Extended services at an advanced level
Almost all schools (97%) now provide a varied menu of activities for their pupils. The challenge now is to broaden the impact that the activities have, for instance ensuring a particular programme achieves leverage across the school that far outweighs the original resources or funding invested. On 12 October a seminar is being held at Tottenham Hotspur Playing for Success Centre to explore how after-school clubs can achieve an advanced impact on a school. The following examples are case studies to be presented at the seminar.
Outdoor pursuits at Broadgreen International School, Merseyside
Broadgreen International School is a mixed 11-18 comprehensive of 1200 pupils, with exceptionally high levels of deprivation - 43% of pupils receive free school meals and 31% are on the register for special educational needs. In an estate-based urban setting, the school offered no outdoor pursuits to its pupils - a situation that led Merseyside police to attach one of its officers who had achieved a licence to run the Duke of Edinburgh Award, through the Safer Schools Partnership. In 2005, its first year of introduction, the DoE award was offered to 12 targeted disengaged pupils at risk of exclusion which in the academic year 2009-10 has built up to 102 bronze award, 20 silver award and eight gold award participants. Spin-offs from the Award scheme have included a cycle repair club where abandoned bikes are mended and distributed to local primary schools running cycling proficiency courses. Other pupils volunteer as club mentors, such as for the school's cookery club and others participate in FAST - an American Families and Schools Together teen-mentoring programme.
The school sees the Award as an essential part of its personalised learning programme, because pupils independently choose a skill and a service in addition to their expeditions. Physically disabled pupils have completed the award using a canal boat exploration in place of the expedition and deaf pupils have completed the Award with the assistance of a volunteer communicator from the school. One of the school's deaf pupils made a resource which he used for an after-school club in which he taught hearing pupils BSL. Significantly, eight staff members have now achieved their Basic Expedition Leaders Award and one member of staff is now an accredited Mountain Leader.
Skills accreditation at Benedict Biscop Primary School, Sunderland
The school introduced lunch-time and after-school clubs four years ago and currently 91% of pupils in key stage 1 and 2 attend at least one weekly activity. The school has seen real improvements in English and maths, which it strongly attributes to the out-of-school hours programme for pupils. For the academic year 2009-10, the decision was taken to use the varied menu of activities to boost key skills so that pupils were more aware of what they were getting out of going to a particular club or activity. The four skills highlighted were: communication, social skills, esteem and independence. The parents' newsletter got them involved in thinking about their children's needs in these areas. This involved the pupils planning what they wanted to get out of the activity with the club leader, and a questionnaire home for parents and children to complete in terms of what they feel they had achieved at the end of the term. Meanwhile, pupils in the IT club produced certificates based on how pupils assessed progress in their chosen activities, and these certificates have been presented at celebration events and assemblies. As a result, pupils feel far more able to talk about what they have got out of the clubs, link it to other aspects of their lives, and have become more involved in their classroom learning.
A gardening club at Sandfield Park Special School, Liverpool
Until 2003, when the school's gardening club was launched, the only out-of-school activities at Sandfield Park (a special educational needs school for pupils aged 11-19, based adjacent to Alder Hay Children's Hospital) were sports clubs. Partnership working was a feature from the outset, with Barclays providing a start-up grant and the area cleared and a pond dug with the help of the fire service. Since then, volunteers from John Lewis, the fire service, Barclays, local park rangers and parents have helped the school add additional features, including a memorial garden, raised flower beds, a vegetable and sensory garden, bird boxes, a wildlife area and latterly a two-hole putting green, complete with bunker.
The steady growth of the garden has extended pupils' learning in a number of ways, both in their formal learning and their broader life skills. The art department draws on the garden as the subject of painting from life, photography and enhancing critical awareness. In geography and science pupils look at the weathering on garden walls, conduct weather experiments, operate sundials and look at the growth and development of plants. Meanwhile, a team of ‘Eco Warriors' monitor wildlife, conduct bird, bluebell and squirrel surveys and look after the recycling and compost bins. A sixth form group uses the garden as part of their Asdan ‘Towards Independence' horticulture qualification. As a result, some pupils have undertaken taster days at Myerscough College, going on to the college to study horticulture.
Tackling behaviour at Bearpark Primary School, Durham
A number of boys had been identified in key stage 1 as underachieving as a result of learning difficulties, difficult home backgrounds and a failure to settle into the school, so in September 2009, at the beginning of key stage 2, the school decided to set up an intervention project. A fun club was set up at the start of the autumn term as an after-school activity where only the six targeted children were invited. The parents were informed that this activity was to try and improve behaviour, raise self-esteem and to help the boys be more cooperative. The children needed to earn stars throughout the week in order to be allowed to come. These were for making the right choices and cooperating with other members of the class. Two year 6 boys were also invited along to act as role models for the group. There were different activities each week: soft play, painting and cooking were very popular. Each week started with circle time as an opportunity to share good things from the week. All of the pupils found it challenging to wait their turn and to say something positive about themselves, but appreciated it as an opportunity to have their say about the activities while enjoying the ‘specialness' of the group. There were some weeks when some children did not achieve the required stars and were not allowed to stay.
Staff were realistic about the extent to which an after-school club could improve individual children's behaviour. While one pupil is expected to have a medical diagnosis which may result in medication, others still face ongoing difficulties at home. When interviewed in May, all the children thought their behaviour had improved and this was confirmed through charting and recording incidents since the beginning of the year. It is hoped that ongoing study support and after-school activities will have made a long-term impact on their progress and personal development by the time they come to leave Bearpark Primary School.