Read our latest Newsletter – Friday 23rd April 2021
Inclusive Learning – Giving Every Child Their Chance
At Piper’s Vale, 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.
We approach it 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.
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, children who have needs such as autism and/or challenges with sensory processing may at times find it easier to learn away from the main class in our specialist SEN unit, enabling them to access the work in a more helpful environment.
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 instead, such as Teenage Mental Health which helps support children struggling with anxiety or disruptive behaviour. We also work closely with other schools in the Trust, regularly meeting to work together and share best practice and expertise, which can then be applied successfully to our individual schools.
Due to Covid, the past year has required considerable work to ensure all children continue to receive the same learning opportunities. One major challenge was the ‘digital divide’ over the two periods of remote learning; many children, both at Paradigm and nationally, were unable to access online learning due to a lack of devices or insufficient internet access. To help bridge this gap we loaned out Chromebooks and dongles which were preloaded with data allowance. We also made sure our SEN pupils had regular sessions with support staff over a Google Hangout.
Now, children have returned we are identifying any gaps in their learning and effectively filling them through the careful grouping of pupils, strong teaching and effective interventions. This ensures that ALL our students continue to make the necessary progress, enabling them to achieve more through education.
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 take the form of 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, with a particular focus on primary schools.
Since we have been working this way it is noticeable that children are achieving better results and becoming more engaged in the subject. Between now and the end of the school year our curriculum will cover a huge range of scientific topics, including Forces and Magnets, Living Things and their Habitats, Light and Sound, Renewable Energy and Earth and Space.