In 2011, Hardwick Primary School was in a difficult place. By Christmas, there was no headteacher, no governing body and the school was in special measures. After a rapid turnaround, the school received an ‘outstanding’ grade in their 2014 Ofsted inspection. The Cornerstones Curriculum was an important part of the school’s journey towards ‘outstanding’.
Jonathan Gallimore became headteacher in July 2012 and had the challenge of bringing the school out of special measures. Jonathan wanted to ensure that the needs of their children were being met:
‘We had a lot of work ahead of us, to make sure the children here got the best possible start that they could have in life and make some really good progress in their learning’.
After making rapid improvements in terms of basic skills, the next step was to review the curriculum. Jonathan explains:
‘We needed to make sure that the children received a broad and balanced curriculum that allowed them opportunities to be innovative and creative, and that's when we came across Cornerstones’.
One of the early impacts of the Cornerstones Curriculum was that it gave teachers immediate access to engaging plans, with guaranteed coverage of a wide range of skills. This was a benefit that Jonathan really valued:
‘It provided our staff with lots of ideas, content, and new ways of thinking, to try and think about how to get children engaged into their learning and develop sets of skills, then get them to innovate and be creative. Then, at the end of that, to share it with others and make sure that the learning made sense to them’.
Staff feel that Cornerstones has given them ‘a backbone for learning’ but also allows them the flexibility to incorporate their own approaches, such as Talk for Writing.
Cornerstones encourages staff to think about ways to make their curriculum more broad and balanced. Jonathan explains:
‘There are many positives about developing a curriculum such as Cornerstones. What it has definitely done is challenge all of us to think a bit more widely. It's encouraged us to seek opportunities to join our curriculum up more’.
Meeting the children’s needs
At Hardwick Primary School, English is an additional language for many children. The school also has high levels of mobility, with many children coming in as new arrivals to the county. Jonathan and the staff at Hardwick see the challenges that this creates, but also the opportunities:
‘There are lots of children from different cultures, faiths, backgrounds and languages spoken in school. We look to accommodate that within our curriculum and use it to make the curriculum richer for the children. So we're always looking at opportunities to celebrate and share that wider community’.
The Cornerstones Curriculum has given the school a framework so they can meet their children’s needs and make the most of their local area and community.
Cornerstones has also provided the school with an engaging, meaningful context for learning, which has helped the children to develop their language skills:
‘One of the things that our children need lots of is opportunities to develop their vocabulary. To do that, you've got to have a really good context, and it's got to be meaningful and purposeful. A really vibrant and rich curriculum gives us plenty of opportunities to do that’.
When the school was graded ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, Jonathan felt that the Cornerstones Curriculum was crucial in helping the school to move forward and in ensuring that the children made progress:
‘At that point, taking on this type of curriculum really has enabled us to embed skills more deeply across all areas of learning, which then makes sure that children make better progress’.
Increasing attendance and engagement
Another benefit of the curriculum has been the increase in engagement of staff and children. Jonathan explains:
‘Our school attendance has gone up because learning here is vibrant and exciting. Our children and staff engage more’.
The structure of the Cornerstones Curriculum has also encouraged parents and carers to come into school:
‘We get our parents into school to share in what the children have been learning, and they really enjoy that’.
Jonathan feels that Cornerstones has been a crucial part of the school’s success and that ‘it enabled our school to move on when we came out of special measures.’
Since implementing Cornerstones, most teaching is now good or outstanding.
The May 2014 ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report made direct links between the school’s curriculum and the rise in children’s achievement:
‘An excellent balance of subjects and opportunities is provided to build and extend pupils’ basic skills and to enrich their experience. A wide variety of exciting topics is provided to promote creativity and is a key to the rising achievement’.
The report also acknowledged the pupils’ enjoyment of learning, and the impact of purposeful learning:
‘Teachers promote pupils’ enjoyment of writing by providing tasks that skilfully link subjects across the curriculum. For example, in one English lesson observed, pupils showed great enthusiasm as they wrote explanations about the digestive system and other health-related topics, all writing for a specific purpose’.
Hardwick Primary School is now in a strong position for the future, and staff feel that their curriculum was a key factor in their ‘outstanding’ grading.
About Hardwick Primary School
Hardwick Primary is a large, inner-city primary with 600 children from nursery to Year 6. Around 80% of the pupils speak English as an additional language, and there are more than 35 different languages spoken within school. In addition to that, 30% of the pupils have special educational needs, and around 42% receive pupil premium.