Traffic lights show the way for pupils

Jessica Jennings and classmates with their cupsJessica Jennings and classmates with their cups
Jessica Jennings and classmates with their cups
Meet the pupils using traffic lights to race ahead with their learning.

Youngsters at St Nicholas Primary School in Marton are using a revolutionary system of coloured cups to tell teachers exactly how much they understand.

And it’s paying dividends for staff and students alike – the School Road establishment this month becoming the first mainstream Blackpool school to receive an ‘outstanding’ grade from inspectors Ofsted for seven years.

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It’s a small part of a massive turnaround at the school which was graded as ‘requiring improvement’ in 2013.

But staff and pupils alike have taken to the new system, put in place after a session with learning guru Bill Thompson.

Deputy Head Debbie Twist said: “Bill came to talk to us about some of his ideas, he’s something of an expert in taking schools from requiring improvement from outstanding.
“We had a day from the school where staff could really get to grips with the ideas and this was just one of them.

“The staff have done an incredible job taking this and putting it into action.”

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Pupils use their red, amber and green cups throughout the school day to show teachers and their friends just what they understand. And it’s proving a massive hit.

“We’re using it all the time,” said Mrs Twist. “In the morning you might come in and carry on something you started the day before.

“You can ask the children to show with their cups what they understand.

“The ones on green you can take onto more advanced tasks while you can spend time going over things with those on amber or red.

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“At other times you can ask children who are showing green cups to help their friends, to be a mentor.

“They can then show their understanding to the class together. It might be a specific learning objective you’ve set, we’re using the cups all the time.”

And while pupils might be forgiven for striving to show a green cup every time, Mrs Twist insists that’s not the idea.

“We use the cups along with a ‘learning pit’ which teaches the pupils it isn’t a bad thing to show you don’t understand.

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“We’d rather see them with the amber or red cups because it shows they are learning.

“The children seem to understand it’s not just about being able to show a green cup, it’s about showing what you understand and when you might need help.

“It takes a lot of training for the pupils

“They’ve really taken ownership of it and it’s proving a very accurate reflection of what they are learning.”

And the system was given a big thumbs-up by year three pupils. Fraser Haddock, seven, explained how it works.

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He said: “Red means you need help, orange means you are getting there and green means you understand.

“First of all you can ask the children on your table who have a green cup and then you can ask the teacher.”

Amelia Sharpe, seven, said: “Orange means we know what we’re wanting to say but can’t explain it.

“If they teacher asks something it makes us feel comfortable saying we don’t understand.”

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Jessica Jennings, seven, said: “It’s good to be able to help somebody on your table

You can only change your own cup not somebody else’s.

“It’s okay to be on red, it’s better because if you’re on green you’re not learning anything.”

Alfie Charlton, seven, said: “It helps make you comfortable if you’re stuck. It helps if you know you’re not the only one.”