If you have already had the opportunity to visit Wandsworth Prep School, you will have heard frequent mention of our belief that high academic standards are best achieved through teaching that is engaging, innovative and personalised to children’s needs and interests.
Underpinning the lesson planning process for teachers on a daily basis is the quest to create learning opportunities that will allow children to retain and apply information coupled with how best to communicate this to young learners who may wonder about the relevance of what they are learning.
An independent review of the primary curriculum (Rose 2009), recognised the distinctiveness of the primary curriculum, focused on the need not only to develop essential knowledge, skills and understanding, but also to inspire and instil habits of learning that would act as the building blocks for secondary education and later life. It stressed the need for a clear understanding of the distinct but interlocking ways in which children learn and develop, and the consequent requirement for a well-planned and vibrant curriculum that enhances independent learning, engagement with practical activities and the development of empathy through the opportunity of working with others.
More recently, in 2011, key recommendations and descriptions of best practice, following analysis of over 150 pilot inspections under the revised Ofsted framework, revealed some findings worthy of debate, primarily challenging a more ‘traditional’ approach to teaching and learning. Emphasis is placed on making meaningful connections across subjects. Collaborative group work, learning outside the classroom, vivid practical experiences and learning through exploration are seen as pivotal to success. There are frequent references to questioning: open-ended, probing and ‘developmental’. Significantly, in satisfactory schools, ‘teacher talk dominates resulting in passive learning and rarely do teachers take risks to stimulate students to develop their grasps of new concepts ’.
Notably, both the Rose review and Ofsted recognise that discrete subject provision offers but one way and not the sole way to enhance learning; an interlinked, cross-curricular approach to curriculum planning provides an age appropriate and effective alternative.
Our curriculum, however, is not simply about making links between subjects. It is about finding ways to inspire children through memorable learning experiences that act as a platform for the establishment of personalised learning, enabling children to think for themselves; branching out into areas of curiosity and interest.
Each term, a project is planned based upon a science, geography or history focus that teaches the key skills the children need to learn across a range of disciplines. For example, in the Year 4 project Frozen Planet, children study the climate at the poles, research the Titanic disaster, paint ice landscapes using pastels, made moccasin slippers, learn about Scott’s exploration and journey to the south pole, study the Inuit way of life and how animals adapt to their environment. When planning a project, teachers have the end ‘goal’ in sight in terms of learning outcomes but skilfully allow the children’s natural curiosity to lead the learning during the term ensuring that the subject skills they need to learn are covered by the work they do. Our approach ensures that our children are excited about learning, feel involved in the process and have a level of anticipation about what will happen next.
Bridget Saul - Headteacher