Teaching staff at Stevenage primary school react to claims of classroom violence

Longmeadow Primary School, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

Longmeadow Primary School, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Staff at a primary school have refuted claims of poor special educational needs provision and pupils’ classroom violence.

Concerns surrounding Stevenage’s Longmeadow Primary School also include teachers and support staff leaving in droves, but remaining staff have spoken out to defend the school and headteacher Emily Howley.

With almost 25 per cent of Longmeadow’s pupils on the SEN register – against a national average of 14 per cent – staff feel those outside education do not fully appreciate the overlap between SEN and behaviour.

A Year 6 SEN 1:1 teaching assistant said: “We make more successes than we do failures, and when a child ‘blows up’ it’s because of their additional needs. It’s really important for pupils to learn to accept this, show compassion, and know how to deal with it in a diverse society.”

Staff say since Mrs Howley became headteacher in 2017, concerns about SEN provision raised by Oftsed in 2016 have been addressed and support now includes a pastoral space, inclusion team and therapy dog Murphy. A Year 6 teaching assistant said: “I’m seeing the daily impact of Murphy’s work.”

A Year 1 teaching assistant added: “Children with SEN just used to be squashed. Now adults in school are listening to them, making school a safe place. We’ve got kids who’ve never felt safe anywhere before who actually have a voice now.”

The school’s ‘reprimand in private and praise in public’ policy may make it seem unruly behaviour has no consequences, but Longmeadow’s head of inclusion said: “Our pupils don’t respond to public humiliation. Gone are the days of shouting at pupils in the class being considered normal practice.”

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Staff say Longmeadow’s great for employees and pupils alike for reasons which include a new staff wellbeing programme and a creative child-centred curriculum.

Of the headteacher, a teaching assistant said: “I’ve been through three heads and Emily is the most approachable and supportive.”

A collective statement from staff concludes: “Those outside do not always see the hard work, research and dedication that goes on behind the scenes.

“We are determined to move forward as a strong, passionate staff with a firmly child-centred approach to everything we do, and we hope our parents and the public will support us in this vision.”