Askern Spa Junior School is situated in the town of Askern, seven miles north of Doncaster, and was a coal mining town until 1991, when the Askern Colliery closed. This closure resulted in a fragile local economy; many families within the school's catchment area being left without employment. There is however no sign of any despondency when entering the vibrant Askern Spa Junior School, where visitors receive a warm friendly welcome and very positive feeling.
Caroline O'Hara, RM Educational Consultant, travels to Doncaster to see how Askern Spa Junior School has spent its first year of using SuccessMaker.
Askern Spa has been running SuccessMaker Enterprise since September 2003 and is very pleased with the benefits gained. The school's SuccessMaker Manager, Debbie Newton commented: "I think it's absolutely fantastic for any level of student. I really like the way it gives the students a chance to work within their own individual ability range." Steve Mason, Assistant Head, was also reassured to know that "RM support was always available when needed."
With the support of the senior management of the school, Debbie has managed both the initial set-up and the implementation of SuccessMaker Enterprise. Her enthusiasm and belief in the program is infectious and the children involved with SuccessMaker mirror this positive approach. The system is being run very effectively on four standalone laptop machines, each colour-coded so the pupils always know exactly where they need to log on. It is clear that this well organised and energetic approach has harvested many benefits for the pupils of Askern Spa Junior.
This year, 35 Year 6 pupils were chosen to work on SuccessMaker Enterprise on the basis of reading ages or by being on the borderline of achieving National Curriculum Level Four.
In order to minimise the disruption to the class lessons, there is a well organised time-tabled rolling programme spanning two weeks. This enables the children to access five SuccessMaker sessions per fortnight. Each session is 30 minutes long and made up of 15 minutes Maths Concepts and Skills and 15 minutes reading, either Initial Reading or Reader's Workshop. Some of the students who made the most substantial gains were also given the chance to commence work on Spelling Skills.
SuccessMaker worksheets are used to focus on any areas of difficulty the pupils may be experiencing. These are given out each month as homework sheets and are proving popular, with some even asking for extra sheets. The school has also put a SuccessMaker reward system in place. This is doing a fine job in supporting long-term motivation, self-esteem and confidence.
Debbie monitors student progress very carefully and reports regularly back to the Class Teachers. The main report used is the Course Report. From this Debbie creates a very clear spreadsheet summary that includes any "Areas of Difficulty" or "Skills Not Mastered" and each month distributes copies to the Head Teacher, Class Teacher and the school SENCO. In addition to this, a very clear graph of the gains achieved on SuccessMaker is also distributed throughout the school. It was a joy to read through these reports, as the progress of the students has been so significant. In particular, one Year 6 boy increased his reading age by almost two academic years during his time on SuccessMaker.
It was a pleasure to meet the friendly, enthusiastic staff involved in Askern Spa's SuccessMaker system and it was an added bonus to get time to chat to some of the Year 6 students and hear their reactions first hand. Maths Concepts and Skills was a big favourite with the group and one of the girls said, "I especially like the Speed Games part of the Maths Concepts and Skills". They certainly were highly motivated by the program and the level of concentration I witnessed was tremendous.
The children were also very keen on the fact that their progress on SuccessMaker is rewarded with certificates, stickers and there is a chance to be "Star of the Week." The profile of SuccessMaker is kept high in the school by the students being rewarded for progress during assembly time. What a credit to their school these pupils are.
As we are all well aware, the transition time for pupils moving from Year 6 into Secondary education is crucial and Askern Spa Junior has ensured that this has been made as easy as possible. Debbie has met with the SuccessMaker Manager at Camps Mount Technology College and pupils' SuccessMaker records have been transferred. On a recent visit to their new secondary school, pupils were pleased to see that they had been enrolled on the SuccessMaker Enterprise This continuity is so very important, especially for the less confident children.
The success this year has resulted in plans to increase the number of children accessing the system to 40 Year 6 pupils in a dedicated SuccessMaker room.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Askern Spa Junior School and would like to thank Mr Ron Leedale, Head Teacher and Mr Steve Mason, Assistant Head, for allowing us the opportunity to report on such excellent implementation of SuccessMaker Enterprise. A special thank you too, to Debbie Newton for her contagious enthusiasm and willingness to share her good practice.
Caroline O'Hara, Educational Consultant
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