Turning around school success: The Mill Primary Academy, Yorkshire

At Thrive we are always delighted to hear of a school’s success, especially when it’s one of the school’s we work with. So, we were delighted to learn that The Mill Academy school, Barnsley shifted from Ofsted special measures to a ‘Good’ ranking in three years after implementing the Thrive Approach.

Here is a little more about their success:

The Mill Academy, under the leadership of Head Teacher Tamara Gulliver, has transformed from a ‘failing’ school that was in special measures in 2013, to an Ofsted rated ‘Good’ primary school – in just three years.  The 2017 Ofsted report scored the school as ‘Outstanding’ in the early years and personal development, behaviour and welfare sections. Tamara explains some of the key steps made to facilitate these changes. Thrive training, with a whole school approach, has been key in her school’s progression.

The Mill became an Academy in 2013 with Tamara being appointed in 2014 and tasked with making improvements within three years.  Interestingly, Tamara found that although the school was in special measures, behaviour was reported as ‘Good’.  However, Ofsted’s ‘Good’ measurement didn’t translate to good in terms of academic attainment

“What startled me most about pupil behaviour at The Mill Academy Trust three years ago, was not poor behaviour in ‘Ofsted’ terms – but poor engagement in the classroom.  Pupils appeared to be well behaved, but in fact they were quiet, dis-engaged and didn’t believe in learning.  Many had a built-in fear that they were only going to fail in school and therefore it was best to stay silent, struggle on and do the bare minimum to get by,” explains Tamara.

“We managed to turn this around with a number of measures that I feel made a real difference. Staffing, training and a whole school approach – that embraces and supports pupil development – and involves not just teachers but parents and families in the process.”

“I strongly believe that bringing the Thrive training approach into our whole school was instrumental in our outstanding score in the personal and social development section of our 2017 Ofsted report,” adds Tamara.

“No school is perfect and we don’t get it all right, all of the time.  School, like life, has peaks and troughs of challenges – but Thrive has given us a deeper understanding of why children (and adults) adopt certain behaviours and how best to support them (and our staff).”

The Mill Academy started training their team in the Thrive Approach in 2014, starting with School Meals Supervisory Assistants (SMSAs). These trained team members were then able to share their skills with other staff members, resulting in the adoption of a whole school approach.

“Thanks to Thrive training we have embraced a new ethos as a staff team.  We have a fresh approach to how we speak to and listen to the children we support.  In the majority, behaviour across the school is outstanding and the training really helps the school to flow and work together.”

“Thrive gives staff a deeper understanding of how children cope emotionally in a range of situations and it gives staff a fresh approach to deal with the way these coping mechanisms manifest – even if, at first, it can put staff out of their comfort zone. For example, the ‘old way’ of working was simply to tell a pupil off following an incident that escalated towards poor behaviour.  Thrive encourages us to consider why a child reacted in a particular way and intervene appropriately. Staff will now talk calmly to children and allow them time to discuss their emotions and feelings both prior to an incident and after, and support them with strategies about how to manage their feelings differently,” continues Tamara.

“Thrive doesn’t run itself – but neither does most training – you don’t just go on a course and everything is better/different – you need to implement that knowledge, take action and help the rest of the staff make positive changes too. Since embracing the Thrive Approach children across our school are happier, more confident and settled and have built the capacity and enthusiasm to learn.”