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Spinney Avenue CE Primary School

Article by Carol Lawrenson, Headteacher

Along with three other heads in Halton I have been developing a whole-school approach to the teaching of thinking. We became known as the Learning Network and in recognition of our progress now call ourselves HATS ( The Halton Thinking Schools ). In the autumn of 2007 two of the schools, my own and Beechwood Primary were recognised by the University of Exeter as Thinking Schools.

Our journey towards this began some five years ago when we attended a course organised by Kestrel Consulting and led by Gill Hubble, former Associate Principal at St Cuthbert’s College, Auckland, New Zealand. We had already been conducting our own research and Gill’s ideas stimulated us to move forward. We took a long time to decide which of the tools would fit the framework which follows the Accelerated Learning basic framework. Following discussions with Kestrel and Allan Short, Headteacher of Hunters Hall School in Penrith and a Kestrel Associate, we finally decided to focus on de Bono’s Thinking Hats, Habits of Mind and David Hyerle’s Thinking Maps.

We each identified a lead learner in our schools and these people have become the champions and key promoters of our approach. They became empowered by the experience and now provide guidance and support to all the school staff as the programme is implemented.

The benefits of developing a whole-school approach have been immense. Apart from the confidence engendered there is clear evidence that there is a significant improvement in literacy and numeracy. This succes encouraged us to start a programme with Chester University to work with them to tackle word based problem solving in Mathematics. Through this personalised learning we were able to offer a bespoke service to every child.

The impact on staff has been positive. Inevitable there was some initial scepticism but this has faded over time and I believe we now have 100% commitment from everyone involved.

The pleasure of going through this learning is obvious when you see the children at work. They understand how they learn and this has led to mjuch grerater sefl-confidence. They are able to talk about how they think and the tools they have available to help them. When they find learning difficult they are able to identify the reasons. They know now how to use thinking skills in every part of their lives.

The Thinking Schools approach is now core to the school as is made clear in our recent Ofsted report. Being the first school in the country to gain the Thinking Schools Award from Exeter has given us an enormous boost and was an affirmation of all the hard work we have put in over the last five years.

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