Principal Roulla Gabriel had a strong vision for the school and started making changes even before she took up post in September 2015. After three years using the Cornerstones Curriculum in her previous setting as deputy headteacher, she could see the positive impact on the children and wanted to bring that to Hockley Heath Academy:
‘I didn’t hesitate at all in introducing Cornerstones to Hockley Heath. In fact, I did it before I even started in my post because I believe in it so much, and it hasn’t let me down. It’s done exactly what I wanted it to and more. You can see the impact when you talk to the children, parents and carers, staff and my governing body’.
A positive response from the governing body
Catherine Ridout, chair of the Curriculum and Standards Committee for the governing body, was keen to ensure a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning within the school:
‘Cornerstones is creative – it makes the curriculum less dry than it could otherwise be, and it mixes subjects together so people can see they’re not just standalone items. Everything relates and has an application’.
Catherine feels that Cornerstones provides teachers with a good range of resources that save time, and allow teachers more time to differentiate their teaching to the specific needs of the children in their classes. She also sees the value in the Cornerstones assessment package:
‘The online aspects make tracking progress and putting interventions in place much easier for staff in school. I think that part of it, in particular, represents extremely good value for money’.
Leading and implementing curriculum change can be a challenge for senior leaders. Vice Principal, Louise Porter, was keen to get staff on board with the new, engaging and innovative curriculum but was worried about what challenges this might present. The Cornerstones Curriculum, with built-in assessment, included everything the school needed. Louise explains:
‘I think the fact we’ve managed to get all members of staff on board and successfully using everything shows how useful and easy-to-use those resources are. The Hub is a fantastic tool for supporting teachers, saving their time through the whole cycle of planning, delivering and assessing’.
Louise also appreciates the quality of customer service from Cornerstones:
‘The fact that there’s always someone at the end of the phone or an email is great’.
Involving parents and carers
Hockley Heath Academy prides itself on working closely with families to ensure all pupils achieve in a happy learning environment. The engagement of parents and carers is crucial to this, which is why Roulla and Louise invited them into school to talk about the Cornerstones Curriculum and share some of the learning with them, a move that was very successful. A parent, Caroline Pugh, shares her feedback:
‘Teachers are so excited about delivering the curriculum that I’ve become interested in it myself. If it’s this exciting for the teachers, it will be exciting for the children. If they show enthusiasm, the children will meet that enthusiasm and bring it home with them’.
Caroline described the impact of the curriculum:
‘It’s the more cohesive link between school, home, parents and the community that makes learning more real. It’s not a textbook; it’s real learning. It’s active, interactive and exciting’.
The main priority for Roulla is that the children are inspired and hooked in by their learning. She values a curriculum that will give children the skills they need to carry on learning throughout their lives and feels that the structure of the Cornerstones Curriculum really engages them:
‘You go around school and see children engaged in what they’re doing and inspired about the learning that’s going on, even storming into my office and telling me the exciting things they’ve been learning’.
Stuart Brookes is a Year 5 teacher at the school, and he is incredibly enthusiastic about the school’s curriculum. He believes Cornerstones has enhanced the children’s learning experience:
‘We’ve seen an improvement in children’s skills, understanding and knowledge base, and it’s really positive to see. They’re really enjoying the topic work. Anything that gets children to go home and want to do more work independently because they’re excited by the journey they’re on, and the learning they’re doing, for me, as a teacher, is brilliant. They’re excited by their learning and want to be part of that process’.
About Hockley Heath Academy
Hockley Heath converted to an academy in August 2012 and has 232 children from nursery to Year 6. Through a successful grant application, it has been able to invest heavily in extending and upgrading the teaching and learning environment.
The school’s goal is to ‘develop the skills, concepts, attitudes and moral values so that each child can take their place in the world as an active, responsible member of society’.