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Personalised learning builds self-belief and confidence

Students undertaking ASDAN’s Personal Development Programmes (PDP) in a Lancashire school have immersed themselves in the course, surprising staff with their level of commitment and enthusiasm. We spoke to their teacher Julia Boughton to find out more.

“I absolutely love seeing the expressions on the learners’ faces when they succeed and are enjoying themselves,” said Julia Boughton, Higher Level Teaching Assistant at Cardinal Allen Catholic High School, Fleetwood, Lancashire.

“ASDAN’s PDP (Bronze, Silver, Gold) have boosted the students’ confidence and self-esteem. The learners have been telling their peers and teachers what they’ve been doing in PDP such has been their level of enthusiasm. The course has engaged every single learner – they all love coming to the class.”

Motivating GCSE alternative

Students created wooden planters to
enhance the school environment
Cardinal Allen offers PDP to students as an alternative to GCSE History, Geography and Food Technology. It is timetabled for two lessons a week for the Year 10s and three lessons a week for the Year 11s.

“We offer PDP for learners who would struggle with a full timetable of GCSEs,” said Julia. “By doing PDP, the students can undertake activities they are interested in and work at their own pace. Because they can choose their projects, they take ownership of their work and are achieving in class when they would have been struggling in a GCSE subject.

“They are also learning important personal and social skills that will prepare them for life after school, including teamwork, communication, and problem solving.”

Success stories

One Year 10 boy’s engagement at school was transformed thanks to PDP. “The student struggled to concentrate in class when he first joined us. He couldn’t sit still and was shouting out constantly and he’d be up out of his seat disturbing the other learners. But as the course progressed and he realised he could choose his own activities, with my input, there was a big change in him. He learned to focus more, which I was hugely impressed by. Through gradually compiling his PDP portfolio, he has seen his achievements grow and he’s enjoying the success he’s having in class. I’ve seen a huge increase in his confidence.”

Julia encourages the learners to develop skills outside of the classroom. “Some of the learners have been working in a local primary school, where they are supporting boys who have no male role models in their lives. Our students sit with the reception  youngsters, reading to them and helping them with their classwork. They’ve really enjoyed the experience – one of our learners now wants to become a teaching assistant he has gained so much from the experience.

“Some of my learners lack confidence but real-world activities like this have opened up their eyes to new possibilities. I’ve seen the learners’ belief in themselves grow.”

Other activities the students have been involved in include maintaining the school’s allotment, organising a social for local older people, textile artwork, painting and baking. Some of the learners have even been giving up their free time, coming to class voluntarily during their lunch hour to work on their projects.

Personalised learning brings huge rewards

Delivering PDP hasn’t been without its challenges for Julia. “It can be daunting at first because in order to embrace personalised learning for the students you need to relinquish some control. Your job of course is to direct the learning but you must allow the students a say in what activities and projects they wish to undertake. You have to be brave and go with it because by giving them a say over what happens in the course, the rewards are huge.

“Because the course is so flexible, especially with the ‘other agreed challenge’ option, the possibilities for the learners are endless. Your students will become a credit to the school if you give them the opportunity to express themselves.”

PDP supports academic progress

Julia’s comments are echoed by her manager and school SENCO Caroline Smith who said: “PDP is an excellent course that encourages pupils to make progress in a range of practical, social and academic skills. This course is an excellent accompaniment to GCSE studies and helps to promote inclusion in a mainstream school.”