How we Teach and Learn at ESPS-FAQ
What makes ESPS stand out?
First and foremost, the quality of teaching and learning makes ESPS an exceptional place for children to learn and develop. We have been rated ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED and this judgment is repeatedly verified by external assessors. Feedback from secondary schools shows our children are well prepared as independent learners and demonstrate very positive attitudes to education and school life generally.
Ours is a diverse and inclusive school community and we have the highest expectations for all the children within it. Our child-centred curriculum is designed to stimulate curiosity and promote passion for learning with a focus on making learning both purposeful and relevant. Vitally, we have an active focus on wellbeing, as we believe that happy, secure children not only learn better, but are better equipped to deal with all the challenges of modern life.
Our “Thinking School” methodology encourages collaborative and independent learning.
We offer a wide range of additional educational opportunities including field trips, residential trips, workshops and visits to support the curriculum, school productions/performances (e.g. musical theatre, recitals, dance, choir), and a large variety of extra-curricular clubs.
We have been awarded Gold Status as a “Sing Up” school, and have outstanding sports provision, with competitive fixtures in as many sports as possible, including football, swimming, netball and athletics.
How does ESPS ensure that all pupils make good progress?
We are committed to helping all our children make as much progress as possible. Every child’s learning journey is tracked and monitored from their starting points across the curriculum. We encourage children to understand their learning journey and children are involved in target setting with 1:1 teacher conferencing sessions termly in KS2. Our clear marking and feedback policy ensures children understand the next steps required to make progress.
Learning is differentiated throughout the school, so that children of all abilities are challenged, including those identified as being of higher ability and ambition according to set criteria. A wide range of enrichment activities is offered to challenge the more able children, both within the daily curriculum and via extra-curricular clubs and activities.
If children need further support to achieve their potential, we put in place a range of individually targeted interventions and we carefully monitor the impact of those interventions.
We have an outstanding SEND department, as well as an outstanding special resource provision for children with a diagnosis for SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) difficulties.
We offer a wide range of support and interventions for children eligible for the Pupil Premium Grant, including access to clubs and enrichment activities.
Throughout the school, we regularly and, rigorously review our tracking data and the impact of any interventions.
Why is so much emphasis put on pupil wellbeing?
East Sheen Primary School has always regarded children’s happiness and sense of belonging in our community as critical to fulfilling their learning potential. Children need to feel safe, secure and confident that they are valued in order to focus on and take risks in their learning. You may have seen that children’s mental health, and its impact on achievement and long-term success in adult life, has been the subject of a great deal of national interest.
When children lack self-esteem or confidence, doubt their worth or feel insecure, these emotions can often act as barriers to learning.
There is also substantial evidence that children benefit from keeping active and eating a well-balanced diet and these, too, are promoted at our school.
Examples of how we promote wellbeing:
- We employ a drama therapist
- We have a “reading dog” who visits weekly
- We offer outreach interventions from our special SEMH resource provision (e.g. social skills, Lego club, building resilience, mentoring)
- We carry out a comprehensive staff training programme, including training on counselling and trauma support
- Children are encouraged to have a school lunch, cooked on the premises according to rigorous national healthy eating guidelines
All children have two hours sport a week and are encouraged to be active in the classrooms too. There is a wide range of extra-curricular sports clubs, together with other extra-curricular activities including karate, cheerleading, drama, singing, cooking and gardening.
How much emphasis does ESPS place on academic success?
We are aspirational for all our children. We want every child to achieve academically, and to the best of their ability, in preparation for challenges at secondary school and beyond. The academic performance of our children and their academic results in national assessments are extremely important to us and all data is rigorously scrutinised by the headship team, by governors and by the independent, local-authority appointed school improvement partner.
Our school priorities and action plans are driven by what the data tell us about our children’s learning and their academic performance in Reading, Writing and Maths.
As an accredited “Thinking School”, we encourage children to be creative, to reason and problem solve, and also to analyse and reflect on their own learning. We believe in active learning where children need to work things out and explain their thought processes. We teach concepts and aim to develop understanding in preference to rote learning and method teaching.
How do I know that my child is progressing well in school?
Parent consultation evenings are held in the Autumn and Spring terms where you have the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress and attainment. A detailed written report is sent home at the end of the academic year highlighting your child’s achievements and setting targets for further development. This report will also inform you whether your child is working at, above or below the level expected by the government for their relevant age-group.
If you are concerned about your child’s progress or any aspect of school life, in the first instance, you should speak to their class teacher. If you have any concerns please do not wait until parent/teacher consultations as we would prefer to be aware of any issues as soon as they arise. If you are not satisfied with the response of the class teacher please make an appointment to see a member of the Headship Team.
Why don't teachers tell parents how their child is performing relative to the rest of the class?
Teachers do report on whether your child is making the expected progress, and is at, above or below the expected standard for children of the same age. Children develop at very different rates in a vast range of curriculum areas and even within specific subjects. Ranking them is therefore not easy nor an accurate assessment of progress being made.
Each cohort is different, so a child who is approximately in the “middle” of one class in terms of attainment may still be performing well above age expectations and might be “top” of the class if placed in a different group or school. Such comparisons are therefore not helpful. We also know that children’s attainment can be affected by their own expectations of themselves. Being ranked 30/30 at the age of 6 is unlikely to have a positive impact on that child’s future learning!
Teachers know the children in their class very well and are able to give incisive feedback relevant to each child’s learning needs. If additional support or challenge is needed for an individual to make appropriate progress and fulfil academic potential such information is shared with parents.
What does the school do to challenge more able pupils? How are children chosen for these activities?
At ESPS we believe that all children should be suitably challenged. Learning is differentiated so that children are stretched, whatever their ability. More able pupils will therefore be expected to meet different success criteria - e.g. in maths by having to “prove” a hypothesis or explain reasoning behind systematic problem solving. In English they may be expected to evidence answers about author intent, make inferences and support views with evidence from more challenging texts. In writing they will be expected to use more advanced punctuation and vocabulary and consider the impact of style on the reader. These children will also be told what their next developmental steps are through feedback and marking.
In addition, the school identifies children who are high attaining, according to set criteria, including their attitude to learning. A range of additional activities are run to further challenge these children.
For example, the school takes part in a range of borough-led projects such as Battle of the Books for Year 2 and Year 4, as well as maths and writing competitions and workshops. We take part in the National Primary Schools Maths Challenge and participate in competitions run by external organisations such as Explore Learning. Children also take part in maths mastery classes together with gifted mathematicians from other local schools, including those in the independent sector.
In addition to opportunities outside school, we select children to participate in certain additional activities in school, such as a Strategy Club, Maths in Motion Club, Chess Club and Latin Club.
All children learn to play the recorder in Year 3 and to play chess in Year 4. Children also learn the keyboard in Year 4.
Further information is available in the Gifted and Talented section of the website.
How do you support children with special educational needs and disabilities?
We have a full time Special Educational Needs Coordinator and are experienced at running a wide range of interventions to support children with additional needs, including one-on-one catch up sessions, small group work in phonics or maths, drama therapy and mentoring.
The impact of such interventions is carefully monitored and adjusted as required. Children are set relevant targets and are supported to meet these to ensure that they make as much progress as possible.
Our Phoenix Room (the resource for a small number of children with SEMH needs) is a safe, nurturing environment staffed by highly trained specialists and is recognised as an outstanding provision. It contains personalised workspaces and a sensory room. We are able to use both the Phoenix resources and the skills of the staff in the whole school community to support a wider range of children.
Our full SEND information report is published on our website.
How much time is typically allocated to the teaching of maths and English versus other subjects each year?
Generally speaking, maths and English are taught every day and as far as possible during morning sessions in KS1. In KS2 maths and English lessons are 1 hour and 15 minutes Monday to Thursday. These subjects are not typically taught in dedicated lessons on “Fab Friday” (a creative day) but activities on Fridays could include chess, maths challenges and debating i.e. activities where mathematical and English skills are applicable.
Science and ICT are generally taught weekly as are history and geography topics. These can be cross curricular. We also teach PSHE and RE. A year group may cover a topic in a special theme day. Music is also taught each week and French is taught for an hour fortnightly in KS2. Children have two hours of physical education a week and go swimming in Y3 and Y4.
At the beginning of each year a curriculum evening is held where the timetable for the year is shared with parents and carers in addition to other relevant information. A termly bulletin is also sent out and is published on the website in the year group section. The timetables and curriculum coverage are carefully monitored to ensure the year group objectives according to the national curriculum are being covered. The national curriculum is also available on our website if you wish to look in detail at the objectives relevant for your child’s age.
What homework should I expect for my child?
The main focus for homework across the school is on reading. We value the link between home and school based learning. Committing information to memory is a necessary part of learning and best practised regularly; therefore homework often involves memorising e.g. phonics and spelling patterns, multiplication tables or poetry to recite.
All children are expected to read daily and a diary is used as a means of communication between home and school. Children in KS2 are set challenges in school based on texts set to be read at home. There is a lot of evidence to show that children who read widely and regularly develop a range of cognitive skills which help their wider learning.
In KS2, we use an online maths programme, MyMaths, so that children can reinforce learning and apply skills learnt in school. Teachers monitor homework scores and can see how many attempts a child has had to achieve the correct answer. Effort and perseverance are valued. Any misconceptions or difficulties encountered are followed up in school to ensure the homework has value.
Sometimes children are asked to research a topic in preparation for a lesson or unit of work in school or to prepare a presentation.
We do not send home “worksheet” style homework on a regular basis, although occasionally this is beneficial to reinforce learning for individual children. Older children may bring home “test” style questions to practise as they prepare for formal assessments.
For more information please see our Homework Policy.
What do you do to support children’s transition to secondary school? Do you support children applying for private schools at the end of primary school?
We aim to prepare all of our children for a smooth transition to secondary school. A transition programme is in place for children in Year 6 and they have the opportunity to visit their secondary schools in the summer term. Year 7 teachers from Richmond secondary schools also visit the children here at school and have the opportunity to discuss individuals with the class teacher. Children with SEND have additional visits and are further supported to ensure the transition experience is positive.
For children applying to the independent sector the school will provide a reference for a small charge. We do not provide separate references for different schools but ensure that all necessary information required by the schools is included in the proforma we use. We appreciate that the school selection process can be an anxious time for children and we are happy to talk to you if you wish to discuss your child’s options after leaving ESPS. We are not able to provide additional tutoring for children going through the process or to recommend tutoring.
Richmond is a high performing borough: how should we best use league tables to understand school performance?
There is a strong, supportive school network in Richmond. Headteachers meet regularly and discuss and share excellent practice.
League tables are compiled based on one set of data (KS2 SATs results). They are certainly useful in terms of comparing final outcomes for a year group. An average progress score for the year group is also calculated based on points scored in the KS1 and KS2 SATs tests. These are useful indicators for school performance, as are average points scored in the tests.
It is also important to take account of different school contexts. The best indicator of school performance is to compare schools with other schools nationally which have a similar context rather than with schools which happen to be close by but may have a very different profile.
Behind the headline data is a whole bank of detailed, contextual data which gives governors, school leaders, LA representatives, the DfE and OFSTED important information about school performance. This is carefully scrutinised and informs school development priorities.
Do you run booster classes in the run up to SATS?
We use support staff throughout the school to run a range of interventions to meet children’s learning needs. This includes children in Year 6 as they prepare for SATs testing. Our ability to do this is dependent on staffing and budgetary constraints. If there is a need identified for additional test practice (i.e. children who appear to underperform in test situations) appropriate interventions are put in place. We do not however believe in hot-housing our children purely in order to maximise results. SATS are one part of a child’s education and our aim at ESPS is to provide an enriching, broad based curriculum and not to focus exclusively on test preparation.
We do practise exam questions in the lead up to SATs testing in Y6 and expect children to know their times tables so they can quickly spot mathematical patterns and relationships and to have secure understanding of spelling rules and patterns.
My child is quite quiet. How do you ensure that every child is given sufficient teacher attention in a class of 30 children?
Our teachers are highly skilled and lesson observations show them using a range of techniques (talk partners, “no hands up”, lollipop sticks) to ensure all children have equal opportunities to contribute. Teachers often work with focus groups on a rotation basis to ensure they have sufficient time with each class member. Children’s engagement and progress in learning during a lesson are observed during the teaching evaluations which form part of teacher appraisal and performance management.
In KS1 there is a full time teaching assistant in every class as well as a class teacher. In KS2, teaching assistants generally work across a year group, though on occasion one may be assigned to an individual class. Individual children who need additional support may also have a Learning Support Assistant.
In many countries children don't start school until they are older. Is it really necessary to make them jump through hoops (SATs) when they are so young?
As a maintained school we have a statutory obligation to comply with government policy on compulsory age and assessment in education.
We ensure that learning is child-centred and child-led as far as possible, especially in the Early Years (Reception) where the curriculum is designed to allow children to learn through play. Imaginative activities are set up each day to engage and motivate children to explore and create. Assessment in Early Years is through observations of children achieving the 17 goals - no formal testing is involved.
Again, by following the Read Write Inc phonics programme we enable children to have fun while they learn to read. The sessions are pacey and involve games e.g. “spot the new sound hiding among the ones we know already”. The Y1 phonics check is carried out on a 1:1 basis with teachers the children know well. We try to make this as relaxed a session as possible and do not put additional pressure on children. The check itself takes just a few minutes.
SATs tests in KS1 are used to support teacher assessment. The overall judgment is based on the work children have done in class as part of their daily learning. Teachers find evidence of children meeting the required objectives within their work which is set according to the national curriculum. We do not alter our timetables or drop subjects to focus on testing and make every effort to make the test situation as relaxed and comfortable as possible. We are aware that some children do find these situations stressful and we support them and encourage them as far as we can.
Children in all year groups in KS2 sit tests at various times of the year as this form of summative assessment is a necessary part of learning. Again, children are encouraged to have a go, and we aim to create a culture where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities rather than failures.
Children in Y6 do sit formal SATs tests and we are aware that this can be stressful. We prepare children thoroughly for the tests so that they feel confident to tackle the questions on the test days. Children in Year 6 continue to access a rich and broad curriculum and the focus is always on making the learning experience relevant, purposeful and engaging.
Given ESPS focus on creativity and the whole child what enrichment activities do you provide for those with musical ability?
Music plays an important role at ESPS. We are a Gold Status Sing Up school and use singing across the curriculum as a learning medium. We meet together as a whole school once a week to sing and children enjoy a Song of the Week in their classes. Singing is used to help children remember patterns and vocabulary e.g. in learning tables and scientific vocabulary. Our school productions and performances always involve music, as do class assemblies, and we have been noted to shine in the annual Richmond singing festival. All children in Y3 learn the recorder and in Y4 they have keyboard lessons as part of the music outreach programme. They also have the opportunity to learn the ukulele thanks to a grant from the Mavis Gotto Trust. Children learning musical instruments in school are invited to perform in group assemblies to their parents and any child who plays an instrument has the opportunity to perform if they wish in a school assembly. The Richmond Music Trust offers tuition in school in a range of musical instruments and the RMT teacher will often signpost students to additional activities outside school.
Children in KS2 are taught by a music specialist. We have a choir and an orchestra club.