Ofsted Update (March 2021)
Our last Ofsted Inspection at Thistle Hill Academy took place on May 22nd 2018. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused major disruption to schools and subsequently the reinspection of Thistle Hill (which is now overdue).
There have been many improvements since the last Inspection and as there hasn’t been an Ofsted Report to confirm this, I thought I would share some of them with you. The CEO and myself firmly believe that Thistle Hill is a GOOD school and we are keen for Ofsted to come and celebrate this fact with the school community. Until then, I think it is important that I outline our progress from Requires Improvement to Good and all the things that we are proud of.
– Mrs Annette Bevan, Headteacher
Leadership and Management
The Senior Leadership is now well-established and effective. The team has worked together to drive improvements, which has had a significant effect on the quality of teaching and pupils’ progress. All Leaders have Improved the quality of Teaching and Learning. The Deputy Headteachers support the teachers with their expertise in Early years, KS1 and KS2.
The experienced SENCO has been a great addition to the leadership team by improving the engagement and provision for SEN children in the school and communicating with parents.
The secure and consistently effective teaching over the last few years has ensured that pupils have made strong progress across year groups and subjects. As all curriculum policies and expectations are embedded and consistent across the school, when there are staff changes, the teaching and learning of the children is not affected.
At the end of the last school year Reception, year 2 and year 6 were all on track to meet the national average in the statutory assessments.
With the disruption to learning through school closures, the curriculum has been revised and adapted to ensure that any missed learning and gaps in learning will be addressed.
Ongoing CPD has supported teachers to identify gaps and accelerate progress.
Teachers use formative and summative assessment to assist identification of children requiring additional support through Government funding. This funding has enabled us to appoint a COVID catch up Early Years/KS1 teacher and a COVID catch up KS2 teacher.
Pupils’ learning in subjects other than English and mathematics is well planned and enriched. Children develop their Geography, History, Art, DT and Music knowledge through exciting topics and experiences. The Wider Curriculum long term plan enables children to build upon the knowledge of the different subject disciplines as they move through the year groups. Within the Wider Curriculum, there are lots of opportunities for children to develop their character through learning about social, moral and cultural aspects of life
National average 2019
During school closures and bubble closures, the leadership team has worked hard with teachers and teaching assistants to deliver remote learning that is of a high quality, across the curriculum, and meets the needs of all families and children. The leadership team have worked hard to support families with home learning through regular communication and responding to feedback. The Trust has endeavoured to provide technology to ensure that as many families as possible can access remote learning so that digital inequality is not present in our school community.
“I feel the remote learning has gone really well. After a few days the class settled into the routine of using the chat and hand raised functions. Miss Harrison has done amazingly well keeping Rabbits focused on the lessons and participating in the class discussions. The 5-minute fitness exercises and reminders for taking screen breaks has maintained a good balance.”
– Thistle Hill Parent
Communication with families
The Parent Support Advisor has been a great addition to the team and works closely with the Senior leadership team to support the families of Thistle Hill. The role of the PSA has been vital in building relationships with parents and improving communication between home and school
There is a clear line of communication for parents when there is an issue and concern and the PSA forms part of a wider team. There has been a lot of positive feedback from parents regarding the support they have received from the teachers, SENCO, PSA, Trust Safeguarding lead and Deputy Headteachers to resolve issues that arise. Parents are signposted in a timely manner to the member of staff that can best support them.
The Parent Forum is now well established and effective in giving parent views on areas that support the improvement of the school. A HT report is presented to the Board of Directors every term and the Chairman ensures that the parent’s views are shared with the Board where views may impact on strategic decisions. Some of these strategic decisions have been made on Remote Learning, Attendance and Behaviour policies and children’s well being during school closures and the return to school.
“The Board was interested by your comments regarding a behaviour policy for parents that would set out expectations for how parents behave whilst on site and, although some areas of this are covered in other policies (such as dealing with unacceptable behaviour), we will be exploring this further with the Trust leaders. We agree that the parent communication section could be further improved and Trust leaders are working on this as part of the review “(March 2021)
Our Weduc communication app is our main platform for communication between home and school. Over 90% of our parents are accessing the app which makes it an extremely effective tool. Parents are able to send and receive messages to/from the school office, view letters and newsletters, view upcoming evenings in the calendar, see what’s been going on at school in our newsfeed and access more useful information. Find out more on our ‘How we Communicate page‘
Personal development and well-being
The key outcome for this area of school improvement has been to develop a whole school culture that is committed to the growth and wellbeing of each child, as well as the broader school community. To achieve this, we have ongoing CPD and support for teachers to take a lead role in creating a “nurture” classroom and delivering class-based support for children’s well-being needs.
The Nurture provision that we have in school has been extended to support individual children and groups of children across the school that have been identified as needing targeted therapies and support to meet their social, emotional and mental health needs.
The focus of the PSHE curriculum has been to effectively support children’s mental health and understanding of relationships. This has been supported by the DFE mental health training module that forms the basis of assemblies and circle times to help children understand their emotions and how to express them.
The Safeguarding culture has been transformed with a recent Health Check confirming that children feel safe at school and know that there are adults in the school who they can talk to.
“I would also like to add how grateful I am that both my daughters attend such a fantastic school. I am a key worker for the NHS and it’s so lovely to know they have been so well cared for during these difficult times. All of the staff are so friendly, nurturing and such a great asset to the school.
Mrs Burnett, Miss Smith, Miss Body, Miss Hayes, Miss Baker, Mrs Ord, Mrs Gulliver, Mrs Bevan to name a few really deserve huge recognition for the amazing support they have shown us.
Thank goodness to them all, especially as I wouldn’t be able to practice if it wasn’t for their support too.”
-Thistle Hill Parent
“I wanted to email you my sincere gratitude for the way the school and teachers have supported my son during this very challenging time. The school welcomed him back to school in their nurture class (which is exactly that- nurturing) with smiles and understanding. I just want to say a huge thank you to thistle hill, I will forever be grateful for the way you all managed this pandemic, you helped when we needed it the most, I truly can’t thank you enough”
-Thistle Hill Parent
During the several school closures this school year, the Thistle Hill team have worked closely together to support the vulnerable families in the school community.
With children remaining at home during the school’s two-week circuit breaker, Thistle Hill Academy pledged to provide all children in receipt of free school meals with a weekly food hamper.
“As a Trust we are well aware that many of our families who have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19 may even be struggling to find enough food to meet their basic needs over the Christmas period. We made the collective decision, in the spirit of Christmas, to provide these families with a special Christmas Hamper to bring some Christmas cheer to what has been an extra difficult time for them.”
(CEO of The Stour Academy Trust)
The Chairman of the Board of Directors, the CEO and parent tours have all confirmed that the school environment is calm and purposeful, supporting pupils well to make changes in their behaviour and engage purposefully in learning.
The Parent Forum has shared with the leadership team that parents are supportive of the Restorative Justice approach to help children who do make the wrong choices to change their behaviour and make the right choices. This is a common language that all staff share and when communicating with parents will use this language regarding children’s behaviour choices.
The Behaviour Policy is represented visually and is consistent across the school, displayed in every classroom. This is interactive and enables all children to see how their behaviour can be modified through reflection and making the right choices so that they are ready to learn.
The parent views on this principle that underpins the Behaviour Policy were shared with the Board of Directors:
“The Headteacher has reported that behaviour and especially parent’s views regarding behaviour are especially important at Thistle Hill due to this being a development point following of the 2018 Ofsted inspection and was really pleased to hear such positive comments from the forum. It is comforting to hear that the Parent Forum feel that the policy and underpinning principles are a true reflection of the current school community and have recognised the much-improved behaviour. We are pleased that the Headteacher explained the restorative justice approach in the classroom and how this approach allows each child to take responsibility for their own actions. The Board agrees with your Forum that this is good approach that will benefit all children” (Chairman of the BOD March 2021)
If children are not able to amend their behaviour then there are consequences and sanctions that are set out in the behaviour policy which are followed by all staff and communicated with parents. Incidents and sanctions are also recorded on our electronic system (Arbour) to track and monitor behaviour.
Attendance and Welfare
There is an established and effective Welfare team that work closely together to remove barriers that will affect pupil’s regular attendance at school.
Families are signposted to outside agencies by the PSA and Trust safeguarding Lead for Swale to support families.
Since the last Ofsted, the percentage of persistent absentees had halved so that we were in line with national average (Pre COVID).
The overall school attendance was broadly in line with National (just below 96%).
During lockdowns and return to school, the welfare team and attendance officer have Identified families who required additional support regarding attendance and form strong relationships to build trust and confidence to send their children to school.
Watch our attendance video!