More than just an outstanding Ofsted rating sets the University of Cambridge Primary School apart: it places research at its heart, informing education practice and furthering research at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education and elsewhere.
Visitors walking through one of the ‘learning streets’ that run through the core of the University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS) soon notice something unusual. It’s not the fact that they end up back where they started – the school’s Polo-mint-shaped structure is just one of its radical features – but the startling lack of doors: classrooms open up invitingly on each side of the street, with snatches of lessons, storytelling or music audible within.
The open-plan design both facilitates and symbolises the school’s role as the first, and still only, University Training School at primary level in the UK (the only secondary UTS is in Birmingham). Sponsored by the University of Cambridge, its role is to provide brilliant and inclusive primary education for its local community, and also to work alongside the University’s Faculty of Education and others to be research informed and research generating.
Building from the work of the Faculty of Education, the school identified three ‘golden threads’ that bind together its curriculum: habits of mind (the resilience and problem-solving skills that help children learn); dialogue (exemplified in the new DIALLS project); and playful inquiry. The aim, looking forward again, is to “empower children to make sense of the complex world in which they live” and nurture “compassionate citizens who want to make a positive contribution to their local and global worlds.”