A search for a Thinking School
Peter Short, a senior teacher from
Cumran Primary School is situated in a quiet and rural location overlooking the Mourne Mountains and Dromara Hills in the village of Clough, County Down. The purpose-built accommodation is bright and spacious and the school currently has an enrolment of just over 200 pupils, including specialised provision within a social communication unit.
Rhonda Moles, Principal, has worked tenaciously with her staff team to introduce a number of innovative approaches to teaching and learning, including the development of a whole school approach to the teaching of thinking. They are currently working towards the goal of gaining accreditation as an Advanced Thinking School. The Education and Training Inspectorate’s report of their most recent inspection of provision at the school is cause for much celebration, as all aspects of provision across the school have been evaluated as ‘Outstanding’. Many of the comments within the report reflect a strong endorsement of the potential benefits for children of adopting a whole school approach to the teaching of thinking.
The Thinking Matters big picture highlights the importance of children and young people having mastery of their own learning, and this is demonstrated in the opening statement in reporting the key findings:
“In this school, the children lead the learning”
Progress was also evidenced as outcomes in Literacy, Numeracy and ICT were evaluated as ‘Outstanding’. The levels of autonomy and mature personal qualities of the children were also emphasised:
“The children work creatively and take personal responsibility for working collaboratively with their peers. They seek and fully respect the views and opinions of each other, and take great pride in sharing their learning with others … The children use and apply expertly their extensive leadership skills within and beyond the school ".
The quality of provision was also deemed ‘Outstanding’, and the report stated that:
“The curriculum experienced by all of the children is relevant and creative; it empowers them to develop their full potential as confident individuals who are well prepared to contribute to society in an ever changing world ".
Some of the metacognitive tools and strategies utilised by the expert teaching staff were highlighted as being effective, such as:
“The staff employ a wide range of creative and innovative approaches, such as, a programme which focuses on developing the children’s critical thinking skills and, the use of question matrixes, thinking frames and stories to develop and extend the children’s talking and listening and reading skills”.
The quality of teaching observed was deemed as: “highly effective practice … characterised by a clear focus on the development of the children’s thinking skills and outstanding use of: connected learning opportunities across the curriculum; creative and active learning strategies; and, highly skilful questioning by teachers and classroom assistants”.
The Thinking Matters core approach recognises the importance of effective leadership in successfully implementing a whole-school approach to developing metacognition, so it is not surprising that Cumran’s leadership at all levels was also evaluated as ‘Outstanding’. Some particularly effective aspects of leadership and management were noted, including the “highly positive and inclusive ethos” and “… a collegial commitment to focusing on the ‘voice of the child’” which the inspection team found “inspirational”.
With concluding statements such as: “The culture of developing creative initiatives to improve the learning, teaching and outcomes of the children is sector-leading” it is clear that the Cumran Primary School team will continue to be in demand to share their effective practice within the wider school community.
Thinking Matters were pleased to welcome Rhonda and three other members of her leadership team at the recent Northern Ireland Thinking Schools Conference, where they facilitated a workshop on ‘Using Thinking Frames in the Primary Classroom’.
Congratulations to the school leadership, staff team and wider school community as they celebrate their continued success, they should take great pride in the recognition that their hard work is clearly producing the desired outcomes for learners.
To see a copy of the full inspection report click here and to find out more about thinking at Cumran Primary School visit their website. An article about their journey to become a Thinking School can also be seen here.