OUTSTANDING in all areas was Ofsted's verdict on Hardwick Primary School following inspection earlier this year (May 2014).
This ringing endorsement of the Derby school was all the more impressive given that it was operating under special measures just 18 months previously and had been judged to ‘require improvement' at their last inspection just over a year ago.
In June 2013, Hardwick Primary's hard-working teachers and pupils adopted the Cornerstones creative curriculum and this has been integral to the school's turnaround performance.
Deputy Head Randhir Sandhu said they chose Cornerstones because they felt it provided the perfect blueprint on which to build their school's own customised curriculum.
Randhir said: “We aim to provide a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum that enables our children to become confident, responsible and independent learners. We want to develop children's creative and critical thinking skills through an ethos of inquisitiveness, enquiry and enterprise.
“We also want our children to develop caring attitudes and a sense of fairness. We value the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds of our pupils, staff and families and celebrate this at every opportunity.”
Hardwick Primary School is an inner-city school of about 600 pupils including a higher than average proportion of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds including Pakistani and Eastern European. Twenty-eight languages are spoken at the school.
Randhir said: “It was essential for us to have a curriculum framework which would help us deliver engaging, exciting and stimulating learning; and which was flexible enough to be tailored to fit the needs of our school community. The Cornerstones curriculum does that.
“The Cornerstones curriculum encourages children to experiment, explore and pursue their own interests within a topic. Content is important, and taught according to national curriculum requirements, but skills and attitudes are developed regardless of the content covered.
“We love the way each thematic project has a ‘big question' as its central route of enquiry & all children are engaged from the ‘big start' and can follow their own interests in order to work towards a ‘big finish' at which stage they share what they have learned with the class or parents.
“Cornerstones provides a foundation for teachers to structure learning upon and a spark to ignite children's interest and enthusiasm. It resonates entirely with our school ethos.”
Hardwick's 2014 Ofsted report noted that “Pupils from nursery to year six follow a curriculum where reading, writing and numeracy skills are developed through a series of exciting topics that capture the imagination and make learning fun.”
Inspectors were particularly pleased to hear Year 3 pupils excitedly describing the historic volcanic eruption at Pompeii & as part of Cornerstones' Tremors ILP & using such technical vocabulary as ‘pyroclastic'.
Some of the Cornerstones projects that teachers and pupils have found most rewarding at Hardwick include Traders and Raiders, Potions, Beast Creators, Scream Machine and Gallery Rebels.
Randhir said: “We believe primary education is not just about targets and league tables, but that by developing skills, knowledge and attitudes, our children will become individuals, who can access and enjoy learning throughout their lives. We want children to have a memorable learning experience at Hardwick that encourages and inspires them to achieve their potential and love to learn.”