Incorporating the Pupil Development Grant into arts funding for schools in disadvantaged areas.
Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn is a Welsh-medium primary school in the village of Bethesda, Gwynedd. The school serves an economically disadvantaged area and around 20 per cent of learners at the school are eligible for free school meals.
The school seeks to create stimulating opportunities to develop learners’ literacy skills across the curriculum. The topic for the term was the ‘Welsh Quarry’ and the school arranged for the Year 6 learners to visit the National Slate Museum in Llanberis in order to inspire learners to develop their skills in producing an extended piece of creative writing. The school has a policy of supporting learners to take part in off-site visits and ensuring opportunities for all as a means of closing the gap between groups of learners. While entry to the museum was free, the school subsidised travel costs using its Pupil Deprivation Grant. to ensure that all learners in the Year 6 class were given an opportunity to visit. The museum charges school groups for some facilitated sessions, but as part of its commitment to the Welsh Government’s tackling poverty agenda, there is no charge for those schools with more then 20 per cent of learners eligible to free school meals.
During the visit, learners heard about the quarry workers’ dangerous work on the rock face, and explored the quarry workers’ houses to get a taste of life over a century ago.
The school collected evidence to show the impact of the visit itself and the follow-up activities on learners’ literacy. The class teacher undertook an assessment of lower-ability learners and those on FSM which showed improved confidence in extended writing and improved ability to use idioms and comparison in their work. The class teacher reported: ‘These learners would rarely have the opportunity outside of school to visit these cultural locations. This group of learners would usually struggle to draw on external experiences, but the first-hand experience of the museum visit certainly had a positive impact on their work. This experience has had numerous positive outcomes that link to the learners’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge of specific aspects of the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework. In the future I can build on these experiences to deepen their understanding. It was also noted that boys’ interest in the practical elements of the visit resulted in a positive outcome: ‘They wanted to participate in extended writing, as they had a real life experience to write about.’