Paradigm Trust | 23/05/2023

Teacher Teaching at Paradigm Trust

With a recruitment crisis in the industry no longer looming but in full blown effect, delivering training that is effective for the trainee and the school is more important than ever.

Recent figures show that the government has been unable to meet its recruitment targets for trainee secondary teachers, only reaching 59% of the target for trainees recruited for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in the year 2022/23, down from 79% in 2021/22. For primaries the target is predicted to be missed by over 20% this year, so it is essential the training for the people who do sign up for the course is effective.

To deliver high quality teacher training Paradigm has formed strong partnerships with several ITT providers. And as the national ITT framework is closely aligned with the Paradigm framework, it allows trainees to fit in with the Trust’s approach to education and have a good grasp of the pedagogy from the start.

I have been with the Trust for 16 years now, and I have been able to develop myself from a class teacher to principal.

Tahreena Ward, Culloden Primary Academy

Paradigm strongly believes in giving trainees a wide range of experience as they learn. Ben Rogers, Director of Curriculum and Pedagogy at Paradigm Trust says: “During training, Paradigm ensures each trainee spends time in classes across the different Key Stages so they get an understanding of teaching at every level. They will also split their time between different schools to gain a greater range of experiences.  

At primary level, this is done at Solebay, Culloden and Old Ford in London, and Murrayfield and Piper’s Vale in Ipswich. Students training to be secondary school teachers will start at Ipswich Academy, and then do an exchange with one of the Trust’s partner schools in the town for the second half of the year.

At Woodbridge Road, our special school for young people with communication and interaction difficulties, from September we will be using a mixture of courses depending on the experience of the teachers we are training.”

The training at Paradigm is led by highly experienced members of staff, with subject leads each delivering the portion of the training which relates to their specialism, so trainees are often as well informed as the teachers of any new developments.

Paradigm also provides an alternative pathway for training, suitable for those who have considerable classroom experience, but didn’t qualify with QTS. After five years they are eligible for an Assessment Only route, which means they can qualify much more quickly than taking the traditional path.

This approach to quality training and career progression is embedded at all levels across the Trust, starting with a thorough programme that is continually reviewed for its effectiveness. New teachers are made to feel part of the Trust on day one, and will gradually be encouraged to take part in network groups formed of staff at different stages of their careers, up to and including members of the SLT. Not only does this familiarise new teachers with other members of staff from across the school, it helps them gain a deep understanding of how the Trust works. 

After their first year, teachers can look to move into a subject lead position at Paradigm. This builds experience and confidence as a middle leader. They get the benefit of working with more experienced colleagues and as a team across the wider Trust. It improves their understanding of the curriculum, of how the Trust works as an organisation and how to develop teacher resources, all with peer support from across the Trust.

I started as a cover supervisor after university to gain some experience, and then did teacher training in Geography. The school was extremely supportive, helping me do my Subject Knowledge Enhancement, allowing me to become the geography teacher I am today, career progression here is really good, anyone you talk to is very supportive.

Nicole Tricker, Ipswich Academy

As teachers progress further in their careers at the Trust, they can take advantage of training opportunities funded and delivered by Paradigm programmes for middle, senior and principal level training.

Weekly CPD plays a large part in career development for everyone at Paradigm. This can include a ten-minute observation every fortnight to share teaching practice. This is further supported by feedback and advice. During this process, the experienced teacher may decide to model other approaches and the less experienced member of staff can then try this out in an empty classroom in front of the assessors. 

Ben adds “We take professional development very seriously in the Trust. We make effective use of regular coaching, allocating time for instructional coaching and peer coaching. Our peer teaching programme is a continuation of the highly regarded Embedding Formative Assessment programme. Time is given to teachers to observe and coach each other each half term. Our instructional coaching model has been developed to support both new teachers and experienced teachers in a supportive and challenging way. We believe that teachers make the most difference to pupil outcomes and we prioritise teacher development.”

The Trust also coaches leaders for improvement, giving them ownership of their development – as well as accountability.

Through providing the right training and the right support network, Paradigm enables teachers with the right skills and the right attitudes to achieve the level of career progression they aspire to. One of the most notable examples of this is Abbie Thorington. She joined Paradigm Trust in 2014 as an NQT and took advantage of the career development opportunities available, progressing continuously to become principal of Ipswich Academy in 2020.

By ‘growing its own’ the Trust can ensure every teacher is a dedicated and professional individual, who shares its values and matches its ambition to leave a legacy of high achievement and excellence in all it does.

Paradigm Trust | 04/05/2023

Coaching for Improvement

Coaching is a key part of the school improvement process. In my role, I have often seen how important it is to effect change by using a coaching approach with those I work with.

When I first started working as a school improvement advisor, I noticed that a top-down approach would not be effective in order to create the necessary transformations needed in the schools which had newly joined the Trust. This was why I first started looking into coaching practices and went ahead to train and become an accredited coach.

Coaching allows people to have ownership of the changes they want to see in their settings and be the key lead in their transformation. Here are a few key highlights of coaching which make me a big fan of the practice:

  • It’s highly personalised, giving the leader being coached a great deal of ownership—and accountability over the process and its success.
  • Coaching’s personalised nature makes it constantly applicable, allowing the leader to tackle timely real-world problems during coaching sessions and to swiftly apply the lessons in the workplace for immediate impact.
  • Unlike a number of other development methods, coaching can create sustainable learning and lasting behaviour change.

Additionally, leadership coaching provides leaders with a safe space for exploring and addressing difficult emotions such as anxiety, stress, and even anger. Recognising and reorganising these emotions with a fresh perspective can be key to developing strong leaders who are able to withstand the demands of their role without compromising the mental health or wellbeing of themselves and others while pursuing the desired outcome.

As a Trust, we are committed to developing a coaching culture to support all staff and are currently in the process of developing our practice for the future.

Ana Silva

Teaching | 27/01/2023

Maths Mastery Matters

Paradigm Trust takes a mastery approach to teaching maths, ensuring its pupils and students revisit the same core areas throughout their schooling, to achieve a level of knowledge which gives them greater capabilities in the subject.

Lyndsay Collin is a mathematics teacher and has previously been Maths Network Coordinator at Ipswich Academy, the Trust’s secondary school. Lyndsay did her teacher training with Paradigm and is now the Trust’s NCETM maths hub specialist:  “With the Maths Mastery system, depth of knowledge is far more important than breadth,” she says. “By using a consistent approach to teaching the subject, from EYFS through to KS4, children moving through the school can grasp the fundamentals and build on them, every time they revisit.“

Evaluation and improvement is not limited to individual schools. To maximise the effectiveness of teaching at Paradigm, maths leads from across the Trust’s network meet regularly to review the way the subject is being taught and exchange best practice. Subject knowledge is monitored to deal with common misconceptions, and thanks to the Trust’s ‘Open Classroom’ policy, learning walks allow subject leads to see what support is needed. 

Lyndsay continues: “There is a real ‘talk for learning’ ethos across the curriculum at Paradigm, so our maths lessons involve a lot of conversation in the classroom. A key technique to encourage this at Ipswich Academy is the Agree, Build, Challenge (ABC) model which teachers use to coax enhanced discussion and thinking. For Agree, teachers give students two answers and they have to say which they agree with, then explain their rationale to justify their answer. Build requires the teacher to ask a student to build upon another student’s answer, elaborating or giving new information. Challenge involves the teacher asking a student whether they would like to challenge each other’s answers and opinions in a positive and constructive way.” A similar model is used in the primaries, adapted for the level of the pupils.

Paradigm Trust prioritises regular, subject specific CPD. To be able to deliver the curriculum effectively, it’s not just teachers who need to have a strong grasp of the subject – teaching assistants supporting SEND students need to be assured in their own maths knowledge too. To achieve this, and support members of staff who may have gaps in their knowledge, Paradigm Trust has put measures into place including termly subject knowledge enhancements sessions for TAs. This was initially trialled in the secondary school, Ipswich Academy, and when it proved successful, the Trust rolled it out to its primary schools in Suffolk and London. 

The Trust works hard to ensure no child is left behind in any subject, and in maths, if a pupil is struggling and experiencing maths anxiety, there are a range of techniques which a teacher can employ. 

Lyndsay Collin explains; “ As part of our SSAT sessions recently we have been exploring the strategies that come from students learning and feeding back to each other – however these are just a small subset of strategies that we use to ensure students don’t fall behind. Sitting them with more confident students is just one of the ways that we can do this. We also provide backwards fading work to provide scaffolding and ensure we model problems and talk them through with the students and ensure that they understand using Assessment For Learning (AFL) before getting them to complete independent work, we then check our students work as they are working and give live feedback either to individuals or as a group depending on the need. We use manipulatives within the classroom to help support the learning of students who struggle with maths, as this can build their conceptual understanding before we move onto a more abstract concept. 

“Teachers then check students’ work as they are working and give live feedback either to individuals or as a group depending on the need. They also use manipulatives within the classroom to help support the learning of students that struggle with maths, as this can build their conceptual understanding before moving onto a more abstract concept.”

At Ipswich Academy there is also a dedicated support centre, where pupils not coping with mainstream classes can take part in smaller group sessions. In more extreme cases where children actively avoid maths and may use distraction techniques, the Paradigm behaviour policy comes into play. Teachers work with the attendance team, teaching assistants, the pupil and their family to build a trusting and supportive atmosphere around the subject. 

Having a strong foundation in maths gives a pupil a good advantage when they come to the more advanced topics at secondary school. This is why Paradigm Trust places a particular emphasis on learning the language of maths. From when they first join primary school, pupils’ mathematics vocabulary is built to grow confidence in the use of terms such as coefficient, highest common factor and lowest common denominator. This particular focus enables pupils to have  easier conversations around the subject and access to answering examination questions when they reach their GCSE studies.

The most recent progress 8 score at Ipswich Academy was a strong +0.29 and Key Stage 3 attainment is above the national average. The number of students achieving between level 4 and level 9 at Key Stage 4 is also increasing. Across the five primaries 71% are attaining level 4+ and 53.7% are working at 5+. Everything the Trust does is evidence based, and these outcomes are solid proof that the approach it is taking with maths is delivering great results for its pupils.

Paradigm Trust | 09/10/2022

Caroline Wagstaff – Director

Caroline has spent the last 35 years in the City of London across a wide range of sectors including commodity trading, spread-betting, accountancy, money broking, legal services, and particularly commercial insurance. In 1997 she joined Lloyd’s of London as Director of Marketing and Communications, before founding her own PR and marketing business in 2002 which she ran for twenty years. Caroline was appointed CEO of the London Market Group in April 2021 and her priorities are the challenges of making the market fit for the future with the best business environment and attracting and retaining young talent to speciality insurance.

Paradigm Trust | 07/05/2022

Jo Brown – Director

Jo Brown joined the Trust as a Parent Director in February 2024.

Jo is a parent of two children, both of whom attend a Paradigm school. Jo was previously chair of the Academy Council at Murrayfield Primary Academy (MPA) for several years and stood down when her youngest son moved to secondary school. As chair of the Academy Council, Jo was closely involved with MPA attending academy council meetings, and joint academy council meetings with other Trust schools and also played a part in the Principal recruitment process at MPA.

Jo is currently working as a full-time gardener for her own gardening business. Before she had children she spent 14 years at Ipswich Hospital where she was a team manager and in charge of the staffing team for over 200 nurses and administration staff. This involved managing ward openings, and budgets for the staffing team and ensuring the staff were working within safe working hours.

Paradigm Trust | 23/03/2022

Science Threshold Texts in Key Stage 2

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 TextOutcome 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).
(more…)

Paradigm Trust | 28/01/2022

PE: Improving bodies and minds

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.

Paradigm Trust | 16/12/2021

Hitting the right notes – music at Paradigm

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.

Paradigm Trust | 11/10/2021

How Paradigm is placing subject knowledge at the heart of Religious Education

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.

Paradigm Trust | 07/09/2021

Expert in Languages

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.

Last updated October 21, 2021