Staff at Sandringham Primary were looking to change their curriculum when they attended a Cornerstones Information Session. It was enough to convince them that the Cornerstones Curriculum and philosophy would meet Sandringham’s needs. Deputy headteacher, Mel Cokeham, explains:
‘The work being produced by pupils was impressive, and the themed projects were proving very popular. We loved what we saw and decided that Cornerstones was exactly what we needed at Sandringham’.
The first project
The school started by trialling one of the curriculum’s Imaginative Learning Projects (ILPs) in Mel’s Year 6 class. Each ILP in the Cornerstones Curriculum is made up of four stages: Engage, Develop, Innovate and Express. Mel wanted to become familiar with the stages and to plan lessons around the children:
‘I wanted to teach using one of the ILPs straight away so I could get to grips with the new curriculum before it was brought into the whole school. I chose my first ILP and made a concerted effort to allow pupils to determine the direction their lessons would take, while still covering the objectives. It worked very well’.
Sandringham implemented the Cornerstones teaching and learning philosophy across the school. Teachers now plan activities according to the four stages, and it’s had a significant impact on the children.
Mel shares how the four stages supported teaching and learning in her class:
‘For the Engage stage, we visited local allotments and planted tomatoes in school. In the Develop stage, I introduced science elements into the project, as well as asking pupils to recreate Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. In the Innovate stage, I had them design and create their own greenhouses, which they thoroughly enjoyed. And for the Express stage, they reviewed their work and organised a café in the school hall, selling food made from ingredients that could be grown in the UK. It led to a high level of engagement from all pupils and was a huge success’.
In the school’s most recent Ofsted inspection, in May 2014, it was evident to inspectors that the school has changed their curriculum and that this has impacted on engagement and behaviour:
‘The curriculum has been improved to ensure that activities and topics are interesting and engaging and successfully promote good behaviour by the pupils’.
This increase in engagement was also clear from the children’s feedback to Ofsted:
Pupils have positive attitudes to learning, which are seen in their strong levels of participation and involvement in activities. Pupils say that they enjoy their lessons and that learning activities in class have become more interesting in recent times.
Engaging parents and carers
Sandringham has also seen parental engagement increase, particularly as a result of the Express stage of the curriculum. Parents are invited into school for Express events, which over the years have included Samba performances, museums in the school hall and fundraising cafés. Mel explains the impact this has had in school:
‘We’ve found that pupil and parental engagement have significantly increased and it’s been wonderful to see. There’s usually a great turnout for our Express events, both from parents and from other pupils within school. We’re always thinking of new and exciting things to do, so it’s great to have that support’.
The introduction of the Cornerstones Curriculum also led to the school changing its homework procedure. Children are now given creative homework projects as a way to launch a new ILP. Parents are also invited into school before each half term so they can also be informed about the project. Mel feels this has really supported parents and children at the start of each project:
‘Pupils arrive at the start of a new term already having some understanding of what they will be learning, as well as with their own creative ideas they can bring to the project. It’s had a really positive impact on the school and has grown in success with each year. Some of the homework projects are simply fantastic. Pupils put an awful lot of time and effort into them’.
Onwards and upwards
Sandringham have now been using the Cornerstones Curriculum since 2012, and the school is going from strength to strength. Mel feels that the Cornerstones Curriculum and philosophy have played an important role in this success:
‘Cornerstones has been brilliant for Sandringham. The philosophy works and the curriculum has given us lots of ideas and has inspired creativity in everyone at school. Engagement has increased, parents are much more involved in school life, and to top it all, our most recent Ofsted inspection in May 2014 saw us achieve a ‘good’ grading. We were thrilled as it came after the school had spent a number of years being graded as ‘requires improvement’. It was a huge boost’.
About Sandringham Primary School
Sandringham is a larger than average-sized primary school, with two form entry throughout and a nursery with 52 places. A smaller than average proportion of children speak English as an additional language, and a larger than average proportion of children are eligible for pupil premium funding. The proportion of children supported at school action plus or with a statement for special educational needs is below average.