Plymouth school gets creative to close the learning gap

The Western Morning News is reporting that a new Plymouth all-through school, set up by the city’s College of Art, is using a variety of creative approaches to close the gap for children from disadvantaged backgrounds…

Ground-breaking teaching methods at Plymouth School of Creative Arts in Millbay have not only allowed children from poorer families to catch up – in many cases they have overtaken their classmates.

And boys at the school – which refuses to dish out the gold stars and certificates beloved of generations of teachers – are also bucking the national trend by overtaking the girls.

Children at Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a free school which opened in September last year, 2013, are learning to love learning and be proud of their own achievements, Dave Strudwick, the head teacher, said.

Children are encouraged to work for their own pride instead of working for the sake of a sticker.

In its first year the school’s Reception class significantly outperformed the averages for Plymouth and the country as a whole. And other year groups showed a similar improvement in results…

“The key has been the focus on individual needs,” Mr Strudwick said.

“The staff are dedicated and hugely passionate, and we had a high percentage of male role models, which helped the boys.”

Cathy Palmer, Year 7 tutor, who leads art, joined the school in September this year.

“We spend a huge amount of time finding out how each child learns best,” she said. “We don’t see things like dyslexia as a label. We work with them to find a way of learning that works for them.

The children are also given a regular change of scenery every tenth day, when they work at different venues such as Mount Edgcumbe – places where they can make new links between their schoolwork and everyday life.

“One of the key things I’ve learned is making the purpose of lessons really visible to the kids, and making them part of real life,” Ms Palmer said. “I love it here. Everyone wants to do the best for the students, and there is always stuff going on.”

Teaching also happens in shared studios, instead of separate classrooms, which allows teachers to pick up new ideas and children to see the links between subjects like art and English…

The school was set up by Plymouth College of Art. Its curriculum is mainstream, and students can move away at any time. But, if they wish, they can remain within the same system through to masters level…

More at: Plymouth school gets creative to close the learning gap


Not a lot of specific detail here, and perhaps early days as the school is barely a year old, but it will be interesting to see how the focus on disadvantaged students plays out and whether lessons can be learnt from what they are doing? Thoughts and feedback? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Janet2

    Another puff piece for a free school which can’t be verified.  In any case, wouldn’t the children taking tests (other than Reception) have been educated somewhere else before September 2013.  There are 115 children aged anywhere between 4 and 16 (Edubase).  That suggests low numbers – proportions based on small samples are misleading.

    That said, if the head is correct (and I think he is) that the Arts supports learning, then it’s a message the Gov’t should heed.  Lords debate on 27 Nov expressed deep concern about the state of Arts subjects in English schools.

  2. Kathfanderson

    SchoolsImprove Did similar things when I worked with Creative Partnerships in NE. Ownership of learning, relevance, new enviros. Works.

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