Creative and stimulating activities through pupil immersion days

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Senior leaders developed a plan for professional learning, enabling staff to engage in international curriculum research. All staff are now able to monitor, evaluate and review curriculum changes and actively participate in joint planning for change. As part of these changes, pupil immersion days provide a variety of creative and stimulating activities, and during transition all pupils mind map their interests and topics for future learning. This case study represents the school’s curriculum development in relation to their progress in self-evaluation, and planning and preparation.

Number of pupils: 690
Age range: 4-11


Glan Usk Primary School is in Newport and has 690 pupils on roll.  There are 22 single age classes at the school.

A few pupils are eligible for free school meals.  A few have English as an additional language and none speak Welsh as their first language.

The school has identified a minority pupils as having additional learning needs, and a very few have a statement of additional learning needs.  Very few pupils come from ethnic minority or mixed backgrounds. 

Stage 1:  Evaluating the current curriculum within wider self-evaluation arrangements

The school has delivered change through robust self-evaluation arrangements, linked to effective school improvement processes.  Leaders place great importance on enabling all staff to monitor, evaluate and review changes to the curriculum so that they are all part of the curriculum development process.

The school officially started curriculum pioneer work in January 2016.  However, curriculum development has been an ongoing process from amalgamation in 2008.  The school now runs its own bespoke curriculum called SHINE – Skills and Humanities to Inspire, Nurture and Empower.

Stage 2:  Planning and preparing for change

In order to facilitate change, the school developed a culture that focused on continued professional dialogue, in-depth learning conversations and reflection.

Senior leaders have developed a coherent plan for staff professional learning and development that focused on engaging in international curriculum research.  Leaders place great importance on planning for change.  They focus well on developing a sound understanding of effective pedagogy and provide staff with focused time to engage in research to prepare for the realisation of the new curriculum.  Regular learning conversations between staff, for example during planned curriculum development time, in-house triads and through peer coaching opportunities, enable staff to plan for and engage in action research enquiries.  This develops an ongoing culture of professional dialogue so that they continually evaluate the impact of the any changes to pedagogy.  The school is adept at sharing good practice internally and with other schools.  As a professional learning pioneer school, staff engage with many professionals from other settings in order to share curriculum developments and the impact that they have on pupils’ learning.  This work strongly supports improvements to the curriculum and pedagogy in their own school.

Curriculum development is a key feature of the school’s improvement processes.  Over the last three years, it 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 with a focus on metacognition, assessment for learning, creativity and pupil voice
  • aligned planning to the four purposes and continued to raise the profile of assessment for learning

This has been a staged process, during which all members of staff have evaluated and monitored impact regularly.  Through their findings, staff highlight areas of strength and identify ways to make further improvements.  This approach has enabled them to make rapid and effective changes to their approach to the delivery of the curriculum.

The school recognises the need to support curriculum change with enough resources and appropriate staff release time.  For example, senior leaders allocated finance to allow teachers to begin their topics with stimulating ‘immersion days’ to engage pupils and seek their ideas on lessons and activities. 

Staff work collaboratively to develop medium term planning pro-forma for SHINE.  These include the national curriculum skills to be taught, the application of literacy and numeracy framework objectives, pupils’ ideas and the four purposes.  Senior leaders encourage staff to take risks and be innovative when trialling new ideas.  The school uses the expertise of all staff, pupils and action research to implement change.  As a result, all staff actively engage in joint planning for change. 

Pupil immersion days are effective in providing a variety of creative, stimulating and engaging activities for pupils.  Whilst immersed in these multi-sensory activities, pupils are given time to reflect and think about the experiences their new topic could provide.  They decide what they would like to learn more about and what skills they would like to develop during the theme.  For example, during transition at the end of the school year, all pupils are asked to mind map their interests and topics for future learning.  Staff then decide on an overarching theme based on their interests, such as, in Year 2, ‘Mind boggling bodies’, Year 3 ‘Wonderful Wales’, and Year 4 ‘Have you ever wondered’.  Teachers then provide a series of immersion days to engage and motivate pupils with specific activities, including food tasting from different countries, guest speakers, different dance activities from around the world and an immersion in languages, landmarks, culture and history.  Classrooms are converted into different environments such as the rainforest and the Antarctic and places such as restaurants and airports, and pupils enact key moments in history, such as the ‘Blitz’ and being ‘evacuees’, to maximise their learning experiences.

Teachers share the planned curriculum skills with pupils and pupils decide on the context for the skills they will be developing.  This gives pupils a sense of empowerment and helps them to engage with the learning experiences.  Each classroom includes a pupil planning and reflection wall, which incorporates the skills and pupils’ ideas.  The planning wall is organised into the four purposes.  Teachers refer to the skills, pupils’ lesson ideas and the four purposes in every lesson.  The school holds regular curriculum assemblies and pupil voice days to ensure that pupils have a secure understanding of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015), and the four purposes.

Pupil voice has developed from discussions in small groups to every child having a significant voice in shaping the curriculum.  The introduction of the ‘SHINE’ curriculum has enabled pupils to feel more empowered to lead their own learning.  This is evident from feedback gathered during ‘Pupil Voice’ days.  Pupils’ ability to understand and plan for skill development is outstanding.  All pupils in the school have the opportunity to offer ideas about their future learning and talk knowledgeably about the application of skills. 

Nearly all pupils understand where they are in their learning and know what they need to do to improve.  There is greater independence and an improved language of learning across the school.  As a result, pupils’ oracy skills have improved along with their application of literacy skills across the curriculum.