing colourful mosaic murals and a sensory garden, which enrich the learning environment.  All pupils participate in performances as a class and as a school annually.  This provides a platform for the pupils to work together, share success and celebrate collectively.  The school’s commitment to using the creative arts to aid inclusivity led to the school becoming a Lead Creative School.  Pupils play an important part in the interview process to appoint the creative practitioner and all pupils play key roles in setting the nature and trajectory of the project.

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

Standards of behaviour are very high.  The inclusive culture created across the school has a positive impact on learning and standards.  Excellent communication skills and techniques thrive across the school.  Increased friendships across all ages of pupils.  All pupils feel that they are valued members of the community and have positive attitudes to learning and school life.  A sense of togetherness and inclusivity helps pupils to feel secure and enhances learning.

How have you shared your good practice?

The teacher of the deaf offers outreach support to schools across the Vale of Glamorgan.  Knowledge and training about deaf awareness are shared with staff annually and to other cluster and county schools as required.  There is considerable school-to-school working within the cluster and school improvement group.