2014 Primary National Winner - Park Junior School

1. Introduction

The school is an average-sized junior school in Nottinghamshire, in an area of high social deprivation. In 2012-13, 47% of pupils attracted the pupil premium and the school received £94,000 in pupil premium funding. All pupils at the school, including those who are disadvantaged, achieved level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of key stage 2 in 2013. This makes Park Junior one of the top 250 performing primary schools in terms of the progress and attainment of both all pupils and disadvantaged pupils.

2. What did they do?

When the pupil premium was first introduced in 2011, the school had successfully introduced a school-wide system to reward pupils who apply themselves in class and meet the school’s high standards for behaviour. Such pupils become ‘Super Students’ and earn ‘Pride Points’ that can be spent on items in the pupil-run school shop, or on privileges such as running their own clubs and assemblies without any adults present. Pupils are told that ‘the more you learn, the more you earn’, to emphasise that by working hard in class they can acquire more of the school’s currency – and real financial benefits in later life.

This approach has increased pupils’ motivation to study, and they better understand their roles and responsibilities within their education. But the school saw that further action was needed to ensure that these gains could be translated more fully into improved attainment. The school decided that it was imperative to empower pupils to drive their own learning, in a structured and supported way. This arose from the executive head teacher reading the evidence cited in the Sutton Trust/EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit (on feedback, meta-cognition, peer tutoring and collaborative learning), and subsequently meeting with the Sutton Trust/EEF to discuss ideas.

The result was the school’s 4 Steps strategy. This gives pupils a clear method to use when they encounter something in a lesson that they do not understand or cannot do:

  • Step 1: look up at the whiteboard
  • Step 2: look down at your book (and review what you have learned previously)
  • Step 3: ask a friend to teach you
  • Step 4: put your hand up and ask the teacher to teach again and if you are still    stuck ask the teacher to teach again

Pupils are trained by the executive head teacher in how to apply the approach, using videos and presentations produced by the school. The outstanding learning behaviour in the classroom allows the teacher to teach in a fundamentally different way. This they call ‘Precision Teaching’. Through a combination of effective assessment for learning and pupils’ advanced learning behaviours, the children make hugely accelerated progress through every lesson. Each lesson is organised around 8-10 teaching interventions by the Outstanding Teaching Team, with pupils studying in small, self-selecting groups.

The strategy has transformed pupil learning in the school. Pupils are completely focused and engaged, and a lot of the time work independently of the teacher and support one another. All pupils understand that if they can complete an objective, they are responsible for progressing to the next one. The strategy enables every pupil to keep on making progress at all points of every lesson, and there is a huge emphasis on the pace of study. The school’s 2014 Ofsted report states that “teachers consistently challenge the pupils and are regularly heard to say, ‘Not a minute needs to be lost with our learning’. This means progress in lessons is often outstanding.”

The pupil premium funding has been used to support all of these developments – contributing to the costs of the reward system, engaging with the Sutton Trust/EEF, producing the pupil training videos and recruiting additional ‘apprentice assistants’ who support pupil premium-eligible pupils individually or in small groups.

3. What next?

As all pupils at Park Junior now achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of key stage 2, the focus is on increasing the proportion of disadvantaged pupils who achieve a higher level in this assessment.

The school also plans to improve teaching quality through adapting the ‘lesson study’ model that it already uses. This involves a teaching team designing a lesson, which one teacher then delivers while the others observe and analyse, with the lesson plan then being refined. The school will adapt this model to its own setting, where the pace and coverage of lessons are heavily pupil-driven rather than being entirely pre-planned. The school’s ambition is also to develop a ‘learner study’ equivalent, in which pupils will look at the quality of their peers’ learning, and feed back to them on it.