Igniting a passion for learning

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30 March 2015 by ATL
The mood at Stanley Park High is a happy one, in which all students and staff are united in joint purpose – learning. The students were engaged in their lessons and moved around the school in a calm yet purposeful manner. They are proud of their work, keen to do well and have true respect for their teachers.

I suspect that the Excellent Futures Curriculum has a huge role to plan in achieving this atmosphere. The School’s motto is “Igniting a Passion for Learning”. These few words underpin all work at Stanley Park High and represent the core values at the heart of the Excellent Futures Curriculum (EFC). EFC is a project based model. Students complete a different project each half term which explores a number of subject areas.

The transition to secondary school can be very difficult for students. The traditional models of primary and secondary schools have many differences which make it difficult for new students to settle.

This transition has been responsible for the mass underachievement and educational stagnation of many children – according to a recent TES report as many as 40% fail to make any progress in year 7.

At Stanley Park High they decided to do something about this situation and designed the Excellent Futures Curriculum to embed the knowledge, skills and attributes that their students needed to achieve the aim of an excellent future.

EFC is taught to students by their form tutor. This means that students spend a significant amount of time with their tutor. One thing that students can lose in the move from primary to secondary school is the close relationship that they had with their class teacher throughout key stage 1 and 2. By giving tutors and students this amount of time together the trusting relationship can flourish between students and teacher and the teacher can really get to know the learning styles of their students, this creates a virtuous circle which enables students to develop the confidence to have a go and succeed and the teachers to design personalised learning opportunities.

The success of the projects comes down to the fact that they are REAL: rigorous, engaging, authentic learning.  Each element of a project has challenging assessment criteria, and students are expected to evaluate and revise work until it meets or exceeds the required standard. The amount of time devoted for the projects allows for both deep knowledge and understanding and also the redrafting of work. The award of Gold, Silver or Bronze is given at the end of each project and the students are keen to get the best grade possible. The success criteria assess a broad range of knowledge, skills and attributes which helps foster the growth and development of the whole person.

The projects are enjoyable for both the students and the teachers. Each project is designed with a driving question at its heart which captures student curiosity. The projects have sufficient flexibility to allow students to investigate their own interests, and the subject themes are designed to be interesting and relevant to the students.

Authentic learning is achieved through creating real outcomes. Learning in EFC has a purpose and results in the creation of an end product which will be presented to an audience. These outcomes could be published books, exhibitions or sales pitches. The presence of the real audience, which can include peers, parents, teachers, members of the local communities or expert visitors, motivates the students to produce work which is both beautifully presented and of a high academic quality.

Students produce work that is of extraordinary quality and they are rightly proud of their achievements. Their work is shared and celebrated, not left to be never seen again in a scruffy exercise book.

We have created a case study of EFC for our A Curriculum That Counts Website. Please read it - and use the comments feature to tell us what you think.

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