A school in Cardiff rated “excellent” by inspectors has revealed the secrets behind its high-quality teaching.
Education watchdog Estyn said pupils at Severn Primary School, in Canton , make “exceptional” progress in developing their literacy, numeracy and social skills – despite many starting with low levels of English.
It described the school as an “exceptionally harmonious and inclusive community” that provides a “highly supportive, nurturing environment for pupils and their families”.
But most eye-catching was Severn’s quality of teaching, which Estyn described as “consistently of a very high quality, with excellent features in most classes”.
Good communication and a common vision
In a new case study published on Estyn’s website, the inspectorate highlighted teamwork as key to Severn’s success.
It said the school’s leaders used good communication, a common vision, and the sharing of good practice to empower and motivate staff.
Estyn explained the collaborative approach taken by Severn Primary to improve teaching.
“Through rigorous discussion staff agree what makes an excellent lesson, leading to consistently high expectations,” it said.
“Lessons are broken down into ‘chunks’ and teachers carry out a self-audit, recording strengths and weaknesses in their teaching.
“The senior leadership team approves common areas for improvement. Staff agree on shared vocabulary and staff work in small teams/triads to coach each other to improve teaching.
“These areas linked well with staff performance management objectives. Leaders give staff the freedom to trial new ideas with their colleagues, who act as critical friends.”
Staff at Severn Primary School celebrate their Estyn report:
Where necessary Estyn said school leaders arrange external training and visits for staff.
Weekly inset (in-service training) sessions are based around Severn’s school improvement plan and Estyn said “ongoing training for staff ensures consistency of approach and expectations”.
Estyn said senior leaders had established excellent communication channels.
It said: “The carefully considered line management structure ensures effective two-way communication of information, for example the head teacher’s weekly diary meetings, whole-school inset sessions, monthly senior leadership team-led phase meetings, and weekly assistant head teacher-led meetings for teaching assistants.
“School staff are always willing to support each other and share ideas in an informal setting.
“These sessions evolved into the school’s ‘Wednesday Workshops’, which are an innovative way of sharing good practice in a relaxed environment, for example 100 best plenaries and questioning for science.
“Staff lead and attend these voluntary workshops if they feel that the topic is of benefit to their professional practice.”
Severn’s achievements are set against a backdrop of a 24% free school meal eligibility (a measure of poverty) and around 76% of its pupils speaking English as an additional language.
There are more than 50 different languages and dialects spoken by pupils at the school, which has 407 full-time pupils on roll.