The VPA Commitment:
For many years, Victoria Park delivered the original VICI 50 commitment; a child-led list of experiences that all pupils would experience during their lifetime in school.
During 2021 we revaluated and restructured this promise – our objective was to provide children starting school in EYFS and Key Stage one with Cultural Capital, experiences that will help them to make links with the books they read and the wider world around them. We want all of our children to have visited farms, museums, libraries and the seaside. We want them to have held a snake, seen a pantomime and been to the theatre before they transition to junior school.
In Key Stage two, we’ll continue to provide relevant experiences, linked to their broadening curriculum, but we also want to raise aspirations. All children should understand the pathways beyond school, with knowledge of FE and HE institutions, and routes into a wide range of professions. They should also have an understanding of the responsibilities of independence – how to remain safe and how to spend and save in later years.
We have two types of Pupil Leadership in place at Victoria Park: peer-to-peer support and decision making bodies.
Peer-to-peer leadership groups: Each class teacher nominates two representatives for each group. Those children then spend time with the subject leader to learn how to provide support and challenge back in class. They share hints and tips with each other and then may choose to spend lunchtimes hosting catch-up clubs under the teacher’s supervision to support willing learners in their classes.
Decision making bodies:
- CLEAR Advisors
The Changemakers are akin to a school council. They agree an area of the school that could be improved, or an issue that requires greater emphasis, and then spend the year testing and trailing their ideas. Once perfected they agree how best to share this with the wider school community.
The CLEAR (Child Led Evaluation and Reporting) advisors are our mini-monitors. They ensure things are as they should be in classes and across the school. They then relish telling this back to the teachers – usually with straight talking, warts n’all messages. There’s no hiding from a CLEAR advisor!
One of the unique aspects of Victoria Park Academy is the wide range of thinking and independence tools have become embed in our teaching and learning since 2012.
We are a De Bono accredited thinking school – children can use the six coloured hats to organise their ideas in a clear cohesive way. This is implemented by teachers in problem solving challenges, and for evaluation and feedback of learning.
We extend this ‘organisation of thought’ by using Dr De Bono’s CoRT 1 symbols as a code of practice that children can speak and structure their ideas and opinions.
Another way children are supported to breakdown larger problems and to plan longer-term project outcomes is to use a TASC Wheel (Thinking Actively in a Social Context). This allows classes to understand key steps to achieving a successful project outcome and helps them to see the purpose of the activities they are completing – providing them with a wider world viewpoint.
And, tying all of these strands together is our own suite of learning tools, housed in our very own learning shed! Based on the work of Guy Claxton’s BLP, we’ve organised a suite of skills that our children can recognise, select and use in class. Allowing them to talk the language of ‘learnish’. By recognising what makes an effective learner, children can reflect on their own strengths and how they can develop other areas of independence. Learners make and share weekly ‘Shed videos’ to celebrate distinct learning skills they’ve identified and improved during the past five days.
Ballot Street Spice (Social Enterprise):
Our story so far…
We wanted to bring our community together and celebrate the diversity that exists in Smethwick, whilst creating opportunities for the local community – so we started a company!
Ballot Street Spice is a social enterprise, grown from Victoria Park Primary Academy’s, Spice Academy. A once weekly after school spice club, where pupils and families from diverse backgrounds came together to learn, cook and share spice blend recipes.
Spice has a long standing social history; it’s wonderfully symbolic of traditions, tastes and different cultures. Since the 1950’s people have been arriving in Smethwick from around the world, creating a diverse tapestry of many languages, religions and cultures.
By celebrating diversity & cherishing old traditions, we want to bring people together through spice and share their spice stories before they are lost.
We are hot on the spice trail and on an adventure to unearth the traditional use of spices across the different cultures in Smethwick and we want to share these recipes with you.
Together we roast, grind and blend spices by hand to make original spice products. By buying our products you are helping us create employment for the local community and real learning for young people.
The future of Ballot Street Spice in 2021? To reposition BSS as a tool to share local recipes and support families to feed each other healthily and on a budget. Classes will come together with cooking lessons and meal plans. We can’t wait to taste the outcomes together…
For over five years our children have created and edited a termly magazine documenting the experiences, visits, trips and challenges they’ve overcome at Victoria Park.
Please, take the time to enjoy their wonderful journalism.
Here, in the depths of Smethwick, lies an oasis of tranquility – just behind the car park!
Whispering trees, a story telling hut, and a pond, planned, dug and built this year by our intrepid foresters.
Led by Ms Hoole, children from enjoy weekly sessions, often linked to their class curriculum, or to develop more discrete skills and friendships.
Sensory sessions are also delivered, where identified groups experience all of the sights, sounds and feelings of an outside classroom.
Come and see what lurks behind the wooden gate…
Forest school this term will be for year groups 1 and 2. Each class will visit our forest area on a six-week rota.
Most of the sessions will be child initiated and they will lead their own learning creating a group CAFRA (Consider All Factors Risk Assessment) and then evaluate and reflect on their own progress. The Forest School practitioner will give them a challenge and then observe the children and facilitate their learning to reach the outcome.
Autumn term review:
The classes in Year 1 have been very interested in making obstacle courses and have been challenged to move through forest school without touching the ground! They have also been noticing the changes that happen in the autumn, in particular looking at all the different shades of the autumn leaves.
The children in Year 2 have been particularly eager to use the mallets and pegs to hammer into the ground. All of the children know how to be safe and responsible when using the mallets. They have also been keen to dig and look for buried treasure and have made a very interesting collection of magical stones and pebbles. The autumn leaves have also been used to make beautiful leaf kebabs.
And of course all the groups thoroughly enjoy Ms Hoole’s hot chocolate and yummy biscuits!!!
INSPiRE is a parental involvement activity to help to increase parents’ awareness of children’s English and Maths skills, to build confidence in children and their parents and to help raise levels of achievement. The aim is for every class to be involved in a workshop session; these take place usually on a Wednesday afternoon in an informal atmosphere. Every child will invite an adult family member to attend; this is where your child can show what they have been learning about in school. The workshops are led by the children and facilitated by their class teacher. They are always fun and often you make resources with your child, which can be used at home as a learning aid, or to put proudly on display!
INSPiRE has become part of our school culture for well over 9 years and it is a strong base for further parental and family involvement activities which develop the partnership between child, parents and teachers. The activities are practical and the environment is informal with an element of fun. Free refreshments are always available.
(The 2023/24 Calendar of INSPiRE workshops can be found on each year group page of the Children’s Zone section)
Everybody Write Days:
Once a term the whole school comes together, joined by a one-off event, trip or visit to inspire a piece of writing or spoken word. We’ve recently taken 600 children to the Tramway Museum in Crich to explore sustainable transport, invited in an Olympic medallist who shared his experiences of growing up in the West Midlands and hosted a slam-poetry event to showcase our commitment to diversity.
Over the past two years our club offer has grown enormously – each teacher in the school now runs a lunchtime or afternoon club based on their interests of the interests of our children.
Clubs change each term and include: Knitting, arts and crafts, football, cooking, baking, marathon training, geography, history, science, Forest school and strategy games.
In our first year delivering this offer we increased participation from 47 children to 215 taking part in at least one form of extra-curricular activity.
Bookings for each term can be made via Parentmail. Please see details and timings in our club timetable or contact the office for more information.
Mentoring and Nurture:
Mentoring. Our mentoring lead has 17 years experience at Victoria Park Academy and has a wealth of knowledge in supporting the children and families within our community.
Children who may benefit from additional emotional support are identified by their class teacher’s through termly accountability meetings for an initial assessment chat. Our mentor will then consult with families, and, if appropriate the SENCo and wider professionals, before designing a plan of support.
These may include weekly check-ins, targeted Forest School sessions, or recognised resilience programes such as ‘Circle of Friends’. These are monitored are shared with teachers, the children and their families.
Nurture. Although all of our children are registered with their own class and peers, we also host an Inclusion and sensory room for those children with complex needs, to receive elements of a more personalised curriculum (designed and monitored in partnership with their allocated external professionals).
Our identified Children with moderate or high needs have a weekly timetable of structured nurture and sensory provision with their peers. This is designed as a fun and interactive way to support their social interaction as well as managing and regulating their sensory needs.
English as an Additional Language:
With over 40 home languages spoken by pupils at Victoria Park Academy, supporting EAL is embed within our classrooms and wider school.
On arrival children are given an initial language assessment and, if required, receive daily or weekly intervention lessons with our dedicated EAL teacher.
Where possible, children are buddied with a child who shares their home language to acclimatise to their new setting.
Classrooms are made word-rich as vocabulary is modelled and taught explicitly, whilst ICT can be accessed to support accelerated language acquisition.
As part of our ongoing CPD, teachers and support staff share resources, strategies and techniques each term that have helped to develop early language and communication in their classrooms.