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Hadlow Rural Community School in Kent, is a mixed, free secondary which caters for students aged 11-16. It currently has 180 students enrolled. The school, its ethos and curriculum are all unique; pupils are offered opportunities very different to those in other schools because of its commitment and vision to integrate land-based education into everything it does.

Background

When the school first opened its doors in September 2013, developing students’ independent skills and encouraging them to take ownership of their own learning was a priority for the senior leadership team (SLT); after all, these are the skills that are critical at GCSE and A Level stages.
But it was Deputy Headteacher, Andrew Edwards who introduced SAM Learning to the school when he arrived last year, to help them do just that. Andrew explains, “I have always looked for new ways of teaching students. I used SAM Learning in a previous school and saw first-hand how effective it could be, so we decided to introduce it here. Because we are a relatively small school, we had almost 100 per cent buy-in from students and teachers right from the off; the momentum has been really powerful.”

Dynamic teachers up the ante

As with any good resource, only when it is explored, examined, tried, tested and completely understood can it be utilised to its fullest potential, and as a result, be of real benefit to users. This is where dynamic and enthusiastic teachers become invaluable.

“We are very lucky at Hadlow Rural Community School in that we have a very committed body of teachers, their teaching is outstanding. Once you have that level of passion and drive, they are willing to try and use new ways of teaching. SAM Learning’s extensive pool of resources gives them an excellent starting point, but also the scope to create their own teaching tools too, and they have been very creative with that” explains Andrew.

Teachers at the school have been able to use SAM Learning to create an extensive range of activities to engage students in their learning; “This has been really effectively”. Having the scope to design actual pages and different activities has been welcomed by the staff. Of course, the odd incentive doesn’t hurt, as Andrew adds, “I put a reward system in place for teachers, just to recognise their work and efforts with the initiative. They seem to have really relished the opportunity to get involved, and from a SLT perspective, it is encouraging to know we have the support of the entire staff on something new we have introduced.”

Independent learning

Incentives have also had a driving effect on the students, encouraging them to push themselves, work independently and beat their own personal bests.
Andrew explains, “The students are using the resources to build on their knowledge of the core subjects, with maths, English and science among the most frequently used. For example we have students in year 7 being prepared for the challenges of triple science, and through using Sam Learning, students can experience difference Key Stage resources.”

But it is not all work and no play, as he adds, “for every task completed on SAM Learning, students are awarded points and they love watching these build. These points are then added to our own reward system, either on a class, group or individual basis, so there is a bit of friendly competition going on too, which we also celebrate. The students have really jumped on board with SAM Learning, they have made it their own and learned how to make it work for them. And when a school makes the financial decision to introduce a new learning resource across the whole school, that’s the exact outcome you are hoping to see!”