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CASE STUDY Schools in Wales as learning organisations (SLO): developing learning for all learners

How Glan Usk Primary School is developing an inclusive learning programme.

Context and background

Glan Usk Primary School is situated in the city of Newport and provides education for 656 learners aged from 3 to 11 years old. The school has evolved from the amalgamation of three separate schools in September 2008. Staff and learners moved into the purpose-built Private Finance Initiative (PFI) accommodation in January 2010.

The proportion of learners eligible for free school meals is 17 per cent, which is below the Welsh average of 19 per cent. Around 22 per cent of learners have a special educational need, which is slightly above the Welsh average of 21 per cent.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school’s aim is to provide a range of creative, rich learning experiences, which are driven by the four purposes outlined within the Successful Futures (Welsh Government, 2015) document to produce:

  • ambitious, capable learners
  • enterprising, creative contributors
  • healthy, confident individuals
  • ethical, informed citizens.

The school aims to develop the four purposes through its ‘Skills and Humanities to Inspire, Nurture and Empower’ curriculum (SHINE).

Successful change depends on robust self-evaluation and monitoring arrangements, linked to the school development plan (SDP). The school enables all staff to monitor, evaluate and review changes to the curriculum so that they are all part of the curriculum reform process. In addition, in line with the school mission to ‘excite, challenge and empower’ learners, the school values learners’ contribution in the planning and evaluation process.

School development plan – curriculum for learning strand

Curriculum reform is a key feature of the SDP. Over the last three years the school has:

  • reviewed planning in light of Welsh Government recommendations and implemented changes to the curriculum
  • ensured a sound understanding of the pedagogical principles and creativity as outlined in Successful Futures, with a focus on metacognition, assessment for learning, creativity and learner voice
  • aligned planning to the four purposes.

This has been a staged process with impact evaluated and monitored regularly. Through the findings staff have highlighted areas of strength and development which have enabled them to adapt and refine the approach to curriculum delivery.

Teachers and learners

Staff are encouraged to take risks and be innovative with trialling new ideas. This began through the development of medium-term planning proformas for SHINE. These include the skills to be taught, the application of LNF skills, learners’ ideas and the four purposes. All staff actively engage in collaborative planning to ensure continuity and progression of skills.

Regular phase, whole school and year group meetings provide opportunities to gain feedback from staff on the impact the changes are having. This feedback is then reviewed and reflected in termly action plan reviews and fed into focus on personal action plans (PAP). The school uses the expertise of all staff, learners and action research to implement change.

To launch a new theme, which has been decided upon by the learners, teachers facilitate the conditions for learners to be immersed in an array of creative, highly stimulating and engaging activities for a day. While immersed in these multisensory activities, the learners are given time to reflect and think about the experiences they have on offer. They decide what they would like to learn more about and, more importantly, what skills they would like to develop during their theme.

Teachers share the curriculum skills planned and the learners decide on the context for the skills delivery, and the literacy and numeracy skills they could apply. The learners feel empowered as the learning experiences they will encounter are planned by themselves. Each classroom includes a learners’ planning and reflection wall which lists the skills and the learners’ ideas. The planning wall is organised using the four purposes. Teachers make reference to the skills, learners’ lesson ideas and four purposes within every lesson.

As a result of regular curriculum assemblies and learner voice days learners have a secure understanding of Successful Futures and the four purposes.

Leadership

In order to facilitate change, leaders believe that the culture within a school needs to be focused on continual professional dialogue, in-depth learning conversations and reflection.

Professional learning

The school has a coherent plan for staff professional learning and development, which is focused on engaging in international curriculum research. Enabling staff to have time to engage in research is key to them engaging with the implementation of the new curriculum. Regular learning conversations, action research in professional learning triads and an ongoing culture of professional dialogue enable the school to evaluate continuously the impact of changes made.

Other professional learning and development opportunities have included the sharing of SHINE curriculum ideas, curriculum design, assessment for learning and the sharing of best practice across the school.

Resources

To enable the SHINE curriculum to have maximum impact, resourcing has been an essential consideration. The school wanted to provide staff with time to engage in the change and attend

pioneer events. The school has also earmarked finance to purchase resources to facilitate creative implementation of immersion days.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The development of the SHINE curriculum has enabled learners to feel more empowered and able to lead their own learning.

Learners’ ability to understand and plan for skill development is outstanding. All learners in the school are given the opportunity to offer ideas for their learning and can talk knowledgeably about the application of skills. Learner voice has developed from discussions in small groups to every child having a significant voice in shaping the curriculum.

A significant improvement is how learners understand where they are in their learning and what they need to do to improve. There is greater independence and an improved language of learning across the school. As a result, learners’ oracy skills have improved significantly along with their application of literacy skills across the curriculum.

The Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey and well-being involvement scales reflect and support that learner voice is having a positive impact on learners’ attitudes to school and their involvement in their learning.

The school’s next steps are to:

  • continue to respond to the recommendations in Successful Futures
  • develop the Health and well-being Area of Learning and Experience as a curriculum pioneer
  • develop learners’ self-assessment of their application of skills for each learning experience so they continue to reflect upon their learning and the four purposes
  • work in collaboration with its associated secondary school so they can make changes to the Key Stage 3 curriculum
  • deepen its knowledge and understanding of learning to enhance the school as a learning organisation.