CLV is a large comprehensive secondary school with over 2000 students from every background, serving some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community to aspirational middle class families. And – however you interpret the expression – it is a genuinely ‘outstanding’ school: be it in terms of the last three OFSTED inspections, the quality of learning experiences and opportunities offered to young people, or their work as a Teaching School.
Cramlington’s Philosophy of Learning:
“We aim to develop successful independent learners and thinkers through a ‘blended’ approach to pedagogy which sees a mix of enquiry based learning, ‘experience’ weeks, and structured learning around the ‘Cramlington Cycle’ – our model for teaching and learning”
Mark Lovatt, Deputy Headteacher, explained the “philosophy of learning” that underpins much of CLV’s innovation and successful teaching. Innovations, Mark explains, “will come and go”, some sticking, while others won’t. However key to CLV’s reputation as a truly innovative school are the consistent guiding principles that support a joined up approach to school improvement. The philosophy means that school improvement isn’t piecemeal or fragmentary, but starts from a collaboratively agreed, shared and consistent approach to learning. For the teaching staff this is non-negotiable, and as Mark explains, they must commit to this, entirely buying into the message of “this is how we learn as a school”. The result is that staff demonstrate the confidence and freedom to try innovations without the fear of failure.
At the core of the pedagogy is an absolute focus on the development of independent, resourceful learners – where “getting stuck is not a problem, but staying stuck is”. The C3B4ME (see-three-before-me) mantra is both displayed and played out, demonstrating the five Rs of independent learning in practice: Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reasoning, Responsibility and Reflection.
Getting to know Cramlington’s Philosophy of Learning: what are the ingredients to a well-planned lesson?
Connect to previous lessons and learning
Discuss learning outcomes and success criteria
Share new information
Active exploration – a search for meaning
Demonstration of learning
Review and reflection
The models for teaching and learning are clear, but flexible. In lessons we observe CLV’s blended pedagogy that moves back and forth through phases of teaching. We watch teachers move from a directive or guided style to shared, independent and experiential methods – teachers skilfully moving between different approaches in the same way a DJ might move a graphic equalizer on a scale, or a multi-linguist flips between languages to suit their audience.
Taking inspiration from the work of High Tech High in the US, project based learning and activities punctuate the academic year at Cramlington. Key aspects of great project work are demonstrated through current innovations that focus on authentic outcomes, including displays for learning. Known as ‘beautiful work’, these student pieces might go through ten or more phases of drafting and improvement. The pieces will then be showcased, displaying aspirational student work in the central areas of the Junior Learning Village (years 7/8). Meanwhile CLV are in the process of developing a rigorous approach to graduation from the Junior Learning Village (year 8) to their Senior Learning Village (years 9+) through their baccalaureate, based on points awarded for learning, community involvement and school engagement – including producing their own piece of displayed ‘beautiful work’.
Cramlington continues to look for opportunities for staff to innovate, including in digital fluency, where mobile technologies facilitate independent enquiry and learning. The introduction of 1:1 Galaxy Tablets and a customised VLE are two such examples of this, and are directly supported by CLV’s philosophy of learning. The introduction of tablets, as explained by Mark, “disturbs the physical environment to nudge the school towards the pedagogy you want”, and in doing so, “everyone, everywhere uses ICT for a purpose.”
So what were the ‘take-aways’ and key themes? Key questions to consider:
What is your philosophy of learning or your pedagogical focus as a school?
And how does that impact on…
… curriculum? … Use of space, learning environment, time and technology?… CPD and teacher training? … young people and their learning experience?