When it comes to caring, the writing is on the wall

6th February 1998 at 00:00
When Ryan from reception bumped his head in the playground at The Gattons county infant school, his classmate Christopher was "caring and kind". The act didn't go unnoticed. Days later, Christopher was called to the front in assembly to hang a leaf detailing his good deed on the thank-you tree.

The school, in Burgess Hill, West Sussex has eight golden rules emblazoned on the wall in the hall. It is a checklist of model behaviour made up of do's and don'ts: do be gentle and kind, look after our school, work hard and listen. And don't hurt anybody, damage things, waste time or interrupt other people.

The rules form the bedrock of the way things are handled at Gattons and they certainly seem to be delivering. OFSTED inspectors found it "a very good school" where good attitudes to learning and behaviour are developed from the earliest stages. Across the school, 97 per cent of lessons were satisfactory or better and 27 per cent judged very good or outstanding.

This is not a school in a middle-class enclave. Its 244 pupils come from housing estates, terraced streets and a smattering of executive homes. Twenty-two per cent have free school meals and 27 per cent special educational needs. Fleeting classroom visits by The TES confirm Ofsted's observation that staff have high expectations and pupils respond well to the school's philosophy.

During the visit Year 2 blue class are in a time warp. The day before they had visited a Victorian school and are writing thank-you letters. They sang the national anthem in front of a picture of Queen Victoria, sewed samplers and played with wooden toys.

The reception class is exploring hot and cold, melting butter to make cakes. A parent is talking about snow in Igloo Corner, one of seven helping out on the day of our visit.

Gattons was placed above the national average in English, maths and science and headteacher Sue Davidson, praised by inspectors for strong leadership and clear educational direction, is determined to push things forward.

Ahead of the game, the school has started a literacy hour and will shortly be involved in a local authority numeracy pilot. Ability grouping has been brought in for Year 2 classes in maths and English. "We've got some exceptionally bright children and a number of others who need more support. With this system we can give it to them. It is working," says Mrs Davidson.

Helen Hague

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