Millbrook Primary School - the start of a Thinking School Journey

By Lindsey Watkins, Headteacher, Millbrook Primary School, Wales

The start of our Thinking School Journey – helping our children to reignite their thinking and learning following the pandemic.

Millbrook Primary School is a 3-11 primary school situated in the community of Bettws in Newport, South Wales. As a pioneer school for the new curriculum for Wales, we have been on a thinking skills journey for a while now. We decided to make it a learning priority this academic year due to the pandemic. As a result of lockdown, our children have experienced loss, trauma and a lack of opportunity. Never has it been more important to support their learning recovery and we believe our work with Thinking Matters is helping us to do just that.

During Lockdown we had a virtual meeting with our Thinking Matters consultant, Paul Tyack, to consider where we were in our thinking journey and what we needed to do next. As a learning organization we felt it important to ensure that all learners – students, staff, parents, governs and wider members of the community – came on our thinking skills journey with us.

Enthusiastic members of staff have helped to establish our Thinking Skills Drive Team – they are supporting the head teacher and senior leadership team to drive thinking forward across the school. They actively carry out research, try out new ideas and support, mentor and coach other staff members especially when we have whole school INSET with Paul.

Members of the Drive Team sharing our vision with Governors

Our starting point has been to revisit our vision. This is something we do every year – we reflect on what needs to change or be added to the vision. This year we have decided that thinking isn’t explicit enough in our vision for learning. The whole team are currently involved in considering how thinking can be made more visible in our vision. All stakeholders are being consulted to consider how this can be done.

The team are also busy exploring ways to making thinking more visible across the school in practice. This has resulted in the introduction of class thinking books which staff and children update on a daily basis.  The books include children’s wonderings, thoughts, reflections and ideas about a variety of things. The powerful thing about this is that children and staff can continuously refer back to previous ideas to inform future thinking. It has also provoked some very helpful discussion around children’s wellbeing.

As a professional learning team we feel that reflection is a key thinking skill for us all. We believe that this is when we really start to learn by formulating ideas, learning from mistakes, making connections and innovating new thinking. Weekly staff professional learning sessions where we discuss and reflect upon our thinking skill practice have become crucial in driving forward our development of thinking skills across the school. This is coupled with Drive Team sessions with our Thinking Matters consultant, Paul, and our whole school Thinking Matters INSET sessions.

Self reflection and sharing thinking practice

We have only been on our Thinking Matters journey for a short space of time but we have seen impact and progress already. Staff are fully engaged and are enjoying their professional development sessions with Thinking Matters. Importantly, the children are being given time: time to think, time to communicate, time to regulate and time to play and learn. We have recognized that time to think is the most precious commodity in supporting our children’s learning recovery. Thinking is starting to become more visible at Millbrook and our children’s learning is recovering. If we can achieve this in just a short space of time then our future is looking very bright despite a global pandemic.

Lindsey Watkins
Millbrook Primary School

Find out more about thinking at Millbrook Primary by visiting their website

To find out more about becoming a Thinking School

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