It's not just about getting the pupils involved in learning at Dewstow Primary but the parents too as Danielle Lewis finds out.
DEWSTOW Primary is a two-year-old school which integrates its pupil’s parents into the children’s learning as often as possible.
After I spoke to headteacher Gill Bray and deputy head teacher Joanna Mineur it was certain that this school’s way of teaching is one big showcase of the pupils’ talent.
The school arranged an afternoon for Years 3 and 4 with 10 activities where the children’s grandparents and parents could come along to see how and what the children have been learning.
Deputy headteacher, Mrs Mineur, said: “We had a few quizzes and Easter egg prizes. There were no books so children would have to answer from memory which showed what they had learnt”.
“It’s a lovely way of showing parents what children have learnt. It is more effective experiencing the activities together and it’s lovely to hear parents saying: ‘Oh gosh I remember this from when I went to school’”.
Dewstow Primary was built in 2012 and its open plan ‘plazas’, not classrooms, provide a completely open-plan way of teaching which differs from other schools. The school is also equipped with the latest technology.
Mrs Bray said: “We are incredibly lucky. We have 30 iPads and 30 laptops. It makes the children interact more with their learning. We don’t base everything on the computers and iPads but it gives them the option”.
The latest technology has integrated into the different ways of teaching in Dewstow Primary.
Mrs Mineur said: “If children want to do their work on the iPads they can go and sit on the bean bags to do their research. It just gives them some time away from the desk. The children have been studying the ear and were able to see different pictures on the internet of it and find more information.
“We still use books but I think children find it a lot more engaging and if you compare the amount of knowledge in one book to the internet, the internet gives them a lot more”.
The school has an IT club where parents and children can learn together. Parents can see the applications that are helping their children’s learning.
“Parents know what their children need to be using and this helps at home when their children are doing work. They can log into the applications and save or add to their work. We think this is helping their learning,” said Mrs Bray.
The school provides this club to Year 1 and up and the school says it is “educating parents that can help children to learn in the right way by using the right research tools”. The school holds this one term a year and will hold the club next year but with different children so they all get the opportunity to participate.
Mrs Bray said: “The applications are constantly changing so we will have to change what we teach as well. It’s a way of engaging children, “let’s look at an iPad” sounds more appealing to children than “let’s look at this book”.
“We are all learning together as teachers, parents and pupils. Children are very confident with technology and some pupils teach us how to use certain things. It’s amazing”.
The school has new equipment including a TV studio in classrooms. Mrs Bray expresses the positives of working in a new school.
“We are very lucky to have the equipment we do but we are introducing them slowly to the children. We don’t want them to be overwhelmed with it all”.
The children from Plaza Gaef, Years 5 and 6, have been studying the topic gallery which saw them researching different art periods and styles.
Mrs Bray said: “The children developed their own galleries. The parents saw all of the art and literacy work so everything was shared with them. The topics are arranged to increase parents’ sharing.
We think it is vital that children can show their parents their work. Everyone really enjoys this time when they share. It’s really important for the children because they are so proud of their work”.
The children develop their art work on the iPads and computers as well.
It’s not just technology that defines this school. The school is extremely proud of the work that their students do and try to showcase it at any chance.
“We are in partnership with Waitrose and they supplied us with eight trolleys that the children decorated as a part of our carnival topic.
They made the trolleys into ‘floats’ and the children chose different cultures and decorated them. Every float had its own crew like in a normal carnival”.
The children performed Samba dancing for their parents and families who joined in afterwards. The PTSA were there to watch and Waitrose provided snacks and refreshments.
Headteacher Mrs Bray said; “It was absolutely fabulous”.
The school provides free music lessons for Years 3 to 5.
“Year 3 learns Celtic music with penny whistles, Year 4 learns the violin and Year 5 learns the clarinet. We think it is important for the children to gain experience in music and they have the opportunity in school to learn a wide variety of instruments”, said Mrs Bray.
The children also took on the Bonfire Night topic in November. They named it ‘Remember, Remember’.
Mrs Bray said: “We don’t tend to use generic names for our topics. The children made a large tapestry with all different colours and sequins for Bonfire Night. They really enjoyed making it”.
Dewstow School likes to keep its children healthy and instils a healthy eating ethos wherever it can.
Mrs Bray said: “We have a kids’ tuck trolley with only fruit. We have ‘fruity Friday’ once a month. This is when Waitrose provide us with seasonable fruit for the children to enjoy for free. They all love it”.
The school organises a yearly trip to Talybont for children in Year 4 and Year 6 to enjoy activities such as canoeing, caving, archery and orienteering while staying in dormitories.
Mrs Bray said: “The Year 4 students only go for one night just to introduce them. I think it can be daunting for children when they go away without their parents for the first time so we like to introduce them to it before the three-day trip in Year 6.”
It is obvious Dewstow Primary School has a different way of teaching compared to other schools but its attention to the detail and welfare of the pupils and parents is undeniably successful.
Number of pupils: 191 including 60 nursery placements
Head teacher: Gill Bray
School motto: “Learning, living, laughing together”.
The schools Estyn report said: "Most pupils feel safe in school and are confident to talk to an adult if they have a problem or concern. Nearly all pupils have a good understanding of how to stay healthy by eating and drinking sensibly and taking plenty of exercise.
"The school provides pupils with a broad and balanced curriculum, which meets the statutory requirements. Planned learning experiences generally engage pupils appropriately through a wide variety of interesting topics."