How one school is getting the best out of their learners with Spirals of Enquiry

Holy Cross Jupiter class

Pupils at Holy Cross Primary practise identifying birds as part of their outdoor learning

In this post, learn about Holy Cross’ experiences using the Spirals of Enquiry framework with one specific group of learners. The Spirals approach calls for openness to new learning and teachers taking informed action. It was developed in British Columbia to narrow achievement gaps for disadvantaged learners, and is also used in classrooms in Australia, New Zealand and in England through the Whole Education network.

The staff at Holy Cross C of E Primary knew that something was not right: the school was doing well but one particular group of learners was not thriving. The Year 4-5 Jupiter class was judged by staff to be disruptive with a poor attitude to learning. The pupils’ self-esteem was low, particularly for the 22 boys in the class.

The school used the Spirals of Enquiry approach to find out how they could support the Jupiter class to develop their learning and self-esteem. The initial results were shocking: when asked by staff how they would describe themselves, the boys believed that they were ‘rude, silly, angry and bad at listening’. The pupils had condemned themselves, very much in the same way that the staff had.

The staff committed to changing these negative beliefs: they read around improving boys’ self-esteem and assigned staff mentors to each pupil. The pupils kept mentoring diaries so that their mentor-mentee meetings could be recorded.

Other measures were introduced to raise children’s confidence and aspirations:

  • The school invited positive role models to speak with pupils, including a former Holy Cross pupil who is now a firearms officer with Sussex Police.
  • ‘Fantastic Fridays’ were introduced, offering pupils the chance to thrive in new areas of learning including Spanish, sport and drumming.
  • A male teacher has been brought in to work as a mentor and positive role model for the Jupiter boys.
  • The pupils spend time outdoors to reconnect with nature and share and develop social, emotional and moral skills.

The feedback from the Jupiter boys has been entirely positive: they’re happy to have an ‘inspiring’ male role model at school and feel more confident in their abilities, owing to the regular mentoring sessions with Holy Cross staff.

The headteacher, Cathy Dart, agrees that the Spirals of Enquiry approach has helped to sharpen the school’s focus. She says: “A complete culture shift around how boys learn was required to ensure that their learning styles were fully met and opportunities are provided so that they can shine, instead of fail.”

Well done to Holy Cross C of E Primary School for being brave, open to new learning and taking bold action!

At our Annual Conference, the journalist Laura McInerney tweeted about the importance of the Spirals scanning questions and the potential they have to change a child’s educational experience. 

If you’d like to find out more about how the Spirals of Enquiry framework can get the best out of your learners, please contact Natasa. We’re excited to be working with Drs Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, the originators of the Spirals of Enquiry, to implement this approach in a UK context across the Whole Education network. You can find more information here



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