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CASE STUDY Schools in Wales as learning organisations (SLO): embedding systems for collecting and exchanging knowledge

How Dŵr y Felin Comprehensive School teachers share learning knowledge.

Context and background

Dŵr y Felin Comprehensive School is an English-medium mixed 11 to 16 comprehensive school in Neath Port Talbot. There are currently 1,134 learners on roll.

Learners are drawn from an area that includes Neath and the surrounding area. The school moved onto one site in 2012. Just over 14 per cent of learners live in the 20 per cent most deprived areas

of Wales. Just over 17 per cent of learners are eligible for free school meals, which is in line with

the Welsh average of 17.4 per cent. The percentage of learners with special educational needs is 25.8 per cent, which is in line with the national average of 25.1 per cent. The percentage of learners who have a statement of special educational needs is around 1 per cent, which is below the national average of 2.5 per cent.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Many areas of school improvement have previously been led by senior leaders within the school. Leaders wanted to adopt an approach to school improvement led by teacher collaboration. As a pioneer school for professional learning, the school is keen to develop opportunities for staff to develop their understanding of pedagogical principles through working and sharing together.

In order to foster a proactive professional learning culture a ‘learning and teaching coordinator’ was appointed and given the role of developing pedagogy across the school. Following this, a ‘teacher learning network group’, led by the coordinator, was introduced.

The teacher learning network group met on a monthly basis to give the staff the opportunity to share their knowledge of pedagogy and teaching resources, in line with the termly school pedagogy foci. The group created and trialled the resources that were implemented at a whole school level. For example, the school marking and feedback resources were collaboratively discussed, created, trialled and edited by network group members – giving staff an important voice for their expertise, and offering them an opportunity to access relevant theory behind whole school choices. The group focused on meeting school priorities, such as raising the attainment of more able and talented (MAT) learners, by looking at the way they plan effective questioning, assessment for learning and group work.

Through the annual self-evaluation cycle and processes, staff are able to identify areas of good practice within learning, teaching and pedagogy that need to be shared or developed across the school. The overall aim is to raise standards in both Key Stages 3 and 4.

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

The ‘Teacher Networking Group’ had a clear impact on the standards of learning and teaching across the school. Between 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 there has been an increase in the quality and consistency of teaching at the school.

Many staff have been enthused to create their own subject-specific resources from resource templates, and a collaborative culture has been nurtured. Many of the resources have been shared and a common approach to teaching across the school is now embedded. This has given a greater consistency to the learning experience for learners and helped increase their transfer of skills across the curriculum.

Next steps

The whole school learning and teaching focus will be scaffolded to meet four foci, which are:

  • mindset and the power of effort: supporting the MAT focus of our school development plan. Teachers will aim to provide stimulating enrichment activities that add depth and breadth to learning, e.g. teaching others, debating issues and translating ideas into new forms such as diagrams, models and summaries
  • deepening thinking: critical and creative
  • learning autonomy: independent learning – learners still need guidance, but they need ownership
  • meaningful and authentic learning.

Teacher network groups will be linked to the areas of development and will give all staff the opportunity for action research and professional learning in a supportive, collaborative environment. Time has been allocated on the additional directed hours calendar, and the INSET programme has been developed to facilitate the foci in a manageable, effective way.