Reflections from Mrs Crawford-Smith (IB PYP Coordinator)
This week, Mrs Crawford-Smith guest writes on the Headmistress blog about gaining our IB World School Status in the Junior School and the journey to achieve this outstanding status.
At BGS, we are always striving to be a forward-thinking and innovative school, and in becoming officially authorised as an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) school, we have achieved just that. We are one of an elite group of schools in the UK that offer the IB PYP.
The IB PYP is a world-renowned approach to learning which offers a transdisciplinary, inquiry-based and student-centred education. At its core, it is a future focused education that develops young students as caring, active participants in a lifelong journey of learning and enables students to learn between, across and beyond traditional subject boundaries.
The ethos at the heart of the PYP matches our own. Since we opened our doors 10 years ago, our goals have always been forward-thinking; our aim to be at the forefront of education. We push boundaries and push ourselves to become the most effective practitioners that we can be.
When we started our journey a decade ago, we were teaching traditional subjects and we soon saw that we needed to help the students to see the connections between the facts and skills that they were learning. As a team, we developed our own Enhanced Curriculum. Units were developed that linked the subjects together, allowing the students to make connections across their learning. This was the perfect stepping stone for us to take on the next challenge – to evolve our Enhanced Curriculum into an inquiry-led approach. A child-led approach. We wanted to give our students ownership of their learning. Give them choice in what they inquire into, and in how they explore their learning.
New units of inquiry were written that give them this voice, choice and ownership. Starting from a central idea, the class explores lines of inquiry together whilst focusing on specific concepts to guide their learning. They all pose questions linked to the concept and share these with each other, allowing them to shape the next steps of the unit and explore aspects that interest them.
The impact has been profound, both on staff and students. The role of the teachers has changed. As the units are shaped by the class’s interests, we are never sure of the exact direction it will take. Whereas before we would spend our preparation time gathering or making resources that gave the students facts and information, now we spend our time exploring questions and considering how we can help the students to find the answers for themselves. Pupil engagement and interest is far greater when they are involved in shaping their learning journey. They are exploring aspects of the concepts and central ideas that excite them with the guidance of their teacher, their facilitator. Classrooms buzz and levels of ownership, self-confidence and agency are always evident. It is exceptionally rewarding.
Over the past two years as a team of educators, we have spent time refining our skills to facilitate the PYP approach. The curve ball of the pandemic may have made it more challenging, but this added to the need for us to be agile, creative and innovative in teaching methods. Our time as a candidate school culminated in an Authorisation visit which took place before half term. We received a glowing report and letter of acceptance from the International Baccalaureate which has really helped us to see how far we’ve come on our journey as a school. Among the many commendations, we were congratulated for, ‘facilitating and understanding and commitment to constructivism and inquiry-based learning,’ for having ‘outstanding facilities to support student learning,’ and for ‘facilitating a learning environment that allows students to become responsible for their own learning.’
I am so proud of how the pupils and our community have embraced the changes. It is an exciting new chapter to be a teacher in the Junior School at BGS; we are committed to model being life-long learners, to ensure that our students are independent, confident and innovative individuals.