Teachers work together to ensure strategies develop learners’ core skills

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Ysgol Abercaseg has consistently high standards as a result of continuous self-evaluation activities. The school has developed strong strategies to support their learners, and teachers have worked together to make sure learners’ welfare and well-being are a priority. This has resulted in high standards, developing learners’ core skills and in particular, numeracy.

Number of pupils: 144
Age range: 3-7
Date of inspection: February 2018

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

The school is recognised as a foundation phase school and its procedures are based firmly on the philosophy and principles of that phase.  Standards are consistently high, in particular the number of pupils who attain the higher outcome (outcome 6).  A strong priority is given to each learner’s welfare and wellbeing.

The start of the process was that the result of self-evaluation activities identified the need to develop challenging tasks in the outdoor areas, and incorporate cross-curricular skills in the continuous provision areas.  This has been a priority in the school development plan for some years.

The physical area, both inside and outside the classrooms, has now been planned purposefully.  This provides rich experiences for active and experiential learning in areas, which promotes working independently. 

The aim is to provide a level of challenge that is as high as in the focus tasks.  The same detailed attention is given to planning challenging tasks in the continuous provision, with a focus on cross-curricular tasks in order to nurture pupils’ literacy, numeracy and ICT skills.  The school aims to develop confident and comfortable learners in all aspects, for example by showing ‘real-life’ opportunities to use literacy, numeracy and ICT together, rather than in separate situations.

By acting on priorities and information that derives from monitoring and various self-evaluation activities, staff work together to ensure consistency in a number of factors that have an effect on provision and standards.  At the heart of each change is a desire and passion to create a whole-school mindset.  Therefore, making sure that the robust principles of the foundation phase in the nursery and reception class are developed further in Years 1 and 2 is an important starting point.  With the appointment of new members of staff, ensuring that all staff have a sound understanding of the foundation phase principles was vital, and various training was organised in order to develop the early years teaching mindset.  There was also a firm focus on developing staff to respond to the expectations of the outcomes of the foundation phase framework’s programmes of study in Years 1 and 2.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Some practices that affect independence and numeracy skills in particular are:

  • Teachers and staff plan themes jointly in regular meetings in order to outline skills and clear learning objectives, and respond to them by planning interesting and rich tasks that correspond to the expectations of the highest outcomes.

  • Planning jointly to ensure that there is no repetition of tasks with a low level of challenge.

  • Teachers in all classes keep the profile of one higher-level child for each outcome.All tasks in the profiles have been assessed in line with expected outcomes for oracy, reading, writing and mathematics.This enables staff to refine and adapt plans in order to provide opportunities for learners to attain the high outcomes consistently.

  • Demanding consistency from one class to the next, for example by using the ‘Sali Seren’ method for setting criteria and assessment for learning from the nursery class onwards, and using the same strategies to teach mathematical concepts in each class.Also, refining the methods and timing of teaching mental mathematics by sharing good practice within the school.

  • Ensuring that staff use the same phraseology during assessment for learning.Modelling pedagogical language, ‘How do you learn best?’, ‘How do we improve the work?’, ‘Why don’t we assess the work together?’, ‘How can you make Sali Seren happy?’

  • While planning the areas, practices were refined by providing cross-curricular tasks to be implemented and problem-solving opportunities, which included applying numeracy in all areas, including the outdoor area.The challenges are as challenging and cross-curricular in the outdoor areas as they are in focus tasks.

  • Conducting regular learning walks.Numeracy walks, in particular, provide opportunities for teachers to explain the purpose of each area and which skills are developed in them, which leads to discussions and sharing good practice.It identifies strengths and areas for development.

  • Tasks provide regular opportunities for active and experiential learning.

  • Adapting areas regularly in order to apply challenging mathematical concepts, which are differentiated at an appropriate level to stretch all ability levels.

  • A team of dedicated assistants have been trained and included in strategies, and challenges/tasks are set in all areas and are visible to all, for example as pictures and symbols in the nursery and reception class in order for learners to be able to work independently in the areas.

  • Placing value on opportunities for each child to have strong voice in their learning, which leads to a positive attitude and perseverance as they succeed.

  • Provision for each child’s wellbeing provides the best possible opportunity for them to learn to the best of their ability as they are happy and safe at school.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Following lesson observations with a focus on numeracy, here are some comments from the process:

  • ‘Collaborative work is very effective in nearly all lessons, and notable practices show very effective pair and group work by many children.Excellent practice was seen by pairs helping each other to improve and correct their work regularly, and this is obviously a natural part of the learning procedure and ethos.’

  • ‘Nearly all pupils are full of enthusiasm when working on tasks.’

  • ‘Most were given an opportunity to improve their work.In the best practices, opportunities to reinforce and improve learning happen regularly throughout the lesson against the success criteria.’

  • ‘Imaginative development of numeracy, literacy, physical and ICT skills was seen in the outdoor area – the effect of acting on the priority to “develop the outdoor area” in the school development plan.’

  • ‘In the best practice, opportunities and planning specifically for self-evaluation and judging success have a great effect on standards.In nearly all lessons, pupils were given good opportunities for self-assessment.’

  • ‘Opportunities to reflect are part of lesson plans, and this is good practice.’

  • ‘There were good and very good opportunities for nearly everyone to work independently – at their best, tasks promoted varied and challenging independent work.Promoting independent working is an extremely strong feature in nearly all lessons.’

  • ‘Most pupils are able to explain tasks very well.’

How have you shared your good practice?

Sharing good practice:

  • During 2016-2017, over 30 staff were welcomed from different schools in the north region to receive numeracy training on the school grounds.There was a presentation and learning walks to the classrooms to see pupils working in the areas.

  • Book scrutiny sessions were organised with a number of schools, including the GwE challenge group schools, in order to share ideas on how to plan challenging, stretching tasks.

  • Staff from schools within the authority were welcomed to discuss the systems for planning each class’s higher-level profile and their use to monitor challenging cross-curricular tasks and show high expectations.

  • Samples of Year 2 profiles and books are usually used in GwE training.

Links: www.ysgolabercaseg.org