Changing school culture at Orchard School Bristol

Benefits to Life Lessons

There are many key benefits that Orchard School have discovered since becoming a Life Lessons Partner including improvements in school culture:

  • Reduce teacher workload
  • Improve teachers confidence in teaching RSHE/PSHE subjects
  • Improve pupil engagement
  • Students feel more confident sharing 
  • More success spiraling the PSHE curriculum

A bit about Orchard School Bristol

Orchard School is a state funded school that is part of Trust in Learning (Academies). We are an 11 to 16 school and have about 908 students on roll currently. While we do not have any post 16 provision, we have really close links with the local post 16 providers in the area. 

The Demographic of Orchard School

In terms of our school demographics the school is located in North Bristol, so wouldn’t be described as an inner city, but nor are we rural so it’s an interesting mix of suburban. We do span a few areas and our cohort is changing but we do serve one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city. We have a high level of disadvantage across our students. About 45% of our students are registered as pupil premium and we have quite a diverse school community in terms of ethnicity. 45% of students are from black or minority communities and about 26-27% of our students are registered as having Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH).

Issues Before Life Lessons

Before using Life Lessons, Orchard school was using a different provider for their RSHE/PSHE curriculum. The resources and lessons from this provider were not particularly well received by staff or students. Staff were not finding them very accessible or adaptable.

Our key stage 3 moved to using Life Lessons which was very exciting. When I joined in 2022 we were implementing Life Lessons through our sports and health departments and our PSHE teachers were being upskilled on how to deliver Life Lessons. Life Lessons resources were working exceptionally well so I wanted the school to move away entirely from the other provider and become a Life Lessons school. 

Benefits to Becoming a Life Lessons School for School Culture

Using Life Lessons has allowed our school to streamline our PSHE curriculum ensuring we were spiraling the curriculum and that we were in control of what we wanted to deliver to our students and when. We are able to sequence the modules and units and teach them according to our students’ needs. With Life Lessons we have been able to effectively map out our PSHE curriculum.

Improving Staff Confidence with Life Lessons

Previously, only our tutors had been delivering the RSHE/PSHE curriculum. Now, with Life Lessons we are able to give certain subjects more weight due to the curriculum sitting with a teacher rather than a tutor. This means that the Sports and Health Departments have been able to take more ownership over the PSHE curriculum and feel confident in taking the lead in the delivery of the lessons.

Our PSHE leads are able to use the Life Lessons resources to train other teachers delivering the lessons and regularly talk about how best to use the resources in class. It is a real time saver for our tutors because they do not need to do their own research or find and develop their own lesson plans. We also had Life Lessons training in September as an inset which helps with staff confidence. 

The Impact Life Lessons has had on Students 

Our students are very positive about Life Lessons; our key stage 3 students have been using Life Lessons longer and the response has been fantastic. I think students feel safe, they enjoy the discussions and the staff enjoy them as well. We teach our students in single sex groups which works for us at Orchard School and I think for the students who are non-binary, gender diverse or gender questioning, they are given opportunities to experience both sessions or particularly where there might be a very gender specific conversation. Students find that with Life Lessons resources students feel they can talk quite openly and if they aren’t sure about something they can ask questions. 

Positive Impacts on Staff 

Life Lessons have also helped us reduce staff workload.

These quality, centralized resources help our staff to meet the needs of their students. Our previous provider offered resources that were too static, you couldn’t download a PowerPoint or adapt it to suit our school’s needs. The Life Lessons resources are also responsive and reliable which is great. We are always up to date with things happening in the news, nationally or locally or even internationally; such as a conflict in the Middle East for which Life Lessons created resources. We are able to look through the Life Lessons bank of resources to find lessons that suit our needs and respond better to current issues that are arising in and out of our school.

This has had a positive impact because lessons are useful beyond just a one hour format, we can use these resources in assemblies or use content from some videos for a group of students or 1:1 to tackle behaviour issues in an educational way such as discrimination.

When we have issues like this it is great to know there is a bank of reliable resources to draw on when we need them. 

Change in School Culture

As I have only been at Orchard school since the start of 2022, I cannot comment on what the school culture felt like before that point. But certainly I think that being able to offer a higher quality service for our PSHE has helped. Since Life Lessons resources are shaped by the lived experiences of young people I certainly think that students relate to it. 

The fact that staff know Life Lessons resources are quality assured and more suitable compared to the last provider has certainly invigorated staff to teach PSHE. I think for PSHE teachers they know when they are delivering these lessons that you are going to at some point encounter a student who faces these challenges and these resources are really useful in all those pastoral conversations. 

It also helps us reinforce our school culture. We really spend a lot of time on mental health and wellbeing in our school as it is a big issue for a lot of our students. We’ve got our high number of students with SEMH and we have an entire area of the school called The Grove which is dedicated to non-teaching support workers who specialize in that area. I believe the Life Lessons resources support the emphasis we put on wellbeing.

Diversity in Life Lessons Resources

There is a great range of diversity of young people contributing to the Life Lessons videos. I think the fact that we have videos featuring young people’s voices is important. I can only assume that diversity does have a positive impact on our students because they are hearing this information from their peers rather than being told information by adults. It makes the lessons more relatable and engaging.

Hear more from our school partners In Education there is Never Enough Time: How Life Lessons saved Canbury School Hours of RSHE Prep Time and South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit Project: Increasing Student Engagement with RSHE Lessons.