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Teaching | March 7, 2024

The value of extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities can play an incredibly important role in a pupil’s educational journey. They give children the chance to explore beyond their classrooms, providing them with the opportunities to discover new interests and learn new skills. 

The benefits of extracurricular activities

A study published in the Economics of Education Review by Stephen Lipscombe found that when it came to extracurricular activities, athletic participation is associated with a 2 percent increase in maths and science test scores. Club participation is associated with a 1 percent increase in maths test scores, and involvement in either type of activity is associated with a five percent increase in Bachelor’s degree attainment expectations.  

It’s crucial however, to avoid thinking extracurricular activities are only good for supporting subjects on the mainstream curriculum. Each one has its own intrinsic value and can spark an interest or uncover a passion which pupils carry with them for years to come, either simply as a pastime, or something that influences their choice of a profession in later life. 

Paradigm’s core principle is that our curriculum prepares pupils to lead fulfilling lives and to play an active, positive and productive role in our democratic society. In essence, the value of extracurricular activities lies in the holistic development they offer, contributing to well-rounded individuals ready to face the challenges of the future.

Extracurricular activities often improve social skills and teamwork. Whether through sports teams, games clubs, music ensembles or other activities, pupils learn to collaborate, communicate effectively, and appreciate the importance of collective effort. These experiences can contribute to personal growth and prepare pupils for the collaborative nature of the world of work.

Taking part in extracurricular activities is also a positive way for children and young people to build cultural capital. Participation exposes pupils to a variety of new experiences and environments, and this exposure can help them develop a broader understanding of different cultures, perspectives and ways of life. Participating in arts, music, drama and other creative activities can allow pupils to express themselves and develop an appreciation for various forms of cultural expression. This exposure enhances their cultural capital by growing creativity and aesthetic awareness.

Finally, clubs can also encourage pupils’ attendance, as they provide something additional they may look forward to coming to at school. 

By having a wide range of extracurricular activities on offer, before and after school, and at lunchtimes, we can give children access to learning and experiences they may not receive otherwise, helping them become more rounded individuals for the future. 

Teaching | January 11, 2024

The benefits of regular school attendance

Regular school attendance is a key focus at Solebay because of the many ways it benefits our pupils.

One of the main advantages of regular school attendance is academic success. Research  shows pupils who attend school consistently are more likely to stay on track with their studies, grasp key concepts, and excel in examinations. Consistent attendance allows continuity of learning which is fundamental for academic achievement.

In 2019, 84% of pupils in UK Key Stage 2 who had 100% attendance achieved the expected standard, while only 40% of pupils who were persistently absent managed to hit their target.

The pattern continues through school. Pupils who didn’t achieve a grade of 4 to 9 in GCSE maths and English on average had missed 10 more days over the key stage compared to students who achieved grade 9 to 5 in the subject. It’s estimated just 17 missed school days per year will result in a drop in GCSE grade.

School is also crucial for developing social and emotional skills. Regular attendance allows students to form lasting friendships, engage in extracurricular activities, and develop essential interpersonal skills they’ll need in adult life. 

Attendance also instils discipline and a sense of responsibility in students, and employers often look for people with these traits who can demonstrate reliability and commitment.

To help children who struggle with attendance requires a comprehensive whole-school approach that addresses the root causes. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution – we treat each case individually. As a Trust, some of the strategies we use are:

Focusing on Success

If pupils find lessons unengaging and irrelevant, they’re less likely to attend school, so we teach in a way that results in children feeling they are doing something worthwhile, but also secure enough that they feel safe. This feeling of achievement then helps them become more engaged in lessons. We continually review what we do to find ways we can refine and improve, then share them across the Trust.

Parental Involvement

Parents have a crucial role in ensuring their children attend school regularly. We promote parental involvement through regular communication, parent-teacher meetings, and highlighting the importance of attendance for their child’s future.

Early Intervention and Support

Identifying attendance issues early on is essential for effective intervention. By establishing a supportive environment where pupils feel comfortable discussing their challenges we can implement early intervention and prevent prolonged absences. 

We have Home School Support Workers, Attendance Teams and Learning Mentors to support pupils and families. We also work with specialists Impact Ed. to try and address the core issues behind poor attendance.

Positive Reinforcement

Recognising and rewarding good attendance can motivate students to attend school regularly. We offer incentives for classes and pupils with the best attendance, such as popcorn parties at the end of the week.

By focusing on attendance, we can help more pupils spend more time at school, so they are better educated and better prepared to succeed in their adult lives.

Teaching | May 23, 2023

Teacher Training

So they’re able to give pupils the best education possible, we aim to give all our teachers the best training possible, whether they’re at the start of their career or established members of the leadership team

Why train to be a teacher with Paradigm?

Paradigm Trust has a significant track record of delivering high-quality initial teaching training (ITT). 

At Paradigm Trust, one of our mottos is “Teach the right things, efficiently.”

We know every minute we have with our learners is important so we never waste time. We take the essentials of every subject and make sure we teach them in the most effective way. We know what works in the classroom and we want to share that.

To deliver our high quality teacher training, we’ve built strong partnerships with several ITT providers. And as the national ITT framework aligns closely with the Paradigm framework, it allows trainees to fit in with our approach to education and have a good grasp of our pedagogy from the start.

The course combines personal learning sessions with vital time in the classroom, observing and working with established teachers to deliver a range of lessons to children. These practical sessions will account for around 80% of course time and give students the essential skills and experience they need to become a professional teacher.

Most of these practical sessions will be at Solebay, however we will make sure learners have time at another school to expand their range of experiences. 

Career Progression at Paradigm

After their first year, teachers can look to move into a subject lead position at Paradigm. This builds experience and confidence as a middle leader. They get the benefit of working with more experienced colleagues and as a team across the wider Trust. It improves their understanding of the curriculum, of how Paradigm works as an organisation and how to develop teacher resources, all with peer support from across the Trust.

As teachers progress further in their careers, they can take advantage of training opportunities funded and delivered by us for middle, senior and principal level training.

If you’re interested starting your teaching career at a Trust that has a strong emphasis on quality training and your career progression then contact Kevin Jones to find out more. We would be very pleased to meet with you at any of our schools.

Teaching | January 27, 2023

Maths Mastery Matters

When we teach maths we take what’s known as a mastery approach. This means pupils revisit the same core areas throughout their schooling, so they can achieve a level of knowledge which gives them greater capabilities in the subject.

Number blocks

It’s an approach which puts depth of knowledge ahead of breadth of knowledge. By teaching maths consistently, from EYFS through to KS4, as children move through the school they’re able to grasp the fundamentals and build on them, every time they revisit the topic. The way we teach is constantly tested, evaluated and modified to achieve the best results. This ensures our lessons are taught with evidence-based methods, and it also gives teachers the freedom to try new things.

At our school we have a ‘talk for learning’ ethos, which means we want a lot of conversation about maths in our lessons. A key technique we use to encourage this is the Agree, Build, Challenge (ABC) model. For ‘Agree’, we give students two answers and they have to say which they agree with, then explain their rationale to justify their answer. ‘Build’ requires the teacher to ask a student to build upon another student’s answer, elaborating or giving new information. ‘Challenge’ involves the teacher asking a student whether they would like to challenge each other’s answers and opinions in a positive and constructive way. This all leads to better discussion and thinking.

Having a strong foundation in maths gives a pupil a good advantage when they come to the more advanced topics at secondary school. From when they first join us, we build pupils’ mathematics vocabulary so they become confident in the use of maths terms such as coefficient, highest common factor and lowest common denominator. This helps pupils to have easier conversations around the subject and better success answering examination questions when they reach their GCSEs.

The most recent progress 8 score at Ipswich Academy, the Paradigm secondary school, was a strong +0.29 and Key Stage 3 attainment is above the national average. The number of students achieving between level 4 and level 9 at Key Stage 4 is also increasing. Across the five Paradigm Trust primaries, 71% of pupils are attaining level 4+ and 53.7% are working at 5+. These outcomes are solid proof that this approach is delivering great results for our pupils.  

Teaching | January 24, 2022

PE: Improving bodies and minds

It’s common knowledge physical exercise is vital for keeping our bodies in good shape but the benefits of Physical Education in school extend far beyond the sports field.

In 2020, after the national lockdown, children’s charity Youth Sport Trust carried out a survey of 1,396 young people aged 6–15 to discover how they now felt about sport and exercise. Over a quarter said physical education, sport and exercise had made them feel better during that time. Additionally, 40% said not being able to play sport had made them feel worse. Clearly, sport and exercise has a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

At Solebay it’s easy to see the positive effects PE has on our pupils. In lessons following PE their attention is noticeably greater, their ability to focus is far better. And in the long-term PE builds self-confidence, reduces anxiety and improves self-esteem. It also helps children develop attributes which help them cope with difficulties and setbacks.

In PE lessons, we take a skills-based approach. Rather than simply playing different sports and games, lessons are designed to improve the fundamental movement skills – running, jumping, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, throwing and catching – especially in the younger year groups. This way pupils can develop these core abilities which are used in multiple sports and physical activities. Then when they come to play different sports, which are usually introduced around upper Key Stage Two, students will be competent in the necessary skills the sport requires, whether it’s throwing a ball in cricket, jumping in basketball or having the hand-eye coordination to play a racquet sport such as badminton.

When it comes to choosing between fitness and getting children healthy versus simply playing team games and having fun, we work on creating a good balance. For example, after lockdown children had lost much of the fitness they had previously developed so for an entire term the focus was working hard to get them back to the level of fitness where they were previously. After that we incorporated games too, to reintroduce the other aspect of PE.

To be able to track our pupil’s progress effectively, measurement is really important. We use five assessments each term to check how they’re improving in areas such as speed, fitness, coordination and strength. We then use that data to adjust our lessons accordingly, so the pupils continue to make progress, term after term.

At the core of sport is competition, which is important for helping pupils develop a winning mental attitude and equipping them to handle both success and failure. To do this we take part in inter-school competition, both within and outside our Trust, including SEN-specific contests. As well as teaching pupils about sportsmanship and respect, it fosters a sense of friendly rivalry and school pride, and boosts morale and self-esteem.

PE is an essential part of our curriculum that builds strong character and develops qualities in pupils which are beneficial in all subjects, as well as their lives beyond school.

Teaching | December 16, 2021

Striking the right note – music at Solebay Primary

In our everyday lives we are surrounded by music. And as a subject, music helps pupils understand and appreciate it in some way, whether that’s by learning an instrument, connecting on an emotional level or even using it as a method of self-regulation. 

Music is also a subject which provides many benefits that reach far beyond learning an instrument or improving children’s musicality. Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. Practising music boosts creativity, helps with language, increases spatial awareness and improves IQ – it’s a full brain workout!

To give our pupils the best music education, we have specialist teachers taking all our lessons. Children at Solebay all benefit from their expertise, and as the teachers have regular, consistent contact with the children they are able to tailor lessons more effectively to the needs of the students.

To give pupils enough time to properly appreciate music, everyone in our school has one music lesson a week of forty five minutes, every week of the year. We also have a bespoke music room which is equipped with the resources pupils need to learn effectively.

In addition to regular music lessons during the school day, we provide extra tuition for seven instrument disciplines, taught by peripatetic tutors and available to all pupils from Year 2 upwards. We also run musical after school activities through the year which include ukulele club, choir and musical theatre.

As well as musicality, in every music lesson children are building their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. We always include a practical aspect in every lesson, including group work and performance. These activities improve confidence and help grow skills such as team-building and the ability to work with others by playing as part of an ensemble. Learning to play a musical instrument also teaches resilience and patience – there’s no shortcut to being able to play well, just perseverance. There’s a reason ‘practice makes perfect’ is such a common phrase!

As well as learning about music theory, our pupils also learn about the cultural aspect of music and its history. As we learn about different genres of music, we also study the context and diversity of the genres; the place where it was born, the people who created it and the time period. For instance, when studying funk, soul and blues pupils also learn about slavery and segregation. In this way Music is a cross-curricular subject, linking pupils’ learning to many other areas on the timetable.

Teaching | October 16, 2021

Religious Education

With religion and beliefs becoming more visible in public life locally, nationally and internationally it’s important that children learn about them and understand them.

Studying these subjects also allows us as a school opportunities to promote an ethos of respect for others, challenge stereotypes and build an understanding of other cultures and beliefs. This in turn contributes to promoting a positive and inclusive ethos at Solebay that champions democratic values and human rights.

Religious Education actually has no statutory curriculum, so Paradigm Trust has formed our current curriculum by taking the best parts of the Tower Hamlets syllabus and the Suffolk syllabus (the two authorities which Paradigm schools fall under), combining them in a way which reflects our ethos and values.

We teach RE systematically, so children learn about each of the chosen religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Humanism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – twice in their primary career. The first time we establish their initial knowledge, then build on what they’ve learnt when we revisit it later.

To ensure the children make progress there is a different focus in each year. For example, Year 2 looks at how and why the religions celebrate festivals, and in Year 5 they will explore what it means to follow a certain religion in Britain today. This way there is no repetition when children revisit the religion and we can keep it fresh and interesting.

We take a ‘whole school’ approach to teaching religion, which means every year group studies the same religion at the same time. This evokes a great sense of community in the whole school; siblings from different year groups can discuss the same issues at home, albeit at different depths. When festivals come around the entire school can take part in the celebrations.

RE is a very artefact-rich subject so we make sure to use items from the religion, such as Bibles, kippahs and patkas, to enhance the children’s learning. We also arrange for external parties from different religions to come in and run workshops, so the children can enjoy a range of experiences as they learn.

We also go out and explore religion in our community by taking a visit to a different place of worship every year. This way they will have experienced a workshop on every religion, and visited every place of worship too by the end of Year 6. RE provokes challenging questions, encouraging pupils to explore their own beliefs, enabling pupils to develop respect and understanding for others and prompting them to consider their rights and responsibilities to society, and helps them understand themselves.

Teaching | September 16, 2021

Expert in Languages

By focusing on mastering the basics of foreign languages we are giving our pupils the foundation they need to succeed in the future.

While learning foreign languages is often seen as something for secondary school pupils we, and the other Paradigm primary schools, have a keen focus on teaching languages to children long before they get to Year 7.

Children at Solebay benefit immensely from being taught by a specialist language teacher, which is something very few other primary schools have. We have chosen to teach Spanish as it is the language which is studied at the majority of secondary schools in our area. By giving our pupils this strong foundation, they have a greater chance of succeeding with the language and achieving better grades.

When teaching Spanish we use examples not just from Spain but other Spanish speaking countries too, such as Argentina and Mexico. We are not just teaching a foreign language but also helping our pupils learn about different peoples and their cultures.

The ability to speak a modern foreign language and understand different cultures is more beneficial now than it has been for a generation. Recent events mean that as a nation we will be trading directly with more countries than before, and the ability to communicate effectively, and understand the culture, will be invaluable.

The demand for foreign language speakers isn’t restricted to the business and trade sectors either. Many organisations, such as the NHS and the police, require employees with linguistic skills, as do private companies in a range of industries.

And because bilingual and multilingual people are scarce in this country, wages for positions which require these skills are higher. A recent study by Preply found that people with Arabic as a second language can earn as much as 74% extra, compared to the average UK salary, with Mandarin increasing wages by 45%, and French by 34%.

While it is impossible to teach every language, studies have proven once someone has learned one foreign language, they can pick up further languages more quickly. Learning another foreign language also develops a range of transferable skills, such as communication and presentation abilities. It also builds understanding and appreciation of other cultures, which are really important qualities in today’s society, and when dealing with other nations. 

By focusing on what works, we are ensuring our pupils are making great progress in foreign languages and will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities arising for foreign language speakers.

Teaching | July 14, 2021

How we build Cultural Capital for our children – and why it helps

Our pioneering Hinterland programme is providing cultural capital for Solebay’s pupils so they can enjoy a richer life experience and improve their learning.

Cultural capital has existed as a phrase and a concept for decades, but was introduced by Ofsted into its framework in September 2019. They describe it as ‘the knowledge and cultural capital children need to succeed in life’ which dovetails smoothly with work we have been doing in this area for years.

The amount of cultural capital a child has can impact how much they get from their lessons at school. Due to differing circumstances and backgrounds, children inevitably come to the classroom with a range of different life experiences. For instance, some pupils may have been to the seaside, while others will never have visited the coast. If then, in an English lesson, the class reads a story set by the sea such as The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cat, everyone can understand it and answer questions on it to some extent, but the children who have actually been to the coast are able to relate far more readily and enjoy a richer experience than those who haven’t. 

We are committed to levelling this playing field, ensuring all pupils have access to high quality experiences. We do this through Paradigm’s Hinterland programme, which we’ve designed not only to increase cultural capital in our pupils, but academic capital (the knowledge which supports new learning) and character capital (the knowledge which lets you engage with the world). 

It’s a curriculum of thought-through systematic experiences which we expect every child from Early Years to the end of Year Six to benefit from. These include going to the seaside, the zoo, having a picnic, residential trips, museum trips, visiting backstage at a theatre, taking part in plays and other activities which prove beneficial to children’s learning. The activity is then brought back to the classroom and the teachers spend a lot of time unpacking and exploring it to ensure maximum value is drawn out of every experience. 

Obviously the past two years have been very different to what we’d like, but we have still managed to arrange several educational visits, including taking Year Five and Six to the Country Trust in Norfolk. Year Four have visited Kew Gardens to tie in with learning about the rainforest in Geography, and Year Two went to the Soanes Centre where they could get hands on with some practical science.

By running the Hinterland programme we are working hard to ensure no child is disadvantaged in their education. In this way, we can broaden children’s life experiences and help prepare them for future study, employment and, most importantly, leading a fulfilling life.

Teaching | April 23, 2021

Inclusive Learning – Giving Every Child Their Chance

At Solebay, we work hard to ensure every one of our pupils has the tools and support they need to be able to learn in the same manner as their peers.

Often inclusive learning is seen as something solely for children with SEND. While this is certainly part of it, inclusive learning is far more – it is a practice which includes everyone

We approach it by looking at the individual needs of every child at our school. These can be academic, and often are, but we also examine other factors such as independence, resilience and attention skills. There are often other barriers to learning to consider, including social, gender and economic issues. This holistic approach allows us to see the whole picture, and from there we are able to take positive action and provide the most effective support.

Pupils at Solebay learn in age-appropriate general education classes, regardless of their individual needs or learning barriers and we give them high-quality instruction, interventions and other support that enables them to succeed.  Teachers ensure that all pupils are included in effective learning and personalise their individual pathways to enable them to access all areas of learning.

As an example of the work we do, all the children are taught dance by a specialist teacher. These inclusive dance activities meet the needs of every child in the class regardless of their ability, with a focus on exploring and developing individual creativity, self-expression and physical potential. This helps pupils build their confidence and self-esteem, and there is a positive effect on social interactions, especially where pupils may not have a common spoken language. 

We also focus on ensuring pupils with SEND have experiences that support them in everyday life, so that they can feel valued in our community. We celebrate differences through daily practice as well as focus days and therefore pupils make an effort to include everyone and to treat everyone the same. 

It is unreasonable to expect children to do their best learning if their mental health is suffering, and research shows this is a growing concern among children and young people across the country. Covid in particular has caused many pupils to experience fear, isolation and anxiety. Therefore we remain focused on ensuring that we promote positive mental health and wellbeing, and that our pupils and staff have the best possible help available to them.

Much of the support we provide is done from within our school, however if we feel we don’t have the right resources to give the most effective support we will use external specialists instead. We also work closely with other schools in the Trust, regularly meeting to work together, share best practice and expertise, which can then be applied successfully to the individual schools.

By committing to inclusive learning we are supporting all pupils to become confident learners and well-rounded individuals equipped with the skills they need to build healthy relationships and make good choices now and in the future.

Last updated April 23, 2021