How we teach
Underpinning all teaching and learning across the Trust is a tried and tested model of how to improve behaviour, called Values Driven Expectations. It’s based on a rewards culture where going the extra mile or achieving what you were struggling with is recognized and rewarded. It also cuts out the behaviour that stops children from learning, that wastes time in the classroom and distracts attention from the subject being studied. In and out of the classroom, learners and teachers tell us that it’s a massive plus point for our schools.
In the classroom, Collaborative Learning methods focus on encouraging communication, getting every learner in a classroom to join in with the lesson, and helping the learners to solve problems in teams and to learn from each other. Learners will usually be seated in groups rather than rows, and ideas, thoughts and opinions will be discussed in a structured way followed across all lessons. This ensures that learning is active and thought-provoking. It also ensures that all learners are engaged in the learning process and not just a few who might be asked questions by the teacher.
The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive. Learners sit in mixed-ability groups of four and work together to solve problems and work out answers. Effective Collaborative Learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work in a group; the lesson is carefully structured by the teacher, with well-designed tasks that lead to the greatest learning gains.
Approaches which promote talk and interaction between learners are particularly important. Learners gain hugely from the other children who work with them, as well as from the teacher, who is constantly involved.
Comments from our younger learners about the collaborative learning structures include:
‘You can communicate with your friends and the person next to you; you can make friends with people you didn’t really speak to before.’
‘It’s really helpful; we can give feedback and ask questions to each other.’
‘Instead of just keeping ideas to yourself, you can share them in class. You can share them with the person next to you, and if they’re struggling they’ll understand more because you’re helping them.’
Collaborative Learning is just one of the factors that contribute to our emphasis on communication skills. In the classrooms, the learners have to constantly communicate with each other and the teacher; racy plays a big part in the curriculum; we ensure that there are many other communication challenges to develop their abilities, from poetry recitals to student leadership and mentoring roles at every level of the academy.
The Upgrade Mission is an initiative that has been designed to support all of our Year 11 students and prepare them for their forthcoming GCSE exams. It includes an extended school day for every Year 11 learner, a concentration on core subjects and an approach that challenges learners to extend themselves no matter what their level.
Teaching and learning is supported by a team of Subject Directors, experienced teachers with leadership and mentoring skills who operate across our academies. They work with teachers in the classroom to identify their needs and support their development needs. They analyse student data, agree areas for improvement and introduce the skill sets and techniques required to have a real impact in the classroom. Subject Directors have particular areas of focus such as Mathematics, Science, Reading, Writing and History.
Data collection and analysis is a key part of the Trust’s strategy and delivery. Data that has integrity and accuracy enables us to pinpoint and address both weaknesses and strengths in individual learners across each subject. Power BI enables staff to access reports and dashboards that track learner attainment levels, enabling swift and effective interventions.
Lastly, we work with a wide range of outside bodies such as PiXL, Elevate Education, Voice 21, Black Country STEM, NCETM, Central Maths Hub and numerous others. Our approach is to use the best tools available and to bring in best practice from wherever there is a proven model. We know that schools improvement takes time; our approach is therefore one of continuously ratcheting up performance with new techniques and initiatives that will ensure quality and – above all - inspire our learners.