Making truly individualised learning a reality

Debates amongst staff in the staff room about curriculum subject weightings are frequent and often heated; of course, opinion usually depends on individual teachers’ bias due to their degree specialism.

A truly successful curriculum however has little to do with how much Geography they study – it delivers what each individual child really needs. We are a relatively small school with only 181 pupils, but we were faced with the question, ‘How do we devise a timetable that suits each and every one of our children?’.

The answer to our question was to set aside a time each day that each pupil could develop as an individual; to work on the skills that he/she finds challenging; to be excited by higher level thinking and problem solving in subjects they excel in; to experience new subjects that we don’t have time to accommodate in our standard timetable.

Under our new Individualised Learning, or IL sessions as the children have started calling them, children who previously missed Head’s Assembly or Celebration Assembly to attend booster groups now receive their additional support during this time. Our Gifted and Talented pupils are supported and stretched without being labelled, nor do they miss their lunch break to interact with likeminded pupils. Equally importantly, children who fall into neither category are receiving an enhanced curriculum, which includes debating, current affairs, NVR and Latin to name just a few, the educational benefits of which are numerous. The most overwhelming part of this new initiative has been the fact that the children are so excited about their Individualised Learning time.

Significant work has gone into the development of this curriculum which runs alongside the traditional Heywood curriculum. Not least from our Director of Studies, Sam Millard, and Year 1 teacher Lucy Johnson, who worked tirelessly with Form Tutors to ensure that every child was scheduled to attend sessions that met their individual needs and interests. The success of the sessions is largely thanks to them , and of course the talented teachers who plan these additional five, 30-minute sessions in addition to our ‘normal’ timetable.

I’m new to Headship and I have to admit to feeling more than a little nervous as I hit the ‘send’ button on the email that communicated our somewhat forward-thinking curriculum plans to parents. I need not have worried – the response from parents has been as overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic as their children’s.