How do you provide for your most able pupils within your existing education framework? Carol Cummings and Aileen Hoare describes a programme piloted in Cheshire LA

The Day a Week School’s motto is ‘stretching minds and challenging thinking’; it provides a weekly learning programme for the top 2% KS2 students.

The model recognises the ‘every lesson, every day, every school’ principle of G&T provision, and the notion that better teaching for able pupils raises the standard of teaching and learning for all. It also recognises that the needs of exceptionally able pupils are difficult to meet in the normal classroom.

Organisation

Children attend a weekly full-day class along with others from partnership schools. They undertake a non-NC based curriculum. The focus is on maths and science, as well as thinking skills and philosophy. Work is included on developing study skills and time management, and there are team building activities to develop social skills. There is an emphasis on supporting emotional well-being and personal reflection.

Children complete the planned week’s work in the ‘home’ school, but in 80% of the time, thus raising the challenge in the ‘home’ school.

Day a Week School (DWS) operates in a donated classroom from a partnership school. Children are brought and collected, often in rotas, by parents. The costs of participation – a teacher and resources – are borne by the participating schools.

Identification

Children in the Cheshire pilot were assessed through the DWS selection procedure. This took the form of a multi-layered problem-solving activity, supplied by DWS for schools to use with all KS2 children. Selection was based on thinking processes rather than correct answers. The partnership of schools then nominated 50 children to attend half-day workshops run by DWS from which a selection was made for these children to attend one day each week.

The problem-solving task and workshops are presented to children as part of normal school provision – they are not aware that the activities are also a method of selection. Thus no one is disappointed; everyone gains. DWS worked with schools to finalise the allocation of places and informs parents who are invited to a meeting.

Last year, we had children from eight schools attending four DWS classes. This year we have 41 schools.

We are working with a secondary school to provide follow-on provision for ex-DWS pupils and we also work with a small group of exceptionally able boys who are just moving into Year 1, functioning at level 4+ in maths and across the board, although they are not yet aligned with the DWS project.

Reporting

Each week, children take home copies of a report and any personal response. A copy goes to the parents and another to the class teacher of the ‘home’ school, who thus receives information about the child’s experience as well as model lesson-planning for the more able.

CPD opportunities

Participating schools are encouraged to send teachers to observe and participate, spreading best practice in the partnership.

Teachers for DWS were selected after a long process, beginning with a lesson plan for a DWS lesson. So far, all but one of our teachers has been seconded from their schools.

A DWS teacher has to have a rapport with, and understanding of, the needs of this particular group of pupils. We looked for teachers who were committed to being ‘co-learners’.

Next steps

We are in discussion with another eight LAs about setting up DWS.
We are also working with NACE (the National Association for Able Children in Education) who will be adding a DWS section to the website.

Parent responses

‘J is finding the work both interesting and challenging… being with like-minded children has also stimulated his mind and he looks forward to his day at DWS. DWS has been able to spark an interest and get J to “think outside the box”.’

Pupil response

‘It’s cool. It’s more challenging than normal school which is kind of good. I have no problems coping with the day out of my normal school. I enjoy mixing with the other children in the class.’

Headteachers’ responses

‘DWS has not only been beneficial to the two pupils who have attended the programme, but it has also helped to raise teacher expectations and levels of achievement in the rest of the school. Through regular feedback sheets, homework and discussions with the children, teachers have gained ideas of how to plan activities that develop high order thinking skills. This has helped to extend more able pupils and to raise the level of challenge in all lessons.’

‘My first reaction was that this would be great for the children who would be able to attend the school; however, the impact has been far more than this. The members of staff whose children are attending are benefiting … giving them ideas that they can use in class. Next steps are to build on this and use the planning ideas as part of a staff meeting.’

Further information

The DWS team have copyrighted the model and are working in partnership with NACE.
www.nace.co.uk

For further background information see ‘The One Day School’, Primary G&T Update, issue 4, June

First published in Primary G&T Update, October 2006

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