Hidden gem school recognises the extraordinary in every child

Every child is a ‘superhero’ at The Rushmere Park Academy.

Promoted by The Shared Learning Trust
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 12:18 pm
The Rushmere Park Academy has come a long way since joining The Shared Learning Trust.
The Rushmere Park Academy has come a long way since joining The Shared Learning Trust.

That’s the premise that has propelled the little-known lower school in Leighton Buzzard on to local parents’ radar over the past 18 months.

It’s a philosophy that has worked wonders for the children’s educational achievement and their self confidence.

Results are now considerably above the national average for Early Years and Key Stage One.

“Education is all about having a like-minded team of experts, delivering a vision that meets the needs of the children"

“The results have been spectacular,” says Bex Howe, Director of Primary Education at The Shared Learning Trust. “The progress of every single child has been admirable.”

“The Rushmere Park Academy is a great school, and the pupils are an inspiration,” says Marea Rawlings, Principal at The Rushmere Park Academy and Nursery.

“They are the loveliest, happiest children. They love to come to school every day, and that is an indication of the success of the staff and the curriculum.”

The Trust’s motto is: Strive, Achieve, Believe – and it runs through the veins of everyone involved with The Rushmere Park Academy.

Milo the therapy dog is a “key member of staff” at The Rushmere Park Academy and Nursery

“The school recognises each individual child for their strengths and talents, each with their own superhero skill,” says Marea. “The ethos of the school supports that because the curriculum is absolutely bespoke – we have written our own curriculum.”

It is themed in terms of topics, so by the end of the year each year group will have learned the required skills. But the direction and content of the learning comes from the children themselves.

“They might start at a given place – say Romans, and the Colosseum. A child might ask ‘how do you get to Rome’?

“They would then explore transport, both now and back in Julius Caesar’s time.

Cute newts are helping to spark an early appreciation of nature at The Rushmere Park Academy.

“It’s an innovative, bespoke curriculum that evolves with the children.”

The Rushmere Park Academy has come a long way since joining The Shared Learning Trust 18 months ago.

“No one had really heard of it then,” says Bex Howe. “The school takes part in lots of community activities but its profile locally was minimal.”

The academy has launched a new Facebook page and website and slowly the word is getting out into the community on what this amazing small school has to offer.

“The Rushmere Park Academy is a great school and what they do for the children is incredible,” says Bex.

“I think if more people knew about it and could see the facilities, the grounds, the curriculum, and the care and the expertise of the staff they would want to go there. It is a warm and happy place to be.”

Marea Rawlings added: “It’s a flexible approach to education that suits it’s learners.

“When our pupils leave us in Year 4 they are fully prepared in terms of personal development, wellbeing and academic achievement.

“Our pupils benefit from being part of a bigger family of learners within a Multi Academy Trust that cares about each of their academies and every child within them.

“Education is all about having a like-minded team of experts, delivering a vision that meets the needs of the children and the community – and The Rushmere Park Academy does.”

Pond sparks lifelong love of nature

Cute newts are helping to spark an early appreciation of nature at The Rushmere Park Academy.

Pupils love to get their hands dirty around the pond in the grounds, and often spy the protected amphibians.

Brimming with life, the water feature is a popular destination as youngsters explore science and art.

“We will often collect animals from the pond,” says Julia Ward, Vice Principal. “Last week they found a newt, so they carefully put it back. But it was lovely to see them enjoying that outdoor learning opportunity.

“They like to sit and draw around the pond, and sometimes they will go there to write or create poetry.”

“Outside learning is a key part of their curriculum,” says Bex Howe. “We have direct partner links with the Greensand Trust in Bedford who are supporting ongoing development of outdoor provision on the school grounds.”

The pupils also have a meadow maze, wet water garden and vegetable garden, which they plant and harvest, and they all grow sunflowers along the entrance to the school.

Early Years teaching blazes a trail

The Rushmere Park Nursery is now recognised in central Bedfordshire as being one of the leading Early Years Foundation Stage assessment centres.

Catering for children from two years old, it has recently appointed a family support leader, an attendance support worker and an experienced special education needs coordinator.

This ensures that every child has full access to the curriculum.

“The nursery is an incredible space inside and out,” says Annette Martyn, Early Years Manager. “The team has set up all the learning areas for children to explore key subjects, and they learn through play The Rushmere Park Nursery way. It is an area in which The Rushmere Park Nursery is really strong.”

Marea Rawlings says: “We are now actually a trainer of the Level 1, 2 and 3 early years courses because people want to come into the unit.

“The Early Years manager is part of the Trust centre team of EYFS assessor, so the impact of staff professional development is really positive.”

Milo makes it better...

Milo the therapy dog is a “key member of staff” at The Rushmere Park Academy and Nursery. The four-legged friend is a great comfort to pupils who may feel sad or just need someone to talk to.

“He is a lovely dog and the kids absolutely adore him,” says Bex Howe. “Children find it much easier to talk to an animal than they do a human. They will stroke him, play with him and take him for walks in the beautiful grounds.”

Marea Rawlings adds: “They are very proud to be the one holding Milo’s lead or receiving an Extra Milo high five – it gives them an understanding of responsibility and helps develop leadership qualities.”

Milo is a regular fixture in the charity initiatives the school is involved in around the town. Last year he joined pupils in the Run A Mile for Sports Relief event.

“Milo is in all our official photographs and wears a bow tie in the school’s purple colours,” says Lilly, Yr 4. “We all really love having Milo at our school.”

Exciting range of sports and games

Sport plays a huge role in the life of pupils at The Rushmere Park Academy – archery, dodgeball, Frisbee, yoga and Tai Chi are among the exciting activities youngsters love to get involved in.

School teams compete in all the local competitions including golf, gymnastics and tennis plus the traditional rugby, football and netball.

Year 4 pupils take part in a series of training sessions that result in them being badged as Sports Leaders. This group of pupils then devises and organises alternative games for the rest of the school.

Marea Rawlings explained: “During lockdown we carried on doing PE online, hosting a ‘Virtual and Mental Olympics’ for our pupils and their families to get involved in.

“They are actively engaged in the local community, and always send a team to sports events in the town.”