Grangetown Primary School: Using sensory learning to enhance the life experiences of disadvantaged children

Grangetown Primary School in Middlesborough serves one of the most disadvantaged communities in the country; it ranks in the top three percent of English schools in terms of the number of pupils requiring free school meals. In addition, around a third of its students have been identified as needing SEND support. The school uses now>press>play to provide inclusive sensory learning that extends life experiences for all pupils.

The school’s approach to teaching places a strong emphasis on hands-on, multisensory learning to ensure all pupils can access the curriculum, as described by Daniel Bowman, Year 1 teacher:

We carefully plan lessons to be as sensory and as hands-on practical as we can so that our SEND children are able to still achieve the objectives, but in a different way. So, it's thinking outside the box really, which is where now>press play really does fit in for us.

How is now>press>play used?

now>press>play is often used to introduce a new topic. Mr Bowman explains that children from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack much experience of the wider world around them, and consequently do not have the starting vocabulary needed to confidently broach a new topic.

A lot of our children don't have a bank of knowledge about the wider world. Their life opportunities can be quite limited and we use now>press>play in order to be able to give them something that in the past they might not have had experience of.

now>press>play allows key vocabulary to be introduced in a fun, contextualised way which provides pupils with a basis for subsequent topic work.

now>press>play also provides an effective “hook”, engaging even the most reluctant learners in the new topic:

So, it hooks them in and it makes them more likely to engage in future lessons. Once you've given them that hook, the children are really stimulated to go and find out more about the topic.

A boy screaming happily using a Now Press Play sensory learning Experience

Mental health is a priority for the school and the now>press>play pink headphones are also used by teachers across the school to play soothing music for SEND pupils, whilst engaged with their writing.

We've got high levels of anxiety across the school, depending on what they've experienced throughout the day or on a morning before they get to school, and we just think sometimes it's nice to regulate their emotions and find them a calming space where they can concentrate fully on their studies.

Where has now>press>play made most impact?

Firstly, it is noticeable how now>press>play engages all pupils in their learning, including SEND children. Mr Bowman observes that it is vital that lessons are exciting and bring learning to life:

We've used it for a couple of years now and children still get excited for each lesson. When we say we're doing now> press>play their faces light up and they're literally so engaged, it's a breath of fresh air really. I find that behaviour management is minimal because they're all engaged and just happy. The SEND children are getting as much out of it as the children at a higher level, so across the board they're all engaged, they're doing their tasks, they're following the instructions.

Secondly, now>press>play has made a noticeable difference to children’s vocabulary when new topics are introduced, as well as their subsequent retention of these terms.

I think now>press>play really introduces the vocabulary in a fun and engaging way so that the children are taking that vocabulary in and they're finding a context for it, but they're not doing it in a way where they would be just sitting down at desks. They're up and they're moving around so it's an exciting way, and I do find that the vocabulary does seem to sink in more than if they were just learning it in rote learning inside the classroom.

In addition, it is clear that the children are really living through those Experiences. For instance, Mr Bowman recounts how his pupils genuinely put themselves in the shoes of children experiencing World War II shelling. He feels that now>press>play helps children become more empathic and understanding of the feelings of others, through this shared experience.

A girl looks worried while immersed in a Now Press Play sensory learning Experience

From a teacher’s perspective

now>press>play is very easy to use and can be set up within minutes. Mr Bowman feels it fits in well with the school’s hands-on, sensory approach and offers pupils a unique way of learning:

Children aren't learning through listening to the teacher or looking at a PowerPoint or video. They're actually not listening to my voice, they're not seeing a PowerPoint, they're not seeing a video. It's something that's unique, and I don't think anywhere else actually offers anything that is on a par with that.

He concludes that now>press>play is a sound investment for his school:

If you sorted a trip to go to a museum or somewhere, or to get visitors into school to give the children an experience, I think we'd be spending a lot of money. now>press>play is something that can be used on a weekly basis and it is just a one-off price. I think value for money is very good.

This case study was created for our 2022 Product Impact Report — check out the full report and its key findings here. Thank you to Grangetown Primary School for sharing their experience using now>press>play to support its disadvantaged pupils and more.

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