School Focus: Developing pupil talent and celebrating achievement among top aims at Chesterfield primary school
At Heath Primary School there is an ethos that focuses around integrity and success, with pupils and staff working together to ensure they all flourish and grow.
The broad and balanced curriculum at the school on Slack Lane is such that the children are able to explore their subject knowledge and develop the skills, qualities and values needed to prepare them for future learning and onwards into employment.
While progressing as learners, they are also given regular opportunities to develop their talents and follow personal interests through an array of extra-curricular activities to help them become well-rounded individuals.
Headteacher Jonathan Lynch said this is all possible because of work by the dedicated school staff team, who go ‘above and beyond’ and often utilise their own skill set and talents to help the children learn and thrive.
“We’ve spent a lot of time as a school and as a trust working on our curriculum, developing and ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum,” he said.
"For example with art, it’s about making sure that children are getting that chance to develop their skills and it’s about making use of the practitioners we have in school – to share their skill set as well.
"You want everyone’s art to be improved and celebrated but as well, it’s about celebrating those children that have a spark or a talent for it or something that can be developed.
"With Miss Rashid, we know we have someone who is incredibly talented as an artist and as a teaching assistant. She’s led gifted and talented art groups and, along with Miss Spall, has worked towards the art award with some of our children.”
Every child is also given the opportunity to have their work displayed around the school corridors, helping them develop a sense of pride for what they have achieved.
Speaking about the displays, Mr Lynch added: “It really stands out when you walk around and the same with the art exhibition every year. That’s a whole school focus, every child is involved in that and all of the teachers.
"We build into that with an arts week where it’s celebrating all of the arts. It’s giving them a purpose to what they’re doing with everything.”
Part of the Embark Federation multi-academy trust, Heath Primary shares its ethos and values with 11 other schools across Derbyshire.
The school, in Holmewood, ensures that children are equipped to be successful life-long learners through a behavioural system that spots and praises the good, recognising both effort and achievement.
Pupils that do well are recognised in a number of ways – from having their name written on a classroom recognition board, to being handed dojo points, or being awarded a weekly certificate.
Those who go above and beyond are rewarded even further and can be nominated for ‘superstar status’ which, once granted, ordinarily gains them an invite along to a special celebratory breakfast with their parents or carers and access to a range of lunchtime clubs as well.
Creating strong links with parents and the surrounding community is another of the key focus’ at Heath Primary, whether it be inviting them in to attend the aforementioned art exhibition or getting them involved in other ways.
Mr Lynch said: “It’s very much about that standout school within the community and being part of the community. With everything that has happened with Covid I think that’s really shone through.
"We’ve had a lot of support from parents, a lot of offers of help, we’ve done a lot with the foodbank that we do in school and parents offering to support with that or raise money for things. It’s been really positive.”
Due to the pandemic, the school has had to adapt in a number of ways and originally struggled with how to carry on its whole school music lessons.
But with the help of Mrs Twigg – a parent and music teacher – they have been able to carry on this provision, albeit in smaller groups, with the majority of children now learning the ukulele.
“It’s really just trying to enrich as much as we can and make sure we’re offering pupils every opportunity that as a school, and a community, we can do,” Mr Lynch said.
The pandemic has also meant that Heath Primary has been unable to take the children on school trips.
However, according to deputy headteacher Jenny Flavell, the school has been coming up with ingenious ways to combat this.
This has seen all the children recently take part in a virtual road safety course.
“As Mr Lynch said, the curriculum has been really carefully planned as a Trust and with the leads within school around books and themes,” Ms Flavell said.
"A lot of that was based on us wanting to provide experiences for children. We wanted to take them to places and wanted them to physically do a lot of things because some of our children don’t have those experiences and we want to provide that opportunity for them.
"Unfortunately with Covid we’re having to rethink how we can do that to make sure that they’re still engaged and excited even though we can’t take them to places that we perhaps would have before.”
She added: “The last topic they did was about ancient Islamic civilizations, so they made a bit of a market. Obviously it was imaginary as that’s the way it had to be, but the children could show off artifacts and things like that.”
Mr Lynch said: “It’s those things that you would naturally get people into school for, such as road safety or the fire service, and coming up with a way to still do those things. That’s crucial to children’s development.
"To walk in a classroom and see the children focused on a 40 minute session on road safety… it’s about making sure we’re not missing things because of Covid and because we’re in slightly different circumstances.”