De Warenne Academy achieves Centre Of Excellence status

De Warenne Academy was recently assessed by the Inclusion Quality Mark team, and have been awarded the ‘Centre of Excellence’ status.

This award recognises those IQM Inclusive Schools which continue to demonstrate a commitment to outstanding levels of inclusive best practice. Centre of Excellence status provides an opportunity to build on current capacity with ongoing support from the IQM team.

The following report is from IQM and details their findings.

A Positive Attitude to Learning

De Warenne Academy is a close-knit community that prides itself on knowing its students well and doing their utmost to ensure everyone fulfils their potential. This is a school that ensures everyone can learn in a safe and supportive environment and where everyone values academic achievement and has a positive attitude to learning. This is a setting that understands that their students are most successful when they feel happy, valued, challenged, and supported to achieve their very best. The Academy serves the ex-mining communities of Conisbrough and Denaby Main, with the majority of students living within walking distance of the school. The Academy is smaller than average and has a PAN of 150 students per year group. However, Year 11 is smaller, with 136 on roll. Other year groups are larger; as the Academy has improved, so has the number of applicants. The majority of students live in areas containing significant pockets of deprivation characterised by high unemployment, an inadequate employment base, low average income levels, poor physical and mental health, and a degraded urban environment. It is part of the Delta Academy Trust. It was clear from the two-day online assessment that staff and students take pride in their school and outstanding learning environment, working exceptionally hard to provide all students with the best possible education to enable them to reach their full potential.

Passionate About Inclusion

The two-day assessment of De Warenne Academy was undertaken virtually due to the current pandemic. However, this did not in any way compromise the depth, breadth, and integrity of the assessment process. The information from the Self-Evaluation Report, the ADP, website and a plethora of documents and online meetings, were all triangulated to ensure that all elements of the Inclusion Quality Mark’s Inclusive School Award were not just established but were fully embedded in the Academy’s everyday practice. The schedule for the two days was very well-organised and ensured that I was able to speak with the staff, parents, students, and external partners all of whom spoke confidently and passionately about inclusion and about their involvement with the Academy. What became apparent during the assessment is that inclusion, occurs naturally and is a highly pervasive element in the positive culture of the school, as is the dedication and drive of the staff to make a positive difference to everyone they work with. That fits seamlessly with the Trust’s and Academy’s vision ‘Changing Lives’ and their mission ‘to improve educational outcomes in the North of England, creating a sustainable organisation that improves our society and the wider environment.’ Supported by the Academy values, written by students and staff in 2020: Everyone treated equally and with respect; Keep expectations high and Always be your best. These are truly inclusive statements that everyone involved with the Academy lives by and models on a daily basis.

Dedicated, Knowledgeable and Skilled

As the assessment unfolded in this extremely vibrant, warm, and welcoming school, I found a genuine ambition and integrity amongst all stakeholders revealing what really matters most. Students come first and all receive equitable provision and support. Every member of staff spoken to was dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled. Their sense of drive and determination to improve the outcomes for all came through very strongly.

Working Strategically and Collaboratively

The implementation of rigorous structures and processes supports the staff in all areas and at all levels to work strategically and collaboratively together. Inspirational and aspirational leadership coupled with strong teamwork amongst the staff is at the core of relationships. Staff support each other to develop their skills through a strong CPD programme tailored to need. They are motivated to improve and to improve the lives of everyone so that they achieve their potential and goals. Leaders spoken to in numerous meetings were clear about the vision and next steps for the Academy. They have excellent reflective skills in their leadership wanting the best outcomes for all students whatever their starting points or individual need.

Ensuring Every Student Receives the Best Education Possible

All staff are included and buy into the vision and values of the Academy and are passionate about their students succeeding, with an unwavering passion and determination to ensure that every student receives the best education possible. It was clear throughout the assessment that staff will not settle for anything but the best.

High Quality Learning Experiences

During the pandemic, the staff have continued to deliver high quality learning experiences for their students and have gone above and beyond what is expected to ensure they have and continue to be supported and can access appropriate teaching and learning opportunities. Excellent communication with students and the timely provision of teaching materials and technology ensured that students managed to continue working and learning so that gaps in knowledge can be more readily addressed now they are back in school. This included online learning opportunities where students have to access lessons during the normal school day, with the vast majority being actively engaged and making progress and getting effective feedback in line with the Academy’s Teaching and Learning Policy. This is a fantastic achievement and supports the outstanding inclusive practice seen at De Warenne Academy over the assessment. Scheduled discussions during the assessment allowed an outstanding picture of the Academy’s intuitive and natural inclusivity to emerge. It was a privilege to engage in conversations with such enthusiastic, dedicated, and professional staff. I spoke at some length to a number of staff with a variety of responsibilities that included the following meetings.

Wide Ranging Discussion

The initial conversation with the Principal to set the scene for the assessment and to discuss the Academy’s journey under her outstanding leadership to where they are now and plans for the future. A wide ranging and interesting discussion with both Vice Principals to look at the curriculum, RSE, extra-curricular activities and enrichment offered both prior to and during the pandemic. Key documents were provided prior to the meeting and shared during the conversation such as the fully mapped Five-Year RSE curriculum document and PSD booklets, along with the introduction of a ‘Tell Us’ button on the website that allows students to anonymously, if they wish, report concerns that is monitored and then acted on swiftly. Discussion also focussed on learning during lockdowns where importantly two staff were assigned to live lessons, so one could focus on teaching the lesson and the second could focus on the chat feature and answering student questions, Personal Development days and the curriculum that drives student ambition and the focus on ensuring all students were able to use appropriate technology to access lessons providing over fifty tablets and devices.

A Superb Level of Support

Further meetings were undertaken with the Assistant Principal and DSL and the SENDCO to understand the breadth of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) provision at the Academy and safeguarding and attendance. The in-depth discussion looked at the excellent deployment of LSAs and the use of, and involvement of, key workers for students, the Bridge interventions for each year group in key areas across the Academy and the Personalised Learning Centre. It was clear to see this from this and other meetings with the PLC Manager, a HLTA, LSA involved in and leading on targeted interventions, the non-teaching Learning Manager for Year 10. We were also able to spend some time discussing safeguarding and child protection procedures across the Academy. It is very clear from these discussions that there is a superb level of support for students across the Academy that more than meets need and that the staff and Academy should be highly commended for.

An Inclusive Ethos

I met with the Vice Principal with responsibility for Pupil Premium and discussed in detail their excellent plan that delivers support for the 47% of students who qualify for Pupil Premium, it was clear that the work done across the Academy ensures that in the VP’s words,

“Nobody gets left behind”.

are realised. A superb accolade and truly inclusive ethos.

Parental Engagement

The conversation with the Assistant Principal who is leading on Parental Engagement was particularly interesting, involving the audit of parental engagement as part of the process to achieve LPPA, positive parental surveys, their involvement with the charity ‘Parentkind’ and future plans to develop adult and child learning sessions. I had a phone conversation with a foster parent who was extremely supportive of the school, what it offers her foster children and how they are partners in her children’s education and that supported the self-reflective attitude to parental engagement of the Academy and its staff. The parent was keen to say that the Academy is

‘Absolutely Brilliant’

and that she would 100% recommend the Academy to any prospective parents. Students spoken to were extremely positive about their school and how they had been challenged and supported during the pandemic and felt they were well-educated, cared for, challenged to be better, nurtured and supported given opportunities for leadership roles and that everyone is part of the ‘De Warenne Community.’

Close and Innovative Partnership

The Academy has very strong relationships with external partners, and I was able to have discussions with the Academy SENDCO, Assistant Principal, the SENDCO from a local Primary School, an Educational Psychologist who works in the school to look at collaborative working, Pyramid Learning and Planning, Transition, and targeted Interventions. Transition at the Academy is extremely well thought out and planned, outward looking and begins with work in Year 4 and is continuing to evolve to meet the needs of students in the community and involves close working relationships with the LA and primary schools as exemplified by the conversation with the primary SENDCO and the Educational Psychologist. It was clear from the discussion that the Academy and external partners work closely and innovatively to ensure the needs of all students are met. They felt that the Academy was extremely inclusive and went above and beyond what they experience elsewhere to ensure that their students and their families are safe, looked after and receive the best education possible. This is quite an accolade for the Academy and one that is in my opinion well deserved. This was further supported by the meeting with the Assistant Principal with responsibility for behaviour and rewards and the IQM Lead that focused on how the Behaviour Policy and rewards system currently being used supported student engagement in their learning and has led to reductions in disengagement, more effective management through the reporting app powerbi.com, a multitude of opportunities to reward and celebrate successes with students and the support when necessary, of BOSS – Behaviour Outreach Support Service.

Support and Challenge

The meeting with the chair of the AAB confirmed that Governors are highly involved in the life of the Academy. They provide appropriate and tangible support and challenge and share its inclusive values and high aspirations for all students. He passionately spoke about the Governors work in the Academy and spoke very highly of the Academy and its staff. It was clear that he and the other Governors are proud of their inclusive values and superb, supportive work with learners and their families.

Inclusive Ethos, Care, Nurture and Support

It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit De Warenne Academy to conduct their assessment, albeit virtually. The assessment underlined their outstanding inclusive ethos, care, nurture, and support that is at the very heart of their approach to teaching, learning and supports everyone in their care and was talked about and discussed openly during the assessment.