Cornist Park Primary increases pupil creativity, self-esteem and motivation by regular evaluation of the teachers’ approach to pedagogy and exploring new ways of learning. This case study represents the school’s curriculum development in relation to their progress in self-evaluation, planning and preparation, realising change and evaluating change.
Cornist Park Community Primary School is in Flint. There are currently 325 pupils on roll, including approximately 40 in the nursery class. There are 11 mixed-age classes at the school. Around 15% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.
The school has around 17% of pupils have additional learning needs. A very few pupils have a statement of additional learning needs. A very few pupils speak Welsh at home, come from ethnic minority backgrounds or receive support for English as an additional language.
Stage 1: Evaluating the current curriculum within wider self-evaluation arrangements
The school audited its current curriculum provision to evaluate strengths and areas for improvement. In particular, the school considered how well its curriculum and pedagogy matched the four purposes and areas of learning and experience (AoLE) set out in Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015)
School leaders ensured that staff and governors were involved in evaluating the curriculum via curriculum committee meetings and training days. The school’s self evaluation work identified notable strengths.
- a thematic approach to curriculum planning and delivery
- the effective use of pupil voice in planning learning experiences
- provision to develop pupils’ thinking and collaborative learning skills
- the successful use of assessment for learning strategies
The school also identified that it was successful in developing a ‘can do’ attitude in pupils, helping them to become confident and ambitious young people. Leaders found that pupils were not afraid to make mistakes and prepared to take risks, with adult support.
Overall, self-evaluation activity showed that the school had many building blocks for the new curriculum in place and that it was in a very positive position to introduce further changes in light of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015).
The school identified areas for development through a planning audit. These included the need to improve provision for the expressive arts. The school used this information to plan for further improvement.
Stage 2: Planning and preparing for change
The less well-developed aspects of provision became the focus of ‘creative curriculum weeks’. The school wanted to provide better opportunities for pupils to use creative talents and skills such as dance, drama and music throughout the year. The school conducted a trial of themed weeks on topics such as ‘multi-cultural week’ and ‘Healthy Schools’ week’. Teams of teachers planned the weeks under the headings of the AoLE. They looked for opportunities to develop a full range of skills across the AoLE and made effective links between the areas of learning within engaging contexts.
Teachers now plan using the areas of learning and experience as headings whilst ensuring that literacy, numeracy and digital competence remain at the core of planning. They are more familiar and confident with the AoLE and are thinking more consciously about how to maximise learning opportunities.
The school places a high priority on regular and effective communication whilst planning for change. Senior leaders keep stakeholders informed of developments. They adopt a positive and enthusiastic approach, reassuring staff that measured risk taking is acceptable and a requirement when implementing change. They encourage staff to be ‘ambitious, capable, ethical, healthy, competent, enterprising and creative contributors’.
To date, leaders have allocated staff with training time meeting time to become familiar with ‘Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015) and to audit current practices alongside its recommendations. These meetings create valuable opportunities to share best practice ‘in house’, for example through collaborative team meetings. Staff access training offered by the regional consortium and local education authority. There are regular visits to and from others schools to share good practice and ideas around implementing change to a more innovative curriculum.
Older pupils are aware of the Professor Donaldson’s report and of a few implications that this has for their learning. The school provides them with valuable opportunities to work in accordance with the four purposes. Pupils receive worthwhile opportunities to be creative and to use digital technology to enhance their classroom experiences and understanding. They understand the need to use and develop their literacy and numeracy skills across the curriculum and that it is important to have goals and big ambitions to do their best.
Governors attend curriculum committee meetings to gain a sound understanding of national developments in relation to curriculum development. They are aware of the targets within the school development plan and of how these relate to Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015).
Stage 3: Realising change
The school’s self-evaluation and preparatory work has enabled them to implement curriculum change smoothly and to good effect. Initially the school addressed areas of weakness or gaps in the AoLE by planning creative curriculum weeks. The school now ensures that day-to-day teaching and learning maintain a consistent focus on the aims of the new curriculum. Teachers plan the curriculum thematically across the AoLE, with explicit links to the Foundation Phase Framework, the National Curriculum, the Literacy and Numeracy Framework and the Digital Competence Framework. As a result, pupils have frequent and well-planned opportunities to develop, extend and apply their skills across all areas of learning.
Teachers use specific strategies to develop essential skills and behaviours in pupils, for example to improve reading skills and aspects of wellbeing such as behaviour and healthy relationships. The effective use of digital learning experiences and of ‘forest school’ has improved learner motivation, engagement and standards.
Parents across the school have also had the opportunity to come into classes for ‘share the learning’ mornings. This is an opportunity for class teachers to demonstrate thematic learning approaches through a wide variety of subject areas.
Stage 4: Evaluating change
The school operates a consistent cycle of evaluate, review, monitor and change. Targets for whole-school development are set in three core areas of literacy, numeracy and digital competence as the drivers of the new curriculum. Leaders evaluate the impact of improvements by focusing on pupil performance against specific targets attached to each area. These areas also become the focus for performance management, lesson observations and work scrutiny.
A specific example of change that has already improved standards is digital learning, which has demonstrated improved ICT competencies, has enriched the literacy and numeracy opportunities, and has increased pupil creativity, self-esteem and motivation. Another example, Reading Power, has enabled the pupils to develop more meaningful responses to what they read, providing strategies to explore texts in more depth and with deeper understanding.