Little changes make a big difference for Redwood Primary School
With over 600 pupils, Redwood Primary School in Sinfin has taken a whole school approach to supporting speech, language and communication development. The school believes the TALK Derby message has huge benefits for all children in the school – from the youngest in the nursery to Year 6 – in raising attainment and aspirations.
Making small changes
Sarah Chaffe, the Foundation Stage lead told us: “Settings don’t need to do great big things; they just need to make little changes to see the impact”.
That’s exactly what she and Rachael Kirk, Redwood Primary School’s TALK Derby Champion, have done at the school. Following their involvement and training with TALK Derby, Sarah and Rachael began to come up with and implement a lot of small changes in the school.
Involving the whole school
Sarah says: “Twilight training sessions have been introduced for Foundation-stage staff and teaching assistants along with communication-based half-termly hints, tips and quizzes for all staff.”
She also gives regular updates and termly tips to teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors so all staff are practising good communication and listening skills. She has shared the TALK Derby vision and school’s action plan with the school governors and TALK Derby displays have been set up around the school, promoting communication development.
Partnerships with parents
Strengthening partnerships with parents is of huge importance across the school and staff are already seeing the benefits in the increased confidence and skills of children and the adults who care for them. This is down to the changes made in the school which parents are engaged with and included in.
After one of their teaching assistants attended the Let’s Talk with Under 5s training, they’re now running their own course for the parents of Redwood full of practical hints and tips. As part of the course, parents and children work together to make something and come back the next week full of enthusiasm about how they have used it at home.
Parents can access bedtime stories on the school website and through Class Dojo and Foundation stage has regular ‘come and read’ sessions to promote the importance of sharing books and how they can be used for language development.
In Foundation Stage, parents receive a regular newsletter updating them about TALK Derby and the importance of communication. This includes hints and tips, ideas of things to chat about at home and a rhyme of the month to learn.
Following Talk Derby training Sarah and Rachael also introduced ‘Ask me about’ stickers. Staff give these to children having written on them something the children did during their school day of which they are particularly proud. Parents and other school staff are encouraged to chat to them about what they have been doing.
‘Greet your child with a smile not a mobile’ signs on the school gates have generated lots of positive comments from parents and interest from the local media. ‘Chatterboxes’, full of interesting objects to talk about and vocabulary suggestions, and ‘bedtime bags’, with stories, a soft toy and a blanket, are being developed to give practical ideas for parents and children to share.
Changes to the curriculum
TALK Derby training has resulted in changes to the curriculum and learning environment at the school. Rachael has taken part in Balanced System training and following this is auditing and making changes to the spaces in the school. After an audit of the foundation area, they created cosy spaces for the children to talk in and listening stations with CD players and headphones. Outside, some of the benches and play dens in the playground have signs on them saying ‘fancy a chat?’ where children are encouraged to sit and chat to their friends.
The nursery has had visits from people in the wider community, which has given them opportunities to talk to different adults, and children and their parents have visited the local library and shared stories.
The ‘Poetry Basket’ from Helicopter Stories has been introduced to foundation children to help develop their knowledge of rhymes and language skills. This is an online resource with videos to help develop children's knowledge of rhymes and develop their language skills. The children learn a poem and actions and recite it as a class. These are also filmed and put onto the school website for parents to watch. The children are very proud of knowing more than six poems by heart!
The ‘word aware’ scheme is used throughout school. This scheme introduces key vocabulary and concepts in a structured way through adult led sessions. The children are then encouraged to practice and use the words during their play. This has helped to put an emphasis in all curriculum areas on vocabulary development.
For children who are furthest behind when they start school, new intervention programmes have been started and the benefits are already becoming clear.
The future of speech, language and communication at Redwood Primary School
Taking part in TALK Derby has clearly had a positive impact on Redwood Primary School. Sarah has done walk through observations and has seen a big difference in the quality of interactions with children, which she says is fundamental. Teaching assistants have also commented on the progress they’ve seen in the children they work with. TALK Derby has helped to raise staff awareness of the importance of communication and has given them a focus for it.
Redwood Primary School plans to continue with the good work they’ve been doing for speech, language and communication when the TALK Derby project finishes. They hope to really embed the ideas into their practise and put it at the heart of their curriculum. Sarah believes that after the project has finished, the issues and messages it’s raised will continue to be high profile for everybody involved.
Top tip from Sarah
Sarah’s top tip for communicating with the children in your life is to listen to them more and give them time to think and talk. Don’t bombard them with questions, because it’s amazing what they will tell you when you just let them talk!