STUDENTS and staff at a Sunderland school have got their thinking caps on – in more ways than one.
Barbara Priestman School and Technology College is celebrating becoming the first special school in the country to be awarded Thinking School Accreditation, after three years of work developing new “thinking skills”.
Carolyn Barker, headteacher at the Meadowside school, which caters for pupils aged three to 19-years-olds with a range of special educational needs, said the glass trophy was awarded for the accreditation through the Cognitive Education Centre at the University of Exeter.
Mrs Barker said: “This award recognises the whole school approach to thinking reflectively, critically and creatively.
“Students have been taught how to use a range of thinking tools and strategies, which include philosophy for children, dramatic enquiry, thinking maps and thinking hats.
“They employ these skills and techniques across the curriculum and in their own learning. There have been many successful outcomes reflected in students’ independence, co-operative learning skills, high levels of achievement and enjoyment in learning.
“One of the main aims of the initiatives was to encourage the students to do more thinking for themselves and not being spoon fed. Students said that they enjoy using the thinking hats and maps. They feel that using the tools was important to their learning because it helped them to know what to do.
“We are delighted with the accreditation, but we have worked really hard for it and it has involved a lot of effort from the staff. You can tell it is working because all the staff are using it in their classrooms, they can see the improvements which the students are making.”
The headteacher said it isn’t just the students who are putting the thinking skills into practice in their learning, but the staff and governors are also using their new found thinking skills to approach everyday issues and problems.
Mrs Barker said: “The staff themselves have been using the thinking hats and the governors have been using thinking maps when planning for the school’s future.”
• One of the new thinking initiatives being used at Barbara Priestman School is thinking hats.
Thinking hats consist of hats in six different colours and when wearing them the person looks at something from that perspective.
The white hat is for looking at the facts, the red hat is for gut reactions and emotions about something, the black hat is for looking at the drawbacks of something, the yellow hat is for looking at all the benefits and positive things, the blue hat is for processing things and the green hat is for creativity, coming up with solutions