Oldcastle Primary School has worked with businesses and universities to develop a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) week that has improved pupils’ aspirations and attainment.
Number of learners: 437
Date of inspection: June 2017
Information about the school
Oldcastle Primary School is in the centre of Bridgend. There are 437 pupils on roll, including 58 in the school’s nursery class. Pupils are organised into 15 classes.
Around 8% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, which is lower than the national average of 21%. A very few pupils are looked after by the local authority. A very few pupils speak Welsh at home. A few pupils speak English as an additional language, and many of these pupils have only very recently joined the school. The school has identified that around 12% of pupils have additional learning needs. This is below the national average of 25%. A very few pupils have a statement of special educational needs.
The school is currently a pioneer school and is working with the Welsh Government and other schools to take forward developments relating to the curriculum and other professional learning.
The school was last inspected in June 2017. The headteacher took up the post in March 2013.
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Science, technology engineering and mathematics has become a core part of the learning at Oldcastle School. Through its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) week, the school works with teachers, university partners, and local and national businesses to help them to bring these related topics alive. This is done by working with curriculum developers, producing useful teaching resources, enabling teachers to share ideas, and encouraging scientists and other professionals to get involved both in first hand school based education and through outreach work.
Oldcastle has built a collection of resources and activity for primary school children, aiming to give them an understanding of the importance of STEM in the world and an awareness of the relevance of science and technology to modern life. This includes aquaponics and composting, in order to demonstrate learning both of skills and knowledge first hand.
Description of nature of strategy or activity
In 2013, the school identified that science and associated STEM subjects had a lower profile and that pupil performance at the expected level and above was lower than expected. Leaders and staff decided that, if it wanted great technologists, scientists and mathematicians, then it needed to review its provision and approaches, in order to ensure that it supported all learners in developing a love of these subjects. Harnessing the skills of parents working in science-based industries, the school was able to draw on local resources and companies, STEM ambassadors and teacher expertise from partner universities to develop a STEM week. Staff planned activities around topics and projects that were already within the curriculum, but with a better emphasis on additional enhancements or enrichments to ensure that pupils had opportunities for deeper learning. Staff designed the STEM week to bring together opportunities for pupils to work with staff and resources from many local large and small businesses and allowing them have hands on experience in many exciting activities. This built on outreach visits to plants, factories and sites of interest, both within walking distance to the school, and also further afield. Teachers used their skills and expertise to design related activities during the week so that there was a coherent learning pathway for pupils.
The school was then also able to organise visits and onsite activities for parents, including a visit to an aircraft maintenance centre, and activities such as coding and stargazing. Giving the parents these levels of in-depth experiences that the pupils had already experienced strengthened discussions between pupils and with their parents both in school and at home.
Due to positive feedback, the school, with the support of a parent STEM ambassador, was able to grow the provision, include further partners (having evaluated other school priorities) and purchase equipment to strengthen the work, not just during STEM week but also for other areas of learning. This led to the creation of high quality work, including wallpaper designs as part of a co-linked art project. The school’s linked STEM ambassador has subsequently worked with other schools in growing provision. Oldcastle was fortunate to have been used to trial and test projects and programmes before they become available at museums and education centres linked to STEM areas.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?The school states that pupils of all ages are more positive about STEM subjects and see the exciting links to the workplace, beyond the school setting. Feedback suggests that 65% of the pupils would be more likely to look at a career based in a STEM subject. Results at the expected and the expected level plus one in key stage 2 have improved.
A proxy measure is that parental engagement has improved. A significant number of parents (over 60%) have attended at least one of the parent-focused activities over the last two STEM weeks and are positive about the impact on their children.
Links: http://www.oldcastleprimary.co.uk/See the full case study on Estyn's website.