Whole school approach is key to success

Published

At Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, skills-based learning is a priority and crosses all areas of the curriculum.

Every student at RWBA, regardless of ability, does CoPE‚Äč. Pupils who have special needs, or are at risk of disaffection may also do ASDAN’s Personal Development Programmes as part of the school’s Personalised Alternative Curriculum. Students begin CoPE in Year 9 and complete it at the end of the first term of Year 11, ahead of sitting their GCSEs.

Several approaches are taken in delivering the qualification. Every year, the school holds five ECM (Every Child Matters) days, when the normal curriculum is collapsed and students work on a series of themes, such as careers, enterprise, the information dimension, health and work experience.

Registration and form time first thing in the morning is known as iLearn at the RWBA. Tutors use this time to deliver some elements of CoPE and ensure pupils’ portfolios are up to date.

In lessons, meanwhile, subject teachers will deliver aspects that are relevant to their areas. In PE, they might work on ways to improve their own learning, which will include a baseline and a target for improvement, such as improving their serve in tennis.

CoPE has given the school focus for its skills-based teaching and learning. “Previously, this was ad hoc, so some of the vocational aspects were seen by students as less valuable,” said Deputy Head Anita Ellis. “CoPE is a natural part of the life and culture of the school and delivering it is written into teacher job descriptions and schemes of work. Everyone is on board.”

Year-10-pupil Rebecca Blackburn (15) said: “CoPE has helped us to develop our communication skills and ways of working independently. We are being accredited for personal skills that can’t usually be examined. It’s a whole new approach to learning.”

Beth Richardson, also 15, added: “We recently did a lesson on insurance and managing a personal budget, so we now feel more comfortable with some of the matters that face us in adulthood, university and the workplace.”

Staff also see the effect the course has on students. Hester McCunn, Head of ECM, said: “Students find CoPE engaging and motivating, and we believe this has improved behaviour across the school. It also builds resilience, initiative, perseverance, independent thinking and problem solving. There is no doubt that our students have learned study skills that set them up well for exams and beyond.”