For the last three years the Centre of Excellence has worked alongside Wormley School in Hertfordshire supporting the development of a whole school approach to embedding the ‘social learning agenda’. Over this time the school has introduced a significant number of very effective, innovative and creative approaches to teaching and learning that are having a positive impact on the children’s abilities.

The last two developments have focussed on developing ‘children as researchers’ and more recently on providing children with a breadth of language; that they know, understand and can use, to support their skills in reasoning.

The ‘children as researchers’ day explored three of our five building blocks namely; lead, speak. and act. The day provided the children with the opportunity to develop their own skills with regard to research namely; questioning, data collection and interpretation and then to lead a project of the their own. The children took full responsibility for their actions. The three key questions that the children explored were:

The most recent day focussed on reasoning we used a range of stimuli to explore the language of reasoning including;

  • artefacts,
  • mathematical challenges,
  • texts,
  • historical contexts.

The purpose of the day reflects our building block on ‘speak’. For children to be able to explore and articulate their feelings, for children to be able to communicate aspects of their learning and for children to be able navigate their complex world then the language for reasoning is key.

The school is looking to agree the language, skills and strategies that underpin the development of reasoning, to ensure consistency and progression, making the language both visible and explicit. A number of key questions can be asked as illustrated by the diagram from ‘culture of thinking’ –

You may be interested in following the innovative work from Wormley

If you are on twitter you can follow Super Social Learner @WormleySSLearner

Starting a discussion – building blocks for social learning

Over the last week and a half we have been getting to know a wonderful group of children and adults in schools in Cambridgeshire.

  • Elm Road Primary – Wisbech
  • Nene and Ramnoth Primary – Wisbech
  • Millfield Primary – Ely
  • Highlees Primary – Peterborough
  • Eyrescroft Primary – Peterborough

Within each of these schools we found an energy from those at the top to make these schools an inspiring place within which children can make the most of their potential. No different to many other schools you might think? Perhaps not in sentiment, but in reality, these schools were facing some significant challenges, as they supported children who faced major disadvantages.

It was in this context of schools that were seeking to overcome the reality of the life situations that many of the children found themselves in, that we were exploring whether our social learning agenda would help.

In order to offer support we began our involvement in these schools through what we have termed ‘starting point discussions’. These discussions allow us to explore with schools our five key areas of attention: ethos, community, lead, speak and act.

Through conversations with children and adults, driven though simple questions through to the making of a fun film, we were able to start investigating how we could make connections that defined that link between the individuals (children and staff) and learning rooted in these unique learning communities. From these discussions clear next steps are emerging – these will feature in future blogs.

Acknowledging disadvantage means one can easily focus on the support that might be needed, rather than recognising the lessons that can be learnt. For there was so much that was going on in these schools that others could benefit from. These schools had become community hubs, sanctuaries for children and parents, in which inclusion was far more apparent than the divisions that jostled in the streets beyond. Here children felt they belonged, offering that most important starting point from which they were then able to learn.

Such schools highlight just how we need to be aware that children’s learning journey is not simply about the marks they receive in government tests, but in the personal journey that children go on. In these schools we met so many amazing children who were on an inspiring journey as they faced up to the challenges around them, and looked at how they could, with the support of their schools, overcome them.

To find out more about our Starting Point Discussions and how they might benefit you – get in touch –

Science, Language and Social Learning

We had an ‘explosive’ day at Maplecross Primary School, UK, on Thursday 5th January exploring approaches to science with staff. The focus was on engaging children in their learning and structuring their thinking with a heavy focus on developing the language for learning. In addition, the school also looked at embedding its agreed ‘generic social learning attributes’ into the teaching of science.

This approach reflects the Centre’s view that the language for all learning needs to be;

  • known and understood by all the children and the staff,
  • used consistency within and beyond the school community by all learners,
  • made visible and explicit within and beyond the formal curriculum,
  • developed through practical activities.

If you would like to find out more about what this school are doing visit their blog.

Developing Science Journals

Developing a Science Working Wall

The school has also been working on developing a wider range of speaking and listening opportunities for the children across the curriculum to help them articulate their learning including;

  • A/B talk (A talks to child B, B listens to A and then B reports back to the teacher or other children. Child A is then asked if they wish to add anymore. This is then repeated; B talks, A listens and feeds back)
  • Hot seating
  • Consensus seeking in collaborative group work
  • The smallest theatre in the world
  • Reader’s theatre
  • Talk for writing

These strategies are not curriculum specific and therefore can be used in all subjects areas and more importantly from the Centre’s perspective can be used in classrooms to explore and develop the child’s ability to reflect upon and manage their learning now and in the future.