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CASE STUDY Schools in Wales as learning organisations (SLO): establishing a culture of enquiry, innovation and exploration

How Rhydypenau Primary School created more confident, motivated and engaged learners.

Context and background

Rhydypenau is a large primary school situated in Llanishen, in the north of Cardiff. There are currently just over 550 learners on roll in six Foundation Phase classes and nine Key Stage 2 classes. The nursery unit caters for 80 learners.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

In line with the recommendations of the Welsh Government, the school used the triangle of provision as a curriculum model for the Foundation Phase. Having seen the benefits of this activity-based curriculum in early years and in Year 1, the school was very keen to adopt those same principles in Year 2 as soon as possible, especially the use of learning organisers to plan their own learning. However, as the Foundation Phase curriculum developed and became embedded across all classes, it became apparent that there was a risk in Year 2 of implementing what could have become an inverted triangle, in which a disproportionate amount of time might be spent on discrete and focused teaching, and relatively little time on continuous and enhanced provision. Moreover, ways of tackling this risk potentially posed the further problem of how to offer an activity-based curriculum as a vehicle for learning while avoiding the pitfall that no school should be doing what a well-intentioned parent/carer can do at home.

In an attempt to resolve these dilemmas, teachers established a professional learning community that focused on investigating how learners best learn within a skills-based curriculum. As a result of their emerging conclusions, teachers began to extend the enhanced provision by adding specific provocations and challenges. These apparently simple changes paved the way for further significant improvements in practice, including:

  • highly differentiated skills provision
  • planned, focused interventions
  • an increase in the independence of learners.

In consequence, the role of the adult changed significantly, as they became co-learners and

co-players, observers and facilitators, supporting learning within areas of provision. In other words, as the teaching moved down the triangle, so the adult became less of a ‘sage on the stage’ and more of a ‘guide on the side’. The school believes that by working in this way as true facilitators of learning, adults are genuinely preparing learners for their future role in society as lifelong learners.

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

This enhanced skills-based curriculum has resulted in learners becoming more confident, highly motivated and enthusiastically engaged in their learning, characteristics that underpin high standards of achievement and attainment.