How is CfE changing St John’s RC Academy?
We have been developing plans to ensure that the transition to new qualifications is smooth. We have been discussing our ideas and draft plans with staff, pupils and the parents’ council; we have held special presentations for parents (click here to view the latest presentation); we have highlighted key changes in our newsletters, and we have listened carefully to advice coming from Perth and Kinross Education Service, Education Scotland, the SQA and Scottish Government.
Changes are taking place in St John’s RC Academy to deliver CfE, including:
Learning and teaching – the curriculum encourages teachers and pupils to work in new ways to promote deeper learning. Based on the findings of educational research from around the world, our teachers are supporting our young people to develop skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work. The skills include literacy, numeracy and associated thinking skills; skills for health and wellbeing, including personal learning planning, career management skills, working with others, leadership and physical co-ordination and movement skills; and skills for enterprise and employability.
The school – with support from Perth and Kinross Education Service – has invested in training our teachers in cooperative learning and in embedding the key features of ‘Assessment is for Learning’ across the school. While traditional teaching methodologies remain important, we encourage active learning at every opportunity, with the children and young people assessing themselves and their peers against agreed success criteria. Our teachers discuss the evidence of learning with one another, identifying the strengths and next steps of learners, and reflect on the quality of the learning experiences so these can be improved. This process – called moderation – is crucial in agreeing and raising standards and expectations.
Teachers working within the Senior Phase are preparing our young people for qualifications. They are working closely with SQA and other awarding bodies, Education Scotland and Perth and Kinross Education Service, to ensure that all our learners achieve in a wide variety of subjects and opportunities.
Entitlement to universal support – we want every young person to have a teacher who knows them well as a learner. This is achieved in our nursery through our early years practitioners and in primary school through each child’s class teacher. Our tutor system in the secondary school has been put in place to ensure that every young person is known as an individual and their learning needs are considered. This is providing pupils with quality learning time with one another and their tutor, developing skills for learning, life and work through building positive relationships, discussing and reflecting on learning and achievements, identifying and asking for support, supporting peers, and preparing for the many choices and changes in life. We also use this time to promote House and school activities, such as our charitable fundraising and our learning council.
Portfolios and Profiles – all through our school we build learning portfolios of our children and young people to help them to recognise their strengths and next steps in learning. Every young person has been compiling a portfolio of their learning with support from their teacher/tutor. This tracks achievement across every aspect of the curriculum – in classes, in interdisciplinary learning, in the extended curriculum, and outside school. Portfolios are a key way for our young people to recognise their achievements and their developing skills and, crucially, to be able to talk about these confidently. Profiles, which are strengths based documents, are being compiled by every P7 and S3 pupil. The profiles will record achievements in learning at the end of the primary school (P7 profile) and at the end of the broad general education, i.e. before the qualifications, or senior, phase of school (S3 profile).
Transitions and cross sector working – we aim to enable every child and young person to make the best possible start at nursery and school, and when they leave we plan for positive and sustained destinations. In recent years we have been developing our transition arrangements across the whole school. Planning for transitions takes place at every stage. Between nursery and P1, P7 and S1, the end of the broad general education and the senior phase, and from the senior phase into adult life we have programmes of planned activities to ensure successful pastoral and learning transitions.
As an all through school we are able to enhance our transition arrangements through planning together, sharing resources and learning spaces. Pupils from P3 onwards are regularly taught by secondary specialist staff, and this increases as the children move through the primary stages.
Recognising achievement – Curriculum for Excellence challenges schools to recognise the achievements of all our learners, and to support learners in recognising their own achievements so that they can build on them. A great deal of this recognition takes places informally in class or tutor group on a day to day basis. We also recognise the achievements of pupils (in and out of school) through assemblies, newsletters, stickers and stamps, bulletins, awards, through our twitter account, noticeboards, the house points system, and through nominating pupils for external awards such as the Spirit of Youth and Diana Awards. Our academic year culminates in our achievement ceremonies where a wide range of awards are presented for an array of achievements. (We are always looking for large and small sponsors to help us make these events special – if you can help, please contact the school.)
At St John’s RC Academy we also acknowledge the importance of others recognising our achievements as a community. We recently renewed our Fairtrade School status from the Fairtrade Foundation as an all through school; we are working towards our first Green Flag and level 1 RRS status as an all through school; the joint sports comprehensive with Perth Grammar recently gained the Sunday Mail/sportscotland Sports School of the Year award, and we are also recognised as a Health Promoting School. These achievements help us to recognise the wealth of talent which exists across our pupils, parents, partners and staff and help us to foster an ethos of success through working together.
Partnership working – a key aspect of CfE is the importance we now place on partnership working. We continue to develop our partnerships with parents, the first teachers of our learners, and are committed to working, consulting and engaging with them so that our curriculum serves the needs of their children.
We also continue to develop our partnerships with a wide variety of others within the local, national and international communities. As a Catholic school, the local parishes have a unique role in this partnership. The partnership extends to many services provided by our local authority, the NHS, local NGOs and community groups, businesses and education centres.
These partnerships enrich our curriculum and enhance the experiences and outcomes for all our learners.
Developing the senior phase – under CfE the end of S3 marks the end of the broad general education. Therefore the qualifications phase (or senior phase) does not begin until S4. This means that pupils in St John’s RC Academy choose up to 15 subjects in S3 – including a wide variety of ‘masterclasses’ – before choosing 6 or 7 subjects to study in S4 for national qualifications at National 3-5 (for most). This approach gives greater personalisation and choice, without having to narrow their curriculum at too young an age. The small reduction in the number of qualifications in S4 (from 8 to 6/7) means that more learning time is given to each subject – thus providing opportunities for greater depth of learning as well as sound preparation for external assessments.
As we prepare to the implementation of the new Highers and the new Advanced Highers, the school is constantly reviewing its curriculum structure within the secondary. We are committed to a wide consultation in 2014-15 when we will review the S3 structure in light of our experiences and consider the development of a joint S4-6 curriculum structure. This has many benefits including providing greater opportunities for our young people of all abilities, allowing for greater flexibility in relation to studying for Highers over one or two years, and utilising staff more effectively and efficiently.
Pupils will continue to have the opportunity to take up to 5 Highers in one sitting, or a combination of Highers, other national qualifications, and other learning opportunities. These learning opportunities are being extended through the development of Perth City Campus. The City Campus involves all four Perth schools and the Perth College UHI in working together to provide more choice for our pupils, particularly in S6 at Advanced Higher level.