Fonthill Primary School is tucked away in the heart of a Bristol suburb. The nursery and reception class are an integral part of the whole school, with the importance of the foundation stage supported and respected by the whole staff team. The school recognises that the care and education children receive in the early years is reflected in their future attainment and wellbeing. ‘We really promote how much nursery helps a child’s education, early education is so important, we just want to help them as soon as we possibly can’.
The early years staff are a dedicated team of 6, Alyson the Early Years Leader, a reception teacher, two experienced nursery nurses/teaching assistants and two teaching assistant apprentices. The nursery has capacity for up to 40 children and has three intakes per year and the reception class has up to 30 children.
Alyson and her team began their Bristol Standard journey in 2016. Alyson had recently been promoted to Early Years Leader with a new team of staff and felt it was an ideal way of enabling the team to bond and create next steps towards the goals they would like to achieve ‘The team were amazing and we all worked together, everybody contributed ideas, everyone had something to give.’.
Initially, Alyson met with Pat, the school’s allocated Bristol Standard mentor, ‘Pat gave me a really good insight into what the Bristol Standard was all about’. Following initial meetings with Pat, the whole team met regularly, focusing on one dimension at a time. Following Pat’s advice, Alyson and her team started with the easier dimensions and worked their way through, ‘we did the Partnerships with Parents dimension first, as that’s what we do really well and then moved on to the harder sections then’. Alyson explains that ‘To understand the dimension, everyone would read that part, to think about our setting and how it fits in, what we do well and what we need to do next’. All team members were encouraged to contribute ideas and ‘I think they liked to be part of it, it’s respectful, after all it’s part of their job too, they know the children, the setting and the area and I just thought that the way we were doing it was a really good way’. Alyson suggests that when the Bristol Standard submission is a team effort with multiple contributors it is worth just having one person to write it all up ‘so when people are reading and validating it, it flows well. It doesn’t mean that one person does all the work, I wrote it, but my reception teacher gathered the evidence and the whole team reflected on things and put forward ideas’.
One of the best aspects of their Bristol Standard journey was that it encouraged the team to focus on their next steps ‘School life is so fast paced, all the time things are changing, but because you are giving yourself targets, you’re reflecting and keeping focused. We did it all and at Interim 1 we looked and thought wow, we’ve done all this!’ Alyson is a great advocate for the Bristol Standard ‘I think the great thing about the Bristol Standard is that it does keep you focused, you know your next steps.’
The target which had the biggest impact was one which focused on assessment. Alyson and the reception teacher conducted their own research and came across the work of Alistair Bryce Clegg ‘who we absolutely love and his ABC Does objective lead planning strategy, using this the children are more engaged in their learning and we’ve seen massive progress’
The school has a Bristol Standard notice board, which displays questions, asking for the parents’ opinions of what they’d like to see happen ‘we’re trying to get the parents to interact in what we are doing, to get their advice and opinions, asking them what they think we should do next. We’re trying to build links with the community, so we’ve chatted to the parents about that. We’ve asked the parents things like how well they feel we know their children. The parents are really good in this school, they’re happy to stop and chat.’.
Alyson’s top tip to those embarking on the Bristol Standard journey is ‘just don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do, because succinct is the best. Just be reflective and honest all the way through. Don’t feel like you’re being judged, it’s a positive process and it’s not a judgement’ Alyson sums up her thoughts of her school’s Bristol Standard journey as ‘it’s a great tool for reflection and you can only benefit from using it.’