South-West Regional Network Centre for the Cambridge Primary Review

  • Awarded to: Associate Professor Carol Evans
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 6,000
  • Dates: 1 September 2011 - 31 August 2012
  • Sponsor(s): Esmee Fairbairn Foundation

The project focus centred on empowering teachers and children from four partnership schools to engage in evidence-based practice to enhance learning and teaching through the development of action research and collaborative projects. The project was successful in identifying specific foci in schools; engaging/ motivating staff in enhancing learning activities; encouraging collaborative practice across schools; supporting headteachers in leading learning projects across schools, and providing a forum for development and exchange of ideas with evidence of positive impacts on learning (in alignment with Cambridge Primary Review principles of empowering both pupils and teachers; research-informed teaching; rethinking of curricular in line with CPR aims; schools working collaboratively as communities of practice).   

A highly positive element of the project was cross-school observation and planning. In three out of the 4 schools enhancement in pupil learning was identified from project strands and all staff found the CPA activities valuable and empowering with evidence of sustained changes in practice.   Schools enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate. Head teachers found it assisted their understanding of leading learning and teaching and the work with the University of Exeter introduced them to areas that they would not have looked at without HEI involvement. A key positive element for the headteachers was having focused time to reflect on their practice with colleagues and to engage in joint ventures such as observation of teaching across schools and increased sharing of resources including joint staff training with Exeter.

Examples of projects:

St. Leonard’s is creating its own curriculum to fit the needs of its pupils and at the same time becoming a more learning centred school i.e. reflective practice. The strategic plan to engage pupils in their learning is embedded in all strands of the school improvement plan and all of the staff have committed to the changes that are being put in place. Work has involved highlighting passive child behaviour and relationship to learning; changes to home learning; investment in coaching; effective use of data; building learning power etc. The school is focusing on Pupil Attitudes to Self and School data alongside other data sources– the integration of the CPR project into the whole school improvement plan is  a significant piece of work for a large primary school.

Sandford: The school has built its aims around the 12 CPR aims. These have been shared with staff, parents, pupils and governors. To enhance pupil engagement with their learning, the school has: (i) increased use of Assessment for Learning strategies and a dialogic approach to teaching in order to engage pupils; (ii) is reorganising planning processes to allow for a more creative and engaging curriculum including greater focus and resource on outdoor learning; (iii) reordering curriculum timings in order to allow for more immersion and thus engagement; (iv) teaching pupils the language from Building Learning Power so that they are more able to reflect upon their learning; (v) improving  theuse of individual targets and of mentoring, to help pupils’ engage more with their learning.

At Kingskerswell, to support pupil and staff engagement, the following have been undertaken:
(i) the introduction of holistic, cross curricular approach to organising learning with pupil involvement in planning; (ii) 2011 introduction of new, topic based curriculum;(iii) total overhaul of practice, planning and curriculum in the Foundation Stage; (iv) implementation of Forest School provision so each child spends a half day every four weeks in our Forest School on site; (v) distributed leadership model to encourage change ;(vi) attention to stress management and emotional well-being of staff – regular meetings with staff planned in to discuss change.

Positive outcomes of the project included evidence of enhanced learning outcomes for pupils in three of the four schools. The commitment of one school, St. Leonards to ongoing projects (Community in the Curriculum day for local schools; providing research training for the Torbay Curriculum Network; lesson study as an integral element of staff development). Most importantly, success of the work was directly linked to how closely it was integrated into the whole school improvement plan. Furthermore, clarifying intentions with all stakeholders was found to be important (e.g. parents). Schools developed and enhanced understanding of the importance of building into the project impact measures (hard and soft data) to assist them in developing their practice and in being able to communicate outcome data to all stakeholders - as part of this, the importance of initial benchmarking data in order to measure relative success of interventions was highlighted.  Key learning points:

  • Value of time together to discuss learning and teaching.
  • Importance of work being sustainable without funding.
  • Importance of level of experience of lead person in each school.
  • Importance of external critical friend (UoE).
  • Access to relevant research and training support for teachers within schools.
  • Work most successful when linked to whole school improvement plan.