Richard Wright re-joined the PLC community earlier this year after 13 years away, where he held the positions of Head of Primary at John Wollaston Community School for three years and then ten years as the Head of the Preparatory School at Christ Church Grammar School.

At PLC, Richard worked as a Year 5 teacher, Year 6 teacher and then as Deputy Head of the Junior School (2005).

We sat down with Richard to find out more about his approach to Junior Schooling.

What attracted you to return to PLC?

Obviously, PLC is a great school! The Primary Years Programme in the PLC Junior School is an attractive part of what the Junior School is about, and I was also looking for a new challenge in my career.

What are your key focus areas?

My focus is on academic rigour and the joys of childhood.

Academic rigour is about really making sure that the academic programme provides the students with what they need to have to reach their potential as they progress through the school.

The joy of childhood is about letting kids be kids. This is just as important as academic rigour. Around the world we’ve seen examples of where sport and musical activities have been taken away from children and, as a result, their academic results actually fall. It is about the development of the whole child. You need the joy of childhood to achieve the academic result. I believe that building a school on childhood happiness is very important as it’s a long journey throughout childhood.

So, it’s a balance of high expectations and explicit teaching, with fun and excitement and just enjoying childhood.

What do you think teaching and learning looks like in a Junior School?

Primary teaching needs to be built on positive relationships between the teacher and students, but also between the students as well.

At PLC we have a personalised approach to teaching and this means building a connection with each student. It’s about knowing who they are and what makes them tick and how they learn best. Using this knowledge, you can plan their next steps for learning and the outcomes you want for them.

What changes are you implementing in the Junior School?

I’m currently at a data-gathering stage and seeing what’s happening and where things are at. Then I can really look at making changes where I see the need. This is my 14th year being a Head of a School, so I’ve got an idea of what I think’s effective. I really want to develop a greater understanding of how things work around here and what is really working, and where the opportunities lie.

You’ve implemented some changes to the Year 6 Leaders. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

I think it’s crucial that the roles and responsibilities of the Year 6 leaders are clear and that the jobs needed to be carried out aren’t just jobs that exist, but jobs that are needed within the Junior School.

I want the Year 6 Leaders to set a fine standard for PLC; to be the leaders and make our PLC community a better place.

Why is it Important for Junior School students to experience leadership?

Giving students leadership opportunities to help build confidence in their own skills is extremely important. At the moment i’m looking at how we can provide those opportunities throughout the school.

In the Junior School we have started with a more defined Year 6 Leadership model and I will now look to see what other opportunities we have that will give the students leadership skills through the junior school years. Leadership opportunities really help students to build confidence within themselves.

What do you think is the most important thing Junior School students need to be equipped with to go into Senior School and succeed?

The first thing they need is a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy skills. This is the building block and the first position. Students need to be able to engage their high ordered skills and critical thinking skills, as well as their questioning and investigation skills. Really, it’s about having those 21stCentury learning skills.

At PLC our students really develop these critical thinking skills with our Inquiry-based learning. It is a great model for teachers to be able to differentiate, to show depth in learning and really make learning engaging, challenging and relevant.

Students also need to have a confidence in themselves and their skills and abilities moving into the Senior School environment.

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