The Welsh Education Minister described the 2009 Pisa results as a “systemic failure” and an NFER report stated that the basic skills of pupils in Wales were significantly poorer than the OECD average. The NFER also reported that 40 percent of children never read for pleasure and demonstrated a link between time spent reading and ability.
The assessments also showed that Wales lacked high achievers in mathematics. Across Wales, boys’ slower development of literacy skills is widening the gender achievement gap. Estyn Inspectors found that this gap can be greatly reduced if teachers adapt their teaching to meet boys’ learning needs. In many schools this is resulting in a slimming-down of the curriculum to focus on literacy and numeracy, but at the expense of arts and creative activities.
Leonardo 21'S Solution
The Leonardo Effect (LE) provides a way to achieve excellence in literacy and numeracy through an interdisciplinary approach that stimulates and motivates children through practical investigation and problem-solving. Research shows that by arousing children’s interest through creativity and discovery, there is greater engagement and deeper learning takes place. LE methodology will connect pupils in St Joseph’s with their learning and improve outcomes and enjoyment, especially for boys. 21st Century technology, including iPads and iPods, will be used to research, record and respond to learning.
The school has chosen ‘water’ as the theme for learning as St Joseph’s is in the seaside town of Penarth which borders Penarth Marina, Cardiff Bay and Cosmeston lake. The children’s local environment will be used to inspire and stimulate learning and the children will experience visits and welcome visitors from local organisations.
Leonardo 21 will be successful and sustainable through the engagement and commitment of staff members, and through an investment in new learning resources for a variety of learning themes.
In December 2012, teachers from across South East Wales visited St Joseph’s to learn about the Leonardo. If the St Joseph’s LE pilot is successful, the outcomes will be shared, and assistance will be provided in planning its implementation in other schools.