Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Damn weather

I am so sick of the rain! Our Town Sports Field events took place yesterday when it was rained off.

All the plans to do the exciting things that we do in the summer are all going to waste...

Monday, 25 June 2007


In the last few weeks we are trialling SEAL - Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. We are paying particular attention to the changes unit.

It just seems to me that it will be really hard to do this justice in such a busy curriculum. We have allocated a 25 minute slot to do this. How do others fit it in?

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Primary schools to be given specialist status

Primary schools are to get extra cash to become specialist centres for the teaching of arts, science, music, sport and languages. Ministers hope the scheme will replicate the success of specialist secondary schools, where GCSE scores have risen by at least one grade across the board. Specialist schools get extra funding to spend on staff, training and equipment in their specialist area and must develop a strategy for raising standards in that particular field. Experience has shown that this usually has the knock-on effect of raising standards in other curriculum areas, as teachers in other subjects copy the successful strategies used by colleagues teaching specialist subjects.

34 pilot schools in Devon will test the idea to see if the same effect happens in primary schools.

Doesn't this sound exciting! I hope this idea goes national so that primary schools can really work towards achieving specialst status. I applaud the idea!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Wistonia University

One of the reasons that I haven't been posting much recently is because I have spent so much time planning something which I think is really exciting - Wistonia University.

Wistonia University is a brilliant way to bring the children, staff and community together to share skills and interests. The idea is that staff and volunteers run a course in something that they have a skill or have an interest. The children choose which courses they'd like to attend and then they are allocated a course from their top three. The courses will have a mixture of children from Year Three to Year Six. The intention of the courses is that they should be vocational - to give the children a skill they can use in the future.

All in all there are 25 course on offer: advertising, bricklaying, cake decorating, card making, clothes designing, dancing, floristry, hair styling, knitting, Italian, model painting, Paper crafts, Photo Story, Plant propagation, preparing a three-course mea, speech and drama, sports coaching, teaching, textiles, upholstery designing, water safety and basic first aid and woodwork.

I was really proud today to see Wistonia University in action. The adults were all pleased to be working with such a mix of pupils, delivering a course in something which isn't always possible to teach in the normal curriculum. The children enjoyed making friends in different year groups and learning something different.

If anyone is interested, I will put the Prospectus in the downloads section so you can have a look!

Monday, 18 June 2007

Let's Bike Cycling

Today we began our cycle training with our Year Sixes.

We use Cheshire's 'Let's Bike' cycle training scheme. It is okay, but I believe there's a new scheme called Bikeability or something similar which might be worth looking into.

All the training is done off-road on our school playground. It teaches the children how to start and stop correctly, how to do an emergency stop. It shows them how to overtake parked vehicles and make left turns. We also look at how to do the walking right turn.

The children really enjoy it and it is a great project to do after SATs.

Due to our school being on a rather dangerous road, our governors won't allow the children to come to school on bikes. However, after completing the course (which includes the practical sessions and a theory element), we will allow our Year Sixes to ride on their bikes with parental supervision.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


One of our fun art projects for after SATs is to make mod roc masks. The masks combine sculpting skills with careful painting. They look great and are a nice thing for the children to keep at the end of the year.
I've just noticed that a mask at the top of the picture has slipped! It's not supposed to look so wonky!

Friday, 15 June 2007

Windows Vista

I have treated myself to a new laptop!

It's taking me some time to get used to Windows Vista! It does look good though.

What is taking me longer is the new Office 2007. Everything is in a different place in the new version. I think that I'll need to keep trying! It was a bit annoying that Office doesn't come with Publisher. I purchased a copy on Ebay for £93 including VAT and postage from UK Software Tech.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The Apprentice Episode 12 'The Final'

So this year's Apprentice comes to a close. What a final. You could really see that both the final two had huge potential and it would be a hard decision to make. My favourite is Simon. He has proved through the whole series to be a character. He should have gone, however, in the TV selling challenge. When he didn't, it proved to me how much Sir Alan rates him. Kristina is also a worthy finalist. She has been strong all the way through. When she was in the losing team, it was never because of her. How did Sir Alan go in the end?...

Sir Alan gave the candidates four days to come up with conceptual ideas for a new building, and as usual - it's got to make money. Some of the candidates from earlier in the series returned to help them. Kristina picks Natalie, Naomi, Adam and old rival Paul to her team. Simon's back with his best mate Tre, Lohit, Jadine and Rory.

As with all the tasks, it's never a smooth ride. Going with the idea for a phoenix building, Kristina's focusing on the figures, while Paul's left in charge of the designs. But Paul mucks up the measurements, losing Kristina a potential £53 million! Natalie and Adam are sent to pick up props for their display. With classy in mind, they come back with bags of tat - creating what Kristina feels is a 'brothel' like display. She tells them to change it!

On the other team, Simon and Tre come up with an idea for a boat-shaped building, only to have it slammed by Rory, who wants to make a 'spunky' looking building with guts. Rory's inspired by organic shapes and draws out a wave shaped building. Fair play to Rory - whilst he was a drip in the show, his design and ideas in this week's challenge were good. Unfortunately, Simon didn't take Rory to the architects and somewhere along the design process, the building starts to look a bit phallic!

Tensions are rising. Rory and Tre clash over his ideas for dancers and Jadine takes Simon aside for a pep talk, advising him to watch his back. By now morale's so low Simon takes desperate measures, offering his team an all-expenses-paid holiday in Barcelona if he wins. This fails to motivate Tre, who'd 'rather stab himself in the eye' than go on holiday with his team mates. Tre has a real way with words!

It all comes together on the night and both candidates give impressive presentations. Simon takes to the podium pitching the wave as a 'radical development' that will 'transform the skyline' Kristina's up next with her phoenix, 'an inspirational building that makes business sense'.

Back in the boardroom, Sir Alan faces the two finalists alone. His dilemma is visible. Both are asked why they should be hired. Kristina's response is practical - 'I'm focused, determined' but Simon's is more emotional - 'I'll work my cotton socks off'. (Cottons socks?)

'It's a tough decision. There's only one job... I've got someone very experienced, someone enthusiastic.' 'Do I need to be the headmaster again?' But in a final surprise move, he says, 'Bloody old fool that I am, I'm going to take the risk - Simon you're hired!'

Nice one.

So what should I do now? Lost isn't back until February and The Apprentice won't be back until March. There's nothing left that's any good on the telly. Hopefully Peter Jones' Apprentice rip off Tycoon might be worth watching. There's no way I'm going to watch Big Brother. I guess I'll just have to find something else to do!

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Pencil sharpeners becoming lethal weapons

Now this is a good one!

The Daily Telegraph reports that Helix is producing a tamper-proof version of the pencil sharpener after reports that pupils unscrew blades and use them to attack classmates. Some head teachers have been forced to ban them altogether.

Helix's new pencil sharpeners will have a special screw head which cannot be removed, even with a screwdriver.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT said, "Anything can potentially become an offensive weapon and teachers and schools are more and more aware of the rishs of pupils misusing equipment."

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Alton Towers

We have just returned from a day at Alton Towers. What a fantastic day out! I am lucky enough to have 2 weeks off for half-term and I would definitely recommend people to go in the second week - it was really quiet. The longest queue was 20 minutes for Air!

We were able to try all the best rides.
  • The Spinball Whizzer: Thought this was brilliant!

  • Oblivion: Always scary, but this time I DIDN'T look down, and it helped!

  • Hex: I don't know why I bother with this. Not very exciting.

  • Rita: Queen of Speed: Why is it called Rita? Incredible! The way it shoots off at the beginning really takes your breath away!

  • Corkscrew: An oldie, but a goodie!

  • Air: Last time I went on this (when it first opened), we had to queue for 3 hours. This meant that the ride itself was never going to impress me. Today, however, 20 minutes queuing. Ride - awesome!

  • Nemesis: Still the best, but Air and Rita gave it a run for its money!

  • Duel: Great fun! My first score was 22000. My second was 58800. Impressive. At least I think so.

  • Runaway Mine Train: Always really good fun. I believe it only re-opened in April after an accident. The first time we went on it the girl let us all stay on for 4 goes! The second time we stayed on for 3!

  • Congo River Rapids: Not wet enough!

  • The Flume: Very wet! Hilarious!

We also went on the Extraordinary Golf. This was really good, but you have to pay £5 each to go on this.

A fun day!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The Apprentice 2007 Episode 9 'The Interview Round'

One week to go before Sir Alan must choose his apprentice. It's the interview round. There's no place to hide and they have to face three of the toughest interviewers in the business. Claude Litner, a global trouble shooter; Bordan Tkachuk, chief exec of Viglen computers, and property developer Paul Kemsley. These guys are awful. I'd hate to be interviewed by them, especially Paul Kemsley, who is incredibly shrewd.

'I don't know how to be shy', boasts Tre, but cracks in his armour start to show during his interview with the ferocious Paul. Tre's empire baffles Paul. 'So in your spare time you're running an international conglomerate from your bedroom?' asks Paul. 'No', snaps Tre, 'from my home office'.
Katie's not stumped by personal questions, admitting she doesn't like to think of herself as a mum and that she lied and cheated, 'to get someone else's husband because I wanted him'. Awarding herself eight out of ten for ruthlessness for this steal, Bordan winces. 'So you can be more ruthless than that?'

After three hours of intense interviews the consultants report back to Sir Alan. Lohit is ruled out as 'boring' and Tre as an aggressive 'fantasist'.
Kristina's described as 'not a flash in the pan' and all three felt being Sir Alan's apprentice would give her an opportunity to do something better with her life.
Paul calls Simon a 'gross underachiever', but Claude is kinder, concluding that Simon's lost his way and never really recovered from losing his City job... 'but I wouldn't like to rule him out'.

Katie poses the biggest dilemma: 'a powerful, aggressive lady' says Paul with a glint of recognition in his eyes. Bordan wonders if the Apprentice is just a 'leap frog' to somewhere else. But Claude is the least impressed, writing Katie off as a show-off, 'flashing her eyelashes', a performer who gets by turning on the feminine charm.

It's decision time for Sir Alan. Mr Nice-Guy Lohit is fast put out of his misery and fired. Turning on Katie, Sir Alan tells her he's bothered by her, asking her 'if she's for real?', but then offers her a place in the final. Tre makes a last attempt to convince Sir Alan he's right for the job, but Sir Alan doesn't like his aggression so the seven-times winner is the next head to roll.

Then it's the final three. Location is bothering Sir Alan. Would Kristina move from Harrogate? Would Katie up sticks with her two small children and move from Devon to London? Katie's already in, but doesn't look too happy. In a shock move, she steps down! 'I don't want to make a fool of you or me...', she says, but without discussing her plans with the people who care for her children, she can't stay in the competition. Thanking Sir Alan, Katie dramatically leaves the boardroom. The finalists remain - Simon and Kristina have made it to the final...
Finally Katie proves she is human. I'm so glad she's gone, but I would have loved to see her get fired. Of the two that are left, I think that Kristina deserves to win, but I like Simon and would be really pleased if he was the winner. I think Sir Alan likes him too.
One interesting point - who would Sir Alan have fired if Katie hadn't pulled out?

Extra sport can improve behaviour

A few weeks ago I reported that Lack of Sport is Breeding Yobs. Today the Mail reports that Extra sport sessions can improve behaviour.
Disruptive and struggling pupils can improve their behaviour and results by taking extra sports classes, a study revealed yesterday. Teenagers who did the lunchtime and after-hours activities became calmer at school and showed teachers more respect. More than 11,000 youngsters took part in a three-year programme of sports including football, cricket, rock- climbing, kayaking, boxing, martial arts, archery and skiing. They were picked by their teachers because they struggled with school work or behaved badly.
Most were less disruptive after a year on the programme, according to a review of the scheme by the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University. Youngsters were also keener to work and less likely to turn up late or not at all.
The charity behind the project, the Youth Sport Trust, said it helped to teach children the importance of discipline while building their resilience, team-working and leadership skills.

School Governors not up to scratch

The Times reports that school governors often lack the necessary financial and managerial expertise and are not qualified to assess staff, research suggests.

Alan Dyson, Professor of Education at the University of Manchester who is the lead author of a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that schools in the most disadvantaged areas found it difficult to recruit and retain governors with the necessary time and expertise to take responsibility for a typical multimillion-pound school budget. "This leads to the schools most desperately in need of good governance being the least likely to benefit from it."

Greater independence has been given to schools but too little attention has been paid to the extra burdens this has placed on governors. The result is an army of volunteer governors willing to commit hours of their spare time "for the good of the school", but without knowing what they are doing.

The report recommends the creation of a group of paid, professional governors in each locality to sit on the governing bodies of a number of schools alongside volunteer governors.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Different school start times trialled

Pupils at four primary schools in Plymouth, Devon are trialling a system where they choose what time to come into school.

The Department for Education is funding the experiment where pupils can start lessons at 7.45am or 11 am. In the Southernway Federation, around 30 children have opted for the 7.45 to 1pm run at Southway School and around 20 chose 11am to 4.30pm at Tamerton Vale Primary.

All groups will be tested before and after the trial to assess whether learning capacities have been enhanced by working at different times. Parents will keep diaries to record any problems.

Mark Lees, head teacher at Southway Primary said, "Research says different children learn better at different times of the day. And many parents are shift workers and have problems getting children to school in the morning too."

Kew Woods School, Southport

Last night I stumbled upon a superb school website - Kew Woods School in Southport.

I've gained lots of ideas for things to try in school. For instance, the introduction of a Parents Council. There's also some good ideas to use on our school's website. We need to add more information about what we do to meet the Every Child Matters agenda.

Definitely worth a look!

Monday, 4 June 2007

Book Display

I wanted a book display for the library part of our new Multimedia Suite.
This was the ideal project for after SATs. It was creative whilst not being too mind consuming at the same time. The children were asked to produce a 3D version of a book cover. We discussed and selected the covers that we thought would look effective. The children were then given a canvas to begin their book cover. Using paper mache, felt, cotton wool and a few other bits and bobs from Hobbycraft(!) the children worked brilliantly.
The display looks brilliant!

Lead Learner

A London primary head has decided to abandon the title 'head teacher' and become 'lead learner'.

Matt Chappel runs Thornhill School in Islington, North London. He said, "Thornhill promtes and values high quality learning - and I aim to lead by example. I want to show pupils that learning is not something that stops when they leave school, and that even as adults there is still plenty to learn. So I see this new title as a better reflection of my role and purpose."

The president of the NAHT, David Tuck, disagreed with the change of job title. "Our view is that every school should have a head teacher and that no other title should be used. One person needs to be the leader and to take responsibility, even if it's a shared vision."
Blimey. Whilst I totally agree that no teacher ever stops learning, does it send out the right message to the children? Does it imply that the person in charge of the school is not a lot more important than the children if they are all there to learn? Teachers do learn, of course, but teachers are there to teach the learners. Aren't they?

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Meet Gizmo

Meet the new addition to our family - Gizmo the kitten!

We collected him today. He is a gorgeous cat!

Friday, 1 June 2007

"Keep your hand down if there's something you want to say!"

Teachers should stop asking pupils to put their hands up to answer a question because it holds back classmates that are more timid. Instead they should pick the children they want to respond to questions so quiet pupils are tested as well as the keener ones.

The D for E said that this would help tens of thousands of 'invisible children' who fail to make enough progress at primary school. The report suggests that strategies to address this could include not putting hands up and the teacher chooses who should answer, giving 30 seconds of thinking time before being asked to answer or telling pupils to discuss questions in pairs before answering.

Apparently, a spokesman for the Education Department insisted it was not banning hands-up in class. "We would categorically never prescribe what teachers do in their own classrooms like this."

You are not kidding. We know you would never prescribe this because surely teachers know all this already!

Perhaps teachers should issue the Government with guidelines for how to avoid answering questions. Wait a minute - we know they can do this already!

Number of failing schools is rising

Ofsted inspectors have revealed that the number of schools found to be failing has risen. During the spring term 5% more primary schools were put in special measures. However, the number of schools given 'notices to improve' because they are at rish of failing fell by 4% to 352.

David Willets, Tory education spokesman, said, "This is yet more evidence of the pressing need to focus on raising standards in our state schools."

May's Poll Results

Thank you to everyone who voted in May's poll. 31 votes were cast in total.

You were asked to show which SATs papers were the most challenging for the children this year.

By an overwhelming majority, the English Long Writing Task was voted most challenging. 51.6% of the voters thought this was tough. It wasn't an easy paper in terms of getting the tone right. I did think, though, that the content of the writing was at least something the children were aware of.

  1. English Long Writing Paper 51.6%
  2. Maths Paper B (Calculator) 38.7%
  3. English Reading Paper 35.5%
  4. Science Paper B 25.8%
  5. English Spelling Test 22.6%
  6. English Short Writing Paper 16.1%
  7. Science Paper A 12.9%
  8. Maths Mental Test 9.7%
  9. Maths Paper A (Non-calculator) 9.7%

Some interesting results there...

This month I'd like to find out how often people teach English and Maths, on average, AFTER the SATs.