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Ripley Rising

Elaine Brown, Kagan-UK and Martin Wood, Vice Principal Ripley St Thomas

To cite this article: Brown, E. & Wood, M. Ripley Rising. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall/Winter 2012. www.KaganOnline.com

Ripley St Thomas CE Academy began life as a school for orphans in Lancaster and Liverpool in the United Kingdom and was built through the vision of Julia and Thomas Ripley with Julia Ripley undertaking this mammoth project after her husband's death and opening the school in 1864. Today Ripley is an 11-18 comprehensive Academy in Lancaster, an area also served by two Grammar Schools. Each year Ripley takes in 260 students from over 50 feeder primary schools and with a student roll of over 1600 pupils it is one of the largest in the county.

Ripley is "Outstanding"

Ripley received a grade 1 (outstanding) from Ofsted, the UK's impartial inspection office.
• grade 1 (outstanding)
• grade 2 (good)
• grade 3 (requires improvement)
• grade 4 (inadequate)

The Ripleys had the vision of providing a high quality education for children, ensuring that they had the skills to enter employment. This vision still holds true today as staff seek to develop "to the full—the academic, spiritual, aesthetic and physical potential of each pupil" (Mission Statement). One of the ways Ripley St Thomas is working towards this goal is by using Cooperative Learning as a tool to foster the social as well as the academic skills of the pupils, ensuring that they are ready for the world beyond their school careers.

The school's hard work is clearly paying off; in 2011 Ripley St Thomas was listed in The Daily Telegraph as being one of the top 30 Comprehensive Schools in the UK (one of only a handful outside of London) and pupils achieved record exam results with 90% of GCSE pupils achieving the benchmark of A*-C in 5 subjects including Maths and English, 35% of whom achieved A* and A grades. The results continue to make impressive reading further up the school with 99% of students achieving passes at A2, 53% of them achieving A*-B grades. Ripley St Thomas' truly outstanding Ofsted Report in December 2011 serves to further highlight their impressive accomplishments.

Ofsted Report December 2011. Martin Wood, Vice Principal, wrote:

"The school was graded as 'outstanding in every aspect,' receiving grade 1s in each of the 31 areas inspected. Most importantly, the school was graded as 'outstanding' for the quality of teaching and learning.

Naturally, we are very pleased with the feedback and the validation of our approach to teaching and learning. In tandem with pupil outcomes, which recently put us into the top 25 comprehensive schools in the country, we feel confident in moving onto the next phase of the school's development. However, we also know that so much of what we now do is down to the quality of the training that T2TUK/Kagan-UK has provided over the last 3 years and the transformational impact of the Kagan approach."

 The inspectors observed 52 lessons. Their comments were thus:

"Students demonstrate very positive attitudes to learning. They are ambitious, independent and good-humoured, showing keenness to collaborate with each other both during and beyond lessons."

Collaboration can only be achieved from the ability to cooperate. The ability to cooperate is a social skill developed through guided and modelled practice which is gained through consistent application. Enhancing cooperation is through Positive Interdependence, one of the four principles (Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation and Simultaneous Interaction — the PIES) of Kagan Cooperative Learning.

Ripley began their Cooperative Learning journey 3 years ago with an inspirational presentation from Spencer Kagan (Urbis Manchester 2009) resulting in Martin Wood returning to Ripley with a way forward and so followed a series of strategic training workshops from Teacher to Teacher/Kagan-UK (T2T) as part of their school development plan.

"Outstanding teaching underpins students' outstanding learning and progress. The academy has worked successfully to ensure that all teachers plan and deliver 'The Ripley Excellent Lesson.' These include structured opportunities for students to share their learning; teachers consistently demand and receive commitment, engagement and participation from students."

The structures are a content-free, repeatable series of steps that organizes the interaction of students with each other, the teacher and the curriculum. Each of the 'steps' are named. The naming of the structures provide the teachers and students with a common vocabulary. As the content is 'free' it means that any teacher, whatever the age group taught or the curriculum in place, can use the structures for their students to share their learning.

Engagement is structured in through equal participation (E of PIES). Each structure ensures that each student gets a turn. It is this equal participation that provides equity — fairness and equal status.

In 2010, T2T trained all the staff in the Day 1 basic training. From here a program of development began to unfold beginning with the appointment of two designated Lead Teachers whose enthusiasm and commitment to the process of implementation would become an inspirational element to the success of this whole school approach. The two Lead Teachers: Kate Potter and Stephanie Mitchell, were personally trained by T2T and then by Laurie Kagan to become in-school Certified Kagan Trainers. They then continued to train and support Ripley staff, update NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers) and New-to-Staff constantly supplying guidance and unrelenting enthusiasm for the approach.

Benefits from Using Kagan
98% of Ripley's staff reported benefits
from using Kagan.

Data was collected, collated and used in assessing staff training needs. The data revealed that 98% of the staff could see the benefit of using the structures and at that point in time (July 2011) 32.8% of staff used one structure in every lesson where possible.

In July 2011, a whole-staff audit (K Potter, 2011) was undertaken and 68 teachers filled in a questionnaire about the use of and future development of cooperative learning at Ripley. The results were overwhelmingly positive: The vast majority of staff like using cooperative learning and see a benefit to using these strategies in the classroom. Out of the 68 staff members who filled in the questionnaire, all had used Cooperative Learning Structures and a third of the staff use them every lesson where possible. Staff highlighted increasing pupil engagement, increasing pupil accountability and inclusivity and improving pupil's progress as being the main benefits of using cooperative learning strategies. When stating what they liked about cooperative learning or what benefits they had experienced, the following was mentioned:

"They facilitate the learning process and make it more fun. All students are engaged and no one can hide!! It gradually helps all students to gain the confidence to speak."

"Pupils enjoy them."

"They encourage the whole class to participate in every activity and greater equality when sharing thoughts."

"…keeps everyone active—no hogs and logs."

"Cooperative learning injects fun and the children are helping one another to learn as well!"

In the data from the audit, it is clear that the majority of staff now need more time in order to develop resources and increase knowledge and consolidate what they have already learnt. There are still a number of staff who are not aware of all the resources and support which is out there and as a result of the audit, the Lead Teachers in Teaching and Learning, Kate Potter and Steph Mitchell have looked at a variety of ways in which individual teachers and departments can be supported in developing their use of the structures, S.A.M. Club is thriving and there is a wealth of resources available to all staff.

"Learning proceeds at a rapid pace because of teachers' high levels of expertise, excellent relationships with students, top quality resources, and the outstanding provision made by support staff."

Yes, ALL staff were, and continue to be, involved in the training. One of the other major indicators for the success of any approach is a Head who has vision, and the willingness and desire to attend the training alongside their staff. Ripley's head is such a Leader. This basic understanding that only comes from first-hand experience of the training, that subsequently means placing it as a top priority, has meant that time and finances were factored in for meetings (T2T/staff/departmental), Training Academy attendance, Structure-A-Month clubs, Thinking Skills and Leadership courses.

"Teachers consistently strive to develop approaches that motivate and inspire students."

The excitement of learning is tangible. Teachers have generally mentioned that the training has transformed, re-energized their teaching. Suddenly teaching becomes enjoyable again.

Structures help classroom management. behavior improves. The students are engaged in learning—the Simultaneous Interaction (the S of PIES) means that they are focused on task. The passive learners can no longer remain passive; the dominant students have to learn to share their own ideas; all learn to value and empathise with others. All have to be individually accountable (I of PIES)—No one can hide!

The training provides a teaching tool that can be added to the teacher's tool box and a teaching method that provides effective group and pair work.

Achieving such spectacular results has been due to a concentrated, high energy, consistent approach, driven by a talented SMT & Lead Teachers, for a set of staff willing to take a risk in their own learning, involving high quality training that is memorable, supportive and ongoing.

The Road to success is always in progress. Training will continue and is already factored in.

There is much yet to be done... providing training in Cooperative Meetings, involvement with parent and governors, links with the Training School status.

Ripley staff are creating learners that are collaborative, gregarious and creative—essential ingredients for life in the 21st century and ensuring...

…that Ripley's 'secret' for success continues to unravel. Roll on Ripley!

Compiled and written by Elaine Brown (T2TUK/Kagan-UK) in close collaboration with Martin Wood (Vice Principal of Ripley St Thomas), Kate Potter and Stephanie Mitchell (Lead Teachers) & Gavin Clowes (T2TUK/Kagan-UK).