Creative strategies that encourage thinking and high attainment

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Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd develop pupils’ thinking skills through philosophy and encourage creativity through improvised drama activities.

Number of learners: 353
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: March 2017

Information about the school

Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd is situated in the Ringland area of Newport.  It provides education for pupils between 3 and 11 years old.  There are 353 pupils on roll, including 52 nursery-age children.  Welsh is the school’s everyday language and the main medium of teaching and learning.  English is taught formally in key stage 2.

Approximately 2% of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes.  A little over 18% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, and 20% are on the additional learning needs register.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school acknowledges that use of creative strategies engages all pupils’ interest and leads to high standards in terms of attainment across the school. 

Description of the nature of the strategy or activity

The staff weave a combination of creative strategies skilfully into planning and teaching across the school.  They nurture and promote pupils’ thinking skills effectively by using activities based on the philosophy for children.  This challenges their metacognition and allows them to question, discuss and write about intense experiences maturely and very fluently.  By combining the use of improvised drama strategies, creativity is promoted in all areas of learning.  This combination stimulates pupils’ appetite to write to a very high standard.  

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

At the end of key stages, teachers’ assessments show that pupils’ standard of attainment at the higher outcome in the Foundation Phase and the higher level in key stage 2 is consistently higher than the figure for Wales. 

In comparison with similar schools, pupils’ attainment in Welsh literacy in the Foundation Phase places the school in the top 25% for the second year in succession.  In key stage 2, attainment in Welsh and English has continued to place the school in the top 25% for the last five years. 

During the last inspection, Estyn identified that the school’s practice in terms of writing at the higher levels, and across the curriculum, is extremely effective.

The report acknowledges that:
• most pupils make very good progress from their starting points and apply their skills in a variety of writing genres very successfully
• writing skills are consistently good across the key stages and place the school in the top quartiles for the higher levels
• most pupils apply their literacy skills effectively in both languages and, by the end of key stage 2, write purposefully, interestingly and in a way that engages the reader
• pupils’ attitude towards learning is exceptional, and nearly all pupils show an interest in their tasks and work diligently for extended periods of time

How have you shared your good practice?

• Providing training on Philosophy for Children across south Wales during the time of the Newport Literacy Advisor (2010) 
• Training Welsh and English-medium teachers in Gwe schools (2016)
• A presentation on the principles of using drama to stimulate literacy (EAS conference 2015)
• Led a literacy session in the WJEC’s national conference
• As a Professional Learning School, newly-qualified teachers observe the good practice as part of their training   
• Training in Welsh-medium schools outside EAS (2017)