Taking a leap of faith…

Taking a leap of faith…

Currently, the teaching profession is experiencing a period of significant change, with a new curriculum that is in its infancy, the removal of assessment levels, the introduction of a new SEND code of practice, the reduction in capacity of Local Authorities to offer support and the growing pressure on schools to deliver more and more services to their communities. For schools, there are so many decisions to make and often choosing the right one is not an easy task. Over the last few years we have worked really hard at Unsworth to think about and prepare ourselves for all the changes that we knew were coming our way, but also to develop a mind-set that change is something to embrace, as we don’t know what is around the corner. As a staff we have come to see change as an opportunity, as a necessary part of developing our provision for our children and as something that allows us to grow in our pursuit of providing the best possible education. Our children live in an ever evolving, fast paced society, where each and every day brings new challenges or uncovers new learning. On one hand, to prepare children for a future that we can’t yet see is such a difficult task, as how do we know if the latest trends and ideas are going to stay or what if we try something and it doesn’t work out? Consider this though, 5 years ago we decided as a school to write our own “Unsworth Curriculum”, where we sat together and thought about what we wanted children at Unsworth to experience from the minute they walked in the door in Reception to when they walked out of the door at the end of year 6. This enquiry curriculum was built by staff and has evolved each and every year, as we have learnt about how our children learn best, as we have developed our own knowledge and understanding of curriculum subjects and as we have reflected on the things that have been successful and the things that haven’t worked. All the way along we have stuck to our principles that the way we teach our children is bespoke to their needs. They are always at the centre of everything and when we reflect on the way in which we do things we always take it right back to whether or not it makes a positive impact on our children’s learning. Most of the time we have to make decisions about the way we do things, without knowing exactly what will happen or the effect it might have, but it is these leaps of faith that have moved Unsworth forward and enhanced the way in which our children access our curriculum. Some good examples of this would be the fact that as a school we rarely use whole class teaching, but instead teach groups of children across lessons, to ensure that children are instantly hooked into their learning, get regular personalised feedback and have every opportunity to develop their skills from their point in the curriculum. For us this approach started 8 years ago and looking back to when it started, it has truly transformed the way in which our children learn and the way in which we teach. At the time, it was bold and there were many outside the school who considered it to be a risk, but...

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The Evolution of Learning

The Evolution of Learning

When we think of evolution we often think first of Charles Darwin and his work around the process by which different organisms are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth. It’s interesting through to consider the fact that evolution means the “gradual development of something.” I have been lucky enough over the past few weeks to work with a range of different practitioners, who have got me thinking about how learning has changed and is changing. This year I have been working with Bury NQT’s (Newly Qualified Teachers) to develop their knowledge and understanding about what good teaching is. This involves planning and delivering training sessions where we unpick the theory behind teaching and look at what good practice is. While I was with Bury NQT’s on Thursday, we had the opportunity to go on a learning walk around St John with St Marks Primary School and observe a range of lessons. Visiting another school is always a privilege because it is an opportunity to see how learning and learners are being developed. It was wonderful to see how the children were at the centre of the learning experience and it confirmed for me the importance of listening to learners and developing approaches in school to make learning accessible to all. Through my discussions with other teachers, I always find that I learn something new or think about something in a different way, which is why collaboration between schools is so important. All of us are learners and learn best from each other. As a school we have been developing this idea through our collaborations with other schools. You will have probably read recently through our blogs, about the variety of different visitors we have had to school and how these visitors help us to develop our thinking further. Linked with this are our visits to other schools, where we get opportunities to see other practitioners, reflect on different learning environments, look at children’s books and participate in learning in different classrooms. These types of experiences are the ways in which we evolve at Unsworth and how we advance our own understanding of learning. Today I spent a morning at Yesoiday Hatorah School in Prestwich, which is a school I have been working with over the past 18 months. Within the school I have been sharing the work Unsworth have done on assessment and helping the school to develop its own approach through discussing the National picture. It was great to see the work the school has done so far following on from my earlier visits. It further strengthened my belief in the importance of school to school support, where practitioners have professional dialogue about their schools and where they need to go next. My session today provided staff at the school with an opportunity to look through a range of children’s work from Unsworth and a chance for me to discuss what learning is like for our children. I was delighted to hear how impressed the school was with the quality of our children’s work and how inspired the staff felt to develop further the learning experience for children within their own setting.  For me, the school I visited has started to evolve and it is lovely to think that through the evolution of learning at Unsworth, learning in other places is evolving...

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What is success?

What is success?

As a school we are always thinking about success and what that looks like for our children, staff, parents and governors. Throughout our daily practice we talk to children about being successful learners and developing their personal best across the curriculum and it is always so interesting to gather different individuals thoughts on what  “success” is. We often think of success as something we see as an end product or achievement of a specific goal, which are clearly markers of success, but what interests me is the daily successes that happen in each and ever classroom, in the playground, down the corridors and in the hall throughout each and everyday. For me success is about the development of learning, however small or large. Its about the engagement in dialogue between children and adults about what it is to be not just a great learner, but a great facilitator of learning. Education is an ever changing world and rightly so, when we think of the fact that our youngest children will probably have jobs or careers in things that haven’t been invented yet. Success comes from feeling safe, comfortable, valued and believed in. Through developing a curriculum that engages our children, sparks their imaginations and creates memorable experiences, our children are provided with an environment in which they can thrive as learners. This week we have had a large number of different visitors to our school, who have helped us to think about a range of different successes. Two Head teacher’s from different schools in Bury spent a great deal of time visiting classrooms, talking to children, looking at books, looking at displays and walking around our school. They spent time talking with staff and governors  to really unpick what we have developed and to give us their views on our school. They saw success everywhere they went in how our whole community demonstrated through their actions, words and attitudes our school vision of “Together We Build Understanding” A range of teachers from across both primary and secondary schools in Bury, who have been working with myself and another Deputy Head teacher from Tottington Primary on “The Outstanding Teacher Programme” had their final session as a group and considered what it takes to be a really successful classroom practitioner. We invited some of our children along to give their opinions about what a great teacher is and it was a privilege to sit and listen to pupils from year 4 talk with such confidence about what they look for from the adults that work alongside them. In my blog last week I talked about “Listening to Learners” and it is so important that we all see ourselves as learners. There is always something new to be learnt and the groups of teachers I have been working with demonstrated how through listening to others and making small changes to the way we do things, success is guaranteed. Success is so much more than a simple outcome. It’s the feeling of pride and sense of achievement that comes from how we develop our thinking. This week, we have had some fantastic feedback about our school. As a school, we enjoy opportunities to open ourselves up and share where we are up to. There are always things to develop and areas we need to focus on, but for me success is...

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Listening to Learners

Listening to Learners

The primary classroom is a busy place and there is often so much to do that it can be easy to often spend little time taking a step back to appreciate how much learning has happened in such a small space of time. This week I decided to put in some time within class to reflect on what has been achieved so far in year 2. Children are the greatest critics of their own work and indeed their own learning, so my thinking on Monday and Wednesday was to provide children with time to look at their books with a critical eye and consider how their learning is progressing across all aspects of the curriculum. Year 2 and I talk all the time about their books being like windows to their learning and year 2 will rightly say that out of a window we like a nice view! With this is mind the children took time on Monday and Wednesday to look through their “windows”. As the room filled with the sounds of turning pages, another sound started to silently sweep across the room. On every table I started to hear conversations about presentation, about writing stamina, comparisons of earlier pages to later pages. Children began to compare their books to their peers and as these exchanges took place, the children praised each other for how much their work was changing. As I listened to all these different conversations, I noticed that as children looked at some pages, their facial expressions appeared disappointed or nervous and I asked children what the reasons were. I was so impressed that children answered by picking out the areas that they needed to develop and also it was lovely to hear them say things like “Well I don’t think I tried my best on this piece of work, but if you look here you can see I have started to…” The children enjoyed spending time carrying out their own work scrutiny and they were able to pick out for themselves different areas that they need to focus on. For me, it was their celebrations of how far they have come that was such a powerful outcome of their time with their “learning windows” Listening to the learners in the classroom is so important and taking time to hear about how they feel about different activities, tasks and experiences, allows me as the teacher an opportunity to design learning that moves children onto their next steps. In maths this week I have been giving the children opportunities to choose their own level of challenge. This means that learners can decide where they feel they need to  start a task, so some children may feel that they want to do some simpler practice questions before they move onto a puzzle or problem that needs more unpicking. Other children may feel confident with an aspect of maths, so go straight for the problem or puzzle. It was really good to see that children picked the right level of challenge for them and on talking to the children, it was clear that they felt in control of their own learning and felt that they had ownership. One child said that he liked choosing the level of challenge because he could work at his own pace and on receiving feedback,...

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