School focus: Woodhouse West Primary

Year 6 pupils Kain Hague, ten, and Shirley Bassey, 11, with their earth project display
Year 6 pupils Kain Hague, ten, and Shirley Bassey, 11, with their earth project display
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Woodhouse West Primary is a school where the headteacher admits things are done 'a little bit different'.

Children are given experiences, both in and outside the classroom, which many have never been exposed to before.

Dylan Walsh, nine

Dylan Walsh, nine

Their 'real learning' transports them across the world and back in time, but ensures that the vital maths and literacy skills are still developed.

Headteacher Anne-Marie Bailey said: "We do things a little bit different here compared to other schools.

"There is lots of talk in education about creative and aspirational children and we do a lot of that, but for our children, not all of them but some of them, they don't get the opportunity to do some of the things you would expect children to get involved with.

"For example, a portion of our children don't have books at home, so in terms of reading and enjoying books it doesn't happen a great deal at home."

Poppy Megson, eight, with her home learning model

Poppy Megson, eight, with her home learning model

Last year teachers took every child in the school to Waterstones, in Orchard Square, to spend £7 each on a book.

For many it was the first time they had visited a bookshop - and its success has mean it's become an annual trip.

Mrs Bailey said: "We wanted them to get the opportunity to go to a bookshop and see what it's like and appreciate that books don't just encompass that little shelf in the corner of a classroom.

"We wanted them to see that they are fabulous places and there is a plethora of choice.

Year three pupil Kayden Olsen

Year three pupil Kayden Olsen

"Children enjoyed the bus journey and being in town.

"They had a lovely experience while they were there and had a book back in the classroom that was there choice.

"Some teachers had money left over because some children had picked books costing less than £7, so they had discussion with the class about other books they could get as well."

She said that children are more motivated to read a book that had been suggested to them by their peers rather than a teacher, and at the end of the school year children could take the book home or leave it in the classroom for the next year group to use.

Year three Stoneage project. Pictured are Joey Simmonite, eight, and Vanshika Akash, eight.

Year three Stoneage project. Pictured are Joey Simmonite, eight, and Vanshika Akash, eight.

For reception children, too young to go on the visit, they were set a home learning project that involved them going to buy a book from somewhere and make a record of their journey.

The visit is just one of many experiences that youngsters are exposed to at the primary school.

Mrs Bailey said that while schools are facing increasing pressures to ensure that targets are reached in maths and literacy, it was important that other subjects aren't given a backseat.

Youngsters experience 'real learning' in school - with everyone designed to be purposeful and put the vital maths and reading skills to the test.

Mrs Bailey said: "The problem is that schools have so much pressure of them to achieve these quite high targets in terms of children's mathematical and literacy understanding that there is a lot of pressure to focus on these core subjects.

"It's so incredibly important that children have these skills but sometimes there such a focus that other subjects taken a backseat.

Pupil Eliona Halidini, nine.

Pupil Eliona Halidini, nine.

"We make sure all subjects are given equal importance.

"There is a vast amount of mathematical and literacy skills in all the subjects.

"We try to do what is called real learning - every experience is designed to be purposeful."

Every half-term each year group has learning focused around a particular topic.

Children in year four are working on an RE project which involves them visiting religious buildings in Sheffield to discover learn more about different cultures and religions, and year two pupils are learning about Africa and appreciating the different cultures around the world.

Instead of just being shown pictures of Africa in books, they are experiencing a pretend journey there. In classrooms, they have travelled to London and seen a show and done other tourist activities, and will soon take a 'flight' to Africa.

"It's about emerging children in whatever your are trying to get them to understand," said Mrs Bailey.

"If you have been in it and felt part of something, you can do a lot more with that than just seeing something in a book."

Year three pupils are learning about the Stone Age and have done cave paintings, created using paper stuck to the underside of tables and painted laying down.

Kayden Olson, aged eight, was responsible for sticking the paintings on the wall of a cave that teachers and pupils had made.

He said: "I had to take all the drawings and glue them onto the roof of the cave.

"I really enjoyed the cave painting and made a picture of a bull, elephant and three people."

Year five pupils have been on a trip to The National Space Centre, in Leicester, as part of the work around exploration of space, while another classroom has been transformed into the rainforest. The class teacher dressed up and children pretended they were camping in the rainforest.

"We have staff who are fabulous and do all sorts of things that are above and beyond and then five children the most exciting and interesting experiences," added Mrs Bailey.

The dedication of staff has also seen attendance improve at the school, in Woodhouse.

Almost two years ago Angela Wragg, home schooling co-orindator, and staff members Sandra Little and Penny Johnson, started a walking bus.

Each morning more than a dozen children put on high-vis jackets, sponsored by the local Co-op, and are picked up at several stops around the community and walked to school. They are given a free breakfast when they arrive.

Mrs Wragg, the home schooling co-ordinator, said: "We wanted to raise attendance and we have had real successes with children who have had poor attendance."

It is hoped further routes can be developed with the help of parent volunteers.