The importance of knowing each child

Tailoring learning to support and stretch each child to ensure they are reaching their full potential 


Good morning Sammy. Good morning Ava. How are you today Levi?


This is how Headteacher, Juliette Lipshaw, greets the children in the morning as they come through the blue gates of Sinai Jewish Primary School. She is clearly adept at the name game as she greets all the children individually. 


This is no easy feat. Sinai is a big school, sprawled across 3 acres, the biggest Jewish primary school in Europe, and boasts just under 640 pupils.  


When asked how she knows each child by name, she quips, “It’s my job.” 


Juliette Lipshaw is a highly regarded and experienced educator with 24 years in education under her belt. The school’s motto is ‘big school, big heart, big opportunities,”  and it is clear that despite its size the nurturing and child-focused approach starts at the school gate. 


Lipshaw has been at the helm of Sinai for 4 years and has worked hard to instil a community feel into the school and the parents now proudly refer to themselves as part of the “Sinai family.” 


“In order for this to happen we have to know each and every child,” she explains, “happy children learn well and our whole curriculum is designed around opportunities for the Sinai child.”


This starts with the smallest members of the Sinai family, the Nursery and Reception children. Housed in their own Early Years Block all children have a baseline assessment as they enter the school as part of the ‘getting to know you’ process. This allows for a tailored approach, so that staff understand their starting points, from the very start of their learning journey. 


Nikki Tapper is the Nursery Manager. She is full of smiles and clearly loves her job and all of the children in the Nursery. She proudly tells me that each child has a 1:1 learning intervention to assess Maths, Literacy and Communication with their key worker twice a week. This is balanced with lots of mixed ability group activities.  “Of course learning here is done through play,” she adds, “the children do not know they are being assessed just that they are having fun, but this approach allows us to work with each child’s individual needs, whether that be building confidence, perfecting a pencil grip or putting on their coat independently.”


Learning is more structured in Reception but the same principles apply. By planning and guiding the children’s activities the school is able to adapt teaching styles to meet the children’s learning style. This is done through playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically with a focus on how the child learns as well as what they learn. 


Higher up the school assessments are carried out before and during the lessons, and not in hindsight. This approach allows the teacher to pre-teach and provide support where necessary or provide opportunities for extension for higher achievers. 


It is this strive for excellence that has seen Sinai invited back for the third year running to the Mayor of London’s Schools for Success programme. The school has been honoured for its commitment to reducing educational inequality and attaining exceptional results for children previously struggling academically. 


Deputy Head, Claire Gough, explains, “We invite rich question and answer sessions during lessons as this is a great way to evaluate pupil understanding and deepen the children’s learning. We offer verbal and written feedback and we encourage the children to self-assess against the steps for success we set. This is all done alongside ongoing observations to really ensure we have a deep understanding of each child. We can unpick misconceptions and we can check learning within, as well as at the end, of lessons. This approach means we can provide effective feedback to keep learning moving forward.”


The interventions extend beyond the classroom too. There is a regular cookery club in the multipurpose room for children who may need help with social interactions, a lunchtime boxing club for high energy children who need to burn off steam and focus better in the afternoon or an early morning Lego club for those who benefit from a softer start to the school day… to name but a few.


At the end of a busy school day I ask one parent about Sinai and she enthused, “Sinai is amazing because you feel part of a lovely community, and although it is a big school, it feels like a small, personalised and loving environment for my children.”


It is clear that the time and care invested in getting to know the children pays off in dividends and is makes for a happy child and happy parents.