I have heard raving reviews of Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford and, as such, this Easter break I was adamant that I would book in a visit. There are several Dixon Academies, all of which are part of the Dixon’s City Academy Charitable Trust – something I learnt when the taxi driver dropped me off at Dixon’s City Academy instead of Dixon’s Trinity Academy.
Currently, Dixon’s Trinity Academy has three year groups. It’s core values are trust, fairness and hard work. The three key drivers are Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose:
- Mastery: the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
- Autonomy: the desire to direct our own lives.
- Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Learning is put first. This is achieved through a partnership between parents, students and teachers. Together they are achieving one goal which is to ensure that the children of Trinity Dixons Academy are receiving the best learning experience
“We help our students to value learning by activating them as owners of their own learning.”
Luckily, Richard Deakin and myself walked in on time to be greeted by the wonderful Dani Quinn, Head of the Maths Department. In doing so, we witnessed her welcoming and greeting students passing by, and that they were wishing her a good morning in turn. Straight away, I saw that this was school a full of love.
Here, I outline my day: what I saw; what I loved.
The current Year 9 cohort silently and swiftly take their seats in the lecture hall, ready for their 10 minute maths task of the morning, as composed of a selection of revision questions. They are all fully equipped for the task. They are all eager and ready to start their school day n a purposeful manner. Ms Quinn’s instructions are remarkably clear, succinct and of the highest quality:
“Welcome Y9 thank you for entering in silence, raise your black desk, open your book, using your black pen to write down the first 15 prime numbers. Off you go.”
3 minutes later
“Thank you for completing the task in silence. Can you get your green pen. We are going to tick our work if it is correct, and put a cross next to our answer if incorrect. Tracking the speaker.”
Each student was engaged; focused; happy; and responsive to the clear instructions. Each and every minute – within those first 10 minutes of the day – I witnessed was completely purposeful.
If you got all the prime numbers that you wrote completely correct then save your Mexican wave until the end.
If you correctly wrote the first 5 prime numbers correctly then Mexican wave.
If you correctly wrote the fist 10 prime numbers correctly then Mexican wave.
If you correctly wrote the first 15 prime numbers correctly then Mexican wave.”
Students and staff transition around school in silence. Dani explained that we want to model what fairness is in all areas of the school. As a result, teachers transition in silence as well as pupils. Fairness is one of the three core values, as well as trust and hard work. These three values are implicitly and explicitly reiterated. Everything is rationalised to ensure that every action or behaviour is purposeful.
Whilst watching Dani teach, one pupil did not put her pen down when asked to, in a manner so as to track the teacher, ensuring all students were listening. Dani’s response was:
“Saira can you empty your hands please as it is not fair to make everybody wait for you. I know it is because you are really enthusiastic to get started so I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you will need your pen in just two minutes.”
I loved how she reiterated how important fairness is in the classroom setting. This student apologised. Dani thanked the student for her apology. There was no confrontation. There was no answering back. Students are aware of how to behave. They are aware of teacher’s expectations. It is incredibly simple.
Autonomy and Trust
There is autonomy for teachers as well as students.
Teachers have autonomy in how they are able to teach their lessons. There are a few whole school practices which all teachers abide to, such as having lollipops with students’ names on when questioning pupils. High quality and high pace questioning is the main form of quizzing pupils’ understanding of the main teaching point. This ensures that all students are engaged and listening to the teacher. There is no set lesson structure which teachers are told to follow; teachers are trusted professionally to deliver high quality lessons.
Students are given autonomy in different aspects of their school life. Students are given a choice of three different colour school jumpers and school polo shirts to wear. Student ambassadors in school conduct tours for visitors and they are not scripted. They are given autonomy in how they describe the school. Whilst on my tour, I asked myriad questions on the structure of the school, co-curricular activities and their feelings about the school etc. Both my wonderful guides were incredibly positive and informative.
Hard Work and Mastery
After lunch I observed Dani with her Advisory (form group) where all students were taking part in DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). There is again autonomy in students either reading their own books or that their form tutor reads to them. Dani read a few pages and requested feedback on whether she was reading slower, in line with her Advisory giving her feedback the day before. She thanked them for her feedback and hoped to read slower today. In turn, students were able to come and read out to the class with Dani. Students were keen, enthusiastic and very eager.
Whilst a student read out to the class, Dani asked a selection of comprehension questions in order to ensure that students were both engaged and were fully understanding the text being read out. She would ask students to define words, or to provide synonyms of particular words. What does the work untameable mean? Why can you not tell when the monster comes if it is a dream or a reality? Students did not raise their hands but would popcorn. They would stand up to answer the question. This allowed the teacher to know which students knew the answer; as well as those who did not.
Here, DEAR was peaceful, enjoyable and purposeful. It also allowed students to master their understanding of the text. During DEAR, students were being quizzed on their comprehension skills, vocabulary, reasoning and listening skills.
I also experienced Family Lunch – something which I had previously experienced whilst visiting King Solomon Academy and Michaela Community School. Students are sitting in a set group where they are all provided a role such as serving the food, distributing plates, cutlery, pouring water for each person on the table etc. I was kindly welcomed to a table, with students from Dani’s Advisory. I started to pass a plate full of food down the table when a student said “No, Miss you start to eat first you’re our visitor.” I thanked Kashif who then responded by welcoming my thanks. The lovely group of students asked about my day, my school and took a genuine interest in what I had to say. Through such daily experiences of Family Lunch, the students evidenced confidence, manners, etiquette and excellent conversation and company. This was the highlight of my day.
If you haven’t yet visited Dixons Trinity Academy I would make that your next action for CPD. Part 1 outlined the ethos and philosophy behind the school. What I witnessed and what I appreciated. Next week, Part 2 will follow, outlining the amazing pedagogy I observed.