I am delighted to share the news that Dhoon School has been awarded “Flagship” status for inclusion following a full assessment in November 2021. The assessment was led by an inspector from the UK. Being a Flagship School is a tremendous achievement and I am so proud of all of our pupils and staff who make Dhoon School what it is! The assessor, Rekha Bhakoo CBE, wrote the following report after her full day review ⬇️
Equipping Pupils to Succeed
Dhoon School is a creative and dynamic learning community school, built upon traditional values and strong and effective community links. The school encourages, empowers, and inspires everyone to be happy and successful and to seek to continuously improve and strive for excellence. Dhoon is fully inclusive school where every child is valued, nurtured, and enabled to flourish in a positive and safe environment. Leaders are committed to ensuring that all pupils access their entitlement to the very best education, with a creative and innovative curriculum which delivers high quality learning opportunities. The school team are steadfastly committed to providing a rich, varied, and exciting curriculum, at the heart of which lies a firm belief in promoting the values, dispositions, and skills that children need to become lifelong learners. The school prides itself on working in partnership with the children, their families, and the wider school community to help the pupils to achieve the highest possible outcomes. The school has an emphasis on ‘learning to learn,’ where pupils are equipped with skills and the ability to apply them to different situations, and this is developed through the school’s “Dhoon High Five.” These include pupils demonstrating determination, creativity, curiosity, independence, and collaboration. Dhoon School encourages an enquiry-based approach to learning through thematic topics which provide meaningful context, which are age appropriate and engage and challenge all learners. The pupils participate in decision making about their learning, allowing them choice and independence as well as ensuring that key skills are embedded to prepare them for real-life and everyday situation.
Warm and Welcoming
Dhoon School is a happy and welcoming school providing a safe and supportive environment that enables pupils to flourish and reach their potential. Everyone is valued as part of the school’s friendly learning community. Everybody is treated fairly and expected to work hard and to always do their best. There is a real commitment from all staff to ensure that every child leaves Dhoon for the next stage of their education with high aspirations and an enduring enthusiasm for learning. There is a strong belief that every child can make progress and achieve and that it is the job of the school to make sure this happens. The school actively strives to promote pupils’ independence, confidence and team work based on the belief that the pupils at Dhoon will have the skills to become successful learners. Inclusion has the utmost priority and is at the very heart of the school’s vision. This was evident in the conversations had with all stakeholders, whose relationships are built upon mutual trust and respect. What lies at the heart of Dhoon’s inclusive ethos and practice is a strong, cohesive group of Senior Leaders who have shared values and a pro-active approach to inclusive education at all levels.
Shared Focus on Raising Standards
The Executive Headteacher and Head of School together with all staff are ambitious for all the pupils and they have a shared vision for improving the quality of education further. Leaders have a clear focus on raising standards in all aspects of the curriculum at the same time as ensuring that all pupils develop the personal and social skills, they will need to become life-long learners. Leaders are both passionate, and enthusiastic about continuing to improve the quality of provision for all pupils with clear strategies of how they are going to being about further improvements in the school.
Removing Barriers to Learning
From meetings with staff, it became clear that they take great responsibility in ensuring that any barriers to learning are overcome, and that all children experience success in different contexts. The staff at Dhoon have created a learning environment that stimulates interest and discussion to challenge children’s knowledge and understanding of the world through the provision of a range of engaging resources to meet all learning styles. The school ensures that teaching and learning opportunities meet the needs of all the children and that appropriate provision is made for those children who belong to vulnerable groups; this includes children with all levels of special educational needs and children with English as an additional language and ensuring the needs of socially disadvantaged children are assessed and addressed. This is done effectively through early identification, assessment, early interventions, preventions/triggers and setting achievable personal goals and aspirations for all children. The school has a broad, balanced curriculum which ensures that it engages the children’s interests. Staff appreciate the support provided by school Leaders and take full advantage of relevant CPD opportunities.
Learning Outside the Classroom
As part of providing a rich, broad, and balanced curriculum, Dhoon provides a wide variety of enrichment activities, and frequent ‘real life’ experiences provide a rich context for learning for all pupils. The school celebrates its Manx Heritage through a bespoke ‘Manx Curriculum’ and many of the school’s music making activities reflect and celebrate the local culture and traditions. Music is a key feature of life at Dhoon, the corridors come alive at break times and lunchtimes and the school has a very successful folk group and choir. The pupils enjoy participating in a full range of sporting activities and relish the opportunity to represent their school. Learning outside the classroom takes on many forms and this has even extended to whole school off-island trips to the World Museum in Liverpool to see the Terracotta Army Exhibition and to Chester Zoo.
Bright and Vibrant
The learning environment at Dhoon includes large indoor and outdoor learning spaces. Classrooms are well organised, and the vibrant displays celebrate the pupils’ learning and progress with a good balance of pupils work and displays to encourage independent learning. The Early Years have a large learning space, with both indoor and outdoor learning opportunities, lending itself to play based learning. Primary classrooms are spacious with room for group, paired and independent learning opportunities with several whole class branch out areas. Leaders have created a learning environment that stimulates interest and discussion to challenge children’s knowledge and skills through a broad and balanced curriculum and the provision of a range of engaging resources to meet all learning styles. Both indoor and outdoor learning environments are stimulating, purposeful and vibrant, reflecting the school’s high standards. The school is proud to hold the ‘Manx Step into Quality Award.’ This award is recognition of the excellence in the schools’ early years provision and is testament to the quality of teaching and learning in the Foundation Stage.
At Dhoon School, all Leaders and staff are committed to helping the children become curious, lifelong learners and use the ‘Dhoon High Five’ to promote the attitudes, skills and dispositions the school believes are important for success in this. The ‘High Five’ are a set of qualities that the school develops in all the pupils, and they will set them well on their learning journey and into the future. Each Friday the school hosts a ‘High Five’ assembly which is celebration of the week’s learning. During the assembly certificates are presented to the pupils who have consistently demonstrated a particular disposition(s) over the course of the week.
Self-Confident and Enthusiastic Pupils
Pupils at Dhoon value the opportunities and experiences they are given. They respect their teachers and take on a range of roles to support the school and develop their skills for future life. Pupils are polite, friendly, self-confident, and enthusiastic. They respect the staff and know that they are listened to and cared for and appreciated for their individuality. The voice of the pupils is valued and contributes to their provision. Personal development is a priority as is the development of pupil aspiration. Due to the lockdown because of COVID-19 the school team has worked effectively to ensure that their pupils have received a continuous, high-quality education with access to online learning programmes. They feel inspired in their learning by the imaginative and needs-led teaching. Pupils felt that they were supported appropriately in the lessons and that their teachers and Teaching Assistants had high expectations of them with differentiated challenges. One pupil said,
“The teachers are always there to help us and whenever you need them, they are there for you.”
Another pupil commented on how much she enjoyed the learning,
“All the children are kind to each other, and it really makes me happy to come to school.”
A Year 6 pupil reported,
“Everybody appreciates each other, and we know each other because it’s small school”.
As a result of the planning of the curriculum and an inviting environment, pupils’ attitudes across the school were highly positive. The pupils were extremely respectful of each other, happy, polite, articulate, friendly and enthusiastic. They speak very highly of their school and its staff, and they know that they are listened to and cared for. The pupils are represented through a School Council, and they undertake specific roles throughout the academic year. Currently, the School Council is working on consulting with the rest of the children on designing playground marking for their playground. The school is proud to hold ‘Investing in Children’ status, recognising the pupils’ roles within the school in discussing issue, developing arguments, and making informed decisions.
In Partnership with Parents
The school has fostered a real partnership with parents ensuring both parties share the process of educating their children. There is strong and effective communication between home and school. If parents have any concerns, staff will take them seriously and act immediately. The children received high quality on-line learning during the lockdown period. The teachers provided their children academically with regular learning sessions but also supported them with their social, emotional needs. Parents and carers were involved in the regular Friday Dhoon High Five celebration assembly on-line and the on-line platform strengthened parental engagement. This was something that parents really appreciated.
Collaboration Ensures Success
All the staff, parents and pupils spoken to during the assessment were extremely positive about the school’s work. There is a very genuine sense of team effort here, of mutual support, of listening, discussing and of including everyone. Exceptional features of this school include the extraordinarily strong, collaborative Leadership Team leading an excellent staff team. This is coupled with exemplary pupil behaviour and attitudes together with excellent teaching and learning, high aspirations, and expectations for all pupils within an inclusive framework. It has been clear during the review day that at Dhoon School, inclusion is a natural part of the very fabric of the school and a place where care, nurture and support naturally occur, within a calm and happy learning environment, and through helping pupils to develop the skills they need to be effective, independent learners and positive members of their community and society. There is a continuous and evolving culture of critical reflection which underpins the work of the school at every level.
This article first appeared on the Inclusion Quality Mark website on Wednesday 26th January 2022 and can be found at source here.