Pupils at Hammersmith school which ditched detentions have “outstanding” behaviour, says Ofsted

Image above: Melcombe Primary School in Hammersmith

“Five golden rules” now replace detentions at Melcombe Primary School

A school in Hammersmith which Ofsted once said was “in need of improvement” has transformed itself into a school with an “outstanding” approach to behaviour, after getting rid of detentions entirely.

Melcombe Primary School was taken over by Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Thames Federation in early 2020 after inspectors raised concerns over the school’s teaching standards during a visit two years earlier. They installed a new head teacher, Anne-Marie Strachan, in April 2021, alongside new staff and a new vision for the school.

The changes began with the school’s appearance. Students received uniforms with a new logo and money was ploughed into refurbishing classrooms and the playground. The school got new climbing equipment and a new library and will unveil a garden to coincide with the King’s Coronation. The children were able to see the transformation before their eyes.

But it is the school’s approach to student behaviour that sets it apart. Melcombe Primary no longer hands out detentions. Instead, children memorise the “five golden rules” which include being polite, putting in your best effort, being honest, taking care of yours and other’s belongings, and “keeping your hands and feet and your unkind words to yourself.”

This is enforced across the school, from reception up to Year 6, and the school finds it really works for them.

“We’re about positive reinforcement,’ said Ms Strachan, ‘We believe in telling the child ‘right, why was that wrong and now think about what you could have done’ and again reference back to the five golden rules.”

Image above: Melcombe Primary School students during a PE lessson

“Pupils are happy, safe and immensely proud of their school” says Ofsted

The changes have not gone unnoticed. Ofsted rated Melcombe Primary as ‘good’ with an ‘outstanding’ approach to behaviour during a visit in February. Inspectors wrote that “pupils are happy, safe, and immensely proud of their school. Leaders and staff expect pupils to achieve well. Staff create an environment where everyone is supported to succeed. As a result, pupils thrive under their care and value their education.”

Pupils’ behaviour is “exemplary,” and inspectors hailed the partnership with Kensington Wade School to teach pupils Mandarin as well as Spanish. Pupils share their learning experiences with another school that shares the same building. Pupils from both schools enjoyed learning together about the cultural significance of Chinese New Year and watching a live ‘lion dance’.

Despite the improvements, inspectors said the curriculum in some areas still needed work. They said:

“Staff expertise is not consistently strong. Although leaders have established what pupils need to learn, they have not considered how they will check that pupils are remembering the essential knowledge taught. As a result, pupils’ errors and misconceptions are not consistently identified and addressed. This limits some pupils from deepening their understanding and tackling more difficult ideas in these subjects.”

This is in stark contrast to 2019 when Ofsted reported staff were not teaching phonics properly, with some lacking the expertise. At times, teachers were also unaware of their students’ reading skills, according to the report at the time. Ofsted also criticised teachers for not checking their students’ homework often enough in 2019.

Ms Strachan said the impressive turnaround was down to her staff and governors. She said, “To be honest, it was a collective effort… it was about rewriting the vision, about discussing with the governors, and again with the children and what they want from the school.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar