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Blackwood Primary School

Blackwood Primary School

Built on a critical view of research, professional enquiry and external expertise


Information about the school

Blackwood Primary School is in Caerphilly local authority. There are currently 416 pupils on roll with 15 classes and a two-form entry including a nursery and Rising 3s. 22% percent of pupils are eligible for FSM and 16% have ALN. Very few pupils are from a minority ethnic background or Welsh first language.


Approach taken

Blackwood Primary School is committed to providing the best learning experiences for our children in a no blame, risk taking culture where staff are encouraged to engage in research, professional enquiry and use external expertise.

As a regional professional learning school for the EAS consortia, it was paramount that we enabled our staff to engage in research that would ensure that all our practices were current and reflective of an international, national and regional context. Research and enquiry in the Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership plus staff fully engaging with the school as a learning organisation (SLO), meant that research and enquiry was an integral part of the school’s culture.

Internally, professional learning was identified as a focus in the school development plan and all staff engaged in professional learning processes with support. Initially all staff worked collaboratively in teams to determine research that would inform practices within the school. Staff all began their own learning diaries to record any professional learning which included their own reflections, commitments to act and impact. The impact was then shared in the form of professional learning posters which feature on the school website.

Although action research quickly became a vehicle to support school improvement, it was evident that external expertise would help to secure the depth needed. School leaders identified staff who would engage in several external enquiry projects:


  • The Lesson Study – This model was used for internal triads to focus on teaching and learning within the classroom. The success of the first round of triads was shared with a school from another local authority and they joined the second triad. This produced highly effective collaborative work. The pandemic ceased the roll out for all staff due to working bubbles, however, this is a model that will be used to develop professional learning for staff when restrictions are eased.


  • National Professional Enquiry Project (NPEP) – The pandemic increased the number of learners who struggle with their emotional well-being. This study focussed on the professional confidence of staff whilst supporting learners. A model to develop a hub of experts using Emotional Literacy was established to coach and mentor staff throughout the school. A pilot study has been carried out but was interrupted by lockdowns, so this research is still underway.


  • Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CCPE) – The enquiry focussed on whether STEM activities would develop critical thinking skills. This cluster project was undertaken with the guidance of Sterling University. This year-long study enabled the cluster to create an assessment tool for critical thinking skills. This supported staff with the critical skills progression required within their year group. The STEM activities developed the confidence of individual children, including non-readers to enable them to persevere with challenges in learning.


  • Think Like A Teacher – Strong links with ITET allowed us to be proactive and use a resource that would help students or new teachers. The professional learning that it provided for staff proved to be invaluable as the model asks for teachers to think aloud and present thought processes backed by research.


  • The National Strategy for Educational Research and Enquiry (NSERE) – Staff engaged with ‘Walkthroughs’ to inform teaching and learning within the classroom. Engagement with Welsh Government supported the research required for the study by providing high-quality research evidence. Staff used the AFL section in walkthroughs alongside other valuable research to develop effective strategies within the learning environment.


All the varying professional learning opportunities have enabled the school to develop a highly effective professional learning offer which includes staff at all levels.

Staff view professional learning as an entitlement that supports and builds coherence linked to pedagogy and curriculum design. We have been able to consolidate what has been learned in a culture that encourages staff to use professional learning opportunities to evaluate and improve approaches to teaching and learning. Professional learning is planned through a combination of  whole staff, phase, team and individual foci. Strong links with EAS have provided opportunities for staff to regularly work at a cluster, regional and national level on current educational issues which are driven by research and collaboration.

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