Making learning experiential

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Teacher helps pupil with task

Staff at Ewloe Green Primary School are making learning come alive by catering for all types of learners through practical methods. This has boosted pupils’ confidence and engaged those who have previously been reluctant to participate. The school focuses on six areas of learning throughout the year, which link with the new curriculum in Wales. Making learning experiential has given pupils the opportunity to voice their opinions on how they learn.

Number of pupils: 389
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection:November 2018

Information about the school

Ewloe Green Primary School is in the village of Ewloe near Queensferry in Flintshire.  There are 389 pupils on roll, aged from 3 to 11, including 49 part-time nursery pupils.  There are 15 single age classes.

English is the predominant language for nearly all pupils.  A very few pupils come from minority ethnic backgrounds and learn English as an additional language.  A very few pupils speak Welsh at home.  The three-year average of pupils eligible for free school meals is around 5%, which is much lower than the Wales average of 18%.  The school identifies that around 10% of pupils have additional learning needs, which is much lower than the Wales average of 21%.  A very few pupils have a statement of special education needs.

The school motto is, ‘Always Aiming High’, which is embedded into its context and vision.  The school is forward thinking and open to change and innovation, making it a vibrant and exciting place to learn.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

The school has historically undertaken a thematic approach to planning and delivery of the curriculum, meaning that pupils learnt through different themes or topics.  In their planning, teachers clearly provide opportunities for pupils to apply their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills across the curriculum.  Therefore, the introduction of the new curriculum for Wales was almost a natural rebranding of what was already a feature of the school’s provision for pupils.

As six subject or thematic focus weeks already took place annually, these were rebranded to embrace the six areas of learning, which are the cornerstones of the new curriculum for Wales.  This facilitated the possibility for further innovation, and an exciting opportunity to think broadly, to try extravagant projects and run with ideas that the previous curriculum traditionally restricted.

Knowing that, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,’ this was an opportunity to dare to do something different, to ‘have a go’, to develop creative ideas making learning experiential, experimental and, most of all, fun for pupils.  It was also a window of opportunity to develop pupil voice further, their choices in what and how they learn, and to present possibilities for making learning real, current and relevant.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

One such activity was a whole school venture into the world of William Shakespeare.  It began with a conversation about a small piece of disused land and the possibilities of how it could be developed into a creative space to inspire pupils to perform and develop their oracy skills.  Pupils concluded that a multipurpose structure for performing and for outdoor learning was what they would like.

The staff met to share ideas, and the governors contributed to the debate.  The ideas presented ranged from the more conservative to ‘out of the box’.  What became clear was a need for a space where pupils could perform, and develop their creativity through oracy, dance, music and the visual arts.  Considering sustainability and long term usage, it needed to be a space that could be utilised by other schools to promote the performing arts and outdoor learning and further develop the school’s established collaborative work.

The decision therefore was to work towards raising funds for an amphitheatre.  The school council wrote letters to local business and embarked upon fundraising activities and promotion in order to realise their plans.  Like many schools, they had a history of performing musicals, nativities and class assembly presentations and therefore wanted something that would be a further challenge for the pupils, staff and community.  The new curriculum for Wales had opened the possibility for a fusion of traditional ‘stand-alone’ subjects and thematic provision with the new areas of learning.  As a result, this provided an enriching experiential opportunity where languages, literature, communication, humanities, digital competency and performing arts would culminate into exciting learning for pupils.

Pupils, in conjunction with staff, decided to create a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’.  The school organised a two-week whole-school focus to blend the teaching and learning of language, literacy and communication with the performing arts.  Each year group planned an exciting programme of poetry, art and music.  Each year group took an aspect of the work and developed it according to the age and stage of the pupils.  For example, the younger pupils focused on boats and water, making models, floating and sinking, and undertook drama activities.  Pupils in the upper foundation phase researched William Shakespeare, drew portraits using a range of media, produced shape poems, made puppets and wrote magic recipes.  Key stage 2 pupils wrote descriptive poems, sonnets and Haiku using iambic pentameters to include similes and metaphors.  Other activities included producing story boards, making animated movies, and learning about medieval life including art and music of the period.  Pupils were excited to contribute to the performance, where using this rich learning environment was a sound foundation upon which to develop their oracy.

Having successfully gained some funding and utilising some of the school’s grant funding, the school engaged the help of a professional artist.  As a result, pupils made giant puppets and props for the performance to be performed at Theatre Clwyd.  It was the aspiration of the school that future performances would be as part of a Consortium Shakespeare Festival and be performed in the amphitheatre.  The school utilised the skills and talents of staff and governors to support the production.  These included a professional actor (a governor) who worked with the pupils on the performance, and the teachers who were musicians, artists and dancers.

In order to make the Shakespearian language accessible for young learners, the school decided to perform it using rhyming couplets.  They also decided to add creative dance, compose and perform their own music and utilise the talents of pupils who were learning to play instruments to accompany the performance.

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

Developing innovative learning approaches is a key feature of the school’s practice.  The school believes that ‘making learning come alive’, engaging all pupils by catering for the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learner through practical means, has impacted well on standards and also engaged pupils who may have been reluctant to participate.  This has had particularly good results for pupils with additional learning needs, who have benefited from having opportunities to perform.  The boost to their confidence and enthusiasm for learning and reading is particularly effective.  Pupils who had been identified as struggling with anxieties overcame them by participating and performing through dance and composition.

The result of the school’s holistic approach means that learning has an experiential purpose.  It centres upon pupil voice so that pupils own and steer their learning.  

How have you shared your good practice?

Forward thinking and engagement with other schools through the sharing of practice ensure that other schools can utilise the amphitheatre and can develop an annual Shakespeare festival within the consortium.  The process and outcomes of the practice have been shared within the local community and with schools within the school’s consortium (GwE).

GwE responded:
I enjoyed the performance so much – the pupils were a credit to you and the school.  Such an enriching experience for them!  Thank you for the wealth of evidence you have sent.  This is really useful as an example of how schools can prepare for the Expressive Arts area of the new curriculum.’

Our local newspaper read:
‘It’s a prime example of the successful futures agenda and a sterling example of the excellent standards of pupils’ achievements’.

It has also been shared beyond local schools, encouraging others to become more innovative with their approaches to learning.