Case Study: Creating Independent Learners
Whalley Range, South Manchester
Whalley Range performs significantly above average for Progress 8. This is in the context of 51% of its students qualifying for Pupil Premium, 29% students not having English as their first language and typically students joining the school in KS3 having KS2 scores which are significantly below the national average.
“Without a doubt, GCSEPod supports our values and indeed there is a strong correlation between a student’s P8 score and the number of podcasts watched. “
Kate Wragg, Deputy Head
Whalley Range, a large, high performing high school for girls age 11-18 located in South Manchester, is part of The Education and Leadership Trust – a cooperative academy trust established in 2014 to promote the emotional, physical and social well-being of the area’s diverse and multi-cultural population.
The school performs significantly above average for Progress 8. This is in the context of 51% of its students qualifying for Pupil Premium, 29% students not having English as their first language and typically students joining the school in KS3 having KS2 scores which are significantly below the national average.
So how do they reach such positive outcomes? How do they overcome such hurdles to repeatedly bring out the best in their students?
Kate Wragg, Deputy Head with a Cross-Trust role for e-Learning and e-Safety, says “as a school, we have recognised the importance of independent learning for a number of years and our core Cooperative values (which really are at the heart of everything we do) include self-responsibility.”
“We encourage our students to take control of their learning while providing them with the scaffolding to support them in doing so. Independent learning for us means providing structure and guidance for meaningful revision. It does not mean ‘leave them to get on with it’.”
The school places a huge emphasis on developing the necessary skills for independence and self-responsibility. Over the years the school has developed a number of models to encourage independent learning in line the Trust’s core cooperative values: students belong to vertical tutor groups across all age groups; the school operates an extensive reward system; more than 600 of the 1,500 students have student leadership positions and take a fully proactive role in school life; and the school operates academic tutorials, where as opposed to traditional parent evenings, students are given their school reports in advance and are then asked to produce a short presentation for teachers and parents to discuss how they can improve.
As a PiXL school, Whalley Range adopts a number of proven PiXL strategies to support its efforts to create independent learners and uses its GCSEPod subscription to form an integral part of these strategies.
Kate added: “All subjects use Personalised Learning Checklists (PLCs) to track progress which closely relate to schemes of work and where possible, teachers now reference GCSEPod ‘podcasts’ in their SoW. Subjects also create and distribute playlists for PPE exams.
“GCSEPod allows students to really take ownership of their learning. Having access to quality, verified content that they can access when and wherever they want certainly promotes independence within a supported structure.
“GCSEPod supports (rather than replaces) a successful combination of other strategies. Despite being used well across all subjects, we continue to use PiXL apps to support learning in English and maths. We also use Doddle to track progress in all subjects as well as providing additional learning resources for the classroom and independent learning opportunities, in tandem with GCSEPod.
“Without a doubt, GCSEPod supports our values and indeed there is a strong correlation between a student’s P8 score and the number of podcasts watched. Whilst some might argue that the students who use GCSEPod are the sorts of students who might work hard and succeed anyway, we know this is not always the case. Feedback from our students themselves shows that regardless of ability, students place a huge value on having these resources tagged to their exam specification.”
As a very early adopter of GCSEPod, usage has evolved over the years and has formed part of an ongoing plan to utilise technology in improving outcomes and supporting the school’s values.
Kate added: “If you are going to drive this as a whole school initiative, with support from Senior and Middle managers it will work and it is worth the investment, but you do need a clear plan and direction of travel. As with any other investment in hardware or software, you can’t just buy something shiny and expect everyone to see its benefits. It takes time to get students (and staff) in the habit of using it.”
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“100% of our year 11 students achieved at least 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C.
82% achieved at least 5 GCSEs including Maths, English and/or Welsh at grades A*-C. An impressive 27% of grades were at A* or A compared to the national average of 19.4%.
We strongly believe that GCSEPod has played an important role in improving the outcomes for some of our pupils. Indeed, some of our top users exceeded their target grades in many areas and have now returned to the sixth form to continue their studies at A level.”
Diane Evans - Assistant Head Teacher,
Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteif
“There is a very clear correlation between the subjects with the most pronounced raises in attainment (English Literature, Chemistry, Biology and Physics) and those that had the highest GCSEPod usage.
In addition, the student with the highest GCSEPod usage was also our highest achiever.
Because there has so clearly been an impact on the departments that utilised GCSEPod effectively, we will be looking to increase the use of GCSEPod across the school in coming years.”
Andrew Ost - Deputy Head,
Fort Pitt Grammar School
“We’ve used GCSEPod for a year and the results speak for themselves!
Not only did we see a rise in headline measures across the board with our highest user of GCSEPod gaining 7A* – but the students and their parents love it!
It’s fun, user friendly, and easy to use in a variety of ways – on a mobile device, in school, at the heart of our mentoring and intervention strategies, for flipping learning, and to deliver positive engagement that parents can see. Plus we’ve only just scratched the surface!”
Dominic Howkins - Vice Principal,
Ormiston Sudbury Academy
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