At Mount Pleasant Primary School, staff training sessions were used to explore ‘Successful Futures’ creatively, developing literacy, numeracy and digital competence across the curriculum. Pupils participated in cross-cutting learning activities, taking ownership of the direction of learning. All staff and pupils have taken part in creating large displays in the hall, demonstrating the areas they have been developing. As a result of this very effective team spirit, pupils have better opportunities to influence the life and work of the school.
Context and background to the effective or innovative practice
Standards in the school are good. Staff implemented a structured approach to planning to ensure coverage of the national curriculum through a three-year cycle of topics. However, the topic and themes lacked ownership from the pupils and did not ensure that pupils’ creative skills developed successfully across the curriculum.
Mount Pleasant Primary School is not a pioneer school, although staff were eager to develop and work towards the implementation of the new curriculum for Wales in the foundation phase and key stage 2. The questions that drove the development of the curriculum were:
How are we going to do this successfully?
When is the right time to start?
Who will trial the new approach?
What will the curriculum look like?
How do we know this is right?
Where can we see effective practice?
Description of nature of strategy or activity
All staff were grouped into learning teams for the six areas of learning and experience. Following a thorough self-evaluation process, these teams created an action plan with a focus on developing literacy, numeracy and digital competence across the curriculum. All plans were linked to the school’s key priorities for improvement. The aim was to ensure that curriculum teams were familiar with the approach outlined in ‘Successful Futures’ and were able to use their knowledge and understanding of this to work collaboratively with pupils to plan learning experiences.
Staff training sessions were used to explore ‘Successful Futures’. During the initial stages of development, teachers considered the four core purposes and chapter 5 of ‘Successful Futures’ and tried to link it to current effective practice. They talked and explored what it looks like to be an ambitious, capable learner, a healthy, confident individual, an enterprising, creative contributor and ethical, informed citizen. The school’s aim was to create a curriculum that was suited to the pupils at Mount Pleasant.
This process quickly evolved into a half termly reflection exercise. Staff were given the freedom to explore new topics with their pupils, and to trial ‘Wow’ days where pupils can be submerged in experiences for learning, for example by participating in a Tudor banquet or a Victorian classroom, or by dressing up as people who inspire. The aim was to explore a creative curriculum with a strong element of pupil voice. Topics quickly became creative, with pupils taking ownership of the direction of learning. Staff were asked to review curriculum links to the four core purposes half termly and reflect on skills coverage. These live documents were highlighting gaps in learning, which could be addressed when planning for the next half term.
Following research from pioneer schools, the senior leadership team created a topic web, which linked directly to the six areas of learning. This was then disseminated to all staff to trial. Staff could now begin to plan their topics with their pupils, ensuring that all areas of learning were demonstrating coverage. Leaders consider that this has been most successful in Year 6, where the class teacher uses a shared online tool so that all pupils could plan the topic according to their interests. The topic webs have evolved and developed according to the interests of the pupils. Teaching staff ensure that skills coverage is being tracked half termly. Pupils are encouraged to review topics at appropriate stages and create new areas of learning to develop.
Whole school displays have supported the development of the creative curriculum at the school. All staff and pupils have taken part in creating four large displays in the hall, which are linked to the four core purposes. On these displays, evidence is captured from every area of school life and pupils highlight the skills developed. These principles have quickly transferred to a whole school display, exemplifying the six areas of learning. Planning documentation has been amended in line with the four core purposes and staff identify how the core purposes are met. This has aided transition to a more creative curriculum that is in line with the vision of the Curriculum for Wales.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
Pupils are more engaged in their learning and have taken direct responsibility for the development of their skills. For example, topics such as ‘Our Wonderful World’ are introduced by simulating what happens when people travel through an airport during an aeroplane flight. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pJOQHFflLQ)
As a result of the very effective team spirit in the school, collaboration between staff has facilitated sharing of knowledge and understanding effectively in order to develop a creative curriculum. Pupils’ wellbeing and independence have improved, with most pupils concentrating well in class and older pupils having a mature attitude to learning. Pupils’ interest in their learning is sustained particularly well in reasoning and problem-solving activities. Learning has become thoughtful and relevant, with pupils showing a good understanding of the requirements of each area of learning and experience.
Pupils have better opportunities to influence the life and work of the school. In addition to their role in planning the curriculum, they have developed the school grounds and suggested activities that improve their entrepreneurial skills. Their work influences priorities for school improvement planning and has a positive impact on the school.
How have you shared your good practice?
The good practice at Mount Pleasant Primary School has been shared with colleagues through peer review meetings and cluster school collaboration. The school exemplifies its practice via social media. This has helped to raise the profile of a non-pioneer school working towards a successful future for its pupils the Mount Pleasant way!