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Learning through REAL projects

At Wensum Junior School we are on a journey to transform learning into something genuinely engaging, authentic and purposeful for our children, staff and families.  We take the National Curriculum as a starting point, but we aspire to use the new freedoms that come with it to transform how we deliver it.  During the Spring of 2016 we developed a radically new curriculum model and launched it in September 2016. REAL projects is built around three domains (science, arts, humanities) and provides a rich context for our children to engage with learning that is of value to them and the world beyond the classroom.

The real in REAL projects stands for Rigorous, Engaging, Authentic Learning and it represents a very different vision of what teaching and learning could look like in school.  All of our REAL projects include:

  • Significant content (including fully integrated reading and writing)
  • A commitment to multiple drafting and critique
  • Student-crafted final outcomes that reflect authentic ‘thinking and doing’ (e.g. working as scientists)
  • Rich first hand experiences to deepen engagement, understanding and enjoyment
  • Innovative planning and authentic assessment developed with expert partners
  • A public exhibition, showcase or peformance where every child is represented
  • Authentic audiences

Planning for REAL

One of the big changes we have made is to set up an annual planning cycle to provide the infrastructure that ensures staff teams have enough time to plan their REAL projects. Planning starts 4 months before the project goes live. The first planning meeting takes place off-site with the year team meeting with the project partner(s). The aim of the first session is to ensure coverage of significant curricular content, authenticity and rigour, and to sequence the learning on a project timeline. Once this has been agreed the year team will meet with our English lead teacher to ensure that high quality reading, writing and communication is embedded into the project.

Partnerships for REAL

We actively seek experts partners from the local community to ensure rigour, authenticity and originality in our projects. We work hard to build sustainable partnerships over time ensuring that the projects that we deliver are the result of a genuine partnership that deliver original and powerful experiences for our children. Since September 2016 we have worked with:

  • Jack Piercy, STEM communicator from Science made simple (East)
  • Tin House
  • Norwich Puppet Theatre
  • UEA Drama department
  • Sistema Norwich
  • Lost in Translation circus
  • Neil Storey, local historian
  • BBC Voices
  • Norwich City Council
  • The Broads Authority
  • Anglian Water

Funding for REAL

Since September our REAL projects have been generously supported by:

  • Town Close Trust
  • Alderman Norman Foundation
  • Chivers Trust
  • John Jarrold Trust
  • Norfolk Music Hub
  • Heritage Lottery Fund

Staff Book Club

To further support our own professional development, each term we have a ‘staff reader’. The last staff meeting of the term is then recast as a book club.  In the autumn term we read An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger, and in the Spring term we read Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck.  This term we have explored the model of Romance / Precision / Generalisation from The Aims of Education by Alfred North Whitehead. This has had a huge impact on our approach to project planning and delivery for next year.

We are on a journey

We recognise that we are at the start of an exciting journey.  While we have already made huge strides in transforming teaching and learning, the planned support from The Innovation Unit will enable us to fully embed the principles of REAL projects into the life and work of our school and deliver our vision for authentic, purposeful and meaningful learning; work that really matters.