Get ahead, get some hats...

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Earlier this term, Brackens Primary won the Dundee education department's award for improving learning and teaching.

The school began by introducing learning intentions and peer assessment and quickly these strategies were adopted by the pupils, who now ask teachers: "What are we supposed to be learning?"

The school's focus has gradually changed from assessment to improving learning and teaching through Assessment is for Learning, and staff are delivering twilight sessions and in-class lessons to colleagues and pupils.

Staff say that pupils have become more independent and are picking up more through learning in a deeper fashion. They have grasped the bigger picture and have a good understanding of how they learn. For example, P1 pupils can name parts of the brain and how these are used in learning.

In classes there is a more positive attitude towards learning and pupils regularly share their understanding and help peers to develop theirs.

Euan Smith, the headteacher, says he has noticed a difference in the learning and teaching culture in the school. "In all classes, learning intentions and success criteria are regularly shared and are expected by pupils. Pupils are working collaboratively, sharing understanding. It is amazing the difference in the standard of work when your best pal is marking it," he says.

"I regularly see mind maps being used; children moving around the classroom sharing ideas before they start to write a story; children setting their own targets and assessing whether or not they have achieved them."

These strategies are not solely used with the high-fliers or with the older children but have also proved to be of great benefit to children with extra support needs and pupils in all year groups.

"Indeed, some of the most disaffected children have shown the biggest difference in attitude and willingness to learn," says Mr Smith.

"Over this session, I have found children are gaining ground in writing earlier in the year and the quality of work they are producing is exciting.

"In maths, pupils are demonstrating in national assessments that they have a deeper understanding of concepts which have been taught and retained."

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