A skills-based curriculum with more local contexts

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Kitchener Primary has adapted its curriculum to focus more on what pupils want to learn, using more local contexts for learning. A flexible timetable is being trialled, to enable the exploration of topics in more depth and to provide further challenge. Regular sessions with parents also help to raise awareness. This case study represents the school’s curriculum development in relation to their progress in self-evaluation, and planning and preparation.


Number of pupils: 480
Age range: 3-11

Context

Kitchener Primary School is in the Riverside area of Cardiff.  There are currently 480 pupils on roll taught in 14 single-age classes, plus a part-time nursery.

A minority of the pupils are eligible for free school meals.  The school has identified a minority of the pupils as having additional learning needs and a very few have a statement of additional learning needs.

Most of the pupils are from an ethnic minority background.  Pupils come from at least 40 different ethnic groups and speak over 27 different languages.  Many pupils receive support in English as an additional language and the majority enter the school with little or no English.  No pupils speak Welsh as a first language.

Stage 1:  Evaluating the current curriculum within wider self-evaluation arrangements

The leadership team ensures that there is a clear focus on developing a skills-based curriculum that has meaningful links across subjects and areas of learning in order to provide pupils with excellent opportunities to use their local community.  All staff share this vision.

The school’s leaders felt under pressure from the local authority initially to make changes to the curriculum.  However, they knew that their provision was good and decided to evaluate fully their current curriculum and pedagogical approach before making wholesale changes.

The school started its curriculum development journey in September 2016.  Raising standards for all pupils through developing and embedding Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015), is a priority in the school development plan.  The school planned its strategy and actions for achieving this priority carefully.  Initial responses to the recommendations of the report include:

  • forming a working party to lead on the implementation of the new curriculum
  • evaluating pedagogy to identify next steps
  • improving teachers’ planning, delivery and assessment of digital competency skills
  • developing the school’s provision for the social and emotional aspects of wellbeing through a school-to-school collaboration project
  • forming a sustainable working partnership with a local pioneer school
  • enhancing enterprise activities for pupils in Year 5 and Year 6 to help them become enterprising and creative contributors

The school’s challenge adviser led a whole staff development day on Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015), in September 2016.  As part of the day, staff agreed a list of new actions that needed to be initiated as well as current practice that needed to stop. 

Staff agreed to start:

  • focusing more on what pupils wanted to learn
  • using more local contexts for learning and asking pupils about the context they would like to learn through
  • ensuring that links across subjects were always meaningful
  • incorporating digital competencies more thoroughly across all areas
  • moving towards a daily timetable that would allow flexibility if pupils wanted to learn more about a topic

Staff decided to stop:

  • trying to do and cover too much in lessons
  • forcing cross curricular links just for the sake of coverage
  • using prescribed contexts for learning
  • marking excessively
  • teaching standalone lessons that were not part of an agreed set of activities that developed skills progressively

Stage 2:  Planning for change

In October 2016, the deputy headteacher established a working party to lead on the implementation of the new curriculum.  The first task of the group was to evaluate the strengths of the school’s current curriculum and pedagogical approaches as outlined in chapter 5 of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015).  As result of the group’s work, the school addresses curriculum change in several ways.

Organisation of the school day

A foundation phase leader is trialling the immersion approach to learning.  Mondays have a pure literacy focus and Tuesdays focus on mathematical development.  During the rest of the week, pupils apply the skills taught on Mondays and Tuesdays through mini projects.  In addition, a 30 minute phonic session and a 30 minute mental maths session take place every day.

One teacher in key stage 2 is trialling a flexible timetable, extending lessons and rolling them into the next few days if pupils want to explore a topic in more depth or if they choose to challenge themselves further. 

Pupil voice

A few staff and pupils have joined the Young Evaluators Project.  Staff have received external training on how to run the project.  Pupils met with pupils from other schools to share ideas and learn about research skills. 

The project gives pupils a real voice as the school begins to shape its new curriculum.  The young evaluators at Kitchener Primary School have researched ideas on how best to combine digital communication and literacy in lessons.  They have carried out surveys of staff and pupils and fed back their analysis and suggestions via a focus group.

The young evaluators have a good knowledge of the principles of Successful Futures, (Donaldson, 2015), and agree that combining subjects makes their lessons and projects more enjoyable and meaningful. 

One teacher in key stage 2 is trialling a new planning format that provides opportunities for pupils to shape the course of their lessons and projects.  The teacher shares the topic objectives with pupils as well as the skills that pupils need to apply over the series of lessons.  The pupils then decide on the context they would like to learn through.  For example, pupils in Year 5 learning about how and where a river starts may choose to study through the context of their local river. 

Working with other schools

The school is involved in a few task and finish groups to research aspects of the curriculum.  One teacher in the foundation phase is working as part of a wider group, researching how the school environment best supports the social and emotional literacy strand of the health and wellbeing area of learning.

Two teachers in key stage 2 have attended training sessions with other schools to develop their understanding of how best to support pupils to become enterprising and creative contributors.  The school’s enterprise fortnight provides pupils with enhanced opportunities to connect and apply their knowledge and skills to create ideas and products and to take varied roles within teams. 

Staff take a lead role in the work of the school improvement group.  One member of staff is working on a project to develop mathematical language through computer simulations.  Pupils talk enthusiastically about how using ICT has helped them to learn about and understand area and perimeter.

The digital competence framework

The school’s ICT co-ordinator has delivered two whole staff learning days on the digital competency framework.  All staff now have a good awareness of the framework and their responsibility for teaching the competencies.  Staff have taken part in ‘Bring and Brag’ sessions to share their pupils’ work and learn from and with each other.  Teachers in reception and Year 3 are trialling a new planning format to ensure coverage of the framework.  These year groups are also trialling mapping digital skills through rich tasks. 

Raising parental awareness of the new curriculum

The school keeps parents well informed about curriculum changes and developments in teaching and learning.  It holds regular ‘mums and dads in school’ days.  In autumn 2016, the school invited parents to school to learn about the new curriculum.  In spring 2017, the parents’ session focused on the digital competency framework.  Staff helped parents to understand how they could support their children’s learning through the Welsh Government’s digital learning platform, HWB.  Parental attendance at these sessions is good.

Links:  http://www.kitchenerprimaryschool.com/