It is not often that Jenny comes across a school with as many amazing qualities as Beckford Primary School. This is despite the school having a number of significant challenges. It just proves what you can do with a Whole School Approach, fantastic leadership and an energetic and dedicated staff team. Beckford Primary School is an inner city school that makes the most of every bit of space – with science gardens, football, beautiful play areas, dance spaces, music, volleyball and so much more. The school teaches children from backgrounds that embrace 39 different languages and, within the school, no nationality makes up more than 11% of the total. Jenny found it a real pleasure working with Headteacher Samantha Smith and the staff team to help this school achieve so much.
Do listen to these testimonials from Headteacher, Samantha Smith, and Former-Deputy Headteacher, Marianne Porter, from Beckford Primary School
If you would like to read more – read below an account of a visit to this school by a member of Jenny Mosley’s team.
At Beckford Primary School in Camden – Together they are very much Achieving
As I walked up through the terraces from the station, the huge school buildings loomed up, dominant in the middle of a square, surrounded by houses. The shrill but joyful sound of playground laughter and calling was clear in the air. The high fences made me wonder if they were to keep people in or out, but when I walked through to reception and saw the tropical fish swimming in a large tank and a bright sunshining orange colour scheme to greet us, I realised it was the latter!
It was explained to me that the open plan feel and colourful and friendly entrance hall is calming and more conducive to openness and communication which results in better interactions with parents coming in to school. The aim of the entrance was to encourage everyone to “SOFTEN” – as is so appropriate for working and visiting young children and it worked beautifully. The school’s motto “Together We Achieve” plus the six key school aims were prominent on the walls and hard not to take in on one level or another.
Walking through the first part of the school, the time, energy and beauty of all the displays was one of the first things that struck me. There were displays of the Golden Rules, photos of children keeping the Golden Rules, displays for Golden Time and for everything from the school’s Golden staff Team to the School Council and amazing community events. Each was immaculately presented!
The school teaches children from a diverse local background where we find 39 different languages being spoken and, within the school, no nationality makes up more than 11% of the total. The posters and displays show how teachers personalise the Golden Rules and make them real for each class. Walking into the beautifully decorated and cared for classrooms with proud displays of work and activities, Miss Smith the Headteacher speaks to the teacher then numerous children (out of the 455 on role) by name and it is clear that the children know their Headteacher well, know the Golden Rules and understand why the rules are there. They also understand how the rules are linked to the weekly whole-school Golden Time celebrations that take place on Friday afternoons.
The school’s philosophy of not just teaching a child to learn but of teaching children how to learn aims to equip the children for life. The breadth of activities on offer in the school is astounding. The evidence of concerts, community suppers and sports was clearly displayed on the walls as you travel up and down the staircases to the classrooms. Local artists are invited in to work with the children on special arts topics too.
The statistics of the school are staggering – with this school being in the top 2% for improvement in England and with 66% of the children within the qualifying brackets for Pupil Premium support, that is no mean feat.
Climbing the stairs to the Year 6 classrooms, the sound of music, singing and laughter rippled along the corridors until we came to a large room with mirrors down one side and a whole class of pupils rehearsing for a performance of “Hairspray”. The excited jabber and the buzz of music was infectious and I would have like to have stayed to watch and to soak up the atmosphere and listen to the singing and acting.
In the Year 5 classroom, a display in the corner heralded the ‘Sound of Good Choice” – a marble jar with marbles to ‘kerchink’ into the container when the class earnt another marble towards a class treat. Posters and stickers show that good news comes in from the playground too. When the children arrive back at their classrooms after lunchbreak, teachers ask for good news, for stories of how children have kept the Golden Rules and children are praised for a good playtime. (Such a difference from schools where the first part of the afternoon is sadly spent listening to moans and complaints from children and midday supervisors!)
Two years ago there were riots in London and Miss Smith, the Headteacher, explained that the children had been very disturbed by this and said they did not feel listened to. The school called in Jenny Mosley to help revamp lunchtimes and playtimes and to help the school become a listening school. After training days and consultancy, the school has embraced Jenny’s Golden Model and taken the Golden Rules, Golden Time and Circle Time to its heart. Lunchtimes and playtimes have been totally revamped and the school is fully equipped with listening systems and a vocal school council.
Walking out into the playground at lunchtime, the playground zoning brilliantly divides the slightly limited space into a Wimbledon tennis area, football area, a science garden with ponds, insects and frogs, football, a dance area, craze of the week and quiet areas to name just a few. There were seven zones in total, each named with individual zone rules appropriate to the activity. Each zone has a ‘thinking spot’ where children are asked to sit for five minutes with a timer to contemplate their behaviour after an incident. When the playground was first zoned the ‘thinking spots’ had many visitors during playtimes and the record sheets were full of names on the front and back, but after a few weeks the children learnt the rules and valued the time spent doing the activities so much that very rarely did any children risk losing any playtime any more.
After lunch, the children erupted from the building with boundless energy and enthusiasm, heading for their favourite activities and meeting with all their friends. Music, coloured flapping fabrics and vibrant and engaging activities and clubs in the different playground zones were terribly inviting. We had to dodge the gorgeous, colourful chalk art on the playground pavings and savour the lunchtime kitchen aromas that made us want to stay all day.
We were lucky enough to be able to distract the School Council pupils from their lunchbreak for quarter of an hour to speak with them about how they felt about the school, lunchtimes, Golden Rules and Golden Time. It was clear that these very articulate, clear-thinking young people thought very highly of their school, their teachers and all that it had to offer to them and their classmates. In their minds, they thought very highly of Golden Time and they thought the system of following the Golden Rules was fair. When we asked the children what they liked best about the school, four out of eight said Golden Time, with a mixture of maths, art and playtime making up the rest of the votes.
The afternoon’s activities, as it was a Friday, consisted of Golden Time clubs of mainly mixed age groups that the children could choose. A complicated timetable of events, locations and supervising staff showed the lengths that go into making all the clubs a complete success. The breadth of clubs was astounding, from loom band making to dance and art, from scaletrix cars to table football. While walking around and experiencing the engagement and enjoyment of all the children, it was clear that everyone’s favourite activities were on offer – providing a huge incentive to keep the Golden Rules all week. Children who have kept the Golden Rules all year and not lost any Golden Time are called “Always Children” in Beckford Primary School, and these children proudly wear a badge to show how well they have followed the rules and were celebrated with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at the end of the year. A walk around the Golden Time clubs saw children playing on brightly coloured scooters, choosing and listening to music in a club-like area with a dance stage and the general buzz of children having a whale of a time.
The happy, engaged and occupied children were testament to an amazingly proactive school with super-dedicated and creative leadership steering the school through a time of change and increasingly high standards. However, all this hard work has meant that the academic standards have risen and risen and the school catchment area has shrunk from being very wide to narrow as everyone tries for a place at this school whose reputation is spreading fast in a very positive way.
Thank you Miss Smith and her hardworking and dedicated staff team for allowing us to experience half a day in your school and to meet the happy children that we came across. The pleasure was all ours.
Website Manager’s Notes
1. Jenny Mosley runs successful and transformative positive behaviour for learning, circle time and social skills, and lunchtimes and playtimes training
–Click Here to see all forthcoming public conferences that anyone can attend.
2. Many schools book Jenny Mosley for a training day, conference or a Working In School Day. Without shutting the school, Jenny holds staff meetings, observable circle times with pupils, works in the dining hall and playgrounds and feeds back everything to staff via meetings. For enquiries about Working in School Days, please phone 01225 767157 or email email@example.com. (Many schools follow a WISD day with an INSET day so that they can fully work through the ideas with Jenny.)
3. For all other training enquiries – including our popular open conferences held around the country through the year for better behaviour for learning, improved social and communication skills, circle times, working with parents as partners and more, phone 01225 767157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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