Parkside Academy is a close-knit community. The teachers have far less students to teach, because form groups consist of less than 10 students. This means that lessons are less cluttered and busy, making what you can do in the classroom more flexible. Having such smaller groups helps strengthen the bond between teacher and pupil, and teachers can give more support to students who need it. The smaller learning environment is beneficial for students with mental health issues, autism and learning difficulties.
In some lessons, students have the freedom to listen to music in class through earphones or headphones. The majority of the time, students really benefit from this privilege, which can help concentration and focus in lessons, since the background noise and conversations going on in different classrooms is less audible.
The curriculum altogether at Parkside is quite unique. However, like other schools, we do core subjects, tests, mocks and get homework (which is fortunately optional!), but here at our school we have lessons such as Jigsaw, ASDAN, Enrichment, Project Based Learning and Transition.
Enrichment is a double period in which students from KS3 (Years 7, 8 & 9) join together and work in mixed groups with teachers and staff, focusing on team building skills and collaboration. This is all activity based.
Project Based Learning is a mix of English, Maths and Science and is also a lesson involving KS3 students. The teachers and students in years 7 and 8 plan the work to be done in the lesson. All of the subjects feed into a driving question, such as ‘Could we colonise another planet?’ which has been a recent project in Year 9.
Transition is build-on work which begins towards the end of Year 10. Students get the support they need for plans for when they leave high school: going on to sixth form, college, university and work.
Jigsaw isn’t a specific topic or lesson, but one with multiple choices. These choices are enterprise (art), sport, guitar and drumming. The musical aspects of Jigsaw are taught by professional teachers with genuine experience. There are guitars provided by the school which students can use with permission from staff. In enterprise, you can make scrapbooks, paint & sketch, make pom-poms, whatever you’d like! (within reason)
ASDAN is projects that students work on which are based on what they’d like to do. Each student will do a different challenge led by their personal interests. You turn ASDAN into a lesson full of things you like. You don’t necessarily get work assigned to you.
In Life Skills, we use the unit award system, which is tailored to the needs of students. This involves using public transport, going to a café, ordering something and paying and doing things that build confidence in public spaces. This really helps pupils come out of their shell and become more independent. Life Skills at Parkside doesn’t completely involve going out of school and into town, but work is also done within the school building. Unit awards can be done within the comfort of the classroom, such as learning how to wash clothes by what symbols are on the labels, making a hot drink with a microwave, etc.
English, Maths and Science have nothing particularly unusual about them. In English we do language and literature. In mainstream, both are mandatory but here they are more flexible and student centred. Decisions about which path students will take are in collaboration, rather than being inflicted on students. If a student is really struggling, their emotional well-being is taken into account rather than the focus being solely on academic progress. In English, Maths and Science the curriculum is the same as any other school, but the teacher’s approach is what makes it different.