Gifted and talented strand coordinator Sue Sayer describes her work as leader for G&T and creativity for her excellence cluster and explains how a Classroom of the Future has influenced the teaching and learning of pupils in the Camborne, Pool and Redruth Success Zone
G&T provision in the Camborne, Pool and Redruth (CPR) Success Zone When I became the excellence cluster’s leader for the G&T and creativity strands in January 2005, I was keen to get our team of 23 primary and three secondary coordinators to recognise the huge amount of good practice that already existed within their schools and to see that they already formed a powerful and fluid talent pool of staff, students, parents and local organisations.
Our participation in the National Training Programme for G&T coordinators run by Oxford Brookes University soon made us realise that good G&T practice is all about good learning and teaching being provided for every child, in every classroom, every day. If it is good for G&T students, it is good for all learners. Integral to this are the expectations of everyone involved and flexibility in the approach of adults. We now understand that G&T provision is not just about a discrete group of students but a strategy for whole-school improvement. Our attitudes towards learners and what we value in their achievements are well and truly being challenged.
We are in the process of managing our change towards exemplary G&T provision. We are aware that the road may be long and occasionally rocky, but guided by the DfES draft quality standards we are well on the way (see pages 1 and 5 of this issue for more on the DfES quality standards; further details will appear in the October issue). Key signposts along our route will include: – an audit based upon the DfES quality standards to provide a baseline level for our performance and a snapshot against which we can measure our progress – an action plan – well actually lots of action plans. Guided by the cluster plan, schools are given the flexibility to develop their own plan that fits within their own school improvement plan – training – both on the national programme for ourselves and provided by us collaboratively or in our own schools – evidence collection focused again on the DfES quality standards. For each quality standard, possible forms of evidence have been identified and shared – identification of students. We aim to be as inclusive as possible in terms of the types of people involved and the types of evidence or criteria used. Several schools are keen to look beyond traditional subject criteria to include more generic gifts and talents, such as leadership, innovative thinking and emotional intelligence. In the future, we hope that evidence for our identification of students can be triangulated to increase accuracy and validity, ie using evidence from three different types of sources to confirm identification of G&T in students, such as: standardised scores; teacher nomination using criteria; and samples of student work – setting targets. We still have lots of work to do on this and target setting will be the focus for our work next term. We intend to ensure our targets will be aspirational balanced by pragmatic realism – provision. We are keen to avoid a ‘bolt-on’ approach and two key elements are emerging from our shared experiences of provision: – learning and teaching strategies that support quality differentiation and raised levels of challenge for all – thinking skills, assessment for learning and the challenge framework will be important components – specific provision and support focused on our G&T students and adults. This tends to be in class, study support and out of school
– review. We intend to self-evaluate the progress we make as individual schools and as a whole cluster by revisiting the quality standards and collating our progress against our original audits.
We now understand that G&T provision is not just about a discrete group of students but a strategy for whole-school improvement. Our attitudes towards learners and what we value in their achievements have well and truly being challenged
Our assessments to date of our current position for our G&T work shows that most schools are working towards the ‘entry’ level of provision (see p5), though not exclusively, as two schools have mostly achieved these standards and are working towards the ‘developing’ level. In terms of provision, three types of cross-class provision have had the most impact in schools. 1. Challenge Days – working with artists and Kernow Woodland Learning and Challenge Weeks with Brain Wave (see box opposite).
2. In-class provision has been very varied with all sorts of strategies being tried out, such as: challenge tables; puzzle clubs; thinking skills groups; ‘light bulbs’ (large posters with pictures of light bulbs, in which we write excellent ideas, questions, comments or answers that pupils make during the week – some questions are researched by pupils during the week and answered through discussion at the end of the week); and Philosophy for Children.
3. Out-of-hours provision has focused on masterclasses run by the EAZ, secondary schools and the local college. We are beginning to expand the repertoire of these outside subject areas to include, for example, Animation Clubs for creative thinkers.
Our pastoral support programmes provide leadership opportunities for students in both the primary and secondary schools as part of a peer tutor training programme pioneered locally by the University of the First Age and with in-school opportunities: running school councils, circle time and learning-to-learn sessions run by students for parents.
Our real strength continues to be our partnership work, where shared experiences enable us to take risks together, which we then take back to try out in our own schools.
A classroom of the future The CPR Learning Space is our Classroom of the Future (one of 12 nationally) and where many of our enrichment G&T activities take place. Our team challenge has been to provide a futuristic learning environment, where barriers to learning for everyone are minimised. This attitude has been key to the successful realisation of our dream!
Our journey began in the year 2000, when the director of our EAZ (now the CPR Success Zone), Paul Hanbury, submitted a successful bid to the Classroom of the Future initiative being organised by the then DfEE based upon proposals by Malcolm Woolcock, a local secondary teacher and Paul Roche, the national schools’ astronomer. Designed by Cornwall County Council Architects, the original brief was to create a building within which ‘space missions’ could take place.
Camborne, Pool and Redruth is an area of high unemployment in a disadvantaged area that has been the target of substantial Objective 1 money from Europe. The average wage in Cornwall is only £14,000, compared to some £25,000 nationally. The gap is even wider in this former mining area. The Classroom of the Future represents more than just a technological and architectural achievement. If a project falls under one of these headings, we can develop it at the Learning Space: – innovative and creative learning and teaching for all – gifted and talented provision – state of the art technology – environmental responsibility
– raising the levels of aspiration and achievement of the whole community.
Our team challenge has been to provide a futuristic learning environment, where barriers to learning for everyone are minimised
One of the unique features about our Classroom of the Future was that it was being developed as a collaborative project shared among 26 schools in our EAZ. As a result of this collaboration, it soon became clear that staff and students in our family of schools wanted a much more flexible and responsive Classroom of the Future that could run a range of programmes limited only by their imagination.
The CPR Learning Space is an environmentally friendly building. With ground source heating, solar powered electricity and hot water, grey water (rain water used for flushing toilets) and sustainable building materials, the CPR Learning Space is an iconic building. Its exciting physical presence is mirrored by the inspiring programmes within. The CPR Learning Space has become a centre for experimentation and innovation in learning for people of all ages; a place where visitors are invited to challenge their own perceptions about what learning and learning spaces could be like in the future.
None of the CPR schools pay to use the Learning Space and core schools get free transport. A large plasma screen in the lobby welcomes people to the central conference space with large multimedia projection facilities, displaying up to 14 different inputs simultaneously. Next is the Pod, a 12-sided dodecagon with five large plasma screens; and the Dome, an organic space with a domed ceiling and seven display screens. As well as all the other usual facilities, the centre has two seminar rooms, each with plasma screen and video conferencing equipment.
The learning spaces have access to the latest ICT kit: – wireless IT network running up to 35 tablet PCs and 15 PDAs – plasma screens and multimedia projection facilities – fully integrated surround sound PA system enabling remote communication between rooms – video conferencing systems and pan, zoom, tilt remotely operated cameras
– scientific, technological and creative resources.
They also have – formal and informal furniture arrangements
– access to drinking water.
Our team of four bring the centre alive for visitors. Welcoming all age groups, the multi-talented staff reflect a remodelled work force who all share core roles, as well as developing their own specialisms, focused by our mission statement: ‘The CPR Learning Space aims to excite, support, advise and train those who wish to extend the potential of high-ability learners within schools and the wider community, whilst inspiring all learners to raise their aspirations, enjoy learning and excel in terms of their levels of achievement.’ This statement is underpinned by five key principles. – A learner’s potential is flexible. It’s about a person’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, self image and abilities, as well as the opportunities they are given to practice, explore, develop and demonstrate these. – We all have the ability to shine in some way, given the right opportunities, experiences and support. – All parties involved in the life of young people need to be involved in and understand the learning process, to break through the glass ceiling of achievement, to significantly raise standards. – Inspired people learn. If students see the point, understand what they are doing, get to make decisions about their learning and experience success, they will love their learning and become self-motivated.
– Our community has many limiting beliefs about what we can achieve. We need people to recognise these for what they are and take action to replace them with empowering beliefs.
Sue Sayer is the G&T and creativity strand coordinator for the CPR Success Zone Excellence Cluster in Cornwall and is the learning and teaching manager at the CPR Learning Space.