Inclusive Learning – Giving every child their chance
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.
The Women of Paradigm
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!
The Women of Paradigm – Part 2
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.
The Science of Teaching Science
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.