Together on a voyage of discovery....
Dussindale aims to provide children with an educational experience that will prepare them to be happy, healthy and effective citizens in a rapidly changing and challenging world.
Dussindale aims for children to leave the school as successful learners who:
- know and respect themselves: their strengths, their talents and their skills;
- respect others and build strong relationships both at work and at play;
- are able to investigate, analyse and understand their world;
- are able to apply problem-solving skills across a wide range of situations;
- enjoy life mentally, physically, aesthetically and spiritually;
- enjoy learning and are motivated to achieve the best they can.
What do children need to be happy, motivated, effective learners?
- The ability to express themselves effectively
- A sense of security, belonging to the community
- Self-confidence, a sense of competence without fear of failure
- Activities that engage their interests
- Activities that allow children to learn in a way that is natural and makes challenging but reasonable demands on them.
Dussindale believes that children only learn well when they are deeply engaged by and involved in their activities. Dussindale wants children to come to school every day excited by the prospect of making discoveries and acquiring new skills. Therefore the curriculum is planned to appeal to children’s interests as well as to address their needs.
The new National Curriculum is explicitly knowledge-based rather than skills-based. However, whilst acquiring a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding is important in the primary years, Dussindale believes that children of this age are capable of deep thinking and applying a range of cross-curricular learning skills, and should be encouraged to do so. Dussindale wants children to have a genuine stake in their own learning, and not just to feel that they come to school to be “filled up” with knowledge by other people!
Therefore, where possible the National Curriculum Programmes of Study are taught through a variety of enquiry techniques, including collaborative, cross-curricular activities. These may take the form of:
- imaginative enquiry (in which classes, together with their teachers, create an imagined scenario through which to explore real-life issues and problems);
- research-based enquiries;
- drama-based enquiries;
- practical, hands-on enquiries.
For example, the class may imagine that they are a removals company, tasked with moving the contents of an Egyptian tomb to an exhibition in London. During this enquiry, they will not only find out about Ancient Egypt (history), but also think about transport across different regions (geography), packaging materials (science and technology), business practices such as costing (maths) and communicating via fax, e-mail and letter (English). They will also consider the ethical implications of their work: is it acceptable to dismantle an ancient burial site for pleasure, learning or profit? In this way, children’s social, moral, spiritual and personal development is an integrated part of the learning process, and not simply an add-on.
These teaching methods enable children to see links across their learning, and also to see the purpose of it. Teachers work with children as facilitators and ‘co-creators of knowledge’; children are encouraged to experiment and learn from mistakes – a powerful way to learn – without being afraid of ‘failure’. Social and emotional aspects of learning are fundamental to these processes, as children work as part of a community to solve problems together and develop resilience.
The importance of language
Dussindale recognises that all learning is mediated through language: the richer the language, the deeper the understanding. Children need to be able to express themselves and their ideas clearly and effectively. The curriculum is rich in opportunities to practise and develop oral language skills through discussion, negotiation, story-telling and so on. In addition to this, the school uses a highly structured programme in Reception and Years 1 and 2 that takes children through a progressive synthetic phonics programme to the establishment of key composition and comprehension skills.
Reading at home
On starting school children will initally take home beautiful books (from the library) that they can share with their parents. These books, if read by an adult, expose children to a much richer vocabulary and more exciting worlds than ‘reading scheme’ books. Next, the children bring home books without words, in order to develop oral story-telling skills and to give them the chance to tell the story to their parents from the pictures. When children are able to blend sounds to read words, any books that they do take home to read to parents will have been chosen so that the child can read with confidence and enjoyment. Once children become fully fluent readers, they can choose from a wide variety of books to take home. It’s really important that books are shared at home even when children can read fluently, and also that parents continue to read to their children, to help them develop their comprehension and expressive skills.
The Treasure Chests and Learning Logs
All the children have a Treasure Chest book (younger children) or Learning Log (older children) in which they record their learning and their thoughts about it. These books go home so that parents can feel involved with what their children are doing at school. This is one way in which we encourage children to engage with and evaluate their own progress – a crucial skill if they are to develop into independent learners. The Logs also contain homework activities.
Each day there is a dedicated community time for each class. During these times, classes follow up assembly themes, ask ‘Big Questions’, discuss what’s in the news, and debate issues affecting their class and the school as a whole. Each class can pass on issues to the headteacher (or kitchen, or midday supervisors) via their School Council representatives. This is also an opportunity for teachers to ensure that the personal, health and safety aspects of their learning are relevant to their needs.
In addition to learning ‘things’, Dussindale believes children need to learn how to be successful learners, good citizens and happy human beings.