In 2003, Fulbridge Primary School came out of Special Measures and in 2012 it was judged ‘outstanding’ in every Ofsted inspection area. Along the way, we were assessed by Creative Partnerships and in 2008 we gained the status of a National School of Creativity. In 2013, we converted into an Academy. In December 2014, we were invited to be a Whole Education Pathfinder school. Most significantly however, we became a member of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust’s Schools Alliance in 2014 and adopted the principles, priorities, vision, aims and curriculum domains of the Cambridge Primary Review.
Once we left the Special Measures Club we decided that more of the same would not work, so we embarked on a curriculum and school development journey that can fairly be called never-ending. On this journey we have been lucky enough to learn from the likes of Roger Cole, Mick Waters, Mathilda Joubert, Alan Peat, Lindy Barclay and Andy Hind. But it’s our decision to accept the invitation to work with the Cambridge Primary Review Trust that will have the biggest impact.
Before the Cambridge Primary Review we had been working to develop a curriculum based on creativity, first hand experiences and the local environment. This suited our school, its pupils, teachers and community. But when the CPR final report appeared we discovered that it encapsulated both what we had been aspiring towards and what we had not yet addressed. So it not only aligned with what we were already doing but also offered us a way forward that would lead to further improvements. In this we heeded the parting comment of our lead Ofsted inspector: ‘Remember: “outstanding” is not perfect’.
So what have we done since becoming a member of CPRT’s Schools Alliance?
From September 2014 we started teaching, assessing and planning by reference to CPR’s eight curriculum domains: arts and creativity; citizenship and ethics; faith and belief; language, oracy and literacy; mathematics; physical and emotional health; place and time; science and technology. These are not unlike DfE’s seven early years areas of learning and development – and indeed the CPR report made it clear that its domains were intended to encourage curriculum continuity from early years to primary and from primary to secondary – so we decided to adopt them throughout the school, from nursery to year 6. This meant that there would be significant changes to our assessment processes too, because assessment without levels was introduced nationally at the same time.
To demonstrate genuine commitment to a broad and balanced curriculum we wanted to assess children’s learning in every domain, so a great deal of thought, research and work went into creating an approach which provides effective assessment without losing the exciting and innovative curriculum that we created, which we believe, in CPR’s words, ‘engages children’s attention, excites and empowers their thinking and advances their knowledge, understanding and skill.’
The time to make changes is when you are doing really well; don’t leave it until things start going wrong. The master of this principle was of course Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, hence the unparalleled success that the Red Devils have enjoyed over many years. So we too have adopted that principle in the hope of creating a Theatre of Dreams at Fulbridge as he did at Old Trafford.
September 2014 brought major changes and initiatives such as the new national curriculum, the SEND code of practice and of course the new assessment requirements and we too changed many of our structures. Meanwhile we have had a new 240-place building constructed which allows us to move from a 3 to 4 form entry school.
We are an enthusiastic Google Apps school, so all the new structures were created in Google Drive on Excel sheets, a format that allows everyone to contribute and add to the master document that will cover all our short, medium and long term planning. This process proved to be a great way to ensure participation and ownership by all staff. Alongside this we are working with Pupil Asset, who have created a bespoke tracking system that will tell you – if you really want to know – whether a child with size ten feet, blue eyes and ginger hair is over or underperforming compared to national averages.
Planning, teaching and assessing are the keys to everything that happens in our classrooms. We took the government’s proposed freedoms as a genuine invitation and made sure that each part of the cycle linked to the others. Thus, we use the same criteria to plan, teach and assess. To start the process we look at what we want to assess, having merged the CPR’s eight curriculum domains with the new national curriculum. We have created areas of assessment within each domain, aligning them with the attainment targets from the primary curriculum. In addition, we looked at how this linked to the topics and themes we teach, taking away parts of the new curriculum we didn’t want to use and adding any parts that were missing – the most serious omission being oracy.
We followed the same process of aligning curriculum domains and assessment strands in our EYFS Developmental Matters statements. Planning, teaching and assessing are now coherently and consistently applied and practised from nursery to year 6. During the current school year we are establishing what works and what fits, modifying elements as necessary so that by the end of the year we will have refined and embedded a system that we can take forward.
In basing all we are doing on the Cambridge Primary Review, we know that what we are doing is based on sound evidence, which makes a refreshing change when we think back to some of the initiatives that successive governments have introduced.
To support all these changes, our website was updated. Links to the CPRT website were easily made, but ensuring that the site’s curriculum area reflected all we are doing as a member of CPRT’s Schools Alliance took more time. After consulting staff and Governors, our new Ethos and Aims statement was uploaded onto the site. This adapts the CPR educational aims to reflect our overall approach and the character of our school community.
Iain Erskine is Head Teacher of Fulbridge Academy, Peterborough and a member of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust Schools Alliance. This is the second in a series of occasional blogs in which Alliance members write about their schools and we provide links to enable you to discover how their vision works in practice.
For further information about Fulbridge Academy, click here.
For other blogs about featured CPRT Schools Alliance schools, click here.