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Secrets of a happy school

Kensington Primary School share their journey to becoming one of the happiest schools in the UK.
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17/12/2021
by
Soofia Amin, Assistant Head Teacher, Kensington Primary School

Kensington Primary School in Newham, East London, is one of the most celebrated schools in the UK for its focus on the wellbeing of its pupils.

In 2020 it was crowned the Pearson Primary School of the Year as well as receiving the TES Wellbeing and Mental Health Award. It’s Head Teacher, Ben Levinson, is also a key figure in influencing national policy on wellbeing in schools and a founder of the Well Schools movement. So, what’s their secret to nurturing such a happy environment for their community, and what role does BounceTogether play? We caught up with Soofia Amin, Assistant Head, Specialist Lead in EAL and Lead for Emotional Health, to find out. 

Kensington Primary School currently has 614 children on role. 96.25% of these children have English as an Additional Language, many of whom are at the early stages of learning English or have no English on admission. Many of our families live within shared, sometimes temporary, accommodation and have family links outside of the country. This has resulted in a higher than average mobility with 9.73% of our children joining us during the first three half terms of the current academic year alone. 

Mounting evidence indicated that our curriculum was outdated and no longer effectively prepared our children for successful futures. So, in 2017-2018, we undertook an extensive research project and challenged ourselves on what, why and how we teach our children. The results were clear. It was time for a radical rethink of our curriculum. 

A new focus for our children 

The result was an ambitious launch of a new curriculum in 2019 - “Curriculum K” - which encompasses academic success, pastoral care and healthy living for all our pupils. The aim was that our children receive a broad and balanced curriculum within four core areas; Academic (Science, English, Maths and Technology), Health (Emotional and Physical), Communication and Culture.

Central to our new approach, and driven by our Head Teacher, Ben Levinson, was a keen focus on the mental health and wellbeing of our children. Ensuring that the children are equipped with an understanding and ability to manage their physical and emotional health is imperative to enabling them to achieve their full potential and build the basis for a happy and productive life.

Measuring impact

Following the launch of our Emotional Health curriculum we began to look for ways to assess its impact. Initially we began using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to assess childrens’ emotional health, but found we could only target a couple of children per class. The SDQ was also based on the teacher's judgments rather than asking the children directly about their experiences and we were looking to give our pupils an opportunity to voice their own opinions. 

When we discovered BounceTogether, the accessibility of it really appealed to us. Users could simply log on to the app with their Google accounts and access the material. We also found the wealth of resources appealing as all of the recognised wellbeing surveys are conveniently available on this platform. 

We decided to use the Stirling Wellbeing Scale so that we could compare our results to other schools and nationally. What we did not expect was how accessible the data would be once it was collated. The individual pupils, as well as the whole class profile, is clearly visible on the platform making measuring wellbeing easy and achievable. The results clearly reflected the emotional health of our vulnerable children and highlighted those who were achieving well but had low self-esteem, or were struggling emotionally. It really was an eye opener!

BounceTogether provides instant access to presentation-ready, segmented data so you can better understand wellbeing across your whole-school community. Download our sample reports to see for yourself.

‍How did we use the results?

Using the results from BounceTogether we were able to create an informed and focussed action plan. As the Emotional Health Curriculum Lead, I looked at the areas individuals scored low in and shared this with their class teacher to enable them to support those pupils more directly. Termly surveys allowed us to compare results and to track any areas that needed our ongoing focus and support.

In our first year of using the platform we found over all that 85% of pupils presented improved emotional health. Having this valuable data means we are able to share our findings and build on what we are doing. We are also now using BounceTogether to measure and support our staff wellbeing and will be looking at moving on to parents and guardians in the near future. 

Our Emotional Health curriculum has really supported us during the pandemic and beyond and having BounceTogether as a wellbeing platform to measure the impact of the curriculum has been indispensable in our quest for measuring children's wellbeing effectively. 

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