St Helen's PACE is a primary pupil referral unit, based in St Helen's, Merseyside, which caters for Key Stage 2 boys and girls who are experiencing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, often with attendant learning difficulties or underachievement.
The ICT suite, managed by Joan Lewis, actively supports the concept of inclusion and has a proud record of successfully re-integrating pupils back into mainstream. Hard work, enthusiasm and commitment from Joan and her colleagues have earned St Helen's PACE an enviable OFSTED report in which SuccessMaker was specifically mentioned as helping to, "improve the pupils' motivation and attainment in literacy and numeracy."
St Helen's have been champions of SuccessMaker for over 5 years, so I was keen to discover:
As they are experienced enthusiasts, I also wanted to know:
One of the first things you notice when entering St Helen's PACE is the welcoming atmosphere and the bonds which exist between the staff and pupils. Although working with the unit's pupils has its challenges, it also clearly has its rewards. Many of the staff have spent a significant part of their teaching careers at the centre, helping to create a sense of security, continuity and care in which the pupils thrive.
"For a variety of reasons, pupils don't always come to us with as much information about their performance as we would hope" explained Kay Böhm, the Class One teacher whose commitment to making a difference to individual pupils was clearly evident.
"SuccessMaker forms part of our baseline assessment. One of the things I particularly like is the way it evaluates the students, sets a level and moves them forward in a structured way, a step at a time. The pupils enjoy it as it improves their self-esteem through success. It moves at their speed which is very important in building their confidence." Kay also pointed out the benefits that SuccessMaker offers in supporting medium and long-term planning. SuccessMaker automatically offers each student differentiated literacy and numeracy courses, tailored to their strengths and weaknesses, and provides detailed reports and specific diagnostic information that can be used to influence classroom planning. "Very useful, as the pupils don't all arrive together, the groups are constantly changing and the curriculum has to change to suit."
SuccessMaker is an integral part of the academic curriculum at PACE, part of every student's daily timetable. Sessions are presided over by ICT-specialist and SuccessMaker guru, Joan Lewis, the mainstay behind the success of SuccessMaker Enterprise at St Helen's. It is Joan who ensures that class teachers have access to the reports, supports intervention and ensures that every student has access to their daily session of SuccessMaker. When asked about the recent change to SuccessMaker Enterprise, Joan's comments were, "The new graphics are brilliant and the new reports are fantastic - they're self-explanatory so I don't have to spend time going over them with staff." She was a little disappointed that the worksheet provision was more limited than in the previous version but encouraged to learn that individualised worksheets are planned for future versions.
Under Joan's guidance, SuccessMaker sessions run like clockwork in St Helen's ICT suite. Although I have been in many schools where I have been deafened by the silence in which large groups of students complete their SuccessMaker Enterprise sessions, it never ceases to surprise me. However, to achieve the same level of focus with students for whom concentration can be a problem is impressive. As a pupil from Class One wrote in his recent SuccessMaker Self-evaluation, "It has helped me to sit still and concentrate." This is the same student who, according to his teacher, arrived at PACE with no number bonds to ten. After three months of SuccessMaker use and classroom support, he is now able to cope successfully with Year Three work.
Joan was keen to point out that once pupils are introduced to SuccessMaker and a routine is established, they are soon able to take responsibility for their own learning and behaviour on the system. This fostering of positive patterns of behaviour and independence, is a foundation of many aspects of PACE's work and is evident in the excellent rewards system that the unit has established to support positive behaviour.
'PACE-Os' are part of St Helen's innovative rewards system in which students collect rewards throughout the day, including SuccessMaker sessions, to reflect their achievement, attitude and behaviour. Points can be converted into a range of small prizes from Joan's shop or saved towards more substantial prizes such as trips to the cinema or visits to favoured food outlets. In addition to this, there are many other rewards built into PACE's SuccessMaker implementation which help to keep pupils on task and motivated.
At the end of each session students complete a report card recording their percentage correct. Depending on the percentage achieved in the course of that day, they receive a gold, silver or coloured star. Gold stars are much sought after. The beauty, as Joan pointed out, is that the competition for gold stars is a fair one with each student seeking success at their own level. Gold stars are only awarded for 100% correct but as many of the teachers commented, working with students to build their self-confidence sufficiently to allow them to make the occasional error is part of the journey towards self-worth that they undertake at the unit.
At the end of each half term real SuccessMaker rosettes, copies of the online rosettes, are awarded to the pupils and pinned on as badges of honour in assembly. The idea has gone down a treat with the pupils.
Margaret Simpson, the Head of Unit, is very supportive of the role ICT has to play in teaching and learning and has a very clear vision of the benefits SuccessMaker offers pupils (see quotation at the end of this case study)
The staff were equally clear about the advice they would give to achieve a successful implementation.
"First Adventures Bookshelf is a firm favourite amongst the pupils" said Kay, backed up by the students. "They see it as a treat not work!"
I'd like to thank the pupils and staff at St Helen's PACE for their time and warm welcome. It is inspiring to see the difference that the unit makes to children's lives. I'd particularly like to thank Joan Lewis whose efforts ensure that the children gain the fully from the range of benefits SuccessMaker has to offer.
Katrina Hay, Educational Consultant