When Teaching Schools were first introduced there was real concern that only schools with a “traditional” form of pedagogy would be considered for this status. We appreciate that the government and Ofsted have made it clear they don’t promote one style of teaching above another. We understand that they are concerned with the end product – “attainment” – rather than a particular choice of methodology. However, the reality is that many (not all) schools that have achieved the “outstanding” judgement required for eligibility as a Teaching School have, in the main, adhered to a system of teaching and learning that is significantly focused on a more traditional approach. This usually includes clearly defined learning objectives that are known in every lesson by every pupil, stringent summative assessment systems, booster classes for those failing to reach the expected national targets and a more didactic approach to learning.
If you look at the criteria for eligibility for becoming a Teaching School they are littered with the type of language you would expect from a government that is committed to a knowledge-based approach to learning rather than a more rounded approach that embraces formative assessment, child-based pedagogy and considers all-round achievement rather than just attainment. “Accountability” “clear track record” “high levels of pupil performance” “consistently high levels of attainment” “continued improvement” are words and phrases that have usually gone hand in hand with a more traditional form of teaching but they are perfectly within the domain of a more ‘progressive’ form of pedagogy too.
This is why it’s so positive and exciting to visit a Teaching School like Wroxham Primary, where all of those stock phrases are perfectly valid and “evidenced”, yet there’s an innovative, challenging and holistic approach to learning that doesn’t mean that teachers fill their heads daily with “Raise online” attainment data, and instead concentrate on the needs of the individual learner – including themselves as learners.
The core areas of a Teaching School are;
1. to lead the development of a school-led ITT system, through School Direct and in some cases by seeking full accreditation as an ITT provider.
2. to lead peer-to-peer professional and leadership development
3. to identify and develop leadership potential
4. to provide support for other schools
5. to designate and broker specialist leaders of education (SLEs)
6. to engage in research and development activity
For more, click on this link: http://education.gov.uk/nationalcollege/docinfo?id=155296&filename=teaching-schools-eligibility-criteria.pdf and go to “open document.
Today we’re sharing some of the photographs we took on our visit to Wroxham with quotes from the book “Creative Learning Without Limits” together with a few comments from ourselves as observers. Whilst we appreciate that not every school has the physical space available at Wroxham, there’s still plenty that can be achieved in schools with more limited spaces available.
The space available is enviable but the layout is carefully planned and managed with the needs of the learner at the heart of it.
“Children develop at different rates, and they reveal different interests, strengths and dispositions at various stages of their development. One of the most important goals of schools is to provide stimulating environments for all children; environments in which children’s interest can be peaked and nurtured, with teachers who are ready to recognize, cultivate and develop the potential that children show at different times and in different areas.”
Each area of the playground has been carefully designed with full access for all children and with different places of interest.
“Tapping into the human resources of the collective . . . helped to ensure that the team offered children more engaging and authentic learning experiences.”
This fantastic music area has been made from all manner of scrap. It was built by the whole community, including parents, carers and the local secondary school.
“Putting learning first means giving priority to actions . . . and actively working to reduce and minimize states of mind that undermine their development.”
Lovely images of children enjoying reading.
“We can see that the principles guiding teachers’ decision-making closely mirror the three core principles – ‘co-agency’,‘trust’ and ‘everybody’.”
A well-resourced and aesthetically pleasing library is a joy to see when so many primary schools have lost this essential place of learning.
“I create the conditions and they do the learning.”
Clear and interactive displays are seen throughout the school where children’s enjoyment of learning is easily understood.
“Embedded in that work is the conviction that people – adults and children – can bring about dramatic changes in future patterns of learning and behaviour through their choices and actions in the present.”
A disciplined lesson where children are free to learn without limits other than clear health and safety issues. With three members of staff present, each child is enabled to learn safely.
“The model of classroom pedagogy could not be fully effective for children unless the same purposes and principles were also being applied to support the learning of staff.”
Laptops are an integral part of lessons in the school, with children learning a range of skills within one lesson – ‘challenged’ by their own will to learn.
“At the heart of formative assessment is the shift from the teacher as the giver of knowledge to someone who facilitates learning and is led by the learners.”
Classrooms at Wroxham are no larger than many standard classrooms, yet the space is used effectively to enable children to learn in a range of settings.
“The children feel invincible, as if there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
In every available space, there’s colour, places for children to sit quietly and opportunities for children to contribute to the learning environment.
“Choices increasingly reflected a view of learning as a partnership between teacher and children (co-agency).”
Simple touches, such as having the dining room called “Au Cafe” can make such a difference to how the dining area is respected and used by pupils and teachers.
“The educator creates the conditions of psychological safety without which learning is inevitably inhibited.”
Whilst appreciating that this is still the beginning of the school year, the displays are attractive, uncluttered and readily accessible as a source of learning for the pupils.
“Transforming the learning capacity of teaching staff is the condition for transforming the learning capacity of children.”
This bus was previously used as a library but is now a quiet space for reflection, conversation and mentoring.
“Openness to surprise and to previously unthought-of possibilities . . . Openness means giving up the belief that there is one right way.”
A Celtic Hut? Why not? The children wanted it, and it is now a useful space for discussion activities as well as having first hand experience of how buildings were made in the past.
“Passion arises when one’s vision of a better future is coupled with a sense of one’s own power to make it happen.”
Wroxham is fortunate to have space for a secluded and quiet woodland area – but other schools in Inner Cities have created similar places where learning can be taken outside.
“When people learn together, the power of the collective strengthens the learning capacity of each individual.”Each classroom has its own door to the playground and a space that is specifically theirs.
At Wroxham, relationships of all kinds are an integral part of learning.
“The shift from approval to trust-based acceptance as the foundation for relationships was significantly assisted, across the teaching team as a whole, by the gradual elimination of the vocabulary of differential ability.”
Even a relatively small playground can be transformed by colour. Children are integrally involved in designing and developing such spaces. The same is true for learning environments within the classroom.
“In many schools, the prevailing adult view would be that tiger suits and writing do not go together. At Wroxham, people understood that, in the child’s world, there is no discontinuity between wearing a tiger suit and writing.”
Short of space for equipment in your PE hall? How about creating a climbing wall?
“Individuals took pride in their own choices and in working things out for themselves.”
At the heart of Wroxham are shared values that everyone understands and adheres to because they want to, not as an imposed mantra.
“They are shaping a pedagogy that is underpinned not by skills, techniques, ready-made lesson plans, but by not-for-sale values.”