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.
Clever planning, a robust pedagogy and innovative teaching methods have helped Paradigm Trust continue to provide effective education for its students during the third national Covid lockdown.
Using findings and insights from the first period of lockdown in the spring and summer term of last year, Paradigm Trust built a robust plan of action should the need to close schools and engage in remote learning arise again, for whatever reason. Preparation continued through the autumn term when schools were fully open, including training staff and pupils on how to use Google Classroom, discussing a remote learning pedagogy and planning the logistics that were necessary to be able to deliver effective teaching online to all its pupils.
So when, with barely twelve hours’ notice, the official notification that schools would be closed to all children (apart from vulnerable and key worker children) was received, Paradigm Trust were able to move swiftly to remote learning with a minimum of disruption. Thanks to the preparation made earlier, schools are now delivering a full and engaging timetable which mainly comprises either recorded lessons made by Paradigm teachers, or live lessons which follow the same structure as an in-school lesson.
One of the most significant challenges faced in the first lockdown was the ‘digital divide’, with many families unable to access the online resources available due to a lack of appropriate devices and/or a reliable internet connection with sufficient data allowance. With live lessons now an established feature at all levels of schooling it is even more important that every student has an acceptable level of access to the internet, one which permits them to participate fully in online learning.
To this end Paradigm schools have supplied more than 1900 Chromebooks to families who were having difficulties accessing remote learning online. To put that in context, the Trust educates just under 3200 pupils, with around 40% of those pupils eligible for free school meals. To help meet the challenge of unreliable or insufficient internet access the schools have also been distributing dongles preloaded with data allowance, and arranging for families to have their data cap increased by their internet provider, to ensure all pupils are able to access the same resources.
Remote learning also presents a challenge when it comes to providing pastoral support for staff and students. Indeed, being in a third lockdown is likely to exacerbate the need for support, with issues such as mental health problems becoming more prevalent, and the usual provision and support provided in schools being inaccessible in the usual places and formats.
Paradigm Trust recognises this is a serious issue and so to ensure schools can support its students effectively Paradigm has put a number of different measures in place and is regularly reviewing them to find ways in which they can be improved. It is still running interventions, though in the virtual environment rather than face to face. Specialised support staff are joining in the lessons to provide additional support to the pupils who need it, and hard-copy packs of the learning as well as practical resources to support the online curriculum are being offered. Paradigm’s inclusion teams continue to work and there is regular contact with vulnerable families. Counselling services continue to operate remotely. Where appropriate students receive welfare calls during the week to check how they are coping with school work and life in general, and provide support where necessary, and all schools are offering the voucher scheme to those families who are eligible for free meals. As it would be in normal times, all the support Paradigm provides is individualised to the needs of the pupils.
The way in which Paradigm Trust schools support their SEN pupils has also had to be adapted to work in the new circumstances. This has manifested in a variety of ways depending on the school and the requirements of the pupil. Teachers are differentiating the work on Google Classroom to meet the needs of the students, and one-to-one lessons are taking place, as are interventions and speech and language therapy sessions. We encourage vulnerable pupils to attend school on site, including all pupils with an education, health and care plan. The approach is proving effective, for example the children in the SEN unit at Murrayfield Primary Academy are flourishing, with pupils making consistently good progress despite the circumstances.
As a Trust, Paradigm has been able to use its collective resources to benefit every one of its schools. To ensure pupils have access to as broad a curriculum as possible, Paradigm Trust Pedagogy lead Ben Rogers and leaders at Ipswich Academy have mobilised the curriculum leads across all six of the schools to create bespoke, pre-recorded content across a range of primary subjects including Science, Geography, Computing, Art and Design, DT and PE.
By collaborating in this way Paradigm can ensure schools continue to deliver excellent teaching and also reduce workload on teaching staff at this high-pressure time. Staffing can be managed more efficiently and physical resources such as art equipment sets can be provided for pupils to use at home.
Paradigm Trust’s commitment to continually improving its educational offer has withstood, and even been strengthened, by the pandemic. It continues to seek the most effective ways to teach remotely, testing different innovations and then sharing those that have been proven to be effective. Opportunities to share teaching practice have been created across the Trust, so that staff can reflect on colleagues’ approaches and incorporate aspects into their own work. Everyone at Paradigm works together to deliver an effective, challenging and interesting remote learning experience for its pupils.
Murrayfield Primary Academy have been featured in the Ipswich Star following their efforts to break the ‘Digital Divide’ and allow as many pupils as possible to access distance learning resources. Read the full story here.