Teaching | 26th January 2022

PE: Improving bodies and minds

It’s common knowledge physical exercise is vital for keeping our bodies in good shape but the benefits of Physical Education in school extend far beyond the sports field.

In 2020, after the national lockdown, children’s charity Youth Sport Trust carried out a survey of 1,396 young people aged 6–15 to discover how they now felt about sport and exercise. Over a quarter said physical education, sport and exercise had made them feel better during that time. Additionally, 40% said not being able to play sport had made them feel worse. Clearly, sport and exercise has a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

At Ipswich Academy it is easy to see the positive effects PE has on our students. In lessons following PE their attention is noticeably greater, their ability to focus is far better. And in the long-term PE builds self-confidence, reduces anxiety and improves self-esteem. It also helps young people develop attributes which help them cope with difficulties and setbacks.

We take a skills-based approach in our PE lessons to improve the fundamental movement skills – running, jumping, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, throwing and catching – this way pupils can develop the core abilities which are used in multiple sports and physical activities.

The mental side of sport isn’t ignored though. We place a great emphasis on the ability to outwit opponents with strategy and tactics, and students are routinely exposed to attacking and defending principles specific to activities through in-depth discussion.

To be able to track our students progress effectively, measurement is key. We use five assessments each term to check how they’re improving in areas such as speed, fitness, coordination and strength. We then use that data to adjust our lessons accordingly, so the pupils continue to make progress, term after term.

At the core of sport is competition, which is important for helping students develop a winning mental attitude and equipping them to handle both success and failure. To do this we play competitive games in sport and take part in inter-school competition. As well as teaching pupils about sportsmanship and respect, it fosters a sense of friendly rivalry and school pride, and boosts morale and self-esteem. PE is an essential part of the curriculum that builds strong character and develops qualities in pupils which are beneficial in all subjects, as well as their lives beyond school.

Teaching | 16th December 2021

Striking the right note – music at Ipswich Academy

In a world in which we are surrounded by music every day, Music lessons help pupils understand and appreciate it in some way, whether that’s by learning an instrument, connecting on an emotional level or even using it as a method of self-regulation. It’s also a subject which has many benefits that reach far beyond learning an instrument or improving children’s musicality.     

To give our students the best music education we can, all our lessons are planned and taken by specialist teachers. We have also allocated Music more space in the timetable – rather than being on a carousel rotation, music is now a regular part of the curriculum so all students in year 7, 8 and 9 receive an hour’s music lesson every week, all year round. We also run several extracurricular clubs for students who wish to explore music further, including music tech club, guitar club and Let’s Jam where they can turn up and play songs together.

As well as improving their musicality, students are also building interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in their lessons. We ensure there’s always a practical aspect to every lesson, usually group work and performance. These activities build confidence and self-esteem, and grow skills such as team-building and working with others. Learning to play a musical instrument also teaches resilience and patience, as there is no shortcut to competence, just perseverance! 

A good example of what music can teach is demonstrated in our Year 7 unit called ‘Find Your Voice’. On one level this is about singing and body percussion, but it is also there to help deal with the performance anxiety many Year 7s have, especially as they are starting a new school. The goal is for them to recognise that music is a subject where there are high expectations, and even though their worries are understandable, they are still encouraged to perform. The quality of the singing is important, and so is building the learner’s confidence, so in future units of study and elsewhere in their life they are better able to cope with similar situations.

As well as learning about music theory, our pupils also learn about the cultural aspect of music and its history. As we learn about different genres of music, we also study the context and diversity of the genres; the place where it was born, the people who created it and the time period. For instance, when studying funk, soul and blues pupils also learn about slavery and segregation. In this way Music is a cross-curricular subject, linking pupils’ learning to many other areas on the timetable.

Teaching | 16th October 2021

Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at Ipswich Academy

With religion and beliefs becoming more visible in public life locally, nationally and internationally, it’s important that students are able to learn about them and understand them.

Philosophy, Religion and Ethics allows us opportunities as a school to promote an ethos of respect for others, challenge stereotypes and build an understanding of other cultures and beliefs. This in turn contributes to promoting a positive and inclusive ethos at Ipswich Academy that champions democratic values and human rights.

Throughout the school year we give our pupils opportunities to explore the interaction between religions. For example, we ran a gratitude tree project at Christmas and though Christmas is a Christian festival, pupils of other faiths were able to focus fully on the gratitude side of the celebration; how they were thankful for their families and their faith during the pandemic. It is a great way to demonstrate how people of different faiths can coexist harmoniously.

Studying faith and religion provokes challenging questions and encourages pupils to explore their own beliefs. It enables them to develop respect and understanding for others and it also prompts pupils to consider their rights and responsibilities to society, and helps them understand themselves. Philosophy, Religion and Ethics supports all three Paradigm values of integrity, excellence and community.

Teaching | 16th September 2021

Expert in Languages

Being able to speak a foreign language is a skill that can pay dividends.

At Ipswich Academy we focus on students mastering the basics of foreign languages. With this approach we are achieving excellent progress figures and giving our pupils the foundation they need to succeed in the future.

The ability to speak a modern foreign language is more beneficial now than it has been for a generation. In terms of business links and employability, the skill is highly in demand – recent events mean that as a nation we will be trading directly with more countries than before, and the ability to communicate effectively, and understand the culture, will be invaluable.

The demand for foreign language speakers isn’t restricted to the business and trade sectors either. Many public organisations such as the NHS and the police require employees with linguistic skills, as do private companies in a range of industries from construction to accounting and finance.

The comparative scarcity of bilingual and multilingual people in this country is reflected in the wages on offer for positions which require these skills. A recent study by Preply found that people with Arabic as a second language can earn as much as 74% extra, compared to the average UK salary, with Mandarin increasing wages by 45%, and French by 34%. While it is impossible to teach every language, studies have proven once someone has learned one foreign language, they can pick up further languages more quickly.

Learning another foreign language also develops a range of transferable skills, such as communication and presentation abilities. It also builds understanding and appreciation of other cultures, which are important qualities in today’s society and when dealing with other nations.

To teach French effectively at Ipswich Academy we place a lot of focus on retrieval practice. This means teachers revisit what has been taught and check pupils understand it and can recall that information. It takes many forms, so students see those same things again and again but in different contexts to keep it interesting. This way we can confirm pupils really understand what they’re talking about and that the solid foundations are there.

When teaching we are careful to use examples which show people around the world who speak French, not just in France. In this way students get a greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures and how language spreads around the world.

By placing the emphasis on what works, we are ensuring our pupils are making great progress in foreign languages and will be able to take full advantage of the new opportunities for foreign language speakers.

Teaching | 6th September 2021

Musical Instrument Lessons

Teaching | 12th July 2021

How we build Cultural Capital for our children – and why it helps

Our pioneering Hinterland programme is providing cultural capital for Ipswich Academy’s pupils so they can enjoy a richer life experience and improve their learning.

Cultural capital has existed as a phrase and a concept for decades, but was introduced by Ofsted into its framework in September 2019. They describe it as ‘the knowledge and cultural capital children need to succeed in life’ which dovetails smoothly with work we have been doing in this area for years.

The amount of cultural capital a pupil has can impact how much they get from their lessons at school. Due to differing circumstances and backgrounds, young people inevitably come to the classroom with a range of different life experiences. For instance, some pupils may have been to the seaside, while others will never have visited the coast. If then, in an English lesson, the class reads a novel set by the sea, everyone can understand it and answer questions on it to some extent, but the students who have actually been to the coast are able to relate far more readily and enjoy a richer experience than those who haven’t. 

We are committed to levelling this playing field, ensuring all pupils have access to high quality experiences. We do this through Paradigm’s Hinterland programme, which we’ve designed not only to increase cultural capital in our pupils, but academic capital (the knowledge which supports new learning) and character capital (the knowledge which lets you engage with the world). 

It’s a curriculum of thought-through systematic experiences which Paradigm expects every child from Early Years to the end of Year Eleven to benefit from. These include going to the seaside, the zoo, having a picnic, residentials, museum visits, visiting backstage at a theatre, taking part in plays and other activities which prove beneficial to student’s learning. The activity is then brought back to the classroom and the teachers spend a lot of time unpacking and exploring it to ensure maximum value is drawn out of every experience. 

With recent restrictions it has been difficult to implement as many visits as we would like, however in the past we have taken all our Year 7 students to France, which led to a whole scheme of work based around the visit. Pupils have gone to Wembley to watch an international football match, and at the start of the September we take all Year 11 students to Mersea Island for ‘Boot Camp’ as the official launch of the year. It’s a weekend of team building, revision strategies and no sleep!

By running the Hinterland programme we are working hard to ensure no student is disadvantaged in their education. In this way, we can broaden pupil’s life experiences and help prepare them for future study, employment and, most importantly, leading a fulfilling life.

Teaching | 23rd April 2021

Inclusive Learning – Giving Every Child Their Chance

At Ipswich Academy, 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

Also, 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, deaf students engaging in certain exercises may be better off away from the main class in a space that is acoustically suitable, enabling them to access the work in a more helpful environment.

We approach inclusive learning 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.

Ipswich Academy has a large team of Learning Mentors, with at least one assigned to each year group. They are on hand for pastoral support and to try and ensure all students succeed. Mental health can be a big factor in learning ability, and so we have a wide range of mental health support on offer, including mental health first aiders and regular counsellors. 

Students with high needs are timetabled to our Support Centre with bespoke, small class lessons on a range of subjects, in a nurture environment. We provide students who have the highest needs with 1-1 or 1-2 tuition with our dedicated Learning Mentor, Jane Fison, who works with them on a range of life skills, to develop them as a person and prepare them for adulthood, alongside accessing core subjects. 

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, such as Teenage Mental Health. We also work closely with other schools in the Trust, regularly meeting to discuss what is happening, and to share best practice and expertise, which can then be applied successfully in the individual schools.

Teaching | 22nd March 2021

Year 7 STEM Club

News, Teaching | 15th March 2021

RSHE and PSHE information

Teaching | 8th March 2021

The Science of Teaching Science

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 be 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.

Since Paradigm began working this way more students have been successful in science GCSE, and more high grades are being achieved. The number of students choosing to study a science subject at further education level has increased, and at every level of schooling it is noticeable that children are achieving better results and becoming more engaged in the subject.

Last updated March 12, 2021