Paradigm Trust is monitoring the situation with regards to coronavirus carefully. We are following all relevant government advice. Please click here for further information.
At Murrayfield, we work hard to ensure every one of our pupils has the tools and support they need to be able to learn in the same manner as their peers.
Often inclusive learning is seen as something solely for children with special educational needs. While this is certainly part of it, inclusive learning is far more – it is a practice which includes everyone.
We approach it by looking at the individual needs of every child at our school. These can be academic, and often are, but we also examine other factors such as independence, resilience and attention skills. There are often other barriers to learning to consider, including social, gender and economic issues. This holistic approach allows us to see the whole picture, and from there we are able to take positive action and provide the most effective support.
There is often some confusion between the terms inclusive learning and integrated learning. Integrated learning, where students with and without disabilities all learn in the same classroom can be very effective, and where this is the case then we will work to provide it. However, in other cases integration can actually be a barrier to learning. For instance, children who have needs such as autism and/or challenges with sensory processing may at times find it easier to learn away from the main class in our specialist SEN unit, enabling them to access the work in a more helpful environment.
There are other challenges to inclusive learning. Due to Covid, the past year has required considerable work to ensure all children continue to receive the same learning opportunities. One major challenge was the ‘digital divide’ over the two periods of remote learning; many children, both at Paradigm and nationally, were unable to access online learning due to a lack of devices or insufficient internet access. To help bridge this gap we loaned out Chromebooks and dongles which were preloaded with data allowance.
Much of the support we provide is done from within our school, however if we feel we don’t have the right resources to give the most effective support we will use external specialists instead, such as Teenage Mental Health which helps support children struggling with anxiety or disruptive behaviour. We also work closely with other schools in the Trust, regularly meeting to work together and share best practice and expertise, which can then be applied successfully to our individual schools.
By committing to inclusive learning we are supporting all pupils to become confident learners and well-rounded individuals equipped with the skills they need to build healthy relationships and make good choices now and in the future.
Having an effective understanding of science is incredibly important both for the individual and society. Children are entitled to know how the world works – without this knowledge their lives aren’t as rich. A good understanding of science will allow them as adults to make informed decisions on important matters, such as voting, or receiving a vaccination as has been seen recently. And it opens doors to numerous careers in a huge range of fields, not just the ‘traditional’ science professions.
Our approach to teaching science is different from some schools, as they will use an inquiry-based learning approach, which involves minimal guidance from the teacher and pupils designing their own experiments to check their own hypotheses. For example, this could take the form of asking the children to look at a bug and see what they can find out. However, an increasing number of studies show this is ineffective as, without having the right knowledge in place, children won’t know the questions they need to ask to get the most out of the approach.
To teach science effectively we, and all Paradigm schools, use a ‘knowledge-first’ system instead, which focuses on teaching children the scientific knowledge before anything else. The teacher breaks problems into manageable parts and shows the solution to each, before the children practice using similar problems. By doing this, the children then have the foundation they need to be able to do the inquiry-based learning effectively. It also helps the children develop essential skills such as problem solving, understanding scientific texts or extrapolating accurate conclusions from results.
Another way we improve science outcomes is to meet regularly with teachers from the other schools in Paradigm Trust to share ideas. A large proportion of time is spent discussing ways in which children can be better prepared for the move from primary to secondary school, and how to make science effective from Nursery to Year 9. We have found by doing this there is now less disruption when pupils move from Year 6 to Year 7 and their learning experience is far smoother. Much of this work is led by Ben Rogers who is on the Education Committee at the Institute of Physics, and on the editing panel for the Association of Science Education journal. He is also part of the Ofsted Science advisory group, with a particular focus on primary schools.
Since we have been working this way it is noticeable that children are achieving better results and becoming more engaged in the subject. We are always looking for more ways to enthuse our pupils, and this year we have a wealth of exciting activities planned to celebrate Science Week, including a workshop with Dr Mandy Hartley, author of The DNA Detectives series, in which she’ll explain how understanding DNA helps us with everything from knowing how our Stone Age ancestors lived to developing life-saving vaccines.
Despite the current challenges around the majority of our pupils learning from home, we have started the term on a high by ensuring children both at home and in school experience the same quality-first teaching and learning they would get in the classroom.
This is as a result of the extensive planning and preparation we had done before the start of the year. We took the findings and insights we gained during the first period of lockdown last spring and summer, and with other Paradigm Trust schools built a robust plan of action which we could apply should we need to close and engage in remote learning again.
Our preparation continued when children were back in school, introducing blended learning during the autumn term. This helped children get used to the new system and learn the technology’s full functionality, while our staff became adept at teaching remotely.
So when, with barely twelve hours’ notice, the official notification that schools would be closed to all children (apart from vulnerable and key worker children) was received, we were able to move swiftly to remote learning with a minimum of disruption. Now around 75% of our remote lessons are taught live, including daily for English and Maths, and live registration takes place twice a day.
Other lessons, including Science, Geography, Computing, Art and Design, DT and PE, are taught using bespoke video lessons created by curriculum leads from across the Trust.
One of the major challenges during the first lockdown was the digital divide, with many families unable to access the online resources available due to a lack of appropriate devices and/or a reliable internet connection with sufficient data allowance. To overcome this challenge we have issued school laptops to any children who are learning from home and don’t have access to suitable technology. Where families don’t have access to WiFi, we’ve purchased dongles and data for them. We are also providing non-digital resources, such as glue, paint and materials for Art which can be picked up from school.
We want to ensure all our pupils continue to get the support they need, so teachers and teaching assistants work together as they would normally to provide bespoke support to small groups of children, using virtual breakout rooms via Google Hangouts as lessons are being taught. Where needed, pupils also receive one to one support. These methods have been particularly successful with the children in our SEN unit, who are flourishing.
We are also reaching out to families with weekly phone calls and house visits where necessary, and we offer the voucher scheme for families eligible for free school meals.
Lockdown is a challenge, but one we are meeting head-on. It is an opportunity to adapt and improve our teaching and learning, both in the classroom and remotely online. As we would do in normal circumstances we are seeking the most effective ways to teach, testing different innovations and then sharing those that have been proven to be effective with the rest of the school and the entire Trust. It is our goal to always deliver an effective, challenging and interesting remote learning experience for our pupils, so they can all achieve their best.
School is back open today after our closure because of the snow.
We have been featured in the Ipswich Star following our efforts to break the ‘Digital Divide’ and allow as many pupils as possible to access distance learning resources. Read the full story here.