Ainslie Wood is a local authority maintained primary school in East London. With more than 420 pupils on roll it is oversubscribed, and has a significant number of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds (70%) and speaking English as an additional language (40%). Headteacher Kerry Scott was appointed in 2013 as her first headship. She was attracted to the job because the school’s vision and values were close to her own but the school faced significant challenges — it was in the bottom 1% of schools in the country and had seen a high turnover of staff.
What were Ainslie Wood looking to get out of their engagement with Whole Education?
Kerry’s priority was to use a whole education as a sustainable way to drive improvement. Everyone in the school was working hard but often not in a joined-up way, and too much time was spent on things that didn’t make the biggest difference for pupils. Trying to develop a whole education felt like an uphill battle. Kerry was looking for a common framework and language for the school community to give the work they were doing direction.
Beginning their Whole Education journey
In October the school attended WE’s 3rd Annual Conference. Kerry described this as a transformative moment.
Indeed, the school had been told it would be closed at the end of the year if it didn’t
demonstrate really positive progress.
Inspired and feeling like they had a supportive network of like-minded peers, the school began to build their practice around that common language and vision.
By the end of the year, Ainslie Wood was the third most improved school in the country. This helped get buy in from the wider school community for what they were doing.
How did the school commit to a Whole Education approach?
Alongside a focus on reading and writing, the school invested in recruiting people able to deliver a whole education.
They appointed Claire Phillips to the SLT as leader of teaching. Claire introduced a collaborative team teach model based around adults supporting each other to constantly improve, which was recognised with an award at WE’s 2017 Summer Conference. The school’s teaching profile has subsequently gone from 95% below good (with 60% inadequate) to 95% good.
They also appointed a leader of learning to develop a high-quality whole education curriculum. Kerry actually filled this role herself while serving as Headteacher until they found the right person to take the role permanently!
What did the school do with WE that made a difference?
1. The chance for staff across the school to share ideas with peers through the core offer
“Staff connecting with other staff has been the most powerful thing.”
2. Collaborating with other schools in the network
“Lots of practice at Ainslie Wood is ideas we originally heard about from other schools at WE events”
3. Projects and programmes
“[ WE partner Iris Connect’s] Film Club has become a pivotal tool for us.”
4. Inspiration at annual conferences
“The conference every year is what I get excited about. It’s brain food – I bring as many staff as I can.”
Kerry’s top tips:
1. Work with your dedicated relationship manager
“Talk to them about what you’re working on, your focus and what you’re interested in. Keep discussions going — they’ll be able to help you find the projects and research that fulfill your needs and help you deliver on your priorities.”
2. Take advantage of the hub days
“That’s where you start to build your network and see some really great practice. It’s brain food, discussion and networking all at the same time in an environment that is all Whole Ed – you know you’re going to get good stuff.”