This is a summary of the findings from the researchers at Children North East. 14 key areas were audited by speaking to pupils, staff and parents/guardians. The researchers examined the school day from start to finish unpicking all policies and practices within the school. They attended Breakfast Club, after school clubs, had lunch with pupils and observed pupils through their day-to-day interactions within school.
Pupils at Swalwell spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities afforded to them.
Free trips: All pupils are aware that the day trips are free of charge, through good use of the Pupil Premium (PP) funding, leaders ensure that no child misses out. Pupils spoke of various trips such as Beamish. Hadrian's Wall, The Sage and visiting the seaside, “We built sandcastles, it was fun, and school provided the buckets and spades.” “The beach was the best trip, we played in the sand.”
Residential trips: Year 6 pupils were excited to talk about their residential trip, “We’re going to Robinwood at end of year 6, everyone will go – it's £100 but it’s okay you can pay it off in little bits like £5 a week or something.” This is brilliant Poverty Proofing ©. It is also great that no spending money is allowed on trips as this may highlight disparities.
Bike - ability: Pupils from KS2 talked about an opportunity where they were practised cycling skills . “They brought the spare bikes and helmets it was great; we went on a bike ride.” During feedback it was shared how the company they used also did tandem cycling and bling your wheels for those pupils who have physical disability. This is brilliant and promotes the ethos of inclusivity.
Clubs: There are a wide range of extra clubs at Swalwell, these are held both during lunch and after school, they are all free of charge. “We love going to Invictus.” Members of SLT also take a club once a week for pupils to access.
Aspirations: It is positive that pupils are asked what they want to do when older by staff in PSHE. "Our teachers do ask us and we also learn about this on trips like the one to Gibside." Pupils also mentioned professionals that come in from fire service, police and Gateshead Council talking about their careers. “I want to be a nursery teacher when I am older.” During feedback it was positive to hear that the school also hosts a careers week, "We have a full week where people from RNLI come in, different staff talk about different careers, and we have assemblies from groundworks." (staff)
Transport on trips: Swalwell Primary have an integrated approach to pupils who have physical disability, on trips they require a taxi as they cannot access the coach, school staff recognise the impact this could have, "We make sure we book enough taxis and we need to do that for pretty much every year group, we do not expect families to pay for this so fund this to ensure all pupils take part. (Head teacher)
The majority of pupils knew what was meant by the term bullying, "Intend to hurt someone either mentally of physically.
All pupils we talked to about this theme said, “It doesn’t happen here – you just wear what you wear – everyone is unique.” Pupils were also confident that if it did happen, they would be able to speak to staff about it. "I would go and see Miss; she'd be able to sort it."
Parents also commented on this stating, “I've never had to speak to school about bullying, but I have the confidence that they would deal with it very well like they do other things” - parent.
Christmas: Many pupils spoke about enjoying multiple Christmas activities, "We all made Christmas decorations and watched movies”
They also talked about going to the pantomime, “We performed Cinderbella and then we went to pantomime to see Cinderella – it was free at The Little Theatre.”
Year 6 celebrations: Many pupils across Year 6 explained how the school provides them with leavers hoodies, “Everyone will get one with everyone's names inside.” This is brilliant practice and echoes the inclusive approach the school has.
Pupils also mentioned how they will get end of SATs treats, "We will get ice-cream on the yard - it is all free."
Dress up days: Swalwell celebrate events such as World Book Day, for the majority of pupils they said they all participate in this which appears to be a positive.
Parties: Lots of pupils enjoy parties at Hallowe'en and other events, "It's free and the hall gets decorated." It is positive that this happens within the school day and though costumes can be worn, the pupils enjoy it.
Many pupils spoke positively about the fundraising days Swalwell take part in. The school take part in charity days that reflect its own pupils needs and, for example Jeans for Genes Day.
Donations: All donations appear optional and there is no pressure placed on pupils and families. “You get about a months' notice for fundraising non-uniform days and it's only a pound so easy to save” parent
Christmas Jumper Day: Many pupils feel that Christmas jumper day can be celebrated where all pupils take part and if anyone needs a jumper, they are confident the school can provide them with one, “If you don’t have one that’s okay you talk to teacher and Katie can help to organise one.”
Cake sales: It is fantastic that the school can include all pupils within events such as selling cakes for fundraising, “Some people forgot their money, but they still had a cake.”
School fairs: All pupils were enthusiastic about making baubles and cards and selling them at the Christmas fair, it is good to know that these were not sold to pupils' own families so there was no pressure on individuals to purchase. "We made decorations and sold them to anyone who wanted one."
Staff enable pupils through the curriculum to be confident, happy and proud and to feel valued as a member of an inclusive family. Pupils at Swalwell Primary feel included and equal within a broad curriculum. “The teacher just helps us all when we need it.” Pupil progress is monitored and tracked.
Swimming: All Year 5 pupils go swimming and if they don't pass their 25 metres, the school uses Sports Premium to fund those pupils to take part in extra swimming sessions in Year 6. “Everyone goes swimming on a Tuesday.”
Music: Leaders at Swalwell invest in Gateshead's Music Service and it is positive that this is done on a 2-year cycle to deepen pupils' knowledge within playing a particular instrument, "We all play the ukulele , everyone!" Staff are also included within this enhancing their CPD. This helps those pupils who are disabled," We have a child who has cerebral palsy, if he gets tired, I do the chords for him, and he can still feel included by strumming." (Head teacher)
Those who are disabled are statistically more likely to experience poverty, this is dynamic of school staff and echoes the inclusive approach that can be felt across the school.
School meals: 98% of those pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) take up their meal which is higher than the national average. Many pupils told us they love the meals, "I love the food, you get desserts, and I don't always get those at home, the pizza is yummy."
It is great that school meals and packed lunches can sit next to each other. “I like lunchtime because you can sit with your friends, then go out and play with your friends”
Pupils also mentioned that they can sometimes get seconds, "Sometimes we get seconds if there are spares." "We will always give more fruit." Catering manager
Breakfast club: There is a large breakfast club that is free to all pupils, we noticed how calm this was, it is where pupils thrive on the early start ensuring they eat breakfast. Pupils have access to resources to help them with homework tasks. There is no sign up for breakfast club which suits the needs of pupils here. "Breakfast club is fun we get to play and have breakfast."
Some pupils mentioned how leftovers are used up, “We sometimes get milk or juice at lunchtime if there is leftovers from breakfast club”
Food over holidays: Food parcels are provided for families over holiday periods, this is supported by the local charity: Feeding Families.
The school also access Gregg's funding which supports breakfast club and fresh food parcels over Christmas, "We reached around 15 families by using this money to go and buy meat and vegetables for those families who needed it, we do this in a discreet way."
Homework tasks: For all pupils they did not appear to be any pressure around homework. Pupils stated that they can access homework tasks during Breakfast Club and throughout the school day, "We can do homework in Breakfast Club and go on to Times Tables Rockstars."
Pupils also reported being able to get their spellings on a sheet of paper, which is great if they cannot access resources online.
Devices: There are laptops available to give to families and we witnessed this being used while we were there. Staff can track who accesses online tasks and then have discreet conversations if they need a device. "Our families do come and ask for a laptop, like this one I'm giving to a family now, they asked the teacher at the door. If they need to keep it for other children, they have that is fine." School Business Manager.
Online platforms: staff and pupils have developed their virtual audio version reading library which enables that all pupils can access this, with the delivery of laptops to families so they can access the library, it also means that pupils who have vision loss can access these stories. "We want to make sure that every child can access the same opportunities."
All of the staff we spoke to have a clear understanding of how poverty impacts their pupils. "We want our pupils to have enriched experiences, that is why we try to provide them with as many trips and visits as we can, to enhance their cultural capital, so they know what is available to them outside of Swalwell. We believe that every child has the same potential." Head teacher
Governors who filled in the survey are aware what actions are taken to address the social disadvantage, "We are given robust information about PP spend and the impact this is making, we are given reports showing the outcomes of PP pupils and comparisons to non PP pupils."
" All the after-school activities are free of charge as is the well established Breakfast Club which is open to all pupils.
School ensures those pupils who have free meals within school are also supported during school holidays, Inset and more recently strike days."
Governor and the staff surveys realise the impact poverty has on pupils at Swalwell, "Pupils don't have access to devices at home. Not having the same opportunities to expand horizons as others with more money. Lack of facilities at home for the children to allow them to come into school ready to learn." It is positive that staff and governors are aware of what PP funding is spent on.
Pupil support is high on the school agenda, “Students have to be in the right place emotionally to learn” - Head teacher.
All of the pupils we spoke with about pupil support felt well supported and they told us, "We feel safe and respected here."
A large number of pupils were able to explain how they would access support if they needed it, “I can ask my teacher to talk to them outside the class and they will listen to me” "Miss will always talk to us and we know what to do if we need to chat."
Swalwell have a dedicated Family Support Worker who all pupils are aware of, where all pupils call her by her first name, this implemented from the beginning has helped create informal and valuable relationships with pupils when they need support, "You just ask whenever and you would get to see Katie, she just helps you."
Feeding Families: Through brilliant relationships with local charities, support is implemented school wide for pupils which will have lasting positive impact on many aspects such as pupil and family support, charity and fundraising and recognising poverty in the local context
“We have done assemblies with Feeding Families on No Money days – this works to remove stigma” (staff)
Pupils also talked about receiving help from Feeding Families through school, "We get boxes of food with FF on the side."
Young Carers: Through pupil support, a Young Carers afternoon is available for pupils within this bracket, "There are around 18 pupils who have had the formal assessment and qualify as Young Carers." (Family Support Worker) It is excellent that this layer of support is provided. We noticed a dedicated display for Young Carers with advice and signposting support.
Life skills: Some pupils explained how they take part in life skills, "There's a few of us that go and do life skills with Miss, we play games and sometimes we cook."
Staff also said that they track who access these sessions and adapt this on who they feel need this support providing bespoke sessions.
Buddies: Older pupils explained how they enjoy looking after younger pupils, “We go into the little yard, play games with the little ones and talk to them” "If you want to do it you just say, and you get put on the list."
There were a lot of KS2 pupils who knew their rights, “We have rights – the right to be happy, the right to be heard, the right to be safe, the right to learn and the right to reach our potential”
Along with this some pupils talked about the British values of democracy and meeting with local MP Liz Twist.
Class council: A large number of pupils were aware of what the class council do, "They help us by having meetings, pupils vote for things, give ideas for new things at school, or new equipment for the yard. Pupils told us that they are chosen once a year.
Sports ambassadors: Pupils explained how they felt sports leaders were, " chosen fairly." They explained how they were chosen by teachers and help on Sports Day.
Most pupils and families are aware that Swalwell provide everything that is needed for school, they provide PE kits and all stationery and books and free Breakfast Clubs and after school clubs which is amazing.
"They deserve to be helped to continue this as it means all pupils are able to access most things without any stress on the parents to provide the money for them. Amazing." (Parent)
Water bottles: Pupils reported," If there are no water bottles staff get you a drink, there are cups in the classroom."
Spare clothing: Some pupils were aware that the school would be able to provide spare coats and wellies if they needed them, “The school have coats you can borrow if you forget to bring yours”
Revision guides: Some pupils in Year 6 explained how they are provided with revision guides, “We have revision guides for SATs and do practice papers every Friday.” Staff also commented how SATs boosters are available for all Year 6 pupils and they give biscuits to all pupils too. This is brilliant practice.
Many pupils spoke positively about the reward systems in place. "Yeah, they are fair, we love challenging Mrs Hocking if we win the attendance."
Most pupils were clear on systems for both positive and negative behaviour within school.
Weekly awards: Pupils are awarded certificates in assembly on a Friday that are a result of recognition, "We might get star of the week if we do something impressive."
Attendance rewards: There are different aspects covered within attendance awards where both whole class and individual awards are celebrated.
“If the class get 100% attendance, we get to challenge Mrs Hocking – we made her stand in chopped tomatoes and made her walk-through slime.” This is seen as a positive by the pupils we spoke to about this theme. Individuals commented on having a chance to win prizes based on individual attendance, “We get put in draws for afternoon tea and Metrocentre gift cards”
Attendance support: The school have a walking bus which they run every day, members of staff walk round the estates where most families live nearby. "We collect pupils to support with attendance where we know families in the past have struggled." A brilliant initiative. The school also said, "We have bought alarm clocks for families and when plug in ones are an issue due to electricity bills, we buy them battery operated ones too."
There has been a rigorous amount of work done at Swalwell to support families and of those families who filled out the surveys, 87% of families think the school give enough notice for payments and 92% feel that the school is ‘always’ a welcoming place, regardless of financial background.
School costs: Many families feel there is enough notice given for any payments, "At least a week for small amounts and it was months of notice for the large amount. That’s fine for me." "The school will always ask parents to pay a donation towards school trips never the full cost and even if you can’t afford to pay your child will never be left out with whatever activities or trips."
Specific support: “I have lots of support from the school especially with my daughter, which helps at home too- the staff are amazing.”
The school are also holding a wellbeing workshop for parents and carers to attend which will concentrate on children's behaviours and resilience.
Extra support: There is a clear focus from staff to provide as much support for families, “Some nursery students don’t qualify for the 30hours – but those families need it, so we find the money to support them having the 30hours” Business Manager
Swalwell staff prioritise uniform with the aim of making it affordable and there are no punitive sanctions if the wrong uniform is worn. “The jumpers are from a shop behind Lidl so I can walk there, and they are only a tenner,” parent There is no pressure for pupils to have a logo on their jumper or cardigan, which is brilliant and adheres to DFE guidance as an observation over half of pupils chose not to have the logo. “You used to get told off for not having uniform, but they stopped doing that.”
Preloved uniform: Pupils and families alike are aware of the preloved uniform, this is also made available at Parents Evening, which is positive, “If you need anything we just go ask Katie, at fayres they have the uniform out.” This is brilliant Poverty Proofing © practice.“
The preloved uniform has extended into providing extra clothing for example, pupils said, "If on Christmas Jumper Day we don’t have one, we just see Katie.”
PE Kits: Pupils are aware that they get free kits from school, this is fantastic, "We don't need to pay for PE kits they are free."
Our next steps as a school are: