What is Disciplinary Science Writing?
At primary school, pupils spend a considerable amount of time learning to read and write both fiction and non-fiction texts. Often in primary schools, pupils write about their science, but are not taught what makes scientific writing distinctive from other styles of writing. Instead of writing: “A butterfly travels from flower to flower, transporting pollen.” pupils might write, “While the iridescent butterfly glitters in the glorious sunshine, it transports pollen from one stunning flower to another.” At Paradigm we teach pupils the distinctive nature of scientific writing.
How We Teach Scientific Writing
We have developed a science reading and writing week each half term in addition to our weekly science lessons. For the first half of the week, pupils read a scientific text based on a topic in which they are already secure (the study text). In the second half of the week they plan and write their own text on a similar but not identical question (the outcome text).
Example study and outcome texts:
|Study Text||Outcome Text|
|How plants are pollinated by insects.||How plants are pollinated by the wind.|
|Describe the function of the heart.||Describe the journey of blood as it travels around the body.|
|How does coastal erosion take place?||How does river erosion take place?|
The purpose of having similar study and outcome texts is that pupils can practise using the same vocabulary, sentence types and structure as they have just been studying, without the writing being a direct copy.
We have drawn on the following books in developing our programme:
- Reading Reconsidered (Lemov, Driggs and Woolway);
- Bringing Words to Life (Beck, McKeown and Kukan) and
- The Writing Revolution (Hockman and Wexler).
The importance of physical exercise for keeping our bodies in good shape is well documented, but the benefits of Physical Education in school extend far beyond the sports field.
In 2020, after the national lockdown, children’s charity Youth Sport Trust carried out a survey of 1,396 young people aged 6–15 to discover how they now felt about sport and exercise. Over a quarter said physical education, sport and exercise had made them feel better during that time. Additionally, 40% said not being able to play sport had made them feel worse. Clearly, sport and exercise has a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
At Paradigm it is easy to observe the positive effects PE has on our pupils. In the lessons following a PE session, students’ attention is noticeably greater, their ability to focus is far better. Long term it builds self-confidence, reduces anxiety and improves self-esteem. It also helps them develop attributes which help them cope with difficulties and setbacks.
In PE lessons, Paradigm takes a skills-based approach, especially at primary school. Rather than simply play different sports and games, lessons are instead designed to improve the fundamental movement skills – running, jumping, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, throwing and catching – especially in the younger year groups. By incorporating these into the PE curriculum, schools are able to ensure pupils can develop these core abilities which are used in multiple sports and physical activities. Then when they come to play different sports, which are usually introduced around upper Key Stage Two, students will be competent in the necessary skills the sport requires, whether it’s throwing a ball in cricket, jumping in basketball or having the hand-eye coordination to play a racquet sport such as badminton.
To plan lessons and to ensure the pupils are able to improve their abilities as they move through the school years, teachers in the Trust use a progression map for PE. This document shows the development for each year group, and so the progression map becomes an extremely useful tool for any non-specialist teachers who are going to be teaching the lessons. It also gives them an overview of the whole PE curriculum.
As an illustration, in Year 1 schools teach the children to throw underarm. In Year 2 the distance is increased and later they are taught the correct technique to throw overarm as well. At Secondary school the lessons become more challenging; the basic skills remain the same but the focus switches to developing and practising them more. The difficulty of the activities increases in order to hone the skills, for instance the size of the ball is reduced, throwing challenges use more difficult angles, distances are greater. Also in secondary school there is a heavier emphasis on the ability to outwit opponents with strategy and tactics, and students are routinely exposed to attacking and defending principles specific to activities through in-depth discussion.
This approach was put into place at Paradigm three years ago, and the results are already evident in the pupils who have been taught with this method. As a whole they are displaying more aptitude in these core skills than previously, they understand games a lot better and know how to use the required skills to succeed at the sport they are playing.
When it comes to choosing between fitness and getting children healthy versus simply playing team games and having fun, Paradigm Trust works to have a good balance. For example, after lockdown children had lost much of the fitness they had previously developed so for an entire term the focus was working hard to get them back to the level of fitness where they were previously. After that teachers incorporated games too, to reintroduce the other aspect of PE.
To be able to track pupil’s progress effectively, measurement is key, so Paradigm has created a series of assessments which are used in all its schools. These tests are deliberately standardised so it is possible for teachers to compare and contrast the data across the whole Trust and adjust teaching methods as appropriate.
There are currently five assessments, including the bleep test, which gives an indication of whether pupils’ fitness is getting better, and a speed test, consisting of ten sets of 10 metres sprints which are timed to see how fast students can go. Hand-eye coordination is tested by throwing a ball at the wall and catching it, and strength is measured by seeing how far a pupil can throw a basketball from a seated position.
PE can often be a subject that is missed by SEN children, but inclusion is a key consideration in all Paradigm’s lessons and so the Trust ensures every child has the opportunity to join in and benefit. Any adaptations made are always based around the individual’s needs, and these can take many forms, from varying the size of the ball to adjusting distances or the equipment that is used. As an example, Culloden Primary Academy has a Deaf Support Base and its PE teachers ensure the one to one support staff are there to support with the signing, whether this is on the playground, in the hall or even at the side of the swimming pool. Staff are also equipped with electronic devices that make it easier for the children to hear what they are saying, and consciously employ techniques such as positioning themselves so it’s easy for the children to lip read.
At the core of sport is competition, which is important for helping pupils develop a winning mental attitude and equipping them to handle both success and failure. Taking part in inter-school competition, both within and outside the Trust, is an effective way to do this, and so teams from all schools are entered into many different competitions throughout the year, including SEN-specific contests. As well as teaching pupils about sportsmanship and respect, it fosters a sense of friendly rivalry and school pride, and boosts morale and self-esteem.
PE is an essential part of the curriculum that builds strong character and develops qualities in pupils which are beneficial in all subjects, as well as their lives beyond school.
In a world where we are surrounded by music every day, Music lessons help pupils understand and appreciate it in some way, whether that’s by learning an instrument, connecting on an emotional level or even using it as a method of self-regulation.
It’s also a subject which has many benefits that reach far beyond learning an instrument or improving children’s musicality, and Paradigm Trust has put the measures in place to help its pupils flourish.
To give pupils at the six Paradigm schools the best music education, the Trust employs a team of specialist teachers to take music lessons at all stages, from nursery right up to Key Stage Four.
By using staff who have trained as music teachers, the Trust benefits from their expertise at all levels. It allows Paradigm to build its own bespoke curriculum based on real subject knowledge, and as its teachers have more regular, consistent contact with the children they are able to tailor lessons to the needs of the students. It also ensures its music teachers are fully aligned with the Trust’s values and vision.
To ensure it is possible to deliver an effective music curriculum, sufficient time and resources must be given to the subject. Paradigm Trust has recently allocated more space in the timetable to the teaching of music, so now every primary school child has one music lesson a week of around forty minutes, throughout the year. At Key Stage 3, rather than being on a carousel rotation, music is a regular part of the curriculum so all students in year 7, 8 and 9 receive an hour’s music lesson every week, all year round. All schools in the Trust have specific music rooms which are equipped with all the resources teachers need to be able to conduct lessons effectively.
In addition to regular music lessons in school time, the Trust provides peripatetic tuition across eight instruments, taught by specialist tutors. This is available to all students from Year 2 upwards. The primary schools have similar opportunities, offering after school activities which include ukulele club, guitar club, choir and musical theatre.
It is also important for students’ development to experience performing away from their schools and the music staff take students to events such as Young Voices in London, and to Snape Maltings, the world-famous music venue on the Suffolk coast.
The current music curriculum was developed by Paradigm Trust three years ago and has two main focuses. The first is on the skills and musical knowledge that it aims to teach the pupils. This is unashamedly aspirational – EYFS children are taught musical terminology, and are expected to be able to understand dynamics, describing the tempo of a pulse as fast or slow, and being able to tell whether a piece is loud or soft. Similar standards are applied to later years, so by the time pupils reach Key Stage 4 they have the foundations to achieve with music, should they decide to take their studies further.
As well as improving their musicality, students are also building interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in their lessons. Teachers ensure there is always a practical aspect to every lesson with group work and performance prominent. These activities build confidence and self-esteem, and grow skills such as team-building and working with others. Learning to play a musical instrument also teaches resilience and patience, as there is no shortcut to competence, just perseverance. Inclusion is always important at Paradigm, and music is no different. Teachers aim to make sure each session is enjoyable and accessible; no pupil should go into a lesson feeling they are not going to be able to achieve.
A good example of what music can teach is apparent in a unit that is taught at secondary school called ‘Find Your Voice’, which is built into the Year 7 curriculum. On one level this is about singing and body percussion, but it is also there to help deal with the performance anxiety many Year 7s have, especially as they are starting a new school. The goal is for them to recognise that music is a subject where there are high expectations, and even though their worries are understandable, they are still encouraged to perform. The quality of the singing is important, and so is building the learner’s confidence, so in future units of study and elsewhere in their life they are better able to cope with similar situations.
Our music curriculum also centres on the cultural capital aspect of music. As children learn about different genres of music, they also study the context and diversity of the genres; the place where it was born, the people who created it and the time period. For instance, when studying funk, soul and blues the children also learn about slavery and segregation. In this way Paradigm makes music a cross-curricular subject, linking pupils’ learning to many other areas on the timetable.
An extensive Ofsted report on Religious Education, released in May 2021, has identified that nationally RE teachers’ subject knowledge is weak. Fewer than a third of the 633 trainee secondary RE teachers in this academic year have a degree in Theology or Religious Studies, and during PGCE training, on average only a day or two is given over to RE. For a subject which is heavily knowledge-based this is far from ideal, so at Paradigm measures have been in place for several years to make sure teachers have the knowledge and support they need to teach RE effectively.
One of the main ways Paradigm ensures its RE teachers have an appropriate level of expertise is by providing subject knowledge enhancement. Before each topic is started, teachers in each year group from across the Trust will meet together to go through the plan and talk about all the misconceptions that might surface around it. The RE lead for that year group then goes through the core knowledge required for that topic to ensure everything is covered, and there is a quiz at the end of it to see whether there are any remaining gaps that need to be filled before teaching begins.
Another tool used by Paradigm is the bonanza day, a big event consisting of workshops on different areas of subject knowledge. Teachers from across the Trust come together and are able to pick and choose which workshops they attend, so they can address any areas where they feel they are lacking knowledge and get the training they need. For example, at a recent bonanza there were workshops on Judaism and one on how to use artefacts in the classroom.
At every school there is an RE lead at each school whose duties include visiting the classrooms and getting involved in lessons, modelling effective practice and providing constructive feedback. Paradigm also encourages teachers to record their lessons, so they can be watched back and gone through with the RE lead or other peer, allowing them to see the positive aspects and identify areas for improvement.
As Religious Education has no statutory curriculum, Paradigm has developed its current curriculum by taking the best parts of the Tower Hamlets syllabus and the Suffolk syllabus (the two authorities which Paradigm schools fall under) and combining them in a way which reflects the Trust’s ethos and values.
RE is taught systematically, so each child studies each chosen religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Humanism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – twice in their primary career, first establishing their initial knowledge, then building on what they’ve learnt when they revisit it later (Buddhism is added at KS3). To ensure the children make progress there is a different focus enquiry in each year. For example Year 2 will look at how and why the religions celebrate festivals, when they reach Year 5 they will explore what it means to follow a certain religion in Britain today. This way there is no repetition when children revisit the religion.
By structuring the curriculum in this way, teachers can be confident about the learning in previous years, and they have good subject knowledge too. There is a consistency so they know what the children have been taught previously, and this allows the teachers to make comparisons between religions for the children and themselves. It also facilitates spaced practice.
Paradigm takes a ‘whole school’ approach to teaching religion; every year group from 1-6 will study the same religion at the same time. This has several benefits, the first being it evokes a community sense in the whole school. By learning the same subject at the same time, siblings from different year groups will be able to discuss the same issues at home, albeit at different depths. When festivals come around the entire school can take part in the celebrations.
This approach is not only effective for learning, it also allows for greater efficiency when it comes to staff training and the organisation of resources and visits. RE is a very artefact-rich subject and teachers always bring in items from the religion, such as Bibles, kippahs and patkas, to enrich the children’s learning.
Another useful teaching tool which is used in Year 1 is a persona doll, which teachers use with the children every time a new religion is introduced. The doll brings with it a bag in which it has all the relevant artefacts, as well as other things such as a toy car or colouring pens. The doll becomes a member of the class for the time they are learning RE, and is brought in every lesson so the children can relate to it, and the teacher can use it as a frame of reference, asking questions such as ‘this doll is going to church, what might we do if we went with her?’.
The Trust arranges for external parties to come in and run workshops on different religions, and this works far more effectively when the whole school is studying the same religion simultaneously. The children also go out and experience religion in their community by taking a visit to a different place of worship every year, so in their primary career they will have experienced a workshop on every religion, and visited every place of worship too.
In present day society religion and beliefs have become more visible in public life locally, nationally and internationally. Religious education allows Paradigm particular opportunities to promote an ethos of respect for others, challenge stereotypes and build an understanding of other cultures and beliefs. This contributes to promoting a positive and inclusive school ethos that champions democratic values and human rights. It provokes challenging questions, encouraging pupils to explore their own beliefs, enabling pupils to develop respect and understanding for others and finally it prompts pupils to consider their rights and responsibilities to society, and helps them understand themselves. RE supports all three Paradigm values of integrity, excellence and community.
By focusing on mastering the basics of foreign languages Paradigm Trust is achieving excellent progress figures and giving its pupils the foundation they need to succeed in the future.
Paradigm’s approach to teaching modern foreign languages focuses heavily on the spiral curriculum method, rather than covering a wide range of subjects and topics in little depth. By revisiting the same grammatical structures again and again, teachers embed the linguistic foundations which students need to fully comprehend so they can successfully progress in their understanding of the language. So in the current curriculum for example, the present tense is studied several times in Year 7, until teachers are confident the pupils understand the concept and know what they’re doing. Once they reach this point then teachers will add more in, but again keep revisiting the concepts in different topics so the students continue to grow in confidence. By doing this, pupils are able to gain mastery of these vital foundation building blocks.
As with all subjects across Paradigm, a lot of focus is placed on retrieval practice. Throughout the year teachers revisit what has been taught and check that pupils have understood it and can recall that information. This can take many forms, such as low stakes tests and spaced practice, so students see those same things again and again but in different contexts, to ensure they really understand what they’re talking about and that the solid foundations are there.
Learning foreign languages isn’t only for secondary school students; Paradigm has a keen focus on teaching languages in its primary schools too. Nationally this is traditionally seen as a challenge; firstly because there is a shortage of teachers at that stage with the skills or experience to teach a foreign language – many primary schools don’t have a specialist foreign languages teacher at all. Secondly, establishing time for foreign languages in the curriculum can also be an issue, as other subjects may take priority.
To overcome these challenges, Paradigm employs a specialist languages teacher for its London primary schools, who splits her time between Solebay Primary, Old Ford Primary and Culloden Primary. This way the children at all three schools can benefit from specialist teaching at a stage where they would normally not receive any. It also puts them in an advantageous position when they make the transition to secondary school and start studying foreign languages in more depth.
In Ipswich, Paradigm employs a different strategy, with both its primary academies, Murrayfield and Piper’s Vale, using a carefully selected bought-in scheme which has been chosen as it closely mirrors the London school’s programmes, and fits well with the Paradigm pedagogy.
When it comes to choosing what language is taught in its primary schools, Paradigm ensures it is one that correlates with what is being taught in the local secondary school. Currently this means the London schools learn Spanish as that is the language which is predominantly taught in the surrounding secondary schools, while in Ipswich, Murrayfield and Piper’s Vale teach French, the main language learnt at Ipswich Academy.
At both primary and secondary school Paradigm is careful to use examples which show people around the world who speak French and Spanish, not just in their home countries. In this way children get a greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures and how language spreads around the world.
The ability to speak a modern foreign language is more beneficial now than it has been for a generation. In terms of business links and employability, the skill is highly in demand – recent events mean that as a nation we will be trading directly with more countries than before, and the ability to communicate effectively, and understand the culture, will be invaluable.
The demand for foreign language speakers isn’t restricted to the business and trade sectors either. Many public organisations such as the NHS and the police require employees with linguistic skills, as do private companies in a range of industries from construction to accounting and finance.
The comparative scarcity of bilingual and multilingual speakers in this country is reflected in the wages on offer for positions which require these skills. A recent study by Preply found that people with Arabic as a second language can earn as much as 74% extra, compared to the average UK salary, with Mandarin increasing wages by 45%, and French by 34%. While it is impossible to teach every language, studies have proven once someone has learned one foreign language, they can pick up further languages more quickly.
Learning another foreign language also develops a range of transferrable skills, such as communication and presentation abilities. It also builds understanding and appreciation of other cultures, which are really important qualities in today’s society, and when dealing with other nations.
The success of remote working during the pandemic has opened another window for foreign language speakers. Over the last year and a half many businesses across the globe have discovered and embraced the benefits of remote working. This means people are no longer restricted by their physical location when it comes to building a career. Instead they can seek employment with firms around the world without having to move – and people who are able to speak foreign languages will have an important advantage.
The Department for Education is currently considering amending the subject content requirements for GCSE modern foreign language qualifications. The proposed changes involve a greater focus on stripping back the amount that is taught, a similar approach to how Paradigm already teaches foreign languages. There will also be more emphasis on teaching phonics, which is another area Paradigm has looked at – it adjusted the curriculum to do this in September 2020, and continues to embed it.
By focusing on what works, Paradigm is ensuring its pupils are making great progress in foreign languages – in 2018 the progress score was 0.89, and in 2019 it was 1.10. Using a process of continual feedback and review the Trust can make sure its pupils are being taught languages in the most effective way and will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities arising for foreign language speakers.
Paradigm Trust’s pioneering Hinterland programme is providing cultural capital for its pupils so they can enjoy a richer life experience and improve their learning.
Cultural capital has existed as a phrase and a concept for decades, but was introduced by Ofsted into its framework in September 2019. The new documentation requires educational settings to provide their learners with “the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.” While this has led to much discussion around what cultural capital actually is, this new aspect to the framework has dovetailed smoothly with work Paradigm Trust has already been doing for years.
The amount of cultural capital a child has can impact how much they get from their lessons at school. Due to differing circumstances and backgrounds, children inevitably come to the classroom with disparate life experiences. For instance, some pupils may have been to the seaside, while others will never have visited the coast. If then, in an English lesson the class reads a story set by the sea such as The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cat, everyone can understand it and answer questions on it to some extent, but the children who have actually been to the coast are able to relate far more readily and enjoy a richer experience than those who haven’t.
Traditionally, experiences such as these would have been accumulated by pupils in a rather haphazard way, with some children having many more such experiences than others due to their family background and related factors. Paradigm is committed to levelling this playing field, ensuring all pupils have access to high quality experiences. It does this through the Trust’s Hinterland programme, which it has designed not only to increase cultural capital in its pupils, but academic capital (the knowledge which supports new learning) and character capital (the knowledge which lets you engage with the world).
For Hinterland, Paradigm has developed a curriculum of thought-through systematic experiences which it expects every child from Early Years to the end of Y11 to benefit from. These include going to the seaside, the zoo, having a picnic, residential trips, museum trips, visiting backstage at a theatre, taking part in plays and other activities which prove beneficial to children’s learning. The activity is then brought back to the classroom and the teachers spend a lot of time unpacking and exploring it to ensure maximum value is drawn out of every experience.
As an example, a Hinterland trip may take a group of children to the National History Museum in London. This fulfils the criteria for academic Hinterland as it would fit with core science content, and teachers could discuss stories about influential scientists such as Darwin and Hooker, the work of Victorian philanthropists or the steel structure of the building. The cultural aspect would be drawn out through a discussion on the purpose of museums, who pays for them, who owns the exhibits, are they ethical? Finally, the character Hinterland is developed by taking the children through how they should behave in a museum, what can (and can’t) they touch, how do they talk about their experiences?
Paradigm operates schools in both London and Ipswich but makes sure all pupils are able to access very similar experiences, regardless of where they live, even to the extent of subsidising travel costs when London pupils need to travel to Ipswich, or vice versa.
The emphasis with Hinterland is quality over quantity – it is far better to choose the right visits and get the most out of them than take the children on lots of visits which have little value. Any time out of the classroom must be shown to be effective and worthwhile for the child’s education before it is agreed.
Because of Hinterland, and the knowledge-rich curriculum Paradigm has created and uses, the introduction of cultural capital in 2019 within the Ofsted framework changed very little at the Trust. The practice of building up a child’s store of experiences to improve their learning has been ingrained across all the schools for many years anyway, so while it was a new requirement on the framework, it was a concept which had existed for many years at Paradigm. By running the Hinterland programme Paradigm is working hard to ensure no child is disadvantaged in their education. In this way, the Trust is able to broaden children’s life experiences and help prepare them for future study, employment and, most importantly, leading a fulfilling life.
Inclusive learning is supporting the needs of every pupil in order to give them the same opportunities as their peers. It’s about equity, giving the child the right tools to be able to learn, whether that’s within a mainstream or a specialist setting.
To ensure effective inclusive learning takes place in its schools, Paradigm focuses on the individual needs of every child. By giving appropriate support to pupils who may not be able to learn in the same manner as their peers, the Trust makes sure that all children can have the same opportunities.
Paradigm approaches inclusive learning with a holistic approach; in addition to considering the academic aspect, other factors such as independence, resilience and attention skills are also looked at and worked on where necessary. Where integration is the best option then Paradigm will work to provide this, but in some cases integration can actually be a barrier to learning. For instance, deaf students engaging in shared reading may be better off away from the main class in a space that is acoustically suitable, enabling them to access the work in a more helpful environment.
While inclusive learning support is often associated purely with special educational needs, the Trust understands barriers to learning can be caused by other factors too, such as social, gender and economic issues. These aspects are all considered when assessing how to implement inclusive learning that best suits the child.
Paradigm Trust invests heavily to improve further its ability to implement effective inclusive learning. At Culloden Primary Academy in London it has an established Deaf Support Base to help children with hearing impairment, and in 2020 specialist units were opened at Murrayfield Primary and Piper’s Vale Primary in Ipswich. These are designed for children with a range of needs, including autism and/or sensory processing challenges and provide an environment which is beneficial for their learning. Working in conjunction with Suffolk County Council, Paradigm Trust is also working to establish a new special school for pupils with additional needs in Suffolk, and it hopes to welcome the first intake in 2022/23.
Where schools require specialist services that are not available inhouse, expert external providers are brought in to help pupils. These include speech and language therapists, educational psychologists and occupational therapists. Independent learners are also supported by the Trust with a range of strategies and teaching aids, including task planners, visuals and visual aids, interventions and learning mentors.
As inclusive learning at Paradigm is focused on the individual needs of each child, effective assessment must be made to enable the correct support to be put into place. The main assessments take place in the summer term, so plans can be in place for the start of the academic year in September. However, each child’s progress is monitored throughout the year and if at any time it becomes apparent that additional or alternative measures would be beneficial, then this is discussed with pupils, their parent/carer and the relevant members of staff.
Covid 19 has required considerable work to ensure all children continue to receive the same learning opportunities despite the disruption. One major challenge was the ‘digital divide’ over the two periods of remote learning; many children, both at Paradigm and nationally, were unable to access online learning due to a lack of devices or insufficient broadband access. To help bridge this gap Paradigm supplied over 2,100 Chromebooks to its children, plus hundreds of dongles which were preloaded with data allowance. Later, when children returned to schools and the wearing of masks was mandatory for teaching staff, the Trust ensured there were transparent masks available, where required, so deaf children weren’t disadvantaged by being unable to see the mouths of the teachers.
Working collaboratively across the Trust’s six schools is a key factor in delivering inclusive learning effectively. By pooling resources, teachers across the Trust are able to access expertise which would be beneficial in their school, but is not something they personally have. One way in which this happens is through a SENCO Network group which meets regularly. This allows the SENCOs from each school to come together to support each other, discuss best practice and share their knowledge. In turn this benefits the children at every school. As an example, as Culloden Primary Academy has a Deaf Support base, staffed by qualified teachers of the deaf, they are able to provide specialist advice and support to teaching staff at other Paradigm schools where there are pupils with hearing impairment.
Of course, none of this can be effective without having the right people to plan and implement inclusive learning. Having the right fit is key, so when recruiting, Paradigm Trust always measures candidates on their passion for inclusion and their understanding of its importance. As a Trust, Paradigm has three lead values, two of which feed directly into inclusive learning: Community – working together; learning from, and supporting, others; and Excellence – enabling everyone to achieve more through education. By staying true to these values, it can ensure all its pupils have access to the opportunities they need to learn and grow.
As part of International Women’s Day we wanted to introduce you to some of the women who make Paradigm Trust what it is. They all have different stories, but each one plays a key role in providing an outstanding education for the children.
Shabina Khatum, Home School Support Manager at Old Ford Academy:
My role is to provide a positive link for parents between home and school. I continuously engage with parents/carers through workshops, coffee mornings and ongoing one to one support. This platform enables me to empower our parents, especially our mums and female carers, to develop key skills, boost confidence and recognise their self-worth.
Emma Vehit, Company Secretary and Data Protection Officer.
I started working at Paradigm just over 12 years ago in a receptionist role at Culloden Primary Academy. I was a new mum to a 9-month-old and the role was just what I needed to get back into a working environment. There were always different positions that were being advertised across the two schools that we had back then and when opportunities came up I jumped at them, or was gently coaxed by my colleagues when I needed reminding that I had the experience and knowledge for the roles that I felt might be out of reach.
From my receptionist position, I moved into an attendance and administration position and then became the Office Manager at Culloden where I managed the most amazing team – two of whom are now Office Managers in other schools in the Trust. Some years later, I am now in a Trust-wide role and am studying with the ICSA to become a Chartered Secretary, fully supported by the Trust.
Paradigm is famous for ‘growing its own’ and I’m sure that most people you talk to who work for the Trust will have their own story. I feel very fortunate to work for an organisation that invests so much in developing both the children and the staff. Paradigm didn’t just give me a job, they gave me a career and I hope to have many more years working for them.
Deborah Simpson, EYFS at Murrayfield Primary Academy
I have worked at Murrayfield Primary for approximately nine years now. I work as part of a team within the Early Years Foundation Stage where I’m responsible for creating a safe, nurturing learning environment for Nursery and Reception children, both indoors and outdoors. Historically I have always worked with young children in a variety of settings, and this experience allows me to think creatively about our provision which I feel is integral to the role.
Reine Geldenhuys, Teacher at Solebay Primary Academy
I am from Pretoria and prior to becoming a teacher I worked as a HR manager and Safety Officer to fund my degree. However, it was always my dream to become a teacher and also help those in need. Upon completing my degree, I started working at a secondary school in South Africa, which was the start of a dream come true. Love then changed my direction and I ventured to the UK – where fate led me to Solebay Primary Academy. Moving from secondary education to primary seemed daunting at first, but with the support of an encouraging line manager and principal, I achieved my QTS. I have also been given the opportunity to live out another passion of mine, to support SEND pupils and work to give them the best chance at leading a valued and fulfilling life. I have since been offered a place to study at UEL so that I can gain my SENCo qualification.
With support from Janet, I have managed to overcome all obstacles in my way and I am still on my journey to reach for the stars!
To mark International Women’s Day we are sharing the stories of some of the women who help Paradigm deliver effective learning every day. If you haven’t already, you can read part one here:
I have been working for Paradigm Trust since 2016 and it has been an amazing experience since I started. I began working for the Trust as an NQT at Culloden Primary Academy, and have had the opportunity to train under several amazing Assistant Principals as a result.
At present I am the P.E. manager, managing P.E. across the different year groups as well as working with other organisations in the wider community in relation to physical education. Even at this level Paradigm continues to foster and develop my skills as a teacher and manager.
I am of Caribbean background and so I am especially proud to be a member of a Trust which shares my passion for equality – they support you regardless of ethnicity, gender or cultural background.
My teaching story starts with my own high school chemistry teacher who inspired me with their encouragement and support. I went on to study chemistry at the University of Sheffield, knowing that I wanted to teach and pass on the passion that my teacher instilled in me.
I completed my teacher training course with Paradigm Trust last year and now as an NQT at Ipswich Academy I have a brilliant Year 7 base group and am one of the house team leaders for our Excellence House. I thoroughly enjoy this role, running competitions for our pupils and motivating them to get involved and earn as many house points as possible.
When my daughter started school at Piper’s Vale I attended a course which was put on by the school. This course led me to ‘First Steps into a Classroom’ where I found that I really enjoyed working with children and decided to find out how I could make this happen for me.
Very quickly I decided I wanted to be a teacher even though it was going to take a lot of work. I managed to get on a degree course and completed this whilst my daughter was at school and my son attended morning nursery at Piper’s Vale, I was also volunteering as a parent helper within the schools and working part-time!
At the end of my course I was offered a part-time job as a Teaching Assistant at Piper’s Vale – this was followed by a SEN TA role working full school hours, then after two years my role changed and I became a Behaviour Support Assistant and after that a Learning Mentor.
During this time I attended evening college to retake my GCSEs. Once all of my qualifications were in place Paradigm had come to Piper’s Vale – at this time I was doing attendance and working in the school office. I asked about an Unqualified Teacher role and was given an opportunity to work in Reception. I then interviewed for the School Direct Teacher Training post and was accepted. I completed my training year in Reception at Piper’s Vale and did my second placement at Murrayfield in Year 5 after qualifying with Outstanding.
I then interviewed for a teaching post at Piper’s Vale school and was offered class teacher in Year 5, the following year I moved up to teach Year 6. I have since accepted a middle leader role as Reception year group lead and am very excited to see what the future holds next.
I have been at Murrayfield for 30 years working in Reception and Nursery as a TA / Nursery Nurse / Early Years Practitioner. I have done many things including after school cooking club, creating a gardening area, creating many costumes, role play backgrounds and props as well as supporting many children and teachers on their journey through EYFS.
I have worked in the education sector for a number of years, particularly in inner city London schools. I support pupils with social, emotional and behavioral needs which present as barriers to learning. As a Learning Mentor at Culloden Primary Academy, my goal is to equip pupils with skills and strategies to enhance their motivation, raise their aspirations and encourage them to re-engage with learning. I also promote positive mental health for all pupils by creating awareness and challenging stigmas attached to mental health through open dialogue with parents and carers and by creating an open space where pupils feel comfortable to discuss their thoughts and feelings.
I’m an English teacher at Ipswich Academy, having trained through Paradigm Trust two years ago. My job brings so many rewards and I love the challenges that each day brings. Above all, I feel incredibly lucky to teach such enthusiastic and kind students.
By focusing on teaching scientific knowledge and working collaboratively, Paradigm Trust is changing the way science is learnt, resulting in pupils achieving improved results and greater engagement with the subject in all their schools.
To ensure science is taught effectively there are several challenges which need to be overcome. The first and perhaps biggest of these is the way the teaching of science is implemented at the different stages. It is noticeable in the UK education system science is often taught in a completely different manner in primary schools than it is in secondary schools. This disconnect causes issues as the skills and knowledge embedded during the primary years are not the ones valued at secondary school, so time needs to be spent at the start of Year Seven teaching the pupils what they need to know to be able to learn effectively at Key Stage 3 and beyond.
Science often has less classroom time than other core subjects such as maths, reading and writing, so it is essential that this precious time is maximised. However, many primary schools across the country use an inquiry-based learning approach, despite a growing number of studies showing this teaching method to be ineffective in its current form. It generally fails because significant scientific knowledge needs to be in place before the enquiry begins so the correct questions can be asked. Due to lack of time or lack of understanding children usually aren’t primed with this scientific knowledge and so do not have sufficient comprehension of what they are looking for to get the most out of this approach.
Exacerbating the challenges which face many UK primary schools is the lack of specialist science teachers working at that level. While there are some teachers with science qualifications who work in primary schools, the majority of teachers who are qualified in science choose to work in secondary schools. The one or two days that teacher training spends on science come nowhere near to filling this gap.
When children reach secondary school, the focus often shifts almost exclusively to teaching what the pupil needs to know to pass the GCSE, rather than exploring the full uses of science, so students can be left with a narrow comprehension of the subject that is more weighted towards succeeding in an exam than having a good understanding of science.
Paradigm Trust is working to overcome these traditional challenges and raise student attainment levels in science using a number of different strategies. The first is ensuring all six of its schools are working from an effective science curriculum, using consistent, evidenced-based teaching methods. This ensures there is continuity across the board, and teachers are using techniques which are proven to be effective to deliver the material.
The Trust makes sure that children are taught the necessary scientific knowledge first, whatever the age of the child. It is only with this as a pupil’s foundation that they are then able to get the most out of any enquiry activities, maximising their learning time and gaining a better understanding of science. Without this scientific knowledge children won’t be able to develop essential skills such as problem solving, understanding scientific texts or extrapolating accurate conclusions from results.
This goes some way to draw together the two different cultures of primary science and secondary school science, but Paradigm schools ensure the gap is as small as possible by communicating regularly with each other. In subject groups a large proportion of time is spent discussing ways in which children can be better prepared for the move from primary to secondary school, and how to make science effective from Nursery to Year 9. In this way there is less disruption when pupils move from Year 6 to Year 7 and the learning experience is far smoother. Much of this work is led by Ben Rogers who is on the Education Committee at the Institute of Physics, and on the editing panel for the Association of Science Education journal. He is also part of the Ofsted Science advisory group, with a particular focus on primary schools.
Since Paradigm began working this way more students have been successful in science GCSE, and more high grades are being achieved. The number of students choosing to study a science subject at further education level has increased, and at every level of schooling it is noticeable that children are achieving better results and becoming more engaged in the subject.
Having an effective understanding of science is incredibly important for the individual and society. Children are entitled to know how the world works – without this knowledge their lives aren’t as rich. A good understanding of science will allow them as adults to make informed decisions on important matters, such as voting, wearing a mask or receiving a vaccination as has been seen recently. And it opens doors to numerous careers in a huge range of fields. For all these reasons Paradigm Trust will continue to work and innovate to ensure it gives its pupils the best science education possible.