The Conversation: Pupil mobility

25th April 2008 at 01:00
How do you manage when three out of ten of your pupils move schools each year? Marva Rollins tells Victoria Neumark the strategies she has adopted

How do you manage when three out of ten of your pupils move schools each year? Marva Rollins tells Victoria Neumark the strategies she has adopted

Q: Raynham Primary School is in Edmonton, north London but comes under Enfield. With the Angel Raynham Children's Centre on your site, you look after 720 pupils. Who comes to your school?

A: We are very, very multicultural. Our pupils come from more than 50 linguistic backgrounds. Sometimes I look at the news and I think, "Where will my pupils come from next?" We used to have more Turkish and Somali children; those groups now account for 20 per cent each. We are very harmonious and respectful - great children - perhaps because there is no dominant group. We have a world community within our school and we are very proud of it.

Our school is based in a pocket of poverty and has 30 per cent mobility. Edmonton is a designated most-deprived super-output area. And we have so much mobility. Sometimes two or three children will have sat on one chair in a year.

Q: What are the main difficulties for your pupils?

A: Linguistic skills: our children may have English as their second or third language (70 per cent are bilingual), but many are not fluent in their first or second language.

Language is often linked to the level and quality of previous schooling, which has often been interrupted, perhaps by traumatic events. But we also get children who achieve well in their first language. They settle in quickly, learn English well and excel. We try to reduce the impact of poverty and mobility and give each child every opportunity to succeed.

Q: In 2007 Ofsted described Raynham as a good school with outstanding leadership and outstanding care for pupils' wellbeing. How do you settle your new children in?

A: For children still developing English, we determine attainment levels from initial parent questionnaires. Somali and Turkish speakers support nursery and reception children. For other languages, we sometimes have to buy in translation. We have two teachers funded by ethnic minority achievement grant (Emag) and two ethnic minority attainment (EMA) teaching assistants funded by the school. In key stages 1 and 2, EMA teams run regular small-group sessions for new arrivals. New children are monitored through half-termly meetings with EMA teachers, classroom teachers, the Senco, learning mentor, deputies and myself. And we team them with buddies - not necessarily from the same language group, but willing souls.

Q: Can you assimilate traumatised refugee children?

A: Some children are surprisingly resilient. We don't assume they are distressed, even if they are refugees. We are alert to possibilities, but we don't assume. We have a nurture programme for KS1 children needing additional emotional support and social skills, and a Year 3 transition nurture programme. Our pastoral officer works closely with children and families. Twice a term, we buy in specialist special needs support to supplement our wonderful but overloaded educational psychologist and help us plan for the needs of children who cause us concern. We also work with mental health and behaviour support services.

Q: What about relationships outside school?

A: Sadly, Edmonton has been in the news for violence lately but our school is a haven for children and the wider community. We've always been open for community use, even more so now with our children's centre. We partner at least 15 community groups; weekly school-based activities include health visitors' sessions and the library service.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: My staff. I've got a super, dedicated team of 120 staff who daily walk that extra mile. We couldn't get our Sats results - English and maths 69 per cent level 4 or above, science 89 per cent - unless they were outstanding.

Also our children. Take the Raynham Runners, one of our enterprise schemes. We advertise all the helping jobs in school. Children have to apply: fill in a form, be interviewed, receive a letter of appointment. They take it very seriously and turn up, on time, for their interviews. Commendations and resignations are put in writing. We firmly believe in children's voices and preparing them for the future.

Q: How do you raise standards?

A: Thorough monitoring, regular observations, high quality CPD and ensuring that staff feel valued and are highly motivated to teach our children. It is always: what next? We cannot, will not and do not stand still. We run homework clubs every week for Years 1 to 5, Easter school, summer school, Saturday school, and after-school booster classes. Our school council helps decide our wide range of lunchtime and after-school clubs.

Above all, our care and encouragement teaches pupils that every child does matter - and that helps them focus on learning.


Name: Marva Rollins

Age: 56

Job: Headteacher

School: Raynham Primary School, Edmonton, north London

Education: North London Polytechnic (BEd); Open University (MA Education)

Years in teaching: 21

Previous jobs: Taught in four schools in Newham; headteacher of Godwin Junior School (1995-1999)

Awards: Windrush Education Champion 2004; regional judge for the Teaching Awards in London

Professional interests: Co-leader of the primary Investing in Diversity Programme, Institute of Education, London University; facilitator on Equal Access to Promotion, London Centre for Leadership and Learning Other interests: Motivational speaking and watching the West Indies play cricket in the hope that they might win.

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