One of Ysgol Gynradd Parcyrhun’s most effective procedures to ensure consistency and high standards in terms of teaching is the monitoring week that it holds each term. The monitoring week has a high profile in the school’s termly calendar and is a forum to enable leaders at all levels to evaluate teaching and learning and share good practice.
Ysgol Gynradd Parcyrhun is on the outskirts of the town of Ammanford in Carmarthenshire. There are around 210 pupils on roll. The school has a Welsh language stream and an English stream, and both languages are used in the day‑to‑day life of the school. A resource centre for children with hearing impairments, which serves Carmarthenshire, is an additional part of the school. The school is divided into eight mixed-age classes in the mainstream, and one additional classroom in the resource centre for children with hearing impairments. The school employs ten full‑time teachers, including the headteacher, and two part-time teachers.
Just over 20% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.The school identifies that around 50% of pupils have additional learning needs this includes pupils who attend the resource centre.Very few pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes or ethnic minority backgrounds.
There have been no notable changes to the school’s staff since the inspection.The headteacher was appointed in January 2009, following a short period as the school’s deputy headteacher.
Strategy and action
From the outset, the headteacher had a clear vision that is based on ensuring that pupils at Ysgol Parcyrhun receive an education of the highest standard to enable them to achieve to the best of their ability. When she started working there, she realised how vital the school’s role was in providing broad and rich experiences for its pupils.
Soon after taking up the headship, the headteacher appointed the deputy headteacher, who shares her vision and works effectively with her. Together, they put in place monitoring, self-evaluation and strategic plans to enable them to identify the school’s strengths and areas for improvement. As a result, they decided that teachers’ expectations of what pupils could achieve needed to be raised, accountability procedures needed to be established and best practice in teaching needed to be consistent across the school. This case study focuses on ensuring consistency in effective teaching practice across the school.
Leaders established basic principles at an early stage to ensure that teaching was effective. These included providing effective professional learning opportunities and support for staff, and ensuring that they have appropriate resources to fulfil their roles successfully.
Procedures for monitoring and managing staff performance are now an integral part of the school’s work, and are a way of recognising good practice and identifying each individual’s development needs. Leaders arrange specific professional learning activities to address the development needs of each member of staff. They evaluate professional learning in detail and identify its effect clearly. Professional learning opportunities vary according to individual need and include activities such as attending external courses, sharing good practice within and across the school and other schools, or working with another member of staff with specific expertise.
There is a clear focus on high expectations and consistent provision across the school, particularly between the two streams. In order to ensure this and reduce the workload, teachers frequently work in pairs to plan lessons, produce resources and moderate assessments. This is a good opportunity for them to share their expertise, and support and challenge each other’s ideas.
One of the school’s most effective procedures to ensure consistency and high standards in terms of teaching is the monitoring week that it holds each term. It has a high profile in the school’s termly calendar and is a forum to enable leaders at all levels to evaluate teaching and learning and share good practice. Leaders, in consultation with teachers, agree on a specific focus for the week, for example numeracy, literacy or independent learning. Leaders arrange useful opportunities for members of staff to visit each other’s classes to observe practice and scrutinise pupils’ work. During the week, they invite governors with a specific link to a particular area to take part in learning walks. This enriches governors’ awareness of the school’s work and enables them to operate better in their strategic role.
As a result of the frequent and successful co-operation between staff, they are now very open with each other, honest in their judgements and willing to support each other to improve in order to provide the best possible education for pupils. Leaders consider the ideas of staff when introducing new strategies, which encourages ownership and enthusiasm.
In order to enrich this further, leaders have begun the practice of engaging with pupils through questionnaires. For example, survey questions ask what kind of learners they think they are, which spelling strategies work best for them and how they like to learn new computer skills.
Teachers’ practices are now effective and based on a number of educational principles that relate to the four purposes identified in Successful Futures (Donaldson, 2015). They place a clear focus on improving pupils’ literacy skills in Welsh and English, numeracy skills and ICT skills, and provide regular opportunities for them to apply them naturally across the curriculum. Lessons engage the interest of nearly all pupils and promote their thinking skills, their independence and their co-operation skills well.
Ensuring good teaching is no longer the aim in itself; it is now more about sharing and sustaining excellence.
Leaders have a clear understanding of the school’s strengths and areas for improvement. They use the information well to set appropriate priorities for the school development plan.
All of the school’s teachers are dedicated and confident in their work. They are open and honest with each other and are effective critical friends. They have high expectations of themselves and pupils, and are willing to try out new ideas. Teachers have embedded the principle of consistency across the school. They work effectively to ensure that all pupils receive the best provision possible.
Standards of pupils’ learning have improved consistently over recent years. Nearly all pupils now speak confidently about their work and discuss complex concepts confidently. They express their opinions eloquently and appreciate what the school does for them.
Next steps as identified by the school
Using its current thematic plans, the school will build on the excellent practice that exists in order to develop all of the 12 pedagogical principles from Successful Futures (Donaldson, 2015).