Jennifer Richards is headteacher and headteacher consultant at St Mark’s CE Primary, Aquinas Trust. She outlines the school’s approach to “life without levels” and preparing learners to achieve greater depth.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

With the future of education uncertain and the landscape forever changing, it is vital that we continue to aim high and hold high aspirations for all our children. The emphasis on more able, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is quite rightly a priority for us all. 

It is our purpose to create the very best education system, using research and pedagogical principles, which will improve the life chances of our children. This will enable them to cope with the demands of the higher level of knowledge, skills and understanding required of them. 

Seeking opportunities for deeper learning

The emphasis on preparing our children to achieve greater depth has been a major focus. After one year of “life without levels”, we now have an idea of how we can provide more opportunities and targets for those who can achieve this greater depth. We have focused on our more able in many ways, looking for opportunities within the curriculum to help them remain engaged and enthusiastic, whilst being able to demonstrate the depth of knowledge and skills they have acquired.

There has been a focus on greater-depth writing for all, maths mastery, and developing the reasoning skills of our more able, particularly girls who lack confidence in their own ability. We have not forgotten within this the more able across the curriculum, including PE and philosophy. 

Developing expertise across our teaching team

We appointed a more able leader to plan, deliver and monitor the thoughts and achievements of our more able children, working alongside our middle leaders and teachers to identify barriers and gaps and how we can overcome them together. 

This has fed into our CPD, which also involves our support staff, so that everyone is clear on the expectations we hold and how to support the children’s learning. We are also part of Aquinas Multi-Academy Trust; a network of more able leads in each academy works together to positively influence teaching and learning across the trust.

We have focused on the use of questioning and the techniques we use in philosophy for children to enable an enquiry-based and analytical approach to learning. Teachers plan their questions and the opportunities they provide in lessons for the children to ask questions.

Working towards the NACE Challenge Award, a framework to map out the best way to support our more able, has provided clarity and structure. Alongside research and best practice in other schools, we are able to plan and implement proven strategies, which will enhance the learning of all our children.

This blog post is based on an article first published in the summer 2017 edition of the NACE Insight newsletter, available for all NACE member schools. To view all past editions of Insight, log in to the members’ area of the website.

Friday, July 21, 2017