Scartho Junior Academy
- As a school, our key aim is to ‘Develop a Lifelong Love of Learning’. We want all of our children to have a burning desire to want to come to school and to enable them to have experiences (and learning) that live with them for a lifetime. Consequently, we have always taken an immense pride in the curriculum that we provide for all of our children. However, I had started to look at the learning that was taking place and to consider ways that it could evolve.
I first heard Carl Jarvis talk about REAL Projects and the learning eco-system through an immersive approach to learning in March 2015 when he was facilitating a day of ‘Primary Turnaround’ in Manchester. As he spoke with the group, the key area that I tuned into was the conditions we need to develop in our school to enable all children to learn and to succeed beyond their mis-predicted potential. As he continued to speak, he started to talk about the importance of developing a culture of learning within a school. At Scartho Junior Academy we had spent a number of years developing our approach to learning through our ‘Learning Skills’ and ‘ 10 Promises’. With all this in mind, I arranged for Carl to come and facilitate a training day to all staff on how children learn. Initially, this was the key focus as I did not know that much about REAL Projects or a flexible learning eco-system through an immersive learning approach. As the day progressed, the more Carl talked about what learning was like at Hartsholme Academy, and how engaged and involved the children were, the more I came to realise that this was how I would like learning to evolve in our school. As well this, there were a number of other key areas that further convinced me.
- the rigour that goes into this approach and the planning associated with it;
- how important it was to value your staff and how important it was for them to be fully involved in the journey;
- how REAL Projects and the learning eco-system through an immersive learning approach were not a product or ‘thing’ that you could just buy. It was not about copying or lifting it out of Hartsholme Academy or through EOS and slotting it into your own school – it was a different way of thinking – a different design;
- the key principles – particularly around everything having an authentic, adult world outcome which has value and longevity and impacts on the community or the wider world.
Like all schools, we have got great children who are motivated and are on the path to becoming great learners and a staff team that are hard-working, dedicated and devote a huge amount of time to developing amazing learning experiences for every child in our school. After listening to Carl, I was absolutely convinced that the approach to learning that he had developed was how I wanted my school to evolve. Little did I know of the amazing journey that my staff, children and I were to embark upon and how it would develop in such a short space of time!
I have never been particularly good at developing a long-term and detailed School Development Plan. It is not that I do not have a vision and clarity of thought of where learning is moving to in my school. Like most of us, I used to write a school development/improvement plan at the end of an academic year for the following year. Over the years that I have done this, I have found that as the year progressed the SDP/SIP had things added to it that I did not know I was actually going to be doing when I had originally written it!
Our journey started in the Summer of 2015. I presented to all the staff what I had heard from Carl and the direction we could potentially go in. During June 2015, my Deputy Head went to a CPD Day that was facilitated by EOS Education at Hartsholme Academy. She came back with a very positive picture of what she had seen and as a result we embarked on planning our first REAL Project and developing ‘immersive learning’ environments within our school. These were planned during the Summer Term in preparation for the Autumn Term. During the rest of the term, I did some more reading around this approach, spoke to the core EOS Education team and sent some key members of staff to Hartsholme Academy on the EOS Education Open Mornings. At the beginning of the Autumn Term, prior to the children returning, we began to immerse classrooms but primarily focused on fully immersing our communal corridors, a key area that we have come to be very proud of. The development of this was helped by knowing that Carl was coming to present a full training day during September 2015! The day that Carl presented was met with an array of amazingly positive comments from all staff. It gave them all a real insight into the direction that we were going and the potential of this. As well as this, Carl then also supported year groups to plan for their Spring Term Projects. During the day, I was also able to have a number of conversations with Carl to develop my knowledge of the various approaches and to know more about the EOS ethos and principles.
The most important development from this day was to schedule and plan a timeline for the EOS School Review. Out of everything that we have undertaken and developed so far, this has been by far the most powerful. From this day, we had a key report document that identified our strengths, potential areas of development and a suggested programme of support that EOS could offer.
The whole process that we had experienced so far had been very positive. However, the key feedback from staff was that if we were going to fully embrace this pedagogical approach then we needed to have a very clear programme of support so that we could fully embed this approach to learning.
With this in mind, we established the following EOS By Design programme for the Spring and Summer Terms 2016:
- A series of staff CPD sessions/workshops during the Spring and Summer Terms to focus on developing knowledge of the 6 design elements of REAL Projects led by the EOS team;
- Four days of EOS Classroom Coach time to support the implementation of the above and to focus on embedding the practice of lead teachers within the school;
- Facilitation of a wider Strategic Leadership Day that focuses on ownership and delivery of the vision, including roles and responsibilities in relation to this pedagogy and action planning;
- Four days of EOS Leadership Coaching for the head teacher and members of the leadership team.
- 2-Day EOS Odyssey in September 2016
- Signposting of most relevant EOS schools for enquiry visits and deep dives around aspects of REAL Projects and Challenge Based Learning;
- Exploration of EOS Regional Hubs;
- Impact visit in October 2016 as part of the EOS School Review Process process.
- Five members of the staff team attending the EOS International Conference 2016 #EosEd2016
As well as the above programme, there are also some other important factors that have contributed to how far we have come in a relatively short space of time. These have included:
- Sharing of a compelling vision with all staff;
- Ensuring that there is clarity of communication at all levels and with all stakeholders;
- Regular check-in sessions with all members of staff who have different areas of responsibility;
- Honesty when discussing ways forward and issues that have arisen along our journey;
- Establishing a ‘Teaching and Learning Leadership Team’ that has a focus on developing a distributive leadership model that ensures this team have a clear understanding of our vision and how we are going to achieve this.
Together with the incredibly positive attitudes of all the staff in school, the supported journey described above has been key in driving forward our approach to REAL Projects and the learning eco-system through an immersive approach to learning. Our aim has always been to be guided by the EOS principles. The challenge was then how we intertwine these principles into our already well-developed and embedded learning culture.
- The first area of impact has been with our children. We have always had great children who are on a journey of learning through our school and are very motivated. The challenge here has been to see how this approach has further developed this. The authentic outcome coupled with the public exhibition elements of REAL Projects have enabled the children to have more ownership of their learning and their levels of engagement have been further heightened;
- The establishing of the Teaching and Learning Leadership Team has enabled the development of true distributive leadership with a developing ownership of their identified leadership areas. The compelling vision is very strongly held and understood by this team;
- All teachers have a much better understanding of the key factors that contribute to how children learn. Whilst we knew our children well as learners before starting this process, we now know far more about them as learners, how they prefer to learn and what their passions are;
- All teachers now have a highly developed understanding of the 6 key elements of REAL Projects;
- We have now completed three termly planning cycles for REAL Projects. All year groups have excellent authentic outcomes and public exhibitions planned for the Summer Term;
- Whilst we cannot yet say that this approach has had a tangible and proven impact on standards, we know that the quality of writing and presentation in books has improved. As well as this, there is now a far more consistent approach to these aspects;
- A clear impact has been on the motivation and involvement from all staff. Whilst they have always been a highly motivated team, this has now risen to even higher levels. The levels of teamwork are also at an all-time high!
- We have started to develop some great collaborations with other schools in the local area and beyond. Whilst it has been a year since I first listened to Carl talk, we have only really been introducing, developing and refining our approach since September 2015. Our aim was always to take the EOS principles along with the REAL Projects and a learning eco system through an immersive approach to learning and to then weave these through the learning culture that already existed in our school. To that end, I think we have done this fantastically well! I feel that we have come such a long way in a very short period of time. We all know that we have got a way to go to further refine and develop our approaches. All I know is that I have never seen my children so engaged with their learning and this is more than enough motivation to keep us going on our journey with REAL Projects, the learning eco-system through an immersive approach to learning and, of course, working with the EOS Education Team.
Neville Rice, Head Teacher, Scartho Junior Academy, Grimsby