Enhancing learning through pupil participation

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Enhancing learning through pupil participation

Glasllwch C.P. School, Newport, gives pupils the opportunity to contribute to school improvement and decision making. The school uses a number of methods to encourage pupil participation and has increased pupils’ motivation and standards.

Number of pupils: 210
Age range: 4 - 11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2014

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Glasllwch Primary School is in a residential area on the north side of the city of Newport. There are 210 pupils aged 4 – 11 years at the school, taught in seven single aged classes.

Currently, 1% of pupils are entitled to free school meals. 16% of pupils have additional learning needs. Most pupils come from English speaking homes. No pupils speak Welsh as a first language and very few are from a minority ethnic background or learn English as an additional language.

A whole school approach to pupil participation ensures that learning is enhanced by exploring the views and ideas of all pupils. Through Pupil Participation we provide children with opportunities to contribute to school improvement. This case study outlines how Pupil Participation has become embedded in all aspects of school life and the resulting impact on pupils’ school experiences.

How Pupil Participation Evolved

Pupil Voice within our school was initially about providing classroom opportunities for pupils to influence their own learning. Teachers engaged with learners’ interests and incorporated pupils’ suggestions into curriculum planning and learning activities. Pupils made choices about how they learned, choosing the level of challenge when approaching a task, or deciding when to work with others or when to work independently to complete a task.

Pupil Participation has since extended into all aspects of school life. Whole school consultation activities have included: asking pupils about the school premises; asking pupils what they think should be in the curriculum; talking to pupils about our school rewards and consequences; generating examples of ‘excellent’ pupils and teachers. Creating opportunity for staff and pupils to share the outcomes of the consultation activities has been fundamental to ensuring the findings had an impact on improving pupils’ experiences in school.

The role of Pupil Participation within school broadened again when our Year 5 class embarked upon a project called ‘How We Learn’. Pupils explored their own characteristics as learners and also carried out research into the ways in which pupils across the school learned best. It was this project that led to the pupils in the class becoming our school ‘Learning Squad’ and pupils’ participation in School Improvement has evolved from this.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

Glasllwch ‘Learning Squad’ was established with the aim ‘to improve learning in our school’. Initially, a small group of pupils in Year 5 and 6 were asked to carry out a tour of the school building, commenting on how different areas of the school were conducive to learning. As a result the ‘Learning Squad’ put together a comic for parents about the school learning environment and the pupils’ observations were used as a starting point to inspire further research projects.
Since then, the ‘Learning Squad’ pupils have met regularly with the deputy headteacher. During this time they have explored issues raised by pupils across the school and identified aspects of school life they would like to research and improve.

Research questions have included:

  • Does keeping children fit and healthy improve school learning?
  • How could we improve children’s concentration in lessons?
  • Does having breakfast affect how we learn?
  • How could we improve hygiene and health in our school?
  • What do children think of our extra-curricular clubs?
  • How can we improve children’s talents?
  • How can we improve reading in our school?
  • How can we improve the school yard?
  • What is behaviour like in Glasllwch School?

Over a number of years Glasllwch Learning Squad has developed to become a well organised, highly skilled and innovative group of pupils with a strong focus on creating impact as a result of their research projects. They are actively involved in school improvement, taking responsibility for writing action plans that form part of our School Development Plan and sharing their research findings with pupils, teaching staff, Headteacher, Governors and other Newport schools.

Future Developments

Along with our school ‘Super Ambassadors’, the Learning Squad is currently involved in a project with the Children’s’ Commissioner for Wales promoting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). So far this project has enabled the children to further their understanding of the UNCRC and has created the opportunity for pupils to communicate their views and opinions to a wider audience. Working with the Participation Officer for The Children’s Commissioner For Wales, the pupils have produced a video for the Super Ambassador Website and are currently involved in making another video about their views on ‘play’ and the importance of learning through ‘play’.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

Evidence from classroom observation indicates that promoting Pupil Voice within the classroom has increased pupils’ motivation to learn and has provided pupils’ with greater enjoyment and independence when learning.

Standards in pupil outcomes have continued to improve as a result of greater involvement in learning.

Consultation activities have enabled us to elicit pupils’ views, thoughts and feelings about their school experiences. Outcomes have resulted in improvements such as: incorporating World News into the curriculum; establishing whole school house points and creating Learner Superheroes.

Establishing a Learning Squad has strengthened Pupil Participation and increased the opportunities for all of the children in our school to be involved in decision-making. Impacts on provision as a result of Learning Squad research projects include: updated reading materials in classroom reading areas; a whole school ‘Talents Day’; additional extra-curricular activities for lower juniors; raising awareness of health and hygiene and redesigning outside areas.