The Inclusive Multi Academy Trust, Watford, has become the first Trust of schools in the UK to receive the National Nurturing Schools Award for all three of its schools. The award is achieved by schools once they successfully complete our National Nurturing Schools Programme and achieve recognition of their high quality whole school nurturing approach.
The Inclusive Multi Academy Trust consists of three primary schools, including Beechfield School, Cherry Tree Primary School and Laurance Haines School. Laurance Haines School was also the first school in the UK to achieve the honourable award in 2017 and in March 2021 achieved another first by being the first school in the UK to be re-accredited with the award.
We recently interviewed the CEO of The Inclusive Multi Academy Trust, James Roach and three Pastoral Leads, Nicola Furey, Alison Hayward and Jennie Raynard to discuss what winning the award means to the school communities and to talk through the impact nurture has had across their schools. They answered the questions below collectively.
You are the first Trust to have all schools accredited with the National Nurturing Schools Award, how does that feel?
Wonderful, it’s been a long journey which started when we were a single school, the school converted into an Academy and then an Academy Trust of three schools. It’s been the foundation that has helped form our Trust and has provided genuine opportunities to collaborate. The National Nurturing Schools Programme gave us a framework to work against, which allowed each individual school to grow their bespoke pastoral provision but also enabled us to ensure all three schools were receiving the same quality of input and therefore the same quality of outcomes. It has helped to form our identity and has enabled us to truly become fully inclusive.
What level of impact has the nurturing programme had on your schools? For instance, in terms of pupil engagement, reduced exclusions and parental relationships?
As a community it has brought us closer together, this has been particularly evident in the recent lockdowns. Parents see us as a safe base and they come to the school for help in the first instance because they know it’s going to be there. Through our Parent Voice meetings, coffee mornings and open door policy, parental engagement has really improved over the course of our journey. Pupils know there is always someone in school to speak to that will help and support them. It hasn’t eradicated exclusions but there are far less across the Trust as whole, which is owing to our nurturing ethos and practice. Because of the Six Principles of Nurture there are many more steps in place to support children and their behaviour which has also contributed to the reduction in exclusions. As a Trust we really are putting our children, parents and their families first.
What do the pupils think about nurture?
Nurture has become a part of their vocabulary now, they know what it means, they celebrate it, they understand it, they’ve made it their own and most importantly they expect it. Across the Trust pupils have developed the principles to really mean something to them individually as well as underpinning the ethos of their school.
What would you say were the biggest challenges in adopting a nurturing approach?
Buy-in from some staff was a challenge initially, however we have found in our recruitment of new staff we actively seek to appoint staff that can adopt our nurturing culture and likewise new members of staff join us because of our nurturing ethos. It’s a continuous journey that we feel has to keep moving forward and developing even after completion of the programme. It’s a culture that we will carry forward in everything we do.
How do the schools work together to embrace nurture as an academy trust?
Collaboration across our Trust is one of our strengths and comes from the Trust down. Our schools are very different and individual but they all adopt the same core values. Our nurturing journey has really helped form our identity as an Academy Trust. We have support from our Trust board financially to protect the work that we do pastorally and with our nurturing culture. It’s a Trust and school priority and is part of our development plans each year as well as sitting as a target on each staff member’s performance development.
What recommendations would you make to any schools or academy trusts interested in adopting a nurturing approach? And how can they overcome challenges they may face in engaging staff and parents?
You need someone that is passionate and will be an advocate for the role who will receive full support and backing from Leadership and Management to shape the culture of the school or Trust. Advocates in every key stage and area of the school are really important. Starting with small things, getting buy in and building on them was key. Nurture needs to be on the school and Trust and agenda at every level.
We had amazing support from our assessor Wendy Roden at nurtureuk, she was genuinely invested in helping our schools and this was key to our success on this journey. We received a personal approach from nurtureuk and will continue to work with them as we continue with our journey to build upon what we have achieved so far.
From all of us at nurtureuk we would like to extend our congratulations to The Inclusive Multi Academy Trust for achieving the National Nurturing Schools Award for all three of its schools. They thoroughly deserve this award and we will continue to work with them to support their nurture journey across all three schools in the future.