Pembroke Dock Community School has over 650 pupils on roll, a Flying Start provision and a Learning Resource Centre. 21% of pupils have been identified as having Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and 0.47% of pupils hold a statement of special educational needs. 2% of children have English as an additional language and 38% of pupils are currently entitled to free school meals (three year average 30%).
Pembroke Dock Community School introduced the asymmetric week in September 2018, in order to treble the amount of professional learning time (at no extra cost) and to give staff dedicated well-being time every other week. Having regular training slots has allowed the school to focus on training for the new curriculum and develop staff skills in areas identified to support all learners.
We undertook an analysis of the Four Purposes with regards to the strengths and areas of development for staff and learners. One of the areas that emerged for development was… to have the confidence to participate in performance. We were also aware from previous in-house analysis that music was an area very few staff had confidence in delivering, due to it being perceived as a specialist area.
It has always been a school aspiration for every child to have an opportunity to play a musical instrument. Previously, apart from music sessions using percussion instruments, very few learners had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. There were only a small group of learners from Year 3 upwards, that were chosen on merit.
In order to raise the expertise, knowledge and skills of all staff, we had a series of sessions spread across a year, with Sarah Benbow, from Pembrokeshire Local Authority Music Department. The focus was knowing the correct musical terminology, and basic music knowledge.
Progressing from the basic music training, we held an INSET day where we reminded ourselves that all six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) had equal value and considered our development areas. We looked at this document which draws on research from the key benefits of learning music:
A member of staff, during lockdown, taught themselves how to play the ukulele and we watched a video of her progress after a year. We then gave all staff a ukulele each, with the challenge to teach themselves and the children to play the instrument, with the aim to perform at a school concert in July 2022. We also purchased enough ukuleles for the learners to have one between two in KS2.
The expectation for our Foundation Phase staff is to use the ukulele as part of music sessions and to play along with simple songs. This was a whole school initiative, so it included our Flying Start staff who have embraced learning an instrument.
As well as raising our expertise in music, we also wanted our staff to put themselves in the shoes of our learners when asking them to learn something completely new. Sarah Benbow from Pembrokeshire Music Service again supported the staff with regular training slots and new music to try.
As well as whole school staff music training, we have also moved forward with other whole school initiatives. For example, the majority of staff have completed eight sessions of basic mindfulness, that we now use across the school as a strategy to support well-being. We have also dedicated weeks to our Welsh development and for ALN transformation work.
In addition, teaching staff have had training from Yr Athrofa on how to conduct professional research enquiries. The school is now on its third cycle of teachers working collaboratively using the enquiry model to inform ourselves of curriculum and pedagogy development. Regular slots on a Friday afternoon have been invaluable to work collaboratively.
Our AoLE professional learning communities also meet on Friday afternoons to conduct their business of self-evaluation and school development. Allocating specific Friday afternoons prevent the necessity to take staff away from the class for meetings during the school day.
The majority of the schools in our cluster (Pembroke) also implement the asymmetric week, and we have benefited from working together as a cluster, for example in partnership with Empathy Lab developing empathy through books and reading.
The asymmetric week has trebled the time that is dedicated to professional learning. This has had a positive impact on the amount of time dedicated to collaborative professional learning opportunities, and our ability for all teaching staff to take part in enquiry research projects and prepare for the new curriculum. In addition, that regular professional learning slot has provided the staff with opportunities to upskill in areas we previously wouldn’t have considered, like musical skills. The impact has been in the teaching and upskilling of the learners. All KS2 learners can now play an instrument (ukulele), and many choose to do this in groups and independently as well as a whole class. Some learners have taken it to another level, because of their enjoyment in learning the instrument. All school staff can also play the ukulele!