It’s out*, and the media have already started to produce glorious headlines. Whilst The Times goes with a factual “Primary school children ‘should be taught technology, not tradition’”, for some reason the BBC’s headline this morning is “Lessons in being happy proposed”. And The Mail has gone for “Schools told to put computer skills on same footing as 3Rs”, which doesn’t seem that dramatic until you get to the main text, which includes:
The move to elevate computer skills to the same importance as literacy and numeracy will horrify traditionalists. Critics said it demonstrated warped priorities and risked further instability in the primary curriculum.
And, of course, the debate on the BBC website, led by the headline rather than the detail, is heading down the “are they barmy?” route.
One of the misinterpretations that has been made in the reporting in some media is that the review is proposing that primary school students learn more “computing skills”, which isn’t the proposal. What Sir Jim Rose is saying is that ICT can support learning, as well as being a skill set that pupils need later in life, and that primary schools need to help pupils to learn through ICT, as well as about ICT. The report emphasises the need for digital literacy – ie how to use ICT effectively – and is not calling for pupils to learn more about programming or highly technical computer skills.
So here’s my question for today:
What happens if the changes being proposed are implemented well?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, Broadclyst Community Primary School in Devon seem to be a perfect example – not only have they moved towards project-based work, and have switched to an ICT-rich environment, but they have then used this to allow them to support better parental engagement with what’s going on in school, which is absolutely critical to success. They still have success in the SATs test, and are helping to develop completely new skills in the students.
Broadclyst is a larger-than-average primary school – 400 pupils of diverse social backgrounds, with an above-average SEN intake. The recent “Outstanding” Ofsted reports talk about several factors of the school’s success, including a head teacher who provides inspirational leadership, staff who understand the importance of teamwork to support each other, and excellent learning outcomes for students. Creative and innovative use of ICT has influenced all of these factors —from a state-of-the-art lecture theatre for Year Six pupils through to online collaboration and communication between everyone in the school community.
We were down there earlier in the year to make a series of case study videos for the Innovative Schools website. And there are a couple of videos which are definitely worth watching in the context of the Rose Review.
Learning Outcomes at Broadclyst
Link to video (right click to download WMV file)
It has an interview with the Deputy Head,Jonathan Bishop, where he talks about the changes they have made
We are often asked to take children with very difficult backgrounds And as they enter the school and the curriculum is more open ended – more matched to their needs – we find that the children very quickly become engaged and are more motivated by what they are doing. As they become more successful that really spurs them on. The secret to success is success…We as a school have some very highly independent self-motivated learners. And we believe that is because of the style of curriculum that is matched to their needs, and which is moving them from where they are to where they need to be.
No “Lessons in Happiness” then, but instead a focus on creating independent, self-motivated learners.
This one is interesting because it starts with Jonathan discussing an Enterprise Project, where the students are working on a project-based learning activity, using ICT to allow them to work in parallel with a school in The Netherlands. The head teacher describes what this means to parents, and this is followed by a parent talking about the reaction of their child to the way the curriculum is now taught.
In many ways, Broadclyst is typical of what many schools in the country could achieve over time – they have not benefited from exceptional funding, but have concentrated on a particular vision of learning which has been supported by the school community and stakeholders. As Dr. Phil Norrey, Chief Executive of Devon County Council says in the written case study:
We wanted to regard Broadclyst as a laboratory to apply new ideas, to give them space and freedom to experiment. What we didn’t do was provide additional resources and funding. We were very clear that it was up to them to provide the resources.
No one school contains all of the answers to the challenges set by the Rose Review, but if you’re sitting next to somebody today who says “Bah Humbug. Lessons in Happiness. Over my dead body”, then show them what the outcome of the review might really mean to schools and pupils! Or if they’re not web-video types, print out the case study and put it on their desk
* Actually, at the time of writing, it isn’t out. Although the media seem to have been briefed, it’s not on the DCSF website (not even a press release), nor on the Review website. That all seems a bit strange, when Sir Jim Rose has been on the TV and Radio all morning.