Red Oaks Primary School in North Swindon has taken a revolutionary approach to curriculum development this term by introducing projects that are enquiry-based and pupil–led, writes Juliet Platt.
As headteacher Terri Menham explained, “an enquiry is a big, open-ended question that we take as our term’s theme from age three to eleven. Just now we’re asking what makes Great Britain great, and within that we then ask the children what they would like to find out about.
“The new primary curriculum focuses on teaching democracy, citizenship and about significant people. Why not achieve this through inspiring some patriotism in our children, and helping them feel proud to be British?”
This term, pupils in Years 2 and 3 are responsible for tourist information, including creating a guide book, with help from graphic designer Sam Allen, which will be printed and presented to parents.
Years 4, 5 and 6 have set up a multi-media company to organise their own version of the Olympic opening ceremony.
“We’ve invited business people to come in and talk to the pupils about their roles and help with tasks like marketing and design,” Terri said. “The most important point is that we are open to opportunities and stay focussed on the pupil voice.”
She is clear that most traditional school subjects will be taught discretely as part of the enquiry-based approach. “Concepts like measures, shapes and data gathering will be covered through the enquiry.
“There are new challenges too, like when a six-year-old asks why the sea goes out at night. That’s a big topic for primary school but we have to tackle it if the children ask about it.”
High level learning skills, independence and collaboration are key values that Terri hopes to instil in the children. And there are behavioural benefits as well. “When everyone’s focussed and excited about the same thing across the school, behaviour never becomes as issue,” she said.
For the remainder of the summer term the pupils are visiting different locations beyond Swindon to develop their projects. They will also be engaged in peer-to-peer presentations with partner schools from London, Bristol and Reading, as well as welcoming friends from their partner school in South Africa.
“And as for the World Cup, if England do well we’re going to be going through the roof,” said Terri.
As part of their ‘What makes Great Britain Great?’ enquiry this term, Red Oaks pupils investigated the British mainland, plotting landmarks on a human map created on the playing field by North Swindon graphic designer and parent Sam Allen of Elevation Studios.
“The Mexican wave we got going around the coastline was very impressive,” said headteacher Terri Menham.