John Evans, Headmaster of Royal Russell Junior School, explains how the Russell Learning Powers are helping pupils to navigate a year of unprecedented disruption to education.
As the pandemic landscape focuses schools, children and families on what children may have missed from classroom-based learning, it becomes more important than ever that we remember it is not just about what they are learning, but their awareness of the skills and tactics they use in order to problem-solve and learn.
As schools and families have battled their way through the last 18 months, it is clear that time in classrooms is now at more of a premium than ever. Although the amount of lost progress may differ, initial research agrees that children’s education has suffered globally during the enforced period of home learning.
However, the race is on to support their future progress and as schools look to make up a deficit of classroom experience, the danger is that teachers will feel rushed into cramming an already full curriculum into a smaller amount of time. While it is sensible to revisit content which was delivered online, it is vital that we remember our core aim: to teach children the skills they need to learn successfully.
At Royal Russell, we believe that it is imperative to develop learners who have an awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and the strategies that they use to learn in order to help them fulfil their potential. We worked with leading educational expert, C. J. Simister, to create an approach to learning that develops higher order learning skills, known as our ‘Russell Learning Powers’.
The Learning Powers enable our pupils to use their initiative and reasoning skills while being curious, creative, resilient, reflective and collaborative. The Powers are woven into our curriculum and our teachers will explicitly use them as they scaffold learning opportunities for the children. We celebrate their use by our pupils and highlight the importance of understanding how and why we are learning alongside what we are learning.
This approach means that pupils are motivated, able to discuss their own skills and abilities in these areas, commenting, for instance, on how they have used their own resilience in a particular task. The results of this approach have been very positive both during the periods of online learning and since we have returned to learning together.
Our Learning Powers also supported conversations between parents and the school, helping reinforce those messages at home while developing the value placed upon creating confident and engaged learners. Ultimately, our children are more accepting of challenges, less daunted by the process of learning through failing and more confident in their own understanding of themselves as learners.
I have been incredibly impressed at how well the children have adapted during this period; first to learning online and then to returning back to learning in the classroom with their peers. Royal Russell pupils are happy, inquisitive, confident learners and kind, thoughtful and supportive classmates. My team and I could not be more proud of them – we’re really excited about the academic year ahead.
Royal Russell School, Surrey, is a happy, vibrant and forward-looking community, providing girls and boys from 3 to 18 years with an outstanding range of exciting learning opportunities.