Paradigm Trust has achieved improved outcomes as a result of establishing consistent pedagogical approaches across all six of its schools just over four years ago.
By implementing a shared pedagogy it’s seen a culture shift both in the classroom and in the curriculum, with improvements across the board in behaviour and engagement. Outcomes in lessons are much better and it is now seeing a consistently higher level of effort in all classes.
The Trust defines its pedagogy as taking the most direct route to learners knowing more and being able to do more. It’s about how you know what to teach, how you teach it, how you know what has been learnt and, perhaps most importantly, what you do if learning hasn’t happened.
With children only having a finite number of hours in school, the time we have to educate them is limited. This is why it is absolutely crucial to optimise what they get out of those hours, using every second as efficiently as possible to ensure pupils are achieving the maximum learning. Inefficiencies in teaching methods and curriculum waste this important time, so having an effective, well thought out and proven pedagogy is essential. If we teach efficiently, at the end of a child’s school career s/he will be well prepared to flourish and lead a positive, fulfilling life.
Paradigm’s pedagogical foundation for many years has been Teach Like a Champion – a collection of techniques which combine to deliver incredibly effective learning. Over the last three years this has been strengthened through the use of Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, which establishes ten different strategies for teaching and assessing. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rosenshine’s work is evidence-based, so Paradigm Trust knows for certain these methods are effective. The two works complement each other, providing a well-rounded base on which to build our pedagogy.
By using the same pedagogy across all six schools in the Trust we can achieve a continuity of practice which is of great benefit to both pupils and staff. It means that there is a consistency in the way we teach, in the way we behave, and in the way we apply our rules that runs from Early Years right through to Key Stage Four in every school. A Year Six teacher in one school is able to move to a Year Two class in another school and fit in seamlessly because s/he will recognise the strategies being employed and the language that is used. When children move from one Paradigm school to another, they already know the routine and the way things work, allowing them to settle more quickly and resume effective learning sooner.
This consistency also makes staff training and development easier, as staff can easily see effective examples of our pedagogy in action in colleagues’ classrooms. This then facilitates powerful coaching sessions which are underpinned by common language and approaches.
While consistency is important (for the reasons outlined above and because it makes logical sense for evidence-informed practice to be rolled out to benefit all pupils), slavishly following a set of strict guidelines to the letter can be counter-productive. We encourage all our staff to adapt, intelligently and with a strong understanding of the underlying rationale, Paradigm’s pedagogical approaches to fit the needs of their pupils and subjects. Every class, every child, every school is different, and our pedagogy is designed to be flexible, giving teachers the tools to work in each individual situation.
Having this shared set of strategies naturally leads to improvement. With everybody in our six schools working with them, it makes it easy for us to get together and share strong practice. When one teacher makes a small adaptation which proves to be successful, this can then be disseminated and implemented across classes and schools. Paradigm’s pedagogy creates a virtuous circle based on three linked elements: curriculum, teaching and assessment. We identify what is important for pupils to know and be able to do; we teach that knowledge and skills efficiently, and we then assess what has been learnt, which in turn feeds back into our curriculum design to close the loop.
Paradigm’s approach to identifying and scaling up effective practice is one of its key strengths. We recognise, however, that making changes to practice, in any organisation, can be uncomfortable – particularly where those changes involve replicating practice from one part of an organisation to another. In Paradigm, those barriers to acceptance are mitigated as the pedagogy is based on an external proven source. The Trust takes a collegiate approach, with its leadership being both democratic and inclusive – which means that staff are willing to listen and try new ideas based on clear communication around the rationale for change, as well as being encouraged to make their own recommendations. This encourages continuous improvement – everyone in the Trust benefits.
Since employing its current pedagogy, the Trust can clearly demonstrate that pupils are learning more, with reference to both internal and public data. Discussions with pupils and the work in their exercise books provides evidence that effective learning is taking place. A recent Ofsted report for Murrayfield Primary Academy gave an external evaluation of our pedagogy and curriculum, noting: “For each subject there is a well-planned curriculum across the MAT from Year 1 to Year 9, ensuring that pupils are prepared well for secondary school. There is a real partnership between primary and secondary teachers developing their subject expertise.”
Paradigm’s pedagogy will continue to evolve, and thereby improve the outcomes of children in its current schools, with other schools that it supports, and with schools which join the Trust in the future.