I met Sarah Horsbrough and her team to find out how preparations are going for the opening of the new Elements Primary Academy in Middleton in September.
The short answer is very well indeed. As well as the basic logistics of having a building ready – the temporary modular classrooms will arrive, fully fitted out, on site in July – starting a new school is a chance to set the culture and approach things differently.
Staffing will focus on qualified teachers with no teaching assistants or lunchtime supervisors. The high ratio of teachers will allow them to support all the children in class and cover lunchtimes.
“We will all do that ourselves” explains Sarah. “We want our children to be with people they’ve got relationships with, it’s hard if someone’s only there for an hour a day.
“This is a tested model used in other Wellspring schools and we’re confident it will work for Elements.”
Elements’ logo is a rainbow and the school’s uniform will form a rainbow too, with each year having a different colour top. Parents are being supported with a starter pack of uniform items and PE kit and new sweatshirt each year.
“Children will know exactly which year group they are in and will experience a positive transition at the start of each school year” says Sarah.
The school is embracing technology. “We’re going Google” says Sarah, “we’ll be using cloud storage and Google’s suite of educational tools. We hope to become a Google Reference School eventually.”
As well as making team working easier, the cloud storage provides excellent security using both fragmentation and encryption. Parents will be able to access their children’s schoolwork at home and keep up to date with what’s happening in the classroom.
Each child will be given a Chrome Book computer, chosen in part because the keyboard is marked in lower case and so easier for Reception children, it also has a screen that can be used as a tablet.
The wellbeing of children is very important to the team, giving children a firm base on which to learn. The ‘Elements of Elements’ set those foundations for the school: Positivity and Happiness > Creativity and Innovation > Aspiration and Pride > Personal Leadership and Resilience > Community and Family.
Speaking to the team it is clear these are just jargon buzzwords but reflect their educational philosophy.
With reports of a huge increase in mental health issues amongst primary school children nationally, it is perhaps timely that Elements are building this in from the start.
And as part of the Wellspring Trust, which runs the new school in Belle Isle for children with emotional and behavioural issues, they have a lot of expertise they can draw on.
“We want our children to have that personal resilience, the abilty to keep going despite setbacks.
“And we’re going to have a School Dog – Mollie, a six year old, very calm, chocolate Labrador. There is lots of research about animals in education reducing stress and helping reluctant learners.”
The staff team includes a specialist in Early Years teaching, a music and singing specialist and a Forest Schools leader.
“The creative side is very important to us, as well as academic achievement. I believe education is about the whole child.”
The team met with parents and children and were delighted that they were as positive about this fresh approach as the staff.
“We are very excited about what our children can achieve at Elements, we can’t wait for September!”
If you are still looking for a primary school place for September, Elements still have one or two left. Contact them via 01226 720742.