Smile, you're at school

28th May 2004 at 01:00
A sunny outlook could help pupils shine. Helen Ward reports

Being the new boy is usually a nerve-wracking experience, but Kieron Mirchandani-Cooper, 11, feels lucky to be at one of Britain's happiest schools.

Kieron, who started at Boringdon primary in Plymouth part-way through last year, said: "Before I started I was nervous. As soon as I got here, it was such a warm feeling it was easy to settle in."

The school's sunny welcome has even won over the Office for Standards in Education, whose inspectors have just described it as impressively happy.

They found pupils "really enjoy school and hate missing even a single day".

It went on to describe a "spirit of mutual respect" or as pupils put it "you never rubbish other people's ideas".

Very few of the 412 pupils claim free school meals but, as Kieron puts it:

"We play football at lunchtimes. It's not that posh."

Being this happy is the result of sheer hard work, said Jean Pilkington, headteacher.

"Everyone has problems, but it is crucial that the person at the top goes in every day with a positive approach. I'm a great believer that it rubs off," she said.

But even Mrs Pilkington admits to not being entirely positive about being inspected. She said: "I had filled in the self-evaluation forms saying I rated the school highly. Then the registered inspector came in and it was really tough. I went home that day so depressed because I thought this man was just determined to disprove me."

The final report found that despite an above-average proportion of pupils with special needs and overall attainment being low on entry, results were excellent, as was almost everything else.

Inspectors said: "The school is a practical, hard-working place where appreciation of the intangible does not have a high priority. Its development of compassion and mutual consideration, however, is outstanding. The level of empathy and concern for every pupil's development and happiness among all staff is impressive."

The school is in an unremarkable building with some sub-standard temporary rooms, one of the few criticisms in the report.

Mrs Pilkington said: "You can have all the resources you want, but it is people who affect children's lives."

Richard Worsley, 48, caretaker, was surprised at first by the school's approach. He said: "I do plumbing, electrics and odd jobs. But I also helped take the children on a trip to the Eden Project. Everyone in the school is fully involved with the progress of the children. I like that."

And what about Kieron's Year 6 teacher, Hilary Swift? Is she happy? Kieron pauses: "She might have to raise her voice sometimes," he said. "But that is very rare."

TIPS FOR HAPPIER LEARNING

* Smile.

* Make everyone feel included. Boringdon's Christmas show has musical items, dances and comedy with all pupils taking part.

* Say "thank you".

* Respect staff and recognise they have a home life. Make sure that after school meetings are short and to the point.

* Promote teamwork.

* Be proud of your achievements.

* Be passionate about children.

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