Inclusive practice is alive and well in Surrey
School visit to Pyrcroft Grange Primary by Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion
Pyrcroft Grange Primary is a one form entry academy school in Chertsey, Surrey with a strong ethos of inclusion for everyone to learn and be the best they can.
Set in extensive grounds on the edge of the small town of Chertsey and surrounding beautiful countryside, the school is physically accessible and has a Centre for Communication and Interaction Needs (COIN), where the focus is on integration into their mainstream age-appropriate class. The 34% of pupils on free school meals includes a significant number of Traveller children and belies the first impression of a school in the affluent suburbs. It is resourced by Surrey Council for 20 pupils with Autism, Speech and Language, and Specific Learning Needs who have Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
The school has a further seven pupils with EHCPs and 27 on SEND support. The school has developed space for sensory and quiet rooms, key stage 1 and 2 COIN areas, a library, IT suite, gym/hall and separate dining area. On visiting, what impresses is the focus on learning and excellence for all, utilising the skilled and committed staff, rich range of learning resources (inside and outside) and a variety of outside organisations to provide a rich and varied curriculum. Headteacher for six years, Sue Nardoni, acknowledges the engagement of all learners and respect all pupils have for each other and the whole school community is key.
The school curriculum is based on the National Curriculum but with many inclusive aspects. I especially liked the commitment to remove barriers to learning, ensuring all children make progress from their individual starting points.
Involving parents is a key to success for all. Teachers ensure all families get a phone call twice every half-term, and a daily home/schoolbook is used for pupils who attend the COIN. Emphasis is placed on daily reading and oracy learning for all children. Parents are encouraged to make sure children also read their reading book nightly and have a quiet space for their weekly home tasks.
The school curriculum is called Intent, delivered by 13 teaching staff (2 for COIN) and 18 teaching assistants (6 for COIN). Every class teacher is responsible for the learning of all in their class including those who attend the COIN. Most go to COIN for extra help with Literacy and Numeracy in the mornings. Some stay afternoons at COIN (5 currently).
The emphasis is on building relationships and respect with their peers. Pupil who needs a break can go outside when they want. Teaching methods include Teaching, Appreciating, Collaborating and Cooperating and Holistic (TEACCH) approach, zones of regulation, social stories, Emotional Literacy and Support Assistant (ELSA) and sensory regulation.
The elected School Council (SC) of 2 or 3 pupils per class in years 1-6 is organised to ensure the voice of the Disabled children at the school are heard. The SC came up with the mission statement:
“Dream, Believe, Work, Achieve “If you can dream it, you will believe it; if you believe it, you work for it, you will achieve it…”
The school believe good play promotes emotional, social and academic development and ensures all children get a minimum of an hour of outdoor play every day.
Working with Opal Play Project the school have organised their outdoor space into areas with a different focus such as loose parts, giant sandpit, bug hotel and nature play, mud kitchen, table tennis, scooters, trikes and bikes with a hard core circuit, climbing frame, trim trail, mechanics area, mini golf, football pitches, Bessie the Reading Bus, trampolines, outdoor chalk boards, wild area and cultivation garden. A pair of wellies left at school is part of the uniform to enable access outside. There is a breakfast club from 7.45am, lunch and after school clubs staffed so all can attend who want to and gap provision until 6pm. The school have an interesting Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PHSE) programme of study which include practical skills and important topics for safeguarding and challenging prejudice and bullying.
The school runs many trips to local museums and galleries, Forest School and Residentials in Year 4 (3 days) and Year 3 (5 days). The school policy is not to go anywhere that all pupils can’t attend, and they make sure all necessary reasonable adjustments are in place. As an Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) rated outstanding school they are very popular and massively oversubscribed.
Nicola Colley, SENCO, head of COIN and deputy told me, they share their excellent practice with other schools in the Trust and locally. High staff retention, happy school where everyone knows all the children and their needs. They have had two wheelchair using children and they were very popular and successful.
A number of children who attend the COIN are non-verbal but by Year 3 they are all speaking and mainly achieving good outcomes when they leave. They have an OT and Speech and Language Therapists (SALT) 1 day per week and all teachers value and include all children in their classes:
“We teach by modelling what we expect the children to do and all the staff including me and the head will turn our hand to any task from helping toileting to hearing children read. We are a strong inclusive family here.”
I visited Pyrcroft Grange as part of my consultancy and development work with the Bourne Education Trust (BET) and Alex Russell CEO. BET have 26 schools mainly in Surrey, covering 12,500 students and over 1,300 staff, committed to ‘Transforming Schools: Changing Lives’ and are fully committed as a Trust to develop Inclusion.
“All our schools aspire to be fully inclusive. This means that all pupils are welcomed regardless of education need. Each school has a SENCO to provide high profile and visible leadership. We believe that all teachers should be a teacher of SEND and train them as such. All pupils learn, contribute to and take part in all aspects of school life. Pupils with SEND spend most or all their time learning with peers, and our schools encourage awareness of the mutual benefits of inclusion.”
(BET Equality, Inclusion and Diversity Annual Report Sept, 2022)
Pyrcroft Grange is a beacon, other schools in the Trust need to turn the aspiration into a reality.
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion