Shane Nolan, Year 5 teacher and Data Manager at Christ the King RC Primary School, discusses his winning Let Teachers SHINE project ‘Tinker Tailor Robot Pi’, which is all about raising aspirations through tinkering. He explains how the project helped the school to get a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating.
Our tinkology project began last November and thanks to our funding and support from SHINE, it’s already had a positive impact on the school and the pupils.
The project is all about encouraging children to learn through tinkering, problem finding and problem solving and helping them to develop engineering habits of mind. It explores how engineers work and solve problems by ‘deconstructing’ their approach to tasks and applying this to simplify problem solving across the science curriculum. These approaches are then in parallel applied to the learning, development and practical application of the design technology and computer science curriculum.
Applying tinkology across the whole school
The tinkology project is a significant part of our school improvement plan and we took the tinkology project a step further by extending it across the whole school to help raise aspirations for all children.
Every class now has dedicated tinkology time and the pupils have a ‘tinkering’ area where we set a problem and the pupils use either design technology or computing to solve problems. The language children are using now is about ‘not giving up’. If they do get stuck, we encourage pupils to work through that rather than just go straight to the teacher for help. Pupils are instead encouraged to work things out on their own or in small groups and to try and solve their own problems and become independent learners.
Some of the girls who started in my class in September were very wary of getting things wrong and I’ve seen a big difference in them. While they were previously anxious of trying out new programmes such as Office 365 at the start of term, now they’re adept at using all the school software. They even use the programs at home and collaborate online with other pupils on homework and projects. Whereas previously they would have said ‘I can’t do it’ and ‘I give up’, there is now a different mentality embedded in the class that there are other ways to solve a problem, not to give up and just to keep trying.
We’ve been using Learning Ladders to track the progress of our pupils throughout the project. There are a number of points that the pupils need to score in a year and just to be on track for progress they need to be at 100 points. We’ve got children who are exceeding that already with some pupils having over 90 points when the average is around 65 at this time of year.
Enthusiasm of pupils
What’s great is the enthusiasm you can see among the pupils. In our Year 6 class you could see true enjoyment from them. We use tinkology and apply it to different topics and themes – for example, we ran a Santa’s workshop before Christmas and did a Jack and the Beanstalk theme. Whenever you’re in a class and you mention tinkology, there’s always a big ‘wow’ in the air - everyone wants to get involved and get stuck in. It doesn’t have to cost too much either – you could give children a bag of nuts and bolts to start building with, for example.
Praise from Ofsted
Something that made me truly realise the success of our tinkology project was when we received praise from Ofsted. The school was previously rated as ‘requires improvement’ and at our most recent inspection we were rated as a ‘good’ school with ‘oustanding’ behaviour. Ofsted commented that “this can be seen in lessons where pupils show resilience and willingness to do their best.” It shows how bringing in a new philosophy based on tinkology, engineering, habits of mind and using it as a platform to raise attainment can really make a difference.
What’s next for tinkology?
We’re working with a cluster of seven local schools and running a science festival. We’ll be setting up a range of activities for the pupils to take part in and it’s all in aid of raising the profile of science. There’s lots going on and it’s fantastic to see the difference in the pupils’ confidence, enthusiasm and attitude to learning.