Warwick Academy is a two-form entry primary school in Wellingborough, committed to giving every child, regardless of background, the best possible chance in education. With quite a high percentage of pupil premium, the school is certainly not without challenges. We hear from Head of School, Dale Jukes, as he describes how the school overcomes some of their challenges, specifically around Early Years literacy and numeracy, and the role played by their participation in the Quality Mark accreditation.
Warwick Academy’s Quality Mark journey started at the end of the 2020/2021 academic year. The decision to participate in the accreditation (supporting and recognising improving standards in the provision, practice and performance of literacy and numeracy) was, in part, driven by a desire to improve the perceptions of parents and carers in their community. The current leadership had spent significant time and resources building the solid foundations in their Early Years provision in order to overcome what was seen as a negative perception that had grown in the preceding years. For Dale, the external recognition of these efforts was a key factor, “It was about being recognised for the work, time and effort that had gone in to ensuring every child has that possibility and opportunity for a good start to their education.”
Like many Quality Mark settings, Dale’s experience of mapping evidence to the 10 criteria in the audit tool was relatively simple. The audit tool guides participants to select the most appropriate evidence to illustrate how they meet the criteria in the context of their setting.
“The process itself is relatively straightforward, but ensures you dig deeper and really unpick all the elements of your Early Years provision, with regards to how you’re performing. For us, it really shines a light on the progress we’re making as a school, particularly as we scrutinise each of the criteria that comprise the Quality Mark framework. There is a real benefit in enabling our teachers to reflect effectively on their own practice to identify areas of strength, as well as those areas that they need to improve upon.”
The Quality Mark Assessor, an experienced school improvement specialist providing not only guidance but also challenge, played a key role in the school unpicking those elements. One particular area where the Assessor helped drive discussion was that of the school’s data – the school’s starting points were lower than national and there was the obvious impact of pandemic, “So, understanding exactly what the data meant regarding the progress the children had made was a significant challenge the process and Assessor helped address.”
The way Quality Mark actively encourages contribution and participation from a wide stakeholder group across the school was a valuable component. Dale explains how previously, there was an element of teachers and Senior Leaders carrying out their data-related tasks independently of one another. By having those conversations together, and unpicking the data together, the school has achieved a good level of correlation which means the subsequent action plans benefit from input and consensus across the school.
Olympic Academy is another school in the Lion Academy Trust that has been through the Quality Mark accreditation, and despite each school having their own Heads of School, Dale feels there is now more support as it actively promotes increased partnership working. Each half term leaders are able to come together and have the discussion to review each other’s practice and share ideas, with the benefit of having strong reflective processes in place that are also based around a common framework. In this way the Trust’s Director of Schools overseeing the Early years provision is also able to see the differences between the schools’ cohorts and their environments, but at the core of that is a common knowledge and understanding of their data and how the respective schools are adapting provision to best meet the needs of their children.
“Quality Mark absolutely takes into account the context of a school.”
There has also been clear benefit for middle leaders, with one of the Early Years teachers involved in the process now looking to take up the post of Early Years lead, leading the team and continuing to also develop their own practice.
"The Quality Mark Award is an important external endorsement of our school's commitment to high quality teaching, with a particular focus on the quality of provision, but also English and Maths. Practically, it has been a fantastic checklist for reminding us of what we're working on and celebrating our accomplishments. The whole process has been completed with ease from start to finish due to the clear processes and ten criteria."
Staff at the school are naturally really proud of their Quality Mark Award and the school has shared its achievement widely with parents and the wider community to help illustrate the continuous improvement they are demonstrating. Already, coming up to just one year on, that message appears to be paying dividends as Warwick Academy has seen an increase in their numbers. Dales observes there is a desire by parents to see the environment, to understand what Quality Mark means for the school’s provision (where those ‘legacy’ perceptions may not have been quite as favourable) and ultimately their children. So, Dale feels Quality Mark has already paid for itself multiple times over, which has only added to the value the accreditation delivers.
Warwick Academy’s commitment to continuous improvement is evident and the Quality Mark award gives external validation and recognition of that fact. With growing cohort numbers, a honed focus on quality and data, and an effective forum for continuing to share best practice across the Trust, Warwick Academy’s standing in the community looks to be in a very good place.
Find out more about how Quality Mark accreditation supports excellence across all phases and types of schools HERE
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