Here at Downsbrook the school improvement agenda is in full swing. In just over a term, with the valuable support of colleagues within Schoolsworks, we have made many significant changes with more to come. We are delighted that many of these have been noticed by a wide range of stakeholders including an Education and Youth think tank called LKMco, The Regional Schools Commissioner, prospective parents and most importantly our own parents, families and children.
Last week we had an incredibly positive visit from Maria Dawes, Regional Schools Commissioner. During the visit we were proud to be able to show and talk her through the improvements and her positive comments on the changes so far and those planned for the future was a great recognition of the hard work and efforts of the whole staff team and provided a huge boost to the whole school community.
As daunting as change can be, it also creates a great sense of energy, vitality and creativity; this is the essence of the Downsbrook experience that we are all working together to create. Our focus in the first term was on safeguarding and improving teaching and learning provision for all children. Some of the work was organisational to bring greater structure and clarity to our day to day procedures whilst others were about establishing a greater sense of accountability for us all. By far the most exciting changes are the ones that are visible and have the greatest direct impact on the experiences of children and the culture of the school.
Notable work aimed at broadening our curriculum includes:
- The use of famous artists as class names. This has been done with the aim of ensuring that by the time our children leave Downsbrook that they have a broad knowledge of a range of artists from different cultures, artistic periods and countries.
- The ongoing re-development of our whole school curriculum, taking an much more exciting and engaging topic based approach with high quality literacy texts at its core
- The introduction of themed curriculum days, the first of which happened in September and was our whole school Arts day; Coast and Countryside.
- Termly Family Learning Projects introduced to encourage children to learn creatively at home with their family. Through this, siblings are able to work on projects together and engage in shared learning opportunities that stretch beyond the classroom. Themes so far have been The Seven Wonders and Heroes through the Ages.
- ‘Thought for the Week’ introduced with the aim of extending and provoking more critical and philosophical thinking in children. Each week a new thought for the week is shared with the children who have the opportunity to record their ideas in Early work, Assembly time and through the recording slips that will be available under the thought for the week display board.
- An increased focus on creating vibrant and exciting classroom and whole school displays to enliven the learning environment, stimulate engagement and showcase the amazing work of all of our children
- The development of a new sensory garden, designed in conjunction with the children and to be used as an additional learning space as well as a space for reflection and calm
- The introduction and use of Makaton as a whole school communication tool to support all children but particularly those with additional speech and language needs. More information on this can be found at https://www.makaton.org/aboutMakaton/
- A new crowdfunding campaign led by Friends of Downsbrook to raise the funds to build and run our very own Forest school and Community Cabin using our extensive grounds and the expertise of our Forest School trained staff. Whilst we raise the funds, groundwork and clearance has already begun and donations of time and resources are starting to come in. Our next step is to channel our efforts into raising cash pledges to ensure that we meet the crowdfunding target of just over £12,000. For more information or to make a pledge please visit https://www.spacehive.com/fods-downsbrook-forest-school
School improvement is not a quick fix and there are other changes that we will be aiming to make throughout the year. With all of these improvements, partnership working, parental support, appropriate funding and careful planning are vital if these are to have a lasting effect on our core provision at Downsbrook. Through working in partnership with Schoolsworks and others, we really do believe that Downsbrook can and will offer a truly unique and outstanding education for children.