Alison Peacock presentation Hampshire Primary HT conference 2014
Alison is Headteacher at Wroxham primary school. She shared some amazing and innovative key points of the school’s journey, relating to: ethos, curriculum, teaching & learning and assessment. Headteachers at the conference came away inspired and motivated by her presentation.
Below is a summary of my notes.
Wroxham have designed a “Curriculum for learning without limits: Life without Levels”. Alison has written a book entitled “Creating learning without limits” which I have certainly already ordered a copy of.
They focus their time on connecting with what really matters – rather than just valuing what we are told to judge.
Alison removed setting of pupils from Wroxham, because of her strong belief that children should not be labelled, nor encouraged to label themselves and that often assumptions about what lower ability children can achieve are far too low.
Alison has built a whole school democratic ethos at Wroxham: where everyone is valued, a culture of participation has been developed and many decisions are made through shared forums.
A massive positive of this ethos is shown in the professional learning of staff and the trust they are given. It involves a great deal more listening than telling from senior leaders, freedom for staff individually and in teams to make their own choices and judgements, and structures that allow for the creation of rich contexts for learning. Alison also promotes professional courage – with staff having the freedom to learn and to transform themselves, their practice and the school as a whole.
This co-agency is not just amongst the adults. The children are part of a genuine partnership and their thought, feelings and opinions are valued.
Alison also promotes creativity and innovation within her school – firmly believing that anything can happen. An example she shared was how the school purchased a second hand double decker bus on eBay and have transformed it into an amazing outdoor yet indoor library.
When talking about the demise of National Curriculum levels from September 2014, Alison was very positive and optimistic, understandably since Wroxham have already developed and successfully embedded assessment processes with NC levels only as a safety net in the background. Alison believes that as a profession this is a great opportunity and we need to have a sense of collective agency in creating more flexible and innovative ways of assessing children, that have real value and value what we really hold to be true.
At Wroxham they assess children’s dispositions within the effective domain:
- Being open to ideas
- That it is good to ask questions and be inventive
- Persistence and stability
- Generosity and empathy
- Dialogic pedagogy
- Authentic first hand experiences
- Open ended challenging tasks
In lessons at Wroxham, pupils are not told which task to undertake but are in charge of challenging themselves. They self-select their own challenge level (from a range of tasks provided). Questions were raised by delegates about whether children chose easy options or challenges that were too far above their current abilities. Alison explained that initially there were a few examples of this, but by promoting the positive nature of challenge and giving the children genuine ownership they have taken on a mature and thoughtful approach to their choices. The pupils actively set high expectations for themselves and make productive use of learning partners in a whole variety of ways.
Pupils also lead their own Learning Reviews. They write a report on themselves about their achievements, targets and support they would like towards those targets. They then lead a meeting with their parents, class teacher and Alison – which takes place instead of the more traditional parents evening meeting.
This has helped develop a culture where children want to learn, challenge themselves and create / record / assess their own next steps in their learning journey.
I came away from this presentation very excited, keen to share some of the points with colleagues and to explore how we could develop some of the ideas into our own school.
It also made me re-consider a few quotes I have read in the past.
“Seeing school improvement as a process of questing, journeying and open-ended exploration”
(The Adventurous School 2012)
“Successful leaders have great vision – the ability to formulate and shape the future, rather than be shaped by events” (Richard Harman)
“If much of what we taught highlighted understandings of wide scope, with enlightenment, empowerment and responsibility in the foreground, there is every reason to think youngsters would retain more, understand more and use more of what they learned.”