Castle Hill Primary School is unusual. It has grown from being a single site junior school in the heart of Basingstoke to a split-site primary school with a brand new campus a short drive or longish walk away from the main school on a large new housing development on the edge of town. The inspirational headteacher, John Martin, has chosen High Performance Learning as the unifying approach to learning across the two sites.
At Castle Hill, there has always been a drive for the very best, summed up by the simple aim on the front page of the school website, “Every Class, World Class.” Castle Hill thrives in what might be considered challenging circumstances with a fairly high proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals. However, the school has established a local, national and international reputation for both excellence and inclusivity and prides itself on its very close relationship with its community to which it attributes its success.
Castle Hill embarked upon the HPL Award last Autumn and has established working parties of teachers at all levels on both campuses to make sure everyone is involved with the plans. One of the key strengths of HPL is the shared language and Becky Willmouth, who is leading on HPL at Castle Hill, is keen to capitalise on this for her students, many of whom need to build a vocabulary to talk about their learning as well as developing the confidence to speak.
Whilst the aim is the same, the approach has been different on each campus. Beginning with the VAAs, the older children on the Greenbank Campus identify the characteristic they have just demonstrated and stick their picture on the poster in the right place. They then talk with their teacher about how this has helped them progress and what characteristic they need to work on.
In Key Stage 1 teachers and children have developed cards which show the VAAs and these youngest children are encouraged to select the right card and display it on their table to show that they have just demonstrated strength in a particular characteristic. The teacher is then able to move around the room and ask individual children to talk about the card they chose and what they did.
The classroom conversations generated by both these approaches are building the vocabulary of the children and giving them the language and confidence to talk with their teachers about how they are progressing and what strengths they need to develop. The working parties are pleased with this early progress and the school is introducing the ACPs to children in the same way.