Wiltshire Journal of Education











disseminating good practice and

celebrating achievement in Wiltshire




Produced by the Schools’ Branch


Volume 4  Number 3Autumn 2003




Editorial, by Susan McCulloch


A 21st century curriculum: “learning to learn and learning why”, by K. M. Pollard


Alternative curriculum – behaviour implications, by K. M. Pollard


To raise the status of Visual Art in school and develop Emotional Literacy through creative approaches, by Jennifer A. Pitcher


Living myself through others: how can I account for my claims and understanding of a teacher-research group at Westwood St Thomas School?, by Simon Riding


Current R&D action research projects, collated by Susan McCulloch


Further information










We would like to welcome all our readers to this first version of the Wiltshire Journal of Education that is available on the Internet. 


In this issue you will find reports on four significant research projects covering such diverse issues as


·         a highly successful community school radically changing both the structure and content of the Year 7 curriculum to place the learner at the centre and skills at the forefront of teaching and learning and the quantifiable impact they were able to demonstrate;


·         a linked article from the same school demonstrating the significant impact of the 21st century curriculum on pupil behaviour, again with quantitative as well as qualitative data.


·         a dissertation from a teacher in another secondary school which explores through an autobiographical account, the influence of an in-house teacher-research group considering the potential impact of using a teacher-research group within a school and the potential benefits of the existence of such a group on a school.


·         how visual arts were used in a primary school to raise its status, develop emotional literacy, encourage young professional artists to work in schools, create new community links and address gender issues.


In addition there is an overview of all the in-progress research projects being undertaken in primary, secondary and special schools.


In an era of developing interconnecting networks of communication I have (with the help of Dr Jack Whitehead from the University of Bath) put together a brief description of three web sites that may be of interest.


Developing electronic networks of communication


Many readers will be aware that the “Wiltshire Journal of Education” is also hosted on the website www.actionresearch.net   On this web site you will also find a range of action research papers by teachers in Wiltshire schools as well as writings by teachers and lecturers linked to the University of Bath.  If you go to this website you will see the new items of the menu page relating to the teacher-research groups at Westwood St Thomas School, The John Bentley School and the Monday and Tuesday evening groups at Bath University.  Dr Whitehead has also produced a web page which explains why teacher-research could be related to global movements to reconstruct the knowledge-base of education.  The URL is http://www.actionresearch.net/jbs/bsconnect.html  Here you will find live links to several significant publications that can be downloaded such as Education Researcher – one of the most influential educational journal in the world from the American Educational Research Association.


There are also other e-journals which may be of interest.


The Ontario Action Researcher


This is maintained by a partnership between the Grand Erie District School Board, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and Nipissing University which also hosts the articles.  Although catering for the needs of teachers in Ontario they welcome readers and contributions from the rest of Canada and around the world.  Their published aims are to support personal and professional growth by;


·         providing models of effective action research;

·         enabling teachers to share their action research;

·         supporting teachers who are beginning action research;

·         demonstrating classroom connections between practice and theory;

·         informing educational practice in elementary and secondary schools and in universities.


There current edition contains four essays on the practice of a teacher in Special Education at secondary level, the role of mentor to a teacher candidate, introducing new professionals to reflective practice and “a tool for change” – successful collaborative on-site professional development.


To read more either go to http://www.nipissingu/ca/oar or click on the link from www.actionresearch.net


Teaching Today for Tomorrow: an on-line journal about education and teaching


This is a joint publication of the Seven Oaks Teachers’ Association Professional Development Committee and the Seven Oaks Schools Division Superintendents’ Department Board based in Winnipeg.


It says on its home page that it is the work of a professional community that values “dialogue, plurality and free expression of educational thought”


The journal documents aspects of their “on-going professional conversations about learning and education”.


There are 18 editions on-line, the latest covering the following issues


·         reflective teaching builds learning communities;

·         the inner world of children at school;

·         living our educational values;

·         moral reflection in teaching.


and number 17 has articles on the following topics


·         need a little TLC;

·         nurturing lifelong readers;

·         role of self-efficacy in literacy development;

·         a case for multi-lingualism;

·         chasms, crossings and connections: or is it possible to bridge a trans-cultural divide?


This journal can also be accessed via the hyperlink on the action research web site of directly on http://www.7oaks.org/ttt/


Susan McCulloch, editor











“Learning to Learn

and Learning Why”











“creating learners who love  learning so much that they can learn whatever they need to learn”





“The future of education in this country would seem to be uncertain at best.  For those in schools charged with the delivery of the National Curriculum the view through the window is not bright nor is it filled with promise.  The relentless drive to raise educational standards, whilst laudable in principle, could be argued to be guilty of crushing curriculum innovation, producing a culture of measurement of standards through testing and ultimately a profession populated by people who can only vaguely remember what education of the whole person actually means.  More seriously, the freedom to educate in a way that places the needs of the learner at the forefront of our thinking has been wiped out by the immense pressures of accountability through “league tables”, performance management and unsustainable workload.  Little wonder then that teacher recruitment and retention is difficult.  What sane person would enter a profession whose working day demands total dedication to meeting targets that have little relevance to the core purpose of their profession?


Creating a learning environment


“That core purpose must be to create the conditions and the direction which allow all learners (both child and adult) to develop a love of learning, to acquire the skills and abilities necessary to provide access to further learning and which inspire them to engage in lifelong learning.  This would seem to be a long way from the reality of education in England at the beginning of the 21st Century.  It is probable that future generations could argue that education policy and practice at the beginning of the century created a society populated by damaged learners who could not adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the technological and moral dilemmas inherent in a developing world.”


Dr P Hazlewood

School Leadership (2002)

Issue 5








The Alternative Curriculum at St John’s offers a real opportunity to our students and teachers to return to educating with a view to the future.










The school is an over-subscribed 11-18 Technology College (1450 students) with a largely rural catchment.  The previous five years had been spent continually raising standards from 55% A*-G to 68%.  We were reaching a plateau of what could reasonably be expected from teachers and students.  There was also a realisation that we had not been as effective as we had thought.  Reflecting on this led to the understanding that there wasn’t a coherent overview of the students’ educational experience.  There was little knowledge of what went on beyond the subject boundaries, with duplication of concepts/ideas leading to discontinuity and incoherence.  Besides this we were constrained by the perception that suggests the Yr8/9/10 curriculum cannot be accomplished until the Year 9 curriculum has been completed.


It was very significant that a highly successful school would radically change both the structure and the content of its curriculum which would place the learner at the centre and skills at the forefront.  Curriculum content would be the vehicle for creating the learning experiences which would develop the Opening Minds Competences.  To make sense of the curriculum it was decided to work in delivery teams using a modular approach in half term rotations.  The modules provide a cohesive learning journey with teachers as guides directing learning and escorting the students through a series of experiences which make sense of their learning providing visible links between each facet of the curriculum.  The teacher helps make sense of the story, encourages the student to go beyond the superficial meaning and suggest pathways to aid deeper understanding. The teaching style requires critical reflection on the part of both student and teacher.  Use of strategies to develop preferred learning styles, exploration of multiple intelligences, use of emotional intelligence, key skills and core competences flows through all aspects of the work.  At every stage the learner is required to take responsibility for his/her own learning.  Tasks are deliberately open-ended and risk taking is encouraged by students and teachers.


The report is based upon monitoring all stages of the pilot from concept through to reality.  This involved one third of the year group, 85 students reflecting the full ability range and a similar mix of other student issues such as behaviour.  The second phase where the pilot was extended across the whole of the Year 7 intake and continued into Year 8 will also be monitored.  The most significant difference with Year 8 is that the curriculum is unravelled and the teams are working more closely within curriculum schools to encourage the development of more subject specific skills.  Hard data has been analysed but more importantly qualitative data has been collated from students, teachers and parents with professional scrutiny provided by links with the Universities of Southampton and Bath, LEA Advisors and many of the stream of educationalists who have been to discuss our approaches and observe the reality.


Within several weeks of starting the pilot the teachers were aware that they had “stumbled” across a radical change in the relationships within the classroom.  The students were far more responsive, they were more engaged and they had more respect for each other.  This could not be attributed to any difference in the dynamics of the tutor group or handling by their tutors:  they consisted of two NQTs and one teacher with two years’ experience.  Our considered judgement was that the team of teachers knew their students far better than within the standard St John’s curriculum, they also had available data on their performance in SATs, CATs, Multiple Intelligence and self-esteem.  The difference being that this information was used with the students to identify and raise the profile of the students’ own preferred learning styles.  Lessons were planned to incorporate a range of Multiple Intelligence approaches and the content was used to create the learning opportunities which empowered the students to extend and develop their own learning skills.  Our planning formats developed rapidly evolving into our final versions as we recognised the need to make the journey exciting and stimulating.  The teachers having planned their module had also the freedom to divert as and when the students’ response led on to more fruitful areas.  Students became quite skilled at handling different negotiations, a less able group wanting to avoid written work requested a debate on volcanoes.  The lesson direction was discussed and agreed with students each taking a different role that they had to research and present at a public forum. Teacher input came via individual students and actually covered greater depth than the original lesson with students developing skills in managing situations and taking responsibility. Similarly more able students will often discreetly suggest that there might be a better way to approach a solution than the one the teacher originally had in mind. This mutual respect had to be managed and was recorded in a log book which travelled from lesson to lesson with the students. Over the course of the initiative this too has developed and now requires the content of the lesson, which Multiple Intelligences are employed and the aspects of the Skills recorded. We now have Module content mapped against the teaching styles and the opportunities provided for skill development.


During the first year we deliberately challenged our students and contrary to the accepted sequence of learning we introduced work from Year 9 and 10 schemes as and when they fitted into the learners’ journey. Many of the beliefs that Year 7 students were not mature enough to grasp some of the complex concepts were disproved and have been observed by outside agencies when visiting our normal lessons. During the course of the initiative we have had an “open house” approach with educationalists visiting. Some of the more astute comments have been:


“If this is what you can achieve with Year 7 in less than two terms then we are short-changing the rest of the population”


“We are seeing excellent teaching and learning but is integration the crucial element?”


The answer to this must be “no”;  simple combining of subjects would not produce the same results. This is not a magic formula but it is a catalytic reaction caused by combining learning and skills so effectively that the end result is far more powerful than the individual ingredients.


Most subject areas in the curriculum expressed concerns during the first year resulting in all students taking the optional national tests at the end of Year 7 so we could gauge whether the students were making acceptable progress in the core subjects. We already knew that we had a successful approach but to test our students using an instrument designed for the National Curriculum without having taught that phase was to be a significant test. We gave the students a week’s warning,  revision lists and used some lessons to develop revision skills (not really appropriate as they hadn’t covered the work in the first place). Subject staff marked and analysed the results. To balance the testing we designed an in-house problem solving paper which again was taken by both the pilot group and control groups. We hoped that this would give opportunity to see if other students had developed the same skills without this new approach. The results surpassed our expectations and confirmed that indeed the end result far exceeded the sum of the components. This rhetoric might sound dramatic but by the end of a year of uncertainty and apprehension were we to fail on quantitative data when the qualitative data indicated such success?


Our results with tests taken after 9 months:


English Optional Test Results

Students taking the exam

No. improving one or more NC levels

% improving one or more levels

% achieving lower than KS2 result

% students achieving two levels higher than KS2 result

Control group






Pilot group       







Mathematic Optional Test Results


Average KS2 level

Average level achieved

Overall gain

No. of students

Control group





Pilot Group





KS2 data was based on a single score, therefore the gain is based upon this level and the decimalised level at Year 7 test.




Cells and variations



Control group





Pilot Group






These are averages from papers set from Year 9 KS3 SATs papers levels 4-6.  The results indicate a very significant difference in managing information and application of knowledge.


Problem Solving Tests

These consisted of three questions with subsections designed to make the students reflect and develop the answers in greater depth. The initial marking was based upon communication of ideas, logical thinking, and feasibility of solution.


Across the whole ability range there was a higher level of performance between 10-12%  but far more significant was the ability of the less able to communicate their ideas other than in words. The Opening Minds Competences showed through the answers with students reflecting much broader issues and implications from the initial questions.


One statemented student suggested that to calculate the flow of lava from a volcano you would put a series of clearly visible markers at strategic points and, protected by a heatproof barrier with an escape route you would time the lava flow using a telescope and still photographs. He included how you would take into account the gradient by drawing lines and aligning the markers to the angles.


Our test was also instrumental in giving the student pride in achieving within the same test as others. He scored 54. At our Conference in June 2002 this same student was working in a team designing a moon buggy which could get over or round large boulders and still conduct a series of tests. An Educational Psychologist who came to observe this had to have the student pointed out to him, the boy was the leading “player” in the team and until they started to record what they had done his weaknesses weren’t evident. The group even took this into account, asking him to do a graphical representation of their ideas whilst they took on the text and recorded the reasoning.


In contrast we had a very able student who found difficulties in settling into the tutor group. He had been very isolated at primary school and was happy to work alone taking management of tasks in his stride. He was very anxious and explained after three weeks that he was different and was not really a social creature;  all this was whilst he was wringing his hands and avoiding eye contact. We spent some time with him trying to identify the root of his problem.  Eventually it became clear that learning was serious stuff and not to be enjoyed, it had to be hard, focused and there was always lots of writing. The poor child had been thrown into this maelstrom of learning where students talk, mix, explain, question and use all their senses. He was severely disadvantaged as he had not developed two critical senses;  common sense and sense of fun. By the end of the first term he was pleased to report that he felt more comfortable mixing with people with whom he did not really have anything in common. By the summer term his body language was relaxed and he could move from group to paired work to individual challenge without anxiety. Since he had first spoken up he had not been called “boffin” or “swot” because everybody worked to their best and he was not different.


On a visit by Primary Headteachers four weeks into the year they were astounded by the changes they could see in their ex-pupils. Disengaged students were positively engaged and eager to force the pace of learning, timid “dormice” were confident and had been weaned from their best friends to work with unfamiliar students. One of the more pronounced impressions was that they were thinking for themselves instead of being spoon-fed.


From a staff development perspective there has been a considerable development in teaching and learning styles and refocusing the curriculum to a skills led approach. It has been a period of risk taking;  the resulting improvement in the engagement of students and their improved performance has validated this initial approach and has since led INSET for the rest of the teaching staff.  Teachers have encouraged students to think in a three dimensional way and explore beyond subject boundaries.


There has been a very significant improvement in classroom behaviour as a result of the new approach.  This is reflected in greater student engagement in their own learning. As a result relationships in the classroom and beyond have changed both between teachers and students and between teachers and their colleagues and also within the students in the class and in the general tenor of the school. The role of teacher as advisor and director has had positive gains by encouraging the student to plan, direct and make decisions about his/her own learning. The professional dialogue between teachers has been enhanced by the team approach whereby teachers are supporting and enhancing each others' lessons and helping to make sense of the students’ educational journey. More significant is the fact that whilst teachers are not having to deal with discipline they are able to concentrate on the learning process. For the students developing the Opening Minds Competences the atmosphere in the classroom is much more supportive as students’ contributions are valued and encouraged. The ability to communicate and work with others has empowered students who self-manage their learning and their interactions with each other. This in turn has led to greater peer support and far fewer incidents which need outside intervention to resolve them. The atmosphere in the classroom is more purposeful and educational expectations are deliberately set much higher. With this level of challenge students are fired up to an increased pace and consequently are able to cover more of the extended curriculum than would be covered without this integrated approach. The underpinning of learning with the skills has led to an increased self-esteem and positive student achievement.


The enhanced student attitude has been confirmed by parents and there has been very little communication regarding problems the students have experienced. Within the control group there was the usual parental contact regarding incidents and situations needing support or investigation. The contact with parents has differed in that both with our standard Parents’ Evening questionnaire and a more specific one the parents of students on the new curriculum had a very clear focus on their child’s learning.  This could be because we have kept them involved and informed. However, when compared with the responses from the other parents they have focused upon problems, facilities and generalities such as menus and lockers.




K.M.Pollard, Principal Evaluator






Following our normal systems for creating the tutor groups we take into account:


·         information and data on our transfer documents from the primary school;

·         information gathered from primary liaison visits;

·         conversations with primary teachers and headteachers.


In May 2001 we established a balance of seven mixed ability tutor groups and two mixed ability groups which contained a greater proportion of students with recognised educational needs.  This is our standard balance and allows us to focus teacher assistant support in those groups with identified students.  Beyond this we created a mix of students from a variety of schools, gender balance and a balance of more able students.  Students who had emotional and behavioural problems were spread evenly amongst the nine groups.  Finally we try to ensure some friendship links and ensure that adverse pairings are separated.  This process was actually completed before final decisions were made to run the pilot.  There was only one directive in selecting the pilot groups and that was to ensure that the Headteacher’s son was in one of the pilot groups.  It was essential to show parents the level of commitment on the part of the Headteacher above and beyond his teaching commitment to the pilot.  The only other criterion was the stipulation that the pilot must represent the full ability range which meant that it had to include one of the target groups.  As the third group was selected checks were made to ensure that a good balance of students with emotional and behavioural needs were also represented.  When mapping the groupings there were similar proportions of students who have shown behavioural issues in their primary schools so the balance of students was comparative with regard to ability, behavioural mix and gender.  It is also worth noting that the students in the control group had the more experienced form tutors whilst the pilot group had two NQTs and one teacher who had taught for less than two years.  Approximately 60 years’ experience compared with two!


Over the year September 2001 – July 2002 data has been collected from our normal systems.  All statistics are percentages of actual totals.



Pilot Group

1/3 of year

Control Group

2/3 of year




Yellow referrals



Lunch time detentions



Emergency cover



After school detentions



Internal Exclusion – no. of  days



Internal Exclusion – no. of students



External Exclusion – no. of days



External Exclusion – no. of students






The engagement of students within the Alternative Curriculum has had a significant influence upon their behaviour.


Medical/injuries                       22%            78%

I have included the statistics for students reporting to the medical room to show that there is a more normal distribution of figures.  Again the students requesting to go to the medical room for illness or injury cannot be taken as evidence but put into a context re-inforce this enjoyment of learning over-riding minor problems.  I believe that some students will use medical issues to avoid tests, boring lessons and non-completion of homework.  The pilot students are eager to learn and have been putting up with minor injuries and ailments rather than miss their lessons.  Although this is only hearsay and comments from the teachers, parents have phoned in on several occasions to ask us to watch their child who has had a medical problem but wanted to come into school rather than miss a lesson.  This has not been the case with students in the control group this year.


Yellow Referrals                       25%            75%

The incidence of yellow referrals reflects that the students do pose problems at times but there is a significant disparity between the two groups and a higher proportion of the yellow referrals in the pilot group refer to behaviour outside the classroom.  Again this would indicate that within the learning situation they are engaged and focused on their work rather than posing discipline problems.  Part of this may be with the relationship between students and teachers and the understanding of where the lines are drawn, but some of it is explained by the way in which we deal with issues directly and particularly in relating to people and managing situations.  As one teacher said, “they actually think and discuss” before the situation develops.


Emergency Cover                      15%            85%

Emergency cover is a system where a student is sent from the class because his/her behaviour or actions are unacceptable and he/she is disrupting the learning of others.  The evidence shows that there are less than half the incidents you would expect for that number of students.  Conversely the control group scores well above the accepted norm.


Lunch time detentions         4.2%           94.8%

Whilst accurate records have not been kept on every lunch time detention overseen by individual teachers of directorates the more serious sanction of school lunch time detentions shows an alarming disparity 22 times the incidence in the control group.


After school detentions               16%            84%

The trend for a significant increase in sanctions which involve an after school detention in the control group is five times greater than the pilot students.


Internal Exclusion – no. of  days                            12.5%                         87.5%

Internal Exclusion – no. of students                        12.5%                         87.5%

External Exclusion – no. of days                             3.3%                          96.6%

External Exclusion – no. of students                       16.6%                         83.4%

Although the Exclusion figures cannot be used to prove any of the statements previously made they do reinforce this trend of a greater frequency of behaviour linked incidents leading to sanctions.




It was apparent very early on in the pilot that there were significant differences between teaching the students within the pilot and those following the standard National Curriculum.  Part of this can be explained by the fact that staff teaching the pilot tended to have more lessons each week with the groups so that there was a better relationship established between the teacher and students as well as the teacher having a better understanding of the students’ needs and group dynamics.  However, this must be balanced with the complete changeover every six weeks when students start a new module with new teachers and a new timetable.  In normal circumstances this might be an opportunity for things to slip through the net.  Again within the pilot each teaching group carried a log in which teachers enter a brief outline of their lesson content and approach.  Whilst this was not used to record any behavioural issues it was a constant reminder to the students that the teachers have a very effective form of communication.  Another significant factor was that teachers were volunteers who had been attracted to the ethos and approaches within the new curriculum.  Many already had a lively interaction with the students.


By the same token students who are actively engaged are not as easily distracted or bored and looking for opportunities to be off task.  Staff teaching this curriculum believe that the skills on which they have focused have given the students the ability to practise negotiation skills and group skills enabling them to deal more effectively with problems and issues.  The initial use of group skills also enabled students to respect each other’s point of view regardless of ability level.  What was stunning was to see the academically very weak student taking a high profile verbally and being in the position of group leader until academic evidence was required.  At this point students started to support the weaker member by allocating tasks playing to team strengths.  Although in these instances this did not improve the literacy and numeracy of the individual what it did do was to give them alternative strategies for the production of evidence and maintained their self-esteem.  It has also meant fewer problems relating to name-calling and minor irritations.


The most significant finding must be the improved learning environment where the teacher no longer has to spend time dealing with behavioural issues;  he/she can get on with creating effective learning situations.



N.B.  An Educational Psychologist had to have a statements student pointed out in one of the group activities:  he was actually the lead person in the group task performing significantly above expectation.  The same student scored very highly in the problem solving tests despite his very weak literacy.  Would he have achieved the same recognition within the standard curriculum?




Abbot, J (1991):

21st Century Learning Initiative


Bayliss, V (1999):

Opening Mind:  education for the 21st century RSA

Beane, J (1995):

Introduction:  What is a coherent curriculum?  In Towards a Coherent Curriculum


Claxton, G (1997):

Hare Brain Tortoise Mind:  why intelligence increases when you think less.  Fourth Estate


Gardner, H (1991):

Multiple Intelligences


Hargreaves, D (Nov 2001):

RSA Conference “Opening Minds, Increasing Opportunities”

Hazlewood, P (2001):

Papers 1 and 2 “The Challenge for St John’s” (unpublished)

Hazlewood, P (2002):

School Leadership,  Issue 5, Croner

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector’s Report (1997)

Holt, J (1960):

How Children Learn;  London, Penguin


Kelly, A.V. (1989):

The Curriculum Theory and Practice, London RKP


Northern Ireland Council of the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment


Is the Curriculum working?  Summary of the findings


Curriculum Review update:  A new approach to Curriculum and Assessment 11-16


Ofsted (1996, 2000):

Inspection Reports for St John’s School


Popper, K R (1963):

Conjectures and Refutations.  London Routledge and Kegan


RSA Journal 4/4 (2001):

Towards a 21st Century Curriculum

RSA Papers     (1999):




Redefining the Curriculum

What Should Our Children Learn?  Issues Around a New Curriculum

Opening Minds:  Project Update


St John’s School and Community College  Prospectus 1995 onwards

Senge (1990):

The Fifth Discipline:  The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation;  New York Doubleday

Stenhouse, L (1975):

An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London Heinemann

Sylwestre, R (1995):

A celebration of Neurons:  An Educator’s Guide to the Human Brain, ASCD














To raise the status of Visual Art in school and develop Emotional Literacy through creative approaches



What were we trying to accomplish?


§         to raise the status of visual arts in school;

§         to further develop Emotional Literacy through creative approaches to raise levels of attainment and behaviour;

§         to encourage young professional artists to work in schools;

§         to contribute to an LEA and National Model;

§         to create new community links;

§         to address gender issues related to boys attitudes and skills in the visual arts;

§         to link with LEA Out of School Hours Learning Initiative (NOF) bid with which the school is intending to be associated (Dance Club and Circus Skills Club).;

§         to link with the LEA seminars on Creativity – 21st Century Learning Initiative.



What we learned


The project was successful in involving boys as well as girls.  Their commitment showed in their willingness to attend workshops during evenings, weekends and holidays.


The work undertaken has raised the self-esteem of all the children involved, and had a visible effect on their behaviour.  Staff observations have provided evidence of this.  Attainment was raised through achieving success in Art, which then had a knock-on effect on effort and achievement in other subjects. 


Involving boys in the Out of School Hours (OOSHLI) Dance Club was initially more difficult.  However, their enthusiasm was captured after a dance performance for the whole school.  Circus Skills Club proved to be an immediate hit with both boys and girls.


The involvement of a variety of professional artists has proved inspirational for both children and staff.  Staff confidence was increased and the children produced work that has remained on display nearly a year later, continuing to attract compliments from visitors to the school.


Work done with the 21st Century Learning Initiative has been fed back to staff and governors, and many of the Initiative’s recommendations have been implemented.  Teachers now have more confidence to block-teach work in many subjects, instead of trying to fit each subject in the crowded curriculum into each week.  They now feel that they have the freedom and support to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to setting homework, to encourage far more wide-ranging talents and activities than purely academic skills.  The school has made an effort to cultivate and improve its already good community links, and this has been strengthened by the Creativity and out of school hours learning initiatives.



The project


A visiting artist, Nick Egerton, worked our school in weekends and holidays with pupils, to create tiles for our school pond area – see illustrations. This involved a group of children ranging in ability from those with special educational needs, including behavioural difficulties, to children with particular talents.  We particularly aimed at including a group of boys who would otherwise not take part in such creative work as well as a group of girls whose self-esteem needed to be boosted.  Some of the children of either gender were those with a particular interest in art. 


This grouping of children worked particularly well.  All were able to take an equal part in all aspects of the work.  The children were very willing to give up extra time at holidays, weekends and evenings in order to carry out the vast amount of work that was needed.  The visiting artist was very impressed with the quality of work achieved.  The aims of raising self-esteem were fully realised and a bonus has been sowing the seeds of future creative work amongst these children. 


The wider community of the School was invited to view the work during an open afternoon in the School. 


Following the success of this project, another potter, Bob Norman, visited the school to work with Years 1 and 5.  He helped the Year 1 pupils to create 2D model houses from clay (as part of their topic on Homes), while the Year 5 pupils, who had been studying containers, used a potter’s wheel to throw their own pots.  Bob Norman gave his time free of charge, and was then booked in for another day’s work with the pupils.


During ‘Big Arts Week’, June 2002, every class had the chance to work with a local artist, Andrea Finn.  She undertook a variety of short projects with the children, on themes of the teachers’ choosing, and each class produced some very impressive work, thoroughly enjoying the experience.  Andrea Finn also offered her time free of charge.


The creative work that we were already doing helped us to make a strong case for applying for OSHLI funding, and this in turn has strengthened our links with the community.


Continued professional development of co-ordinator achieved through LEA courses.


Our evidence


We have raised the status of visual arts within the school, and this was recognised in our successful OfSTED report in July 2002.  See appendix 1.


New community links were created as displays of children’s work were put up in the school hall, alongside displays from organisations within the village for the school Summer fete.


We now have in place a 2–year scheme of work for PSHEC and Emotional Literacy, in which we have been mindful of including creative approaches to raise levels of attainment and behaviour.


We have invited professional artists to work with both Key Stages within the school, and staff are enthusiastic about continuing this. 


We have gone to great lengths to address gender issues related to boys’ attitudes and skills in the visual arts.  The school’s PANDA report indicates that the achievements of boys are girls are broadly equal.


The school was successful in obtaining funding from NOF to set up a range of activities to improve lifestyles. 


Work done with the 21st Century Learning Initiative has been fed back to staff and governors, and many of the Initiative’s recommendations have been implemented. 


Our research activities


·         carrying out activities with pupils;

·         evaluating the responses of pupils;

·         attending Creativity LEA sessions (7 days led by John Abbott and Terry Ryan of the 21st Century Learning Initiative);

·         associated reading;

·         dissemination of information to Staff and Governors.

Further reading


“The Child is the Father of the Man” by John Abbott – ISBN 0-9537-1680-5 Pub 21st Century Initiative – 2000

“The Unfinished Revolution” by John Abbott – ISBN-1-85539-064 -7 Pub Network educational Press - 2000

LEA 21st Century Learning Initiative reading materials


Mrs. Jennifer A. Pitcher, Headteacher,

Alderbury and West Grimstead School,


Also Ann Harvey (first phase) and Kate Norman (second phase, from September 2001),






























Evidence from OfSTED with reference to creativity in the visual arts and extra curricular activities.


1            Standards are well above the expected levels at the end of Year 6, and above the expected level at the end of Year 2. This indicates a rise in standards since the previous inspection. All pupils, including those with special educational needs, achieve well in the subject.


2            Attractive sculpture work and design on fabric feature well throughout the school. Year 6 pupils’ sketchbooks show artwork that is frequently of a high standard, and some pupils’ effort is excellent. Intricate pastel work illustrates geometric shapes based on a stimulus from the work of Paul Klee. Pupils in Year 5 have produced a high standard of work, using pastel techniques. For example, the aim of one lesson, which was achieved very successfully, was to make a pastel still-life picture in the style of Gerald Murphy. The session involved a review of previous work on still life, and comparisons between Murphy and Van Gogh. Pupils achieved clean, bright colouring with pastel, and created intricate shapes with sharply defined edges. All pupils show great interest in their work, and the majority can draw and sketch with accuracy at the junior stage, with many younger pupils showing competence in their use of paint and other media at a standard higher than usually expected. In a Year 2 lesson, pupils used a combination of art and design techniques well. Sketching formed a significant part of the lesson, making it as much an art experience as design and technology. Pupils have designed and made stick puppets, which are well made and carefully completed within the lesson time. Pupils in Year 1 have created flowers for a most attractive and colourful display entitled ‘Mother Nature, Designer’. Display work around the school, incorporating pupils’ efforts, confirms that a wide variety of techniques and a high standard of competence are achieved. Photographic and recorded evidence demonstrate a consistently high standard of work by pupils over an extended period. For example, The World Book Day 2002 generated over a hundred entries on the Salisbury Festival theme ‘In Praise of Trees’ by pupils at the school. Texture work and landscape paintings in Year 6, and pottery in Years 1 and 5, are also of a high standard.


3            The quality of teaching and learning is good. This is mainly due to the talent amongst the staff in art and creativity, which is reflected in the standard of work completed by pupils. Lessons are planned well, and the resources are used extensively by all teachers to inspire and motivate pupils. In addition, the displays throughout the whole school are changed regularly and are of a consistently high quality. They are used well by staff to present pupils with strong models of good standards and to set high expectations for finished work. Visiting artists have encouraged pupils to experiment successfully with fabric design and pottery, and this has had a significant effect on pupils’ learning. Since last September, a new co-ordinator has been active in maintaining staff enthusiasm for the subject and this has helped to keep standards high. There is no current focus for the subject within the school development plan or a specific budget, but the co-ordinator has been allocated funds to develop ‘creativity’ generally, across the curriculum. The co-ordinator visits classes on an informal basis, but does not usually have opportunities during the school day to monitor artwork in progress during lessons. Nevertheless, the co-ordinator makes arrangements to enable the staff to work collaboratively on displays in school corridors and other areas. These are all attractive and help to provide a stimulating environment for pupils, staff, visitors and parents.



The curricular provision is good. It is supplemented well with a wide range of extra-curricular activities.









Living myself through others. How can I account for my claims and understanding of a teacher-research group at Westwood St Thomas School?



This Action Research dissertation explores, through an autobiographical account, the influence of an in-house teacher-research group at Westwood St Thomas School in Salisbury, Wiltshire. It considers the potential impact of using a teacher-research group within a school and explores the potential benefits of the existence of such a group on a school. It considers how the writer has worked with the members of this group to explore the educational value of living through others. It accounts for the professional growth of the writer as he matures through his active interactions both dialogical and relational with other teacher-researchers. It also provides a brief account of how this group has developed and moved forward over the three years of its existence.


What I learned


       The educational value of ‘living through others’, whilst in its infancy, is a central value in understanding how teacher-research groups organically grow and emerge.

       A teacher-research group needs strong leadership to initially develop it before moving towards leadership from within. This emerging self leadership values the embodied professional knowledge inherent within teachers.

       There is a growing need and importance being placed on the notions of community learning and networking through the promoting of the value of democratic leadership.

       Within Schools the embracing of ‘distributed leadership’ approaches aids collaborative practice and supports teachers to enquire and ask questions of the kind, ‘How can I improve…?’

       Teachers embrace and embody narratives and stories within them. Teacher-research groups hold the potential to unlock these and use them to improve practice. Teacher enquiry promotes the values of listening to as well as the telling of these stories. Action Research provides the language that allows teachers access to the sharing and understanding of these stories.


Who was involved?


The focus of the research was autobiographical in nature. However, central to the research was:

       the teacher-research group at Westwood St Thomas;

       Dr. Jack Whitehead and Sarah Fletcher, from the University of Bath. Jack as my dissertation tutor and Sarah as my research mentor;

       Stuart Jones and Mark Potts, for their input into the programme at Westwood;

       Alan Hinchliffe, for supporting the development of this group at Westwood.



What did I do?


To complete this research I used the following methodology:

       reading and evaluation of previous completed units through Westwood teacher-research group;

       maintained a journal;

       videoed Wednesday night sessions;

       conducted a videoed semi-structured interview with Deputy head at Westwood and asked teacher-research group to respond to some of these of his comments;

       was video interviewed by Sarah Fletcher, a number of times;

       maintained email contact with tutors and members of the group.


My evidence


The following are comments made by members of the teacher research group:


‘…it’s also a slight luxury I think having the time or the incentive to question what you’re doing…’


‘…I think also ultimately we all want to improve our practice or we wouldn’t be here and you feel safer because you know other people empathise or sympathise because they want to do the same thing…’


‘…it’s been useful to have the group as a sounding board when you are developing a whole school policy or something …to actually have a group that you can discuss it openly with and validate it with and get a response from people again in a fairly safe environment you can get some really good ideas from it again it’s so important to find time to reflect on these things and try and take the school forward and without this two and half hours on a Wednesday I find it very difficult to do that…’


‘…and I think another reason why I come is because I feel my opinions and views are valued…and that is what makes it safer…’


My research activities


The following are the key areas that have been considered through this research:


       platonic views of social organisation and the link between these and the teacher-research group;

       consideration of the notions of community and collegiality and how these can be used to improve the provision of CPD within school;

       the roles of teacher-researchers within schools and how their work can be valued and utilised to aid School Improvement Planning processes;

       the use of narratives and stories within education and the interconnected nature of these and teacher identity and practice;

       the role of democratic values within teaching and learning;

       what professional learning means;

       the role of the Buddhist self within teacher-research.



Further reading


I would recommend the following assignments, accessible via the web, to gain a fuller flavour of the enquiries that have been undertaken through the teacher-research group.


Collins, K. (2003) How can I effectively manage students’ learning to take account of self-assessment within Modern Foreign Languages?


Ogilvie, R. (2001) Cohort Story: Re-searching and Learning Together. M.A. dissertation, Brock University. http://www.actionresearch.net/boma.rtf

Potts, M., (2003) How can I live out my democratic values in practice more fully by using formative assessment techniques to influence my own learning and the learning of others? http://www.actionresearch.net/module/mpeeform.doc

Potts, M (2003) How can I use my own values and my experience of schools in South Africa to influence my own education an d the education of others? http://www.actionresearch.net/module/mpsa.doc

Riding, S. (2002) A Case Study on the impact of a teacher-research group at Westwood St Thomas School on professional knowledge and development. http://www.actionresearch.net/module/srmee.doc

Whitehead, J. Jack Whitehead's notes for a workshop on Perspectives on Spirituality in the Graduate School of Education of the University of Bristol on 19th March, 2003. http://www.actionresearch.net/evol.shtml




Simon Riding

Westwood St Thomas School




Editor’s note


A complete version of this dissertation can be found on the actionresearch web site












Current R&D action research projects




Brief description of project

Primary schools


Karin Ancell

Chilmark and Fonthill Bishop CE First

Investigating web sites useful to those new as Heads to devise an easy guide for suggested use.

Val Culff

Crockerton CE Primary

Implementing an “enrichment” curriculum for all pupils.

Patrick Macey

Alderbury & West Grimstead CEVA

To widen and strengthen provision for gifted and talented pupils and deliver it more creatively.

Angela Reeves

Sambourne Primary

(Warminster cluster)

Exploring the systematic forces impacting on the ability of the Head to manage using Constellations as a diagnostic tool.

Jan West

Coombe Bissett Primary

Identifying reasons for boys’ underachievement in Literacy and Numeracy in order to raise standards.

John Smith

Redland County Primary

Develop a Basic Skills Checklist for Literacy and Numeracy to raise standards for SEN children

Christine Folker

Sutton Veny CE Primary

Continued use of the Hay Group Transforming Learning project.

Craig Gibbons

Colerne CE Primary

Raising standards in creative teaching

Elaine Harris

Minety Primary

Detection and remediation of developmental immaturity.

Jill Vincent

Staverton primary

To encourage underachieving pupils who are emotionally disadvantaged and give counselling support.

Peter Ward

East Salisbury Cluster

Developing thinking skills in a particular year group in a group of rural schools

Secondary schools


Jane Asplin

The John of Gaunt

Improving the quality of the language of performance.

Karen Collins

Westwood St Thomas

Exploring the impact of the mentoring system for gifted and talented pupils students to further strengthen the scheme.

Marian Curran

Wootton Bassett

Exploring how to ensure that gifted pupils avoid underachievement and become effective independent learners across the curriculum.

Kevin Eames

Wootton Bassett

Improving attainment in Year 7 by stimulating pupils to become independent learners

Bernard Gorforth & Hannah Lowe

Malmesbury School

Developing the use of ICT in Key Stage 3 Modern Foreign Languages teaching.

Stephen Jones

The John of Gaunt

Developing an enrichment programme for mathematically able students within the timetabled lesson structure.


Teresa Jones

Malmesbury School


Effective strategies to reintegrate students into mainstream lessons following internal or external exclusion for disruptive behaviour.

Maureen Nitek

The Clarendon

Looking at the extent to which the Learning Group contributes to the school as a Learning Organisation

Lynda Powell

The George Ward

Identification of pupils with poorly developed Emotional Literacy in order to opportunities for remediation.

Leila Shaw

St Laurence School

Evaluating programmes to meet the additional needs of Year 7 pupils who score more than 2 years behind their chronological age for spelling

Kath Shaw

St Laurence School

Using Circle Time in Year 7 to improve self-confidence and intra-tutor group relationships.

Gordon Trafford

The John Bentley

Improving classroom practice and informing school improvement planning.

Alison Warren

The Clarendon

Improving student critical faculties in making judgements.

Rosemary Croft

The John of Gaunt

To develop a whole school Teaching and Learning Policy with particular focus on interactive teaching techniques and lesson structure.

Steve Davies and Maggie Paul

South Wilts Grammar and St Joseph’s RC Schools

Use of the internet-based “Transforming Learning” self-directed package.

M Gourlay

Bradon Forest

Using literacy initiatives to improve subject attainment and student learning.

John Pollard

Clarendon/John of Gaunt/ Matravers Schools

Investigating opportunities provided by video conferencing facilities to students of the three schools.

Kathryn Pollard

St John’s Community College

To look at approaches used to develop learning skills of pupils in the Pilot Integrated Curriculum.

Imogen Wilgress

St John’s Community College

Mapping individual skill development as students move from Year 8 to Year 9.



Susan McCulloch

Testing a range of resources to support the development of pupils with poor emotional literacy.

Rob Ratcliffe

The role of the Deputy Head in developing a vibrant primary school.

Tom Robson with Frogwell Primary

Enhancing learning by investigating the effect of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning strategies on the rate of pupils’ progress in learning.