Information about the school
Ysgol y Wern is situated in the Llanishen area in the north of Cardiff. Welsh is the main medium of the school’s life and work. There are 601 pupils between 3 and 11 years old in 21 classes. Over a period of three years, slightly more than 5% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. Twenty-eight per cent (28%) of pupils speak Welsh at home and very few are from ethnic minority backgrounds. The school has identified 21% of its pupils as having additional learning needs.
Context and background to effective or innovative practice
Following the publication of ‘Successful Futures’, namely the developments for the new curriculum in Wales, Ysgol y Wern revisited the learning contexts and considered carefully whether they reflected the four purposes of the new curriculum. The purpose of this was to develop a creative and innovative curriculum that would succeed in engaging all learners’ interest. As a school, leaders and staff were keen to foster innovation by nurturing flexibility to achieve in more creative ways that engaged pupils’ interests. School leaders encourage and support staff to trial new ideas in their classes. When reviewing the contexts, the school identified that the greatest challenge was to ensure that rich experiences stimulate pupils’ interest and continue to develop their skills. Teachers now plan for cross-curricular themes that interweave literacy, numeracy, ICT and digital skills regularly and purposefully.
Description of the nature of the strategy or activity
Through a thematic method of learning, the school ensures that pupils are given regular opportunities to develop their literacy, numeracy, ICT and digital skills. By working with Cymdeithas Ysgolion dros Addysg Gymraeg (CYDAG) to develop a project relating to the weather, Year 6 teachers planned a range of ambitious activities that applied innovative techniques. The school invested in an electronic weather station, where pupils were able to collect live data each day by using an app. This was a golden opportunity to develop their numeracy skills by analysing data over a period of time. In order to develop this further, the school took advantage of the opportunity to forge a relationship with a school in a contrasting location, and weather data was shared between the two schools. As a result, the mean temperature and rainfall at both schools were compared over a period of time. Using ICT in this way engaged pupils’ interest, particularly as the data was relevant to them. Teachers plan the start of their lessons effectively and in detail in order to stimulate discussion. The statement that was given at the beginning of this lesson was ‘Gwynedd has had a harsher winter than Cardiff’. This developed pupils’ thinking skills and led them to become independent learners.
The project was used to develop various literacy skills. Pupils looked at the process of creating weather forecasts from ‘script to screen’. In order to make the experience relevant to their daily lives, the exact steps that are used by the media were followed. When accessing live data about the weather from a variety of sources, their forecasts were planned in detail by considering the temperature, rainfall and wind force. Assessment for learning strategies were used when modelling two examples of weather forecasts. One was a good quality weather forecast and the other was excellent, in order for pupils to set success criteria for this kind of writing. This led to written work of a high standard, as pupils had set success criteria jointly and understood the language features of a weather bulletin. The outcome of the work was that pupils presented their forecasts individually in front of an electronic green screen. As everyone fulfilled a specific role during filming, from presenting to directing, their oracy skills were developed in addition to their ICT and interpersonal skills. Their presentations were refined as the ‘executive producer’ and the rest of the crew assessed their oracy skills before the final recording. Providing an innovative learning experience such as this, which encompassed all skills, enabled all learners to be ambitious, confident and knowledgeable.
What effect has this work had on provision and pupils’ standards?
Providing rich experiences such as these are an opportunity to challenge pupils as they develop as independent learners. By ensuring that teaching is creative and responsive, pupils make links with real-life situations, and therefore it is meaningful and purposeful. Rich projects such as these have had a positive effect on pupils’ oral, writing and digital skills, which will prepare them well for the future.