What the resource is
This resource is a video produced by Teachers TV which focuses on attainment and inclusion in primary schools. The video demonstrates this focus through a case study at Highlands Primary School which is in the London Borough of Redbridge.
The aims of the resource
The resource aims to demonstrate how attainment can be raised and inclusion facilitated at a Primary School level through a ‘learning to learn' approach
Key findings or focus
This resource is a video produced by Teachers TV which is about 13 minutes in length. The resource aims to demonstrate how attainment can be raised and inclusion facilitated at primary school Level. It is delivered through the exploration of a case study scenario set in Highlands Primary School in the London Borough of Redbridge which caters for 700 children from Nursery age to Year 6 including refugee children and children who do not speak English as a first language.
The case study exemplifies how well conducted research can be used effectively within schools to enable educators to reflect on practice, identify and assess need, implement new strategies and assess impact.
This model is particularly effective when, as the case study illustrates, a whole school approach is implemented taking a participatory stance which involves the pupil at the heart the process.
The approach was initiated by Melanie Foster, the SEN Advisor for the London Borough of Redbridge who believes that when you get education right for children with SEN you get it right for everyone. This clear philosophy was central to the project and set inclusion at the top of the agenda. Melanie offered the project to all primary schools in the London Borough of Redbridge and the resource focuses on how this was implemented within Highlands Primary School.
The project adopted an action research approach which clearly demonstrated and identified:
- The need for an alternative approach
- The approach taken
- Key stakeholders and collaborators within the project
- The impact of the approach
- The period of reflection
As a starting point, Highlands Primary School noted that they were experiencing difficulties in pupil attainment. They demonstrated a broad understanding of individual need, noting that in addition to pupils with SEN, English as a second language, long term sickness and attendance issues, there were also children for whom there appeared to be no obvious reason for their poor progress. From this starting point they made a decision to construct a robust baseline for each individual child, gathering data to inform their decisions but importantly doing so with the aim of capturing good practice within schools as opposed to highlighting difficulties.
Within this process they not only collaborated with external organisations such as London University's Institute of Education but also involved the pupils as key stakeholders in the change process. Children's views were essential to shaping the project so that documenting what they considered was necessary to support their learning and help them learn better was a key component of the data gathering process. Ensuring individuals feel valued within such processes is often a significant predictor of success. Central to this success was an open and honest approach where the whole school were involved in the project. Class teachers gathered data with regards to children who were not achieving as anticipated and then shared this information with the inclusion team who worked with particular groups of children to address these difficulties. Importantly, these issues and difficulties were viewed holistically, considering all contributing factors, such as patterns of curriculum delivery, and not merely the child in isolation.
Reflection on the process helped the school to streamline the labour intensive way that data needed to be collected so that this was more manageable in the second year.
The approach taken changed the emphasis from teaching to learning; the project subsequently being called ‘Learning to Learn' with the mantra ‘We can if....' Key components of this new approach included ways to enable pupils to be involved in their learning, have a greater understanding of what would be delivered over the coming term (The Big Picture) and at a classroom level understand what they were learning (WALT: We Are Learning To...) and what their class teacher was looking for (WILF: What I'm Looking For). This gave the children a much clear picture of what they needed to do in order to achieve and engaged them in the learning process. This approach was implemented from the very earliest opportunity in the Nursery phase right through to Year 6, being delivered in an age appropriate manner. Pupils were placed in groups called ‘Prides' which provided a year long relationship with pupils carefully selected to optimise their individual strengths within the group. Although the video doesn't give an explanation as to why the groups were called Prides, its very name has positive connotations and fosters a sense of belonging. Working within the Pride, pupils were seen to become more autonomous and self directed, with emotional literacy developing alongside.
The approach also incorporated Brain Gym ®. Although Brain Gym ® has received some criticism, some elements incorporated into the approach delivered at Highlands Primary School can be seen to be working on a number of levels, not least as an exercise which transcends the language barrier.
Other culturally sensitive components of the curriculum were introduced. Music lessons, for example, gave opportunities for orchestra, sitar group and African drumming. This reinforces the emphasis on the pupil as an individual.
Similarly, opportunities to learn are not restricted to the traditional classroom environment. Learning for children new to the UK is contextualised through out of school experiences enabling pupils to gain a more holistic perspective of the use of language beyond that utilised in an academic context. This group is called the Tuesday Club - again a name which bears no resemblance to its purpose, thus providing opportunities to learn which prevent stigmatisation and encourage confidence building.
The video concludes with the voices of the pupils who reflect on the school as a whole community, echoing the sentiments which permeate the process and which have been articulated throughout the resource by the educational professionals.
Whilst the impact of this approach is evident throughout the video, viewers of the resource who would like the outcomes to be more clearly articulated can do so by accessing another Teachers TV video entitled Primary Management: Attainment & Inclusion - lessons learned (please see link below).
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource
Whilst this resource focuses on what can be achieved through an initiative which is externally driven, the messages it conveys in terms of identifying areas for change, implementing strategies, monitoring and reflecting on change and considering the impact of that change, provides an excellent model to address a wide number of issues, not only within primary but also secondary schools. The credibility of this video as a resource lies not only in its clear achievement for improving pupil attainment and for facilitating inclusion but for the manner in which this was achieved. The approach adopted a positive perspective throughout celebrating diversity, individual skills and talents whilst capitalising on these to develop the learning opportunities of pupils.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors
This resource could be used by tutors and mentors to:
- Consider what we mean by celebrating diversity?
- Consider the relevance of educational research in practice
- Explore the importance of pupil voice
- Consider the core components of effective change management
- Consider what constitutes ‘inclusion' and how we can make this happen
- Consider the relationship between difficulties ‘within the child' and their interplay with the environment
- Consider the basis for, and credibility of, interventions such as Brain Gym.
The relevance to ITE students
ITE students will find this resource engaging and easily accessible. It is short enough to incorporate into a teaching session and covers a wide range of topics which can be used as a platform for further discussion. The case study has important learning points for the ITE student in relation to inclusion, diversity, attainment and how these can be achieved in a ‘real life' situation. Throughout the case study we can clearly see how Highlands Primary School have identified the problem and addressed the same. The ability for ITE students to be able to identify and manage similar problems, to be able to take appropriate action and monitor change are crucial elements of their own learning journey.
Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2004) Removing Barriers to Achievement: The Government's Stragety for SEN. London: DfES
Hyatt, K.J. (2007) Brain Gym ®: building stronger brains or wishful thinking? Remedial and Special Education, 28 (2), 117-124
Weisberg, D.S., Keil, F.C., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E & Gray, J.R. (2008) The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol 20 (3), 470 - 477