Hanover Primary School (School Visit)

Hanover Primary School is a medium-sized school set in Islington, central London. The school caters for 330 kids ranging from nursery to Year 6 (3-11 year olds).

The school demographic is varied with 1/3 from private housing, 1/3 from social or state housing, and 1/3 from a variety of other accomodations.

The Headmaster was previously the Deputy Headmaster so has a vast knowledge of the school and its journey over some years.

On his accession to Headmaster he assessed student assessment data which highlighted a number of worrying issues. The first step was to increase student expectations, however, this had an adverse affect on student behaviour. School leadership surmised that student confidence was extremely low, those students from deprived backgrounds (which comprised of a large number) had difficulty in coping with the increased expectations. Their resilience was low. The result was an increase in exclusions and stand downs and some disillusionment from the parent community.

So how did the school combat this challenge effectively and create the exciting vibrant place it is today? They made a clear vision.

When kids are miserable and lack confidence it is acknowledged that learning cannot take place. An investment in wellbeing was required. An investment which transcended both school and home. Which supported students with life skill development. Which ultimately recognised them as human beings and the value they bring to this world.

The Ministry of Education supported the school's desire to try an innovative approach to combat the issues before them.

In a nutshell the school:

  • Developed a framework of trust

  • Increased expectations in a supportive environment

  • Operate a counselling service within school

  • Looked at character development - 'What's missing in our older children that we need to develop in them as youngsters?'

The school based their approach on a number of well known evidence based programmes and theories:

  • The Montessori Method is founded on Maria Montessori's educational philosophy. Her basic principle was to “follow the child”. A Montessori classroom is carefully prepared to allow the child to work independently and allow for the joy of self-discovery.

  • Neuroscience research.

  • Play-based, child-centred learning. This initiative was founded on the Scottish government's model of 'loose parts play'.

  • A focus on working with staff around the importance of wellbeing, the impact this can have on our kids, and how to support our kids if their wellbeing is at risk.

  • Trauma-informed practice. This was an essential element due to the number of kids who were traumatised in multiple ways. This programme identifies the physical effect trauma can have on brain development. A focus was also on the therapeutic input - the best ways to talk to kids who have suffered trauma.

The play-based learning was of particular interest to me. Hanover Primary School acknowledges the massive part play-based learning has had in the new found success of the school. It's authentic, child-led and collaborative. Through this initiative the kids are learning role play, and reenactment. Teachers have begun to intervene less and less and kids are becoming owners of their own play. This has led to an increase in their self confidence.

The school has also spent considerable time working on the reasons for a kid's poor behaviour. This is now widely accepted as a means of communication for the child. Concise and accurate recording of all behaviour has enabled the school to see patterns in a longitudinal manner. This has increased understanding for staff and also enabled informative reporting to external agencies.

Support staff play a crucial role at Hanover Primary School. They have had considerable investment in terms of professional development but also have access to recorded data that paints a comprehensive picture.

An interesting point is the direction the school is taking in terms of physical contact between staff and kids. Most schools are prohibiting contact whereas Hanover is encouraging it. They consider physical contact to be an essential element in the relationship-building process.

Hanover is an innovative and future-focused school that is clearly meeting the needs of their students by extending themselves outside the norm.

Ben Ward-Smith


Lytton Street School, Feilding

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