I would like to start by offering my sincere thanks for the generous and open way 3 schools and particular colleagues within them shared their valuable professional experiences and expertise:
Twyford St Mary’s C of E Primary: Hannah Beckett and Tracey
Uplands Primary: Christina Dalingwater and Sarah Ackernman
Botley C of E Primary: Joe Cooil
The majority of my time as a class teacher was spent teaching Y5 and Y6 (13 years). However the last time I had class teacher responsibility was back in 2011.
Personally I love working with this age group. The questions, the interactions, the curriculum advancing and getting more sophisticated, the greater cognitive independence to generate, adapt and refine ideas, opinions, outcomes…
Our school opened in September 2013 with a YR and a Y1 class, and has grown ‘from the bottom’. So in 2018-2019 we will have our first class of Y6s. This brings new opportunities and new challenges. I am keen it does not also bring an unhealthy amount of stress and pressure, either for us as staff or for the pupils.
All colleagues working in primary are aware of the ‘drop in data’ (not standards per se) in the 2015-2016 with the introduction of the new ‘tougher’ Y6 SATs. We are also aware of how on average schools improved their data last academic year, having reflected and adapted after the first year’s experience.
We are also aware of Amanda Spielman’s focus (rightly so) on maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum across every year group in primary.
Despite a number of years of personal teaching in Y6, I have been keen to visit other schools within our Local Authority (Hampshire) who have supported their Y6 pupils to achieve extremely well over the past 2 years (both in terms of attainment and progress).
At our school we define Inspirational Outcomes (i.e. what we want the pupils to achieve by the end of each year and particularly their final year before transfer) as:
- Positive, caring, hard-working, balanced and wise people
- Sustained and substantial progress with attainment above LA and National
- Aspirational, courageous, self-fulfilled, collaborative and reflective learners
This definition clearly states that although aspirational academic outcomes are very important, they are not the whole picture. Indeed our Curriculum policy Aims (which staff quote correctly like to quote back to me at times) state:
We aim to:
- Ignite a love of learning in all pupils
- Encourage empowering partnerships between all learners in the school (pupils and staff)
- Ensure the statutory entitlement of every pupil to a balanced provision of all subjects within the National Curriculum is met
- Ensure all pupils achieve well in all aspects of the curriculum, making appropriate rates of personal progress so that they leave Cornerstone fully prepared for the next stage of their education
- Facilitate children’s acquisition of ideas, knowledge, skills, mindsets and qualities of character, which will help them to develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically and morally
- Develop a range of Learning behaviours with every pupil through the way they uncover and discover the curriculum content to help them grow as ‘Powerful Learners’ and as confident, happy and mature people
- Grow an ‘Inspirational Learning Community’ amongst both pupils and adults through the way the curriculum is developed, enhanced and celebrated
So I went to visit other schools, to discuss how they have managed to support their pupils to achieve extremely well over the last two years. Below is a summary of some of the main trends, though it was interesting to note that despite commonalities all 3 schools had also had success in different ways.
- Focus on developing the quality of Teaching & Learning in all classes
- Maintain a positive Growth Mindset, that with perseverance we can continue to improve and the pupils view SATs as an opportunity to proudly show what they have learnt and have achieved
- Effective use of assessment information and use of feedback to identify gaps in understanding, enable responsive teaching and inform future planning
- The school needs to take ownership of a broad and balanced curriculum, which continue to inspire learners and is exciting and creative, whilst giving numerous opportunities to apply and practice key skills in real and meaningful contexts
- Use of targeted and specific cut away groups within lessons and use of registration challenges / daily drips to practice and secure understanding of key basic knowledge and skills to grow the pupils’ confidence
Colleagues also shared many specific ways they have developed to support learning in English, Maths and across the curriculum in Y6.
As I stated at the start I am extremely grateful to these colleagues for the generous and open way they shared their valuable professional experiences and expertise.