Raising Attainment in the Scottish Borders
Primary schools across the country are finding better and more effective ways to achieve equity in educational outcomes through a range of Scottish Government programmes, including the Children and Young People Improvement Collaborativ (CYPIC) and the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
In Clovenfords and Stow Primary Schools in the Scottish Borders, a significant percentage of pupils were not achieving expected literacy and numeracy levels. Despite a range of teaching methods and approaches these pupils were falling further behind their peers and the gap between their attainment and expected attainment was increasing.
With support from CYPIC Improvement Advisors, the schools decided to apply quality improvement methodology (QI) to test and measure a more targeted way of supporting this group of children. This entailed establishing and evaluating individual sessions for each child, in a quiet setting with a classroom assistant. The schools also involved parents in sessions to help ensure they could support their children's learning at home.
QI gave the schools the structure to develop a consistent approach to deliver results for individual pupils and for the schools' attainment as a whole.
Amanda Hamilton, Attainment Officer, Scottish Borders Council said:
"We set ourselves a realistic, measurable improvement aim of reducing the percentage of children below expected levels in each curricular area by an agreed time. We used QI tools such as driver diagrams and the Plan, Do, Study Act cycle to plan and adapt as we progressed and run charts to measure children's progress. We used balance measures to ensure that we were not having an adverse effect on learning in other areas and run charts have been powerful in building will and belief amongst staff and in encouraging other schools to adopt the approach."
Individual children in each school have made more than expected levels of progress and have moved from below to within expected levels of attainment. For example, in Stow in 12 months, the number of children not achieving expected numeracy levels, reduced from 25 per cent to 12 per cent and this continues to reduce further. The impact on literacy and numeracy has been significant and the schools also have evidence of children's progress on other areas of the curriculum. Class teachers report that pupils have grown in confidence, resilience and self-esteem, impacting on their whole learning experience. Parents have also witnessed the improvements and attribute this directly to this QI intervention. For many children and families it is their first experience of evidenced progress and success.
One child – who used to cry at the start of every maths lesson said: "I used to feel like the worst in the class at maths and now I feel I'm pretty good. I like maths now".
His mum said: ""It was very difficult to motivate him to do homework, in general, or to go that extra mile. I now see a real drive in him to do well at pretty much everything he does and not just maths."
Other pupils said: "I know my times tables and square numbers now". "I can figure out the answers more quickly in my head". "Adults are helping me and I know strategies for adding 9 and 11".
"Without QI methods we would not have known if we had achieved our aim or if we were even moving towards it. Having achieved our early aims of reducing the percentage of children below expected levels in numeracy and literacy, we continue to set ourselves new aims to improve learning in other areas of the curriculum.
"Through the CYPIC, we have changed how we support children. We have learned to be exact about the issue we want to improve and specific about how we measure progress. As well as improving children's learning, we realised quickly the additional benefits of QI. In engaging children in their own progress through the use of run charts, their confidence and self-esteem improved. Parents enjoyed seeing their children's upward progress and our staff team now has robust evidence to prove they are making a difference. QI really does improve outcomes. It's a win-win for everyone."
Fiona Riddell, Classroom Assistant and Additional Needs Assistant at Stow Primary Schools won a 2017 Quality Improvement Champion Award for her relentless focus on improving outcomes for children in Clovenfords and Stow primary schools. Fiona took on the task of applying QI to reduce the number of pupils achieving below expected levels in numeracy. To achieve this, she implemented a significant shift in how she supported pupils, from a 'broad sweep' approach in the classroom to targeted one to ones with each pupil. Fiona has taken her approach to other schools across the Scottish Borders, advocating to other teachers and classroom assistants, quality improvement and one-to one support for pupils. She has also had colleagues from Chile, America and Denmark visit to learn how the quality improvement methodology can be applied to education in their countries.