Promoting professional development through inclusion

A whole-school approach to inclusion supports both pupils and staff in their development. Suzanne O’Connell finds out how a school embedded inclusivity in their ethos

Author details

Suzanne O'Connell has more than 25 years' teaching experience, 11 years of which were as a junior school headteacher. She has a particular interest in special needs, child protection and extended services and is currently a writer, editor and...

School: Parkside Community College
Location: Cambridgeshire
Pupil role: 779
Headteacher: Jodh Dhesi   
Category: Academy converter   
Level of PP: below average
Level of SEND: average

Parkside Community College was one of two schools that originally formed The Parkside Federation in 2005. With its partner school, Coleridge Community College, it is part of a multi-academy trust that was approved in 2016 as an academy sponsor.

Since then the Federation has also overseen the construction of a new secondary school, Trumpington Community College, and is set to continue to grow.   

Jodh Dhesi, headteacher of Parkside Community College had been deputy headteacher at the school and recognised its commitment to inclusion.

On his appointment as headteacher he wanted to emphasise how important this was. ‘I wanted to make sure,’ explains Jodh, ‘that this inclusivity was really embedded within its ethos.’

Embedding incl​usivity

The school is committed to mixed-ability teaching, a philosophy which has helped to raise and maintain the status of the SENCO and the importance of supporting SEND pupils.

‘The SENCO has a strategic leadership role,’ explains Jodh. ‘All staff have received training on inclusive teaching and we have an inclusive teaching checklist that we use when we do observations.’

The SENCO takes part in department reviews that Jodh describes as being ‘in residence’. During these reviews support for different subject departments is intense and focused, with the SENCO observing and developing inclusive practice among subject teachers.

Jodh refers to ‘low hanging fruit’ – the strategies that the SENCO can share with every teacher that support the learning of all pupils, not only those with SEND. For example, the use of visual cues can enhance teaching generally so is beneficial to everyone,’ says Jodh.

The commitment to addressing the needs of every child is crucial to the ethos of the school and has enhanced performance rather than being detrimental to it. Ofsted have commented that pupils make exceptional progress between years 7 and 11. 

Not every teacher comes to the school equipped for mixed-ability teaching. Some teachers need support for this when they arrive and are the subject of a Personal Development Plan (PDP).

Personal developme​nt plans

The PDP is a crucial element in the development process for individual teachers. The format was established three years ago and comprises an individual plan for those teachers who need help against one of the standards.

It is a popular approach that leads to additional support that teachers can request for themselves and addresses any standard.

The PDP lasts for six weeks and includes the teacher being linked to a mentor who is not a line manager. The coach selected must not be part of the appraisal system. This allows a more open relationship to develop focused on improved teaching rather than just outcomes. 

We have an inclusive teaching checklist that we use when we do observations

Delegated manag​ement

Parkside Community College is adept at using its in-house expertise. Jodh describes his style of management as delegated with everyone having some level of management responsibility. It is expected that these areas of specialism are shared among staff through training and development opportunities.   

Although senior leaders deliver training it is not exclusively their role nor is it restricted to middle leaders. ‘We have a level below middle management where people hold a range of responsibilities that they can support other members of staff with too.’


A lot of training and development takes place within the Federation. Heads of department work together on moderation and they have access to the Cambridge International Certificate for Teaching and Learning (CICTL).

Where one department in a school needs a little extra support then a sister department will help. One example of this is currently between the humanities departments with Parkside and Coleridge working together to develop practice.  

The chief executive of the Federation, Andrew Hutchinson, is a national leader of education and there are currently four specialist leaders of education at Parkside, with the intention to increase this number.

The school lost its Teaching School status when it became good rather than outstanding, but having returned to outstanding they are in the process of reapplying for this. 

Many staff have begun their careers at Coleridge and moved on to Parkside which has helped tackle any recruitment difficulties.   

Finding the right staff can still be a challenge in the current environment although, out of a workforce of 60 staff, only two are employed via an agency and there are plans to reduce this further.   

The focus is on training and development shared between schools but external consultants are also brought in for leadership training and self-evaluation. They help with course content for GCSEs and with the International Baccalaureate.

T​he right balance

Parkside has managed to combine a rigorous accountability system with consideration for the wellbeing and welfare of staff. ‘The staff here recognise that the appraisal system is fair,’ explains Jodh.

‘You have to meet the standards but we make sure that there are no surprises for anyone. They know exactly what they need to do to meet the requirements for an increment and it isn’t left until the end of the year to discuss this with them.

‘If someone doesn’t make the target set but we know that they are trying hard then they can still have a successful appraisal,’ says Jodh.

An inclusive school ethos isn’t just about the pupils. Jodh aims to ensure that his staff are supported and developed according to their individual needs.

As the Federation continues to grow, Parkside’s position at its core will ensure that any new schools are provided with an outstanding example that welcomes their input and ideas too.

Last Updated: 
15 Sep 2022