Harnessing pupil enthusiasm

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Teacher in classroom

Staff at Trinant Primary School collaborated with pupils on what they would like to learn. Together they co-constructed their own learning journey. This process ensured that learning didn’t become predicable and static. The school used grants to fund real-life experiences, ranging from crime scene investigations to critically reviewing theatre performances. These activities instantly engaged pupils and helped to develop a culture of enquiry, innovation and exploration. Pupils’ enthusiasm is harnessed and this motivates them to be successful.

Number of pupils: 153
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: February 2019

Information about the school

Trinant Primary is in the village of Trinant, near Crumlin in the county borough of Caerphilly.  There are 153 pupils on roll, including 28 part time nursery pupils.  Pupils are taught in five mixed age classes.

Over the past three years, around 34% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is well above the Wales average of 18%.  The school has identified around 30% of its pupils as having additional learning needs, which is well above the Wales average of 21%.

The headteacher took up her post in November 2011.

Context and background to sector-leading practice: Enriching Learning Experiences for pupils

Trinant Primary has a strong track record of improvement over time despite higher than average levels of free school meals and pupils identified as having additional learning needs.

The school’s motto ‘Stepping Stones to Success’ reflects the learning journey pupils undertake and that pupils and staff take different routes at different times, but all experience successes.  Central to the school’s vision is the concept that ‘we treat each other like our family’.  This results in everyone ‘going the extra mile’ and not wanting to disappoint or to let anyone down.  This is at the heart of the school and key to continued successful school improvement.  Staff believe in their pupils and encourage them to have aspirations beyond their close knit community.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Staff and pupils fully explored the four core purposes of the curriculum for Wales and what the provision would look like in their classrooms.  The seven dimensions were explored with all stakeholders and current effectiveness was evaluated through RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating.  Priorities for development were identified that involved significant cultural changes to the generally structured and often repetitive and predictable planning of topics.  Changes to the development of the curriculum within school were needed.  Pupils and staff collaborated on what they would like to learn, resulting in themes being democratically chosen in classes.  Using the areas of learning and curriculum subjects, pupils and staff collated activities to explore, identifying and tracking the skills that they would be developing.  Together staff and pupils co-constructed their own learning journey for that term; this was then shared with parents.  Every fortnight, pupils and staff reviewed the learning that had taken place and suggested activities for the following fortnight that fed into teachers’ flexible planning.  This process ensured that the learning ceased to become predictable and static and ensured that learning was driven by the enthusiasm of pupils.

Effective use of grants allowed for the creative and inspiring use of ‘hooks’ at the start of topics.  Pupils were hooked into their learning through a range of real-life experiences, ranging from crime scene investigators to entertainment critics reviewing live theatre performances.  These rich experiences instantly engaged pupils and helped to develop a culture of enquiry, innovation and exploration.  Pupils’ enthusiasm was harnessed and this fostered a willingness to be successful through the learning process.  Skills were then naturally transferred to other areas of the curriculum in a purposeful, seamless way so that there was a continuous journey of learning.  For example, group evidence bags were devised that allowed pupils to build on their previous learning and to use their collaborative, scientific and numeracy skills to solve the crime.

Grants also allowed for the school to continue with The Prince William Award for a second year.  This programme helped pupils to develop the key life skills of self-discipline, resilience, perseverance, team work, leadership, altruism and most importantly self belief.  Experiential learning through this award allowed pupils to learn and embed knowledge through experience.

Parental engagement was harnessed across all curriculum areas and parents shared the learning with their child.  Parent workshops facilitated the development of skills, allowing the learning journey to continue within the home.

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

Vulnerable groups of pupils over time make significant progress as a result of enriched learning experiences.  Pupils have become co-constructors of their own learning, which has had a positive impact on the outcomes, experiences and provision within school.  Effective assessment for learning strategies embedded across the school have allowed for a climate where pupils feel confident in exploring ideas for an enriched curriculum.  Pupils have become confident collaborators and risk takers within an arena where mistakes are seen as a positive learning experience.  Pupils have a greater understanding of learning intentions and know how to be successful.  This removes any mystery in the learning process.  ‘Hook’ visits and experiences have captured pupils’ interest from the start and have taken pupils outside of their comfort zone into the unknown.  These first hand experiences have given pupils a snapshot into the wider world and inspired many to think about future careers and activities that they would like to experience.

Activities are now exciting and often ambitious.  They have relevance to everyday life and are owned by pupils.  Pupils’ ideas are authentic, making effective use of the technological skills and knowledge that they bring to school.   Learning has become more purposeful, enriching, personalised and aspirational.  Trinant Primary School curriculum is now authentic and meets the needs of its own learners and own community.

Pupil surveys and consistently high attendance demonstrate that pupils have developed greater self‑worth as learners.  Pupils’ behaviour and engagement are also good.  Self-evaluation processes confirm that pupils’ enthusiasm, resilience and perseverance have greatly improved.  Use of imaginative and subject specific vocabulary has greatly improved across the school.  Pupils are now active participants in their learning, have pride in their work and now confidently want to share what they have learned.   

How have you shared your good practice?

There is considerable school-to-school working within the cluster, local authority and across the consortium.  This has been shared in the form of Lead Network Schools (LNS) and through numerous bespoke partnerships.

Link: https://www.schoolswire.co.uk/public/trinant456.html