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.
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.
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.
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 returned to school in the autumn. This included training staff and students to use Google Classroom, discussing a remote learning pedagogy with other Paradigm schools and planning the logistics that were necessary to be able to deliver effective teaching online to all its pupils.
So when 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 we are delivering a full and engaging timetable of blended learning, through recorded lessons and live sessions which follow the same structure as an in-school lesson. We also provide online activities which support the children’s learning.
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 suitable access to technology. Where families don’t have access to WiFi, we’ve purchased dongles and data for them. Non-digital resources, such as exercise books, are also issued to pupils and we have stocked up on extra resources such as glue, paint and materials for Art which can be picked up from school for pupils working from home.
It’s extremely important to us that all our pupils continue to get the support they need, so all students have Base Group Time as normal and weekly assemblies. We make sure pupils receive at least two welfare calls a week, and our excellent pastoral team is available all day, every day to respond to any needs our students have.
We are also working hard to continue our provision for SEN pupils, with one-to-one video calls, phone calls and TA support in many of our virtual lessons.
Lockdown is undoubtedly 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.
Pedagogy is the manner in which we approach teaching.
All schools in Paradigm Trust follow the same pedagogy – quality first teaching at all times, for every student. We are always informed by the latest research, but focus on teaching in a way that is effective, rather than fashionable in education pedagogy.
With pupils only having a finite number of hours in school, the time we have to educate them is limited. It is absolutely crucial to optimise what they get out of those hours, so having an effective, well thought out and proven pedagogy is essential.
Our main influences are Teach Like a Champion – a collection of techniques which combine to deliver incredibly effective learning – and Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, which establishes ten different strategies for teaching and assessing. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rosenshine’s work is evidence-based, so Paradigm Trust knows for certain these methods are effective. The two works complement each other, providing a well-rounded base on which to build our pedagogy.
By using the same pedagogy across Ipswich Academy we can achieve a continuity of practice which is of great benefit to both pupils and staff. It means that there is a consistency in the way we teach, in the way we behave and in the way we apply our rules that runs all the way through from Year 7 to Year 11. Uncertainty is detrimental to effective learning, so having continuity in teaching and language is of great benefit to students. It is especially effective when we welcome a new intake of Year 7 students from fellow Paradigm Trust schools Murrayfield Primary Academy and Piper’s Vale Primary Academy; they are used to the pedagogy and settle in quickly.
While consistency is important we know every class and every child is different so we encourage all our staff to adapt, intelligently and with a strong understanding of the underlying rationale, to fit the needs of the pupils and subjects. Our pedagogy is designed to be flexible, giving teachers the tools to work in each individual situation.
Having this shared set of strategies naturally leads to improvement. With every school in Paradigm Trust using them, it makes it easy for us to get together and share strong practice. When one teacher makes a small adaptation which proves to be successful, it’s easily shared and applied across classes and schools.
By implementing this shared pedagogy we’ve seen a culture shift both in the classroom and in the curriculum, with improvements across the board in behaviour and engagement. Outcomes in lessons are much better and we are seeing a consistently higher level of effort in all classes. Effective use of pedagogy leads to effective teaching, which leads to effective personal development for students, alongside brilliant exam results and, ultimately, the best chances in life.