'Creative learning' wins praise
From talks with Olympic athletes to puppet shows, teachers at Shelthorpe Community Primary do everything they can to ensure they provide their students with lasting memories of their school days.
At least half of each day at the Loughborough school is dedicated to "creative learning" – an approach that has been praised by Ofsted.
The subject of Egyptology saw pupils speaking to a museum curator live online, while art lessons are brought to life by artists such as Zoe Potter.
Puppets are used to tell stories in the school's open-air amphitheatre and the children have even had a talk from Olympic star Denise Lewis.
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The approach has been praised by Ofsted inspectors, who said during their last visit: "The curriculum has been greatly enriched by the introduction of creative themes, providing pupils with memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high-quality learning and wider personal development."
The school also boasts its own swimming pool – a rare feature in this day and age – which each pupil gets to use at least once a week.
The school is in one of the most deprived areas in the county, with more than half of the students receiving free meals and about 30 with moderate learning difficulties.
Head teacher Clare Spence, who has been in the post since September 2010, said it meant teachers had to do more than ever to inspire youngsters and make learning as enjoyable as possible.
"We're in the top 10 deprived schools in the county and we know we have to give 110 per cent to ensure we're giving our pupils an engaging teaching environment that inspires them," said Mrs Spence.
"There's nothing better than knowing you have tapped into a youngster and really transformed how they feel about something or how they look at life. That's why creativity is so important.
"Not only that, it gives us a chance to participate in activities as a whole school on some level. Being inclusive is something we're also very proud of at Shelthorpe.
"We have children who can't communicate verbally so we've been teaching every pupil to use sign language, with the help of songs, where children sing and sign at the same time.
"We also have a sign language word of the week, which helps to carry an important message.
"We have very high expectations for our pupils and we encourage them to think big."
One particular exercise the children took to with gusto was a business enterprise challenge set by the head.
Mrs Spence gave pupils £900, with orders to double it for a school trip.
"They pitched to businesses and asked for donations for raffle prizes at our school fair," she said.
"They advertised it, creating an entire campaign to promote the event and in the end made more than £2,000.
"They even wrote to David Cameron, the Queen, and Vince Cable, the last of whom wrote back to thank them, despite not being able to make the event – that's definitely thinking big."
The children comfortably paid for their trip to Sherwood Forest.
One controversial element the school has introduced is massage.
"There were some very skeptical parents at first," said Mrs Spence. "I invited them in to see what it was all about and I've now had letters to say how it's been adopted at home."
Massages take place across the school just after lunch-time where children, who have white board instructions to follow, massage one another if they wish.
Julie McPartland, head of the school's moderate learning difficulties unit, said: "Our teachers have been trained to deliver it and found it extremely useful in creating a calm atmosphere after a boisterous playtime."