18. CASE Project - White City Partnership
This project, part of the White City SRB Partnership's seven-year programme, aims to raise core skills achievement in primary schools.
In ten schools, teachers of children at Key Stage 1 work with small groups, usually on a weekly basis, using materials developed by the project to work on a range of numeracy and science related topics.
The benefits of these sessions are seen to be much broader than this, though: children are encouraged to develop their thinking processes and to articulate their learning.
Background - Problems to be Tackled
- All of the participating head teachers have been fully supportive from the outset. According to the co-ordinator, this made a major difference to the project's impact and its smooth running.
- The activity was piloted extensively, initially in three schools, and teachers were involved in the development of materials, etc. This explains the absence of reported problems or shortcomings, and the ease with which they could be used in schools.
- Baseline tests with the children were carried out by the project team rather than the schools, since the team felt that it was important not to overburden teachers. This also ensured a measure of extra consistency and objectivity.
- The in-service training requires at least one day per term, and includes the chance for teachers to watch themselves on video. Teachers are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and to keep a learning log, which they find very helpful.
- Videos are also used for dissemination (schools have had to write to parents for permission to do this) and the Guardian's education supplement recently featured an article on the project.
- Schools appear themselves to be making efforts to spread awareness and expertise internally, through observation sessions.
- Delivery requires both careful planning of time, and close liaison with classroom assistants, special needs support, etc.
- There were initially some problems recruiting project staff. The project has one professor and one lecturer, each for one day per week, two full time project staff, and two PhD students who are able to use the work as the basis for their research projects. A rather meagre package of remuneration meant that the PhD students were hard to recruit.
- Up to now there have been no problems with staff moving, although some are anticipated to do so at the end of the year. However, the co-ordinator feels that the programme will be able to cope with any additional training which this precipitates.
Levels of achievement in the White City Partnership area fall below those of the borough as a whole:
A survey of SRB area residents in 1997 indicated that only 50% of White City residents have any qualifications from school, college or university, or which are connected with work or from Government schemes.
- in 1997 25.5% achieved at least 5 GCSEs at Grade A-C, whereas the borough figure was 33.5%.
The scheme aims to bring achievements levels more into line with other schools in the borough.
How the Project was Developed
The White City Partnership was formed by the council in 1996, and won £15.2 million in SRB funding. GOL encouraged the scheme to focus broadly on economic development, and one of the scheme's objectives is to improve educational achievements in local schools. The Education Department developed the CASE project in conjunction with local teachers, a professor from King's College and a lecturer from the Institute of Education, in response to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham's call for project ideas. The project is also informed by research findings.
Project funds paid for the development of materials for a series of activities, on which groups of six children at a time work with their teacher: the teacher works with a different fifth of the class for half an hour each day. The project co-ordinator has modelled sessions in each of the schools, and has held staff meetings in the project schools, to ensure that teaching colleagues are aware of what the children are learning and can use this elsewhere in the school.
The activities were designed to help the children develop their thinking processes and articulate their learning. They are encouraged to develop collaboration, tolerance and talking to each other about what they are doing.
The materials, which were carefully piloted and trialed with a number of teachers, are predominantly supporting the numeracy curriculum, and deal with seriation, sets etc. For example:
- Working with two hoops, and toy dinosaurs of six types and in six colours, the children work together to group the dinosaurs in a variety of ways, explaining to the teacher and each other why they have chosen certain options.
They learn how to group them by colour and type, and how to classify those that fall into both groups by overlapping the hoops.
- Other exercises include ranking/grouping a series of different flowers by height, and ordering a series of boxes which have weights inside.
The children sit with the teacher around a table or on the carpet and are encouraged to listen to each other and solve problems together. The teacher makes sure that everyone in the group participates, and they are encouraged to treat mistakes simply as things from which to learn.
The schools' approaches vary: one school works with groups of the same ability, and find this works well. Another deliberately mixes ability, and has found that this works well, too. Both commented that children who have previously been withdrawn and very shy have started to be much more confident and forthright in the group work. As one head commented, learning how to explore their thoughts and feelings is very empowering as it enables children to develop viewpoints. This leads to higher self-esteem, which in turn leads to higher achievement.
Outcomes and Achievements
- As with many of these projects, it is rather too early to examine their success - or otherwise - very effectively. Next year's SAT results will be an important indicator, and there are five control schools participating in the research that receive only the tests at the beginning and end of the project. However, there is anecdotal evidence that the project is already seeing encouraging results. CASE Key Stage 3, which is further advanced, has reportedly brought about some startling results.
- One head teacher remarked that a key strength of this project is that children learn to verbalise, an ability which computers cannot help to develop. They also learn to link their learning, and to apply to other areas the things they learn here.
- This is also where the project's value added lies. While the project focuses on topics related to numeracy, it also aids the development of communicative, analytical, and cognitive skills. The activity also helps children learn to transfer learning to other subjects, and encourages them to become more co-operative and tolerant of each other.
- In addition, teachers feel that the activity gives them the chance to work regularly and intensively with each child, and to stretch each child fully during the process.
- The programme has been an effective motivator not just of the children, but also of the staff. Participating teachers have found the project very useful in their own development, both as a refresher and as a means of developing effective teaching techniques in their in service training. They also report enthusiastic responses from the children taking part.
Tel: 0181 576 5472
Fax: 0181 576 5469