Learning through play in a real-life context

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The creation of a ‘village’ at Cadoxton Primary School encourages children in the foundation phase to develop many skills by providing experiences in a real-life context.

Number of learners: 497
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: January 2018

Information about the school

Cadoxton Community Primary School is situated in the east end of Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.  With a rising roll and the recent amalgamation of Cadoxton Nursery School in September 2016, the school population has steadily risen from approximately 300 to 500 pupils.  Around 38% are considered eligible for free school meals, which is above the local authority and national averages.  Also around 38% of pupils are considered to have some degree of additional learning needs, which is also above the local and national averages.  No pupils have statements of special educational needs.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Cadoxton is committed to providing foundation phase for all.  The focus is on creating an environment that allows pupils to learn through structured play in Year 2.  This encourages learners to explore realistic situations by interacting with each other in a variety of ‘Village’ like contexts, to explore imaginatively the roles of the adult world.  The ‘Village’ allows many different real-life experiences to be simulated and the pupils interact between the different contexts for learning.  The ‘Village’ was set up with the goal of allowing pupils to develop their skills through rich tasks in a supported active, and experiential, environment. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The ‘Village’ was created to provide learners in Year 2 with exciting contexts for learning, which stimulate rich responses in spoken language and increase their understanding.  It enables pupils to develop active imaginations through rich authentic contexts.

  • authentic problem-solving opportunities
  • everything in the ‘Village’ to be real
  • enhanced challenges that allow opportunities to develop basic skills
  • pupil-led contexts, with their ideas feeding into the development of the environment
  • an environment that can be changed and adapted to suit the rich task and reflect current relevant topics and times of year
  • skills development in real life situations that can be adapted depending on the stage of the learner
  • research opportunities
  • enhancement research trips to support pupil voice element of the ‘village’
Pupils’ learning becomes richer as they are able to use language to explore their own experiences and imaginary worlds.  They are not afraid to try things out in new ways, learning from their mistakes.  Pupils transfer their mathematical skills to independent activities well and are not afraid to make mistakes and explore different ways of tackling a challenge.

After an initial exploration of the ‘Village’ market stalls, the school found that the pupils wanted to develop these further.  To support this development, the school conducted an enhancement trip to Cardiff Market.  They researched what a market could include and how it be might be developed.  The school found that this ownership enabled pupils to engage fully and enjoy their learning whilst evoking pride and passion for the environment they created.  The pupils’ voice was the driving force for developing their own learning opportunities, promoting learning through doing, experiencing and finding things out for themselves.  They were able to:

  • exercise choice, participate, initiate and direct their own learning
  • learn from first-hand, experiential and practical hands-on activities
  • experience an appropriate level of challenge and support from the adults
  • have access to a stimulating learning environment, both indoors and outdoors, so that good progress is made
  • transfer literacy and numeracy skills across areas of learning confidently
What impact has this work had on provision and pupils’ standards?

Through the creative use of the environment, pupils’ standards have improved, particularly with the level of achievement in the enhanced provision and when pupils are working independently.  Pupils have clear learning goals, and have taken ownership of the provision and the challenges set.   The ‘Village’ has raised standards for nearly all of the pupils’ personal and social skills by allowing them to work independently and collaboratively.  The standards of numerical reasoning have risen due to the practical application of skills in a variety of real life contexts.  The pupils are able to revisit skills in order to move their learning forward.  The pupils’ independent writing standards have risen, particularly for the boys, by giving their writing a meaningful purpose.  They are taking pride in their learning tasks and want to complete tasks to a high standard.   Pupils have been able to develop their literacy and numeracy skills creatively across the curriculum and their understanding is greatly improved by the practical real-life application of skills.  The use of digital technology in the ‘Village’, such as using an activity camera to record learning experiences, is further enhancing their ICT skills.  They use an app to share the learning that happens with their parents at home.

How have you shared your good practice?

Many schools across Wales have visited the school to view the provision.  The vision for experiential learning through high quality play provision has been shared on open days and in school training programmes that are run for the consortium.