Bellbird Primary School in Sawston, Cambridgeshire, which has around 240 pupils, was using in-house staff to deliver wraparound childcare.
Increasing demand was putting strain on staff and the school wanted to deliver the best service possible, so last summer they called on Premier Education to see if they could help.
“At The Bellbird we had an ever-growing population of parents who required before and after school care for their children,” says headteacher, Katie Kendall “The subsequent increased workload on senior leaders was becoming unmanageable.”
The responsibility for improvement at Bellbird would fall to the school’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT). As is the case at most schools, this group will always be under a lot of pressure from legislators, pupils, parents and Ofsted – let alone with the immediate and ever-changing demands of pandemic schooling. One of the additional impacts of the pandemic was staff absences. They just didn’t have the hours they needed to give it the attention it needed.
Nonetheless, the SLT were determined to deliver high-quality wraparound childcare.
“We hoped to offer a service for busy parents, providing a high quality, well-organised provision for our children,” says Mrs Kendall.
The second factor was that the school’s staff had worked at the venue for a long time. They really cared about their role and the children but needed more support.
“And so,” she continues, “we were keen to look around at other possible options to outsource the club.”
Bellbird knew Premier Education’s standards from other products we’d delivered at the school over the past ten years – including curricular cover, lunchtime sessions and holiday provision. The school also had a governor whose daughter enjoyed attending one of Premier Education’s wraparound sessions at another nearby school, which put them in a strong position.
After the initial contact, Katie liked what she heard and told her board of governors who invited Premier Education to pitch the idea to them in more detail.
Gareth from Premier Education comments: “Because of the pandemic, we pitched to the governors via Zoom. The board asked us a lot of questions on topics such as cost, value, quality, safeguarding and content. One concern was that Premier Education was famously known as a sports coaching company, so what if some of the children attending didn’t like sport?”
Premier Education understands that building trust is as important as delivering physical activity for children. Gareth continues “Most of the schools we deliver wraparound care for already know us because of our holiday camps. They know that we can deliver much more than just 30 minutes at lunchtime. We have the capacity to run full days of activities while keeping children inspired, engaged and, importantly, safe.
“Our wraparound care focuses on keeping the children healthy and active but also includes a well-rounded timetable of activities made up of our other strands to ensure all children are enthused and look forward to attending. Our Premier Arts (dance, drama & musical theatre); Game of Actual Life (life skills programme); and Premier Wellbeing (nutrition and mental wellbeing) sessions are built into the weekly timetable, with children also having the opportunity for free play and other activities such as arts and crafts”.
In The Bellbird’s case, the current playworkers employed by the school wraparound provision would be tuped over to work alongside the Premier team.
“We needed to support these playworkers to get them used to the Premier Education way. The previous staff were passionate, but they hadn’t been receiving support with their session plans, timetables, ideas or resources. They also needed someone to manage them, train them and inspire them.
“The worry is that staff may feel their previous work is being criticised when an external company comes in to improve things. But, as Gareth explains, all the staff took to it well. “We explained how we were going to demand more of the staff and raise the standards, and the staff responded really well. We have worked alongside them to show them the ‘Premier way’ and supported them by investing in extra resources for them to deliver high-quality activities.
“By upskilling these new team members and offering extra support we hoped to give them a new lease of life,” says Gareth. “They would be better equipped to deliver great activities that the children love. This would, in turn, mean they enjoy their job more which forms a virtuous cycle of improvement.”
Gareth’s team sent out surveys to the parents to get to know more about each child and what their interests were. Once all the relevant information had been gathered, the team created a well-rounded daily timetable, making sure that it fit in with the school calendar as well as the curriculum itself. The team also made sure the sessions were aligned with Bellbird’s code of conduct and awards systems. Wraparound care became an extension of the school day.
The Premier Education Activity Professionals deliver the physical activities they are qualified in such as gymnastics and the playworkers deliver the other activities they are confident in.
Gareth continues: “The children still have unstructured free time, but now they’re also making dens, doing archery, fencing and a load of other activities that they can do because our expertise and equipment allow it.”
With Premier Education, the school is able to offer other benefits to parents such as siblings discount and allowing booking up to 30 minutes before sessions which is a great help for busy parents. Premier Education also offers flexi-booking which allows parents to cancel due to illness or other circumstances and get a full refund.
Premier Education’s plan and provision have had the desired effect and the school has seen the number of attendees grow 10% for both before and after school clubs.
Katie explains: “The club is extremely well organised and the children thoroughly enjoy their time there. The activities are varied and well thought out to tie in with calendar events and also school events.”
Gareth continues: “The governors did a thorough job to make sure they thought we could deliver a high-quality provision before offering us the contract. I’m glad to say the staff who tuped over have really developed under the guidance of our venue lead, and generally, we have gone above and beyond to deliver on our promise. Recently the governors made a site visit and gave us a glowing report.”
“The Premier Staff are excellent,” says Katie. “Personable, professional and they liaise closely with us as a school to appraise us of any concerns, new ideas and general day to day updates.
“We have been absolutely delighted with the provision.”
Gareth adds: “It feels great to deliver on a promise for a school we’ve worked with for years – it’s really rewarding.”