Awards - Winner - Outstanding personalised learning initiative

11th September 2009 at 01:00
Maltby Crags Infant School, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

What they did

Children are taught according to their needs and interests and not their age at this infant school. For example, in a Year 2 class a gifted boy is learning Latin alongside children who are two years behind their chronological age. Children are consulted about the curriculum: one of the thinking skills courses uses themes from popular culture such as SpongeBob Squarepants and Doctor Who.

The school says it aims to break the cycle of disadvantage that some families in the area have experienced for generations. It wants to equip children with the life skills of perseverance, independent thinking, reflection, problem solving, learning, supporting and creative thinking. Enterprise and Seal, the programme for improving pupils' social and emotional skills, play an important part. The local authority uses the school as an example of good practice in enterprise education.

Attendance had been a key challenge at the school, so the school invented a game called "Crags-onopoly" to incentivise pupils to come in. The school moved to a new site last year as part of a #163;96 million private finance initiative across Rotherham.

Children set their own targets and mark their own work and that of their peers. Each pupil has a "friendly" target book that is shared with their family, their peers and the rest of the school. All teachers use assessment for learning. Three years ago, Ofsted rated Maltby Crags as satisfactory. This year's Ofsted report says it is outstanding. "This school has undergone rapid and sustained improvement," said reporting inspector Gordon Potter.

What the judges said

"The school has sharpened the principles of assessment for learning to make a powerful tool. It is demonstrably successful with vulnerable children." They spoke of a deprived school that had transformed itself and praised the self-assessment, peer-marking and mentoring.

You could do it too

Self-assessment and mentoring are just a couple of ways to get pupils to focus on their own achievement. Other schools in this category personalised learning through the use of virtual learning environments; tailoring modules to plug specific gaps in pupils' knowledge; allowing pupils to move through school at their own pace rather than according to age; and offering different "pathways" when 14-year-olds choose their options, from straight GCSEs to work-related learning.


The TES Schools Awards celebrate and reward the professionalism and flair of those teams making an outstanding contribution to primary and secondary schools in the maintained and independent sectors. This year's event attracted hundreds of entries and the panel of judges was impressed by their range and quality. Next year's Schools Awards will be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 17 June 2010, and will be open for entries at the end of this month. For more information visit

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