Early Reading and Phonics; Autumn Term 2024
Our staff and children were all delighted earlier this year when we heard news that our school was placed in the top five per cent of all primary schools in the country for phonics achievements and outcomes.
Ninety-five per cent of pupils in Year 1 met the expected standard in the 2023 Phonics Screening Check and we were praised in a letter sent by Minister for Schools, Mr Damian Hinds MP.
In the letter addressed to Headteacher Dr Beth Clarke, Mr Hinds said: “Your particular success in teaching phonics and early reading so effectively means your pupils are developing a firm foundation, from which they can become increasingly fluent and develop a lifelong love of reading.”
Hill West’s Early Years Lead and Phonics and Early Reading Lead Sophie Roberts said: “I was thrilled to receive the letter in celebration of our fantastic phonics screening results in 2023. I am immensely proud of the outstanding progress our children have made in phonics through the support of the Little Wandle Programme.
“Our team of highly-trained and exceptional teaching staff are dedicated to ensuring all children are confident, fluent readers with a true love of reading.”
Headteacher Dr Beth Clarke said: “At Hill West we are committed to the teaching of early phonics and reading. We know and understand the ability to read unlocks access to all other curriculum areas for children and leads to academic success and a genuine love of reading and learning.”
Primary Science Quality Mark; Summer Term 2023
We were delighted to hear, in the Summer Term 2023, that after a rigorous submission, our school was designated, yet again, with the Primary Science Quality Mark.
Close to 200 Primary Science Quality Marks were awarded to infant, junior, primary, middle and special schools in May 2023 to celebrate those schools commitment to excellence in science teaching and learning.
So far, since its national launch in 2010, over 5000 schools across the UK have achieved a prestigious Primary Science Quality Mark.
Primary Science Quality Mark is a school improvement programme for primary science, which provides professional development for new and experienced subject leaders each year. PSQM enables confident, knowledgeable, reflective leadership, which results in an improvement in the way in which science is planned and taught in school. Miss Lynch, our Year 2 class teacher, ably supported by Mrs Burton, our Year 1 class teacher have led science successfully across school, so much so, their work has been nationally recognised and I would like to offer them my heartfelt congratulations to them both on this achievement.
The Primary Science Quality Mark is led by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with the Primary Science Teaching Trust. Associate Professor Jane Turner, PSQM National Director said:
“There was never a more important time for primary children to have a high-quality science education. The coronavirus pandemic and climate change crisis have made everyone aware of the importance of science in our world. Primary schools have an important role to ensure that children understand how science works and keeps us and our planet healthy and safe. Schools that have achieved a Primary Science Quality Mark have demonstrated a significant commitment to science teaching and learning. The profile and quality of science in each awarded school is very high. Children are engaging with great science both in and outside the classroom, developing positive attitudes towards science as well as secure scientific understanding and skills. Science subject leaders, their colleagues, head teachers, children, parents and governors should be very proud.”
Science is an important part of our curriculum at Hill West. In our school we strive to ensure…
‘A high-quality science education provides the foundations for understanding the world through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Science has changed our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity, and all pupils should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. Through building up a body of key foundational knowledge and concepts, pupils should be encouraged to recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They should be encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave, and analyse causes.’ National Curriculum in England: science programmes of study, Department for Education, 2013.
Sustainability Champions are Protecting the Planet; Spring Term 2023
Green-fingered pupils at several Partnership schools are leading the way in protecting the environment and doing all they can to limit climate change.
Among the children dedicated to this vital work are the hardworking ‘Sustainability Champions’ at Hill West Primary School who meet each month to improve sustainability in their surroundings.
An extremely proud Headteacher Dr Beth Clarke explained: “The Sustainability Champions are children who have strong interests in the environment and sustainability. This ongoing team has been in force at Hill West for more than ten years now.
“There are around 25 children involved in the project at the moment and over the years there’s been about 200 who have contributed. It all began as part of our Rights Respecting Work, for which a School Climate Charter was developed by pupils who worked alongside Andrew Mitchell MP.
“Every month there is a focus on one particular action which can help the environment and improve sustainability and the children use this to focus their minds on the forthcoming new-build at Hill West, which will eventually be carbon-neutral.
“We’ve got a vegetable garden and allotment here which the children really enjoy and the orchard which was planted in commemoration of the 2012 London Olympics produced its first fruit last summer.
“The Hill West Sustainability Champions want everyone to live sustainably and that means taking action to protect the world climate change and global warming.”
Sustainability Champion Martha Ebrey said: “Nature is a fragile thing and if we don’t protect it the future will be empty. As human beings have evolved, we have destroyed the natural world and we need to do our best to protect what is left.”
Her fellow Champion Sofia Williams added: “There isn’t another planet we can live on, so we all need to be ever-respectful in every aspect of our lives.”
Another Champion Isabel Stant agreed: “Plants and trees are important to us as they are what keeps us alive.”
Mrs Clarke added: “Our Sustainability Champions have produced a Climate Change Charter with the ambition that our school becomes carbon-neutral (with the new build in mind) and to ensure we don’t contribute negatively towards climate change.
“Our pupils are setting a great example in reducing our power consumption and thinking carefully about transport to reduce use of fuels which contribute to global warming at school and at home. They also work hard to protect habitats and the environment by enhancing the removal of carbon dioxide in a number of ways.
“This will encourage adults to take action against climate change and protect the world for future generations.”
It’s a perfect ten for Hill West and Mere Green; Spring Term 2023
Celebrations were in the air when pupils from two schools got together to mark ten years in the ATLP.
Children at Hill West Primary welcomed guests from nearby Mere Green Primary to their site to enjoy party games, music, tasty treats and birthday cake. Respective Headteachers Dr Beth Clarke and Kristal Brookes oversaw the celebrations and Director of Education (Primary) Anna Balson also called by to take part in the fun and games.
Both schools joined the ATLP in 2013 and have had much to celebrate during that time as they have grown to provide the best facilities and learning environments possible for children.
Dr Clarke, who joined Hill West in 2004 as Deputy Headteacher and became Headteacher in 2006, said: “Being part of the ATLP family as a Head Teacher and a senior leader means that you’re not alone. You have amazing colleagues supporting you to make the very best decisions for the children in your school.
“There’s a sense that in some small way you’re shaping the life chances of children in our other schools too and with that comes a real sense of pride and satisfaction; to know that you are contributing to an education system beyond your own school.
“Being part of the ATLP has improved our leaders and teachers exponentially because it’s meant we have opportunities to network far more closely and share best practice. This has of course paid dividends for our pupils not only in terms of their teachers excelling in the field but also in terms of collaborative ventures, our annual student awards being just one example of this.”
“In addition, when you may have a difficult situation, there is a team of people on hand immediately to support, whether that’s with manpower or sometimes financial backing with the approval of the Trust Board. Children benefit tremendously from that team effort to maintain provision.”
Mrs Brookes, who joined the ATLP as Deputy Headteacher at Mere Green in 2015 before becoming Headteacher in 2017, said: “Working as one family for the greater good is what makes the ATLP special. Working collaboratively as one and providing an offer for all is a great thing.
“Across the Partnership, schools are able to share expertise and staff and this brings with it huge benefits, particularly in helping to build careers and retaining skilled staff.
“The ATLP is going from strength to strength. A great example of this is the recent residential in France. Taking around 160 children from multiple schools shows that our young people are not defined by postcode and that doors and possibilities are opened for all.
“At Mere Green, we played a key role during the launch period of Learning Futures which will see every child in an ATLP school having their own device (apple ipad) and it’s been fantastic to see how the project has grown at such an impressive pace across our schools.”
Dr Clarke added: “Hill West and Mere Green have worked collaboratively for a long time pre-dating the formal arrangement within the ATLP and, because we serve different but similar communities in Sutton Coldfield, Four Oaks and Mere Green, we are absolutely committed to working cohesively together.
“Whether that’s been competitions in the summer term for Year 6 children or coming together for musical events, we are committed to bringing our children together and making them aware they belong to something bigger than their own school.
“I think Mere Green and Hill West have both contributed significantly to schools beyond their own by developing our teachers and leaders and providing opportunities for them to go out into the wider organisation and thrive and find success in other schools.
“The individual teacher or leader benefits because they’re aspirational and have often successfully gained a promotion and the schools they go into benefit. With a continuous focus on succession planning we are then able to identify the next group of aspirant leaders in our schools. There’s always a continual cycle of improvement and opportunity.
“I am immensely proud to be headteacher at Hill West and immensely proud to be part of the ATLP family. It truly feels like a family and there are great things on the horizon here with the new build, so it’s a very exciting time.”