Cambridge Primary Review Trust: Regional Network South East
Shepway Teaching Schools Alliance (STSA) in conjunction with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the Cambridge Primary Review Trust (CPRT)
The need to begin developing a network of schools interested in developing their curriculum in line with the principles of the CPR has been a challenge for us over the last year. Our network in the South East is large, covering a huge geographical area, so we decided to begin our quest at a very local level. Vanessa Young (Coordinator of the CPRT South East Network), Peter Gregory and Claire March (all from CCCU) met with Carolyn Chivers, the Headteacher of Hythe Bay Primary School and Jennie Carter, Director of the STSA. Hythe Bay Primary School was the first school in the Region selected by CCCU to join the CPRT Schools Alliance. It is a member of the STSA – a well-established Teaching Schools Alliance that serves schools in the south coastal area of Kent.
Initial discussions centred on the priority of many local schools to develop the new National Curriculum into a high quality school curriculum, hopefully encapsulating the priorities of the CPRT. Our discussions began, of course with the wholly committed and ‘converted’, but we knew that many schools were on a journey that had never taken them anywhere close to the CPR. We also talked about the need for teachers to become much more reflective about their practice, so many had not looked at academic theory since their time at University – usually before actually qualifying as classroom practitioners. Masters level qualifications and classroom based action research seemed to be a route the University and our Teaching Schools Alliance could pursue to improve this situation.
Our first task was to get local schools to learn more about the CPRT, and it was agreed that this was probably best achieved by looking at it through the lens of the new curriculum. Schools have been bombarded with training providers, keen, willing and able to help them learn more about the new curriculum, usually for vast sums of money. The focus however, has mainly been around core subjects and of course, assessment. Consideration of foundation subjects training has, at the chalk face, been very sparse. We know that there has been a huge amount of work done by the national Expert Groups but it has not yet found its way to most subject leaders in schools.
We decided to hold a Teach Meet in a local school where teachers from different schools could meet together with other subject leaders to discuss how they were getting along with developing the curriculum in their specialist area. Each group would be led by a subject specialist from CCCU a Specialist Leader in Education from the SSTA. We would also use this meeting as an opportunity to tell the teachers about the CPRT and to talk about ways they could be supported in becoming more reflective practitioners.
So, invitations were sent to all local schools in the area. The first CPR Teach Meet would be held on Wednesday 2nd July at 4pm at Hythe Bay School. We did not ask anyone to book but just to come along and join us, so it was with some trepidation we waited for the first people to arrive. By four o’clock there were some forty teachers in the hall and another eight or nine arrived just after we had begun. It was interesting to note that there were about ten local Head teachers who also attended the event.
As Head teacher of the host school I opened the event by talking briefly about Hythe Bay’s involvement with the CPRT and mentioning the bespoke MA programme that CCCU had recently delivered at the school. Vanessa Young then gave an update on the CPRT, explaining that it was alive and well and that the plan was to apply and extend the work of the CPRT and advance the cause of high quality primary education in accordance with the CPRT principles. Claire March (CCCU Partnership Leader for the Shepway area) then outlined some of the Master Level opportunities available to practising teachers locally. Teachers were particularly interested in the opportunity of developing local Study Groups – meetings with small groups of teachers led by a staff member from the University where they would have the opportunity to discuss current education theory and relate it to their own classroom practice. These groups may develop into further study and accreditation for the teachers involved in the future. Peter Gregory (CCCU Research and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator) then gave a brief review of the recent Assessment without Levels Conference held at the University on June 6th.
The rest of the time was devoted to group discussion. Subject groups were given the chance to meet and discuss issues relating to their curriculum areas. Several basic questions were posed to stimulate the discussion:
- What changes have you / are you anticipating having to make to this area of the curriculum? Why these changes?
- What resourcing issues might there be?
- Consider the resources available
- What further support in terms of CPD will you need in order to develop your curriculum area?
The room immediately came to life and began to buzz, discussion was full and frank, subject leaders shared their plans, their concerns and their successes. University staff and specialist teachers shared a pen drive which contained a wealth of information and resources from the Subject Expert Groups and lap tops were available to download, print and share anything available. Some teachers talked about how their subject felt like the poor relation to English and Maths, how they hadn’t realised that much of the work had already been done by experts and of course how it was wonderful to meet with other staff that were responsible for the same subject. Finally Vanessa asked groups to share some of their discussion with others. The points made were very similar – but a real thirst for further CPD was the overarching outcome. The principles of the CPR were highly regarded by almost all teachers and many wanted to explore them further. Vanessa asked for a show of hands from those who were keen to become further involved with the CPRT and support came from the majority of those who attended. The meeting closed officially at 6pm but the discussion in groups continued for at least a further half an hour and was continuing outside the front door as groups swopped email addresses and contact details.
This event was very local and very small in terms of the whole South East Network of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust but it was a start and we all agreed, a very successful one thanks to the commitment of Canterbury Christ Church University, Shepway Teaching Alliance and of course the schools in the area.