Case Study

Turning early years passion into rapid pupil development – one Tower Hamlets setting is considered a shining example across Europe

Rachel Keeling Nursery School, a fully inclusive, specialist Early Years provider in Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, is a school that truly believes that communication, literacy and numeracy enable social mobility.

Not just for the children they teach, but for their extended families as well. And led by Head Teacher Becky Dolamore, the team at the school is dedicated to providing the environment and interactions that inspire high-quality learning in English and mathematics to give pupils the best possible start in life. Becky explains:

“Here at Rachel Keeling Nursery School we want our pupils to be confident, resilient, empathetic, joyful and communicative learners. We are committed to ensuring every child is engaged in meaningful learning experiences that create a thirst for learning which is lifelong.”

The nursery school has long enjoyed a reputation for nurturing happy, secure children, who attend regularly and demonstrate rapid and sustained progress, leaving with very high levels of development. This has attracted teaching professionals from across Europe to visit the school and see first-hand how the children benefit from a wide range of real-life experiences, including writing shopping lists, shopping for the nursery, setting up for lunch, baking foods for snacks and harvesting vegetables from the garden.

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Rachel Keeling Nursery's introduction to Quality Mark

When Becky was promoted from Deputy Head to Head Teacher at Rachel Keeling in 2015, she was determined to continue with their practice of exemplary child-centered learning. She was also keen to explore any further ways to develop teaching and improve performance at the school:

“Our team here is passionate about teaching and learning and we are continuously reflecting on our practice through a focus on both research and pedagogy. When I took over as Head Teacher, I was looking for external recognition of everything the team at the school had already achieved, as well as the opportunity to work with an external body to help challenge and shape my thinking for the next chapter in the story for Rachel Keeling Nursery.”

Aware of Tribal’s renowned Quality Mark, which recognises and provides evidence of high-quality English and mathematics provision, Becky invited Tribal to assess Rachel Keeling Nursery. The school already had in place a robust process of measuring attainment, where data was collected, analysed and benchmarked each term. The team also measured wellbeing and involvement – of the children, families and the staff at the school.

Quality Mark information pack

What benefit has Quality Mark had?

However, since introducing the Quality Mark framework, Becky is now confident the school also has a consistent and rigorous approach to evaluating teaching and learning. Something that Becky believes to be vital in the current, financially challenging times, for schools:

“Quality Mark is a great tool for reflecting, evaluating, focusing - and investing in - what is important to further improve the provision of English and mathematics in our setting. If Quality Mark was ‘just another framework’ we simply wouldn’t do it. It’s an optional improvement standard, and we opted in because it is an inherently valuable process.”

Part of the process involves a Quality Mark Assessor attending the setting and taking Learning Walks around the school. All of Tribal’s Quality Mark Assessors are highly knowledgeable in relevant pedagogy and Early Years specialists are assigned to assess Early Years settings. Becky explains how developing a trust-based relationship with their Assessor has benefited her and the team:

“I really respect our Assessor Andrew’s knowledge of pedagogy and the caring way he interacts with the children, their parents, and the entire team here at Rachel Keeling Nursery. Andrew is a really good fit with the ethos of our school. I know I can be open and honest with him and he will challenge my thinking and rationale for the improvements we identify. It means that anything new we implement has been through a robust process of analysis and consideration.”

Head Teacher, Becky continues:

“Andrew always arrives prepared, listens attentively to everything that is going on in school, and objectively considers the evidence of our improvement in English and mathematics. The Learning Walks we take together provide another layer of reflection and evaluation of the experiences we offer the children, and helps validate what we’re doing right now, as well as our future plans.”

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Sustained learning over time

As well as helping to embed a consistent approach to quality improvement for the whole school and providing a framework for improving pupil outcomes, Quality Mark has helped the team at Rachel Keeling Nursery to identify projects that demonstrate sustained learning over time.

One such project that the nursery school has recently been working on is to create a Research Library: a quiet space with high quality literature, mark making tools, microscopes and other equipment and furniture that encourages the children to position and develop themselves as researchers and authors of their own investigations. This is just one of many examples where children are encouraged to be ‘co-collaborators’ in their unique learning journey, which is shaped according to their individual dispositions and specific interests.

This unrelenting focus on providing meaningful learning experiences is evident throughout the school and is the reason why many parents choose (and recommend) the setting for their children. At any one time, the pupils come from as many as 20 different countries, speak 17 different languages, and hold many different values. This naturally presents challenges when teaching English and mathematics – as well as communicating with families. Indeed, many parents of children at the school are new to English and are taking ESOL classes themselves.

Yet often, by the time the children leave Rachel Keeling Nursery, their parents no longer require translators to communicate with the school. The school does much to encourage this impressive progress, and as part of the assessment, Quality Mark helps Head Teacher Becky and the team to document evidence of the vital work they are doing to involve and support families.

Becky concludes:

“Ours is a small school with a close-knit team; a team which has very much been a part of the Quality Mark process. The award is recognition of their excellent teaching, and has helped us showcase what the team is really passionate about – impacting the learning of children beyond our garden gate. And to that end, I’d absolutely encourage other Early Years providers to work towards the Quality Mark. The process will help you focus, dig deeper and honestly evaluate your provision of English and mathematics to the benefit your pupils.”

For more information about Quality Mark, or indeed to begin the assessment process and achieve recognition for the English and mathematics provision in your Early Years setting, get in touch with Tribal today.

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