Once again, the SW Regional AAIA Group held a spring-time event to help inform and inspire members and colleagues. This year the group took Deepening Learning as its theme, reflecting many schools’ desire to ensure they fully meet the needs of all children as they master the skills and knowledge and practise them in the context of the wider curriculum.
Key to this was the notion that the school learning environment has a vital role to play in supporting learners as they engage with the curriculum, surrounding them with opportunities to practise learned skills and develop a deeper understanding.
Jenny Short got things underway with a presentation that made links between the support for learners given of necessity by the context of the immediate environment, and the interpersonal support given by adults that surround them from the moment they are born. She briefly recapped with delegates how highly effective learners use their short and long term memory in the process of learning, and drawing on the work of John West-Burnham, illustrated the variable impact on the learner’s well-being of shallow, deep and profound learning.
Delegates then welcomed Susie Weaver, head teacher of Wallscourt Farm Academy, who spoke passionately about how the curriculum had developed alongside her whole school environment over time , and how it had been used to used to shape children’s learning journeys. Susie spoke of how she and her team developed a unifying vision for their school and its learners and clarified beyond all doubt the type of curriculum and learning experiences they wanted for their children. Central to this was identifying the school’s “Top Ten” – the ten things that were key beliefs and initiatives that would be key to realising the vision. Delegates could not fail to recognise the part that the language of learning and the language of being in her school contributed to the success of the approaches used by her team of supportive adults working in such an impressive whole community environment of their own creation.
It was a pleasure to welcome the OfSTED’s Regional Director South West, Bradley Simmons to the event who spoke of OfSTED’s work in looking at the future curriculum, its intent, its implementation and impact. Bradley spoke of the agency’s current review of the curriculum and their focus on the importance of recognising leadership challenges and valuing management. He highlighted the fact that the language used by schools about specific critical aspects of their curriculum is ambiguous, and spoke of the urgent need to address the issues of clarity in the terminology used by both teachers and inspectors in inspections.
Bradley urged delegates leading schools to develop a detailed understanding of the techniques being applied in schools to develop and deliver the curriculum and the ability to articulate clearly the principles upon which they are based. He also helpfully brought to our attention some of the key themes that are likely to inform the 2019 OfSTED framework.
Di Pardoe led the afternoon session in which delegates were required to evidence their own learning from the earlier sessions. This was a highly collaborative, active and enjoyable exercise in which delegates imaginatively constructed free standing artefacts that represented the key ideas and concepts they had gleaned during the day. It enabled them and through their conversations (both during and after the activity) to make new connections and gain a deeper understanding of the day’s themes.
Spencer Cartwright made the essential links with effective assessment, drawing on his own experiences as a personal trainer to illustrate his points. Through some practical physical assessments, delegates were led to a deeper understanding of his concepts both visually and kinaesthetically, and again the presentation served to deepen and further extend our thinking in the spirit of the day.
The conference drew to a close with reminders that perhaps the greatest learner of our time, Dr Stephen Hawkins, who had died earlier in the week, had urged us to continue to look to the stars whilst being aware of our feet, and that the Martin Luther Kings of this world had dreams rather than highly structured improvement plans. Jenny Short thanked all the delegates and the members of the SW AAIA group that had contributed to making the day so successful, and sent delegates away hoping that they might join the Association and to follow the dream.