Saturday, 31 July 2010

Tanzanian visitors

For a year or so now our school has been involved in Tanzed's charity work by becoming a partner school with a school in Tanzania. In October, staff from our school travelled to Africa to meet the teachers from our partner school and spent a week decorating a classroom, sharing resources and learning about the Tanzanian way of life.

During a week in June two teachers from our partner school came to England to spend some time in our school. I have to say that it made me do a lot of thinking about how I take so many things for granted.

The teachers spent much of the week in school visiting classes and working with the children. They came to watch a lesson I taught, working on frisbee skills and playing ultimate frisbee with the class. Our visitors' faces began to smile as they could see the simplicity of the game and the possibility of creating new games with the frisbees. The children insisted that we gave them some frisbees to take home with them.

We had various old laptops in school which are no longer used by staff as they are too slow. We arranged for our technician to strip two of them down until the basics (an office package) and a few educational programs were on there. The school bought two digital cameras for our partner school. It was wonderful to think our visitors would be returning home with two laptops and two digital cameras - I try to imagine what a difference this would make in their school.

A local company made a significant donation by purchasing a full football kit for the children to wear in Africa! Our own school kit was purchased in 2007 and various pieces have gone missing over the years. I'm confident that in three years time the African kit will be completed and cared for.

We had an evening to celebrate our visitors when all local schools who have taken part in the scheme met together. One of our visitors made a speech and he said how privileged he was to come to our country and said how much he had learned! I don't think he realised how much we have learned from their appreciation of everything and their desire to make education better for their students!

Over the week I learned how lucky I am to work in a school which is resourced and is able to offer the children an excellent education. But I also realised how important it is to not always rely on these resources - an enthusiastic and engaging teacher is what really makes the difference.

Friday, 23 July 2010


No one could say we allow our Year Sixes to leave quietly! A leavers' prom (organised by our network of schools) a presentation evening, a leavers' disco and a leavers' assembly all take place in the last few weeks of school!

It was really sad to see such a wonderful year group leave the school, and for my last Year Six they have been an absolute delight to teach!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

World Cup competition

Something else that has kept me busy - particularly at lunchtimes - during the last term is our World Cup competition.

The idea is simple - the children are asked to form teams and then they play against each other. In the infants the teams are picked from within their own year group and they must include at least one boy and at least one girl. In the juniors the children can pick their own teams, but they must include at least one boy and one girl and must also have a player from a different year group. This team picking process can take a bit of time, but it helps the children to develop thinking skills and social skills.

The infants and juniors do not play together (our school council said, "How can Foundation play against Year Six?") but their competitions run in more or less the same way (although with some relaxing of the rules for the infants).

The culmination of each competition is the final which is played in front of the whole school. A proper carnival atmosphere is enjoyed with classes all cheering for both teams.

22 teams played in each competition, so during the last term, six solid weeks of lunchtimes were taken up with refereeing matches! Great fun, but quite tiring too! Thank heavens I get a year off next year before the competition returns for Euro 2012!!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


One of the reasons I have been so busy recently is because I have organised our annual 'university and college' for the whole school. Let me explain...

Our 'College' is for our Foundation and Key Stage One pupils. The children are all mixed into groups. The teachers and teaching assistants all choose an activity they would like to deliver to the children. The activities include things like games, outdoor pursuits and team games, cake decorating, science, floristry, drama, yoga and lots of craft activities. Over three Friday afternoons the children attend a course each week. The children love it because they are in mixed groups and are trying something different. Although it can get a bit chaotic, the staff enjoy the fact that they can choose what to offer to the children. Many parents come in to volunteer too.

Our fourth 'university' was a phenomenal success this year. The idea of the university is that the school offers courses in a skill that could be used in a working career, and not necessarily something normally offered in the curriculum. The children are given the option of what they would like to attend (in fact they choose their top five courses and they will be allocated one). They attend this course for three Friday afternoons (at the same time as the college took place). This year we had 25 courses - our highest number ever. The courses offered included being a librarian, team building, sports coaching, cookery, musical theatre, website design, cross-stitch, gardening, woodwork, running a supermarket and being a magistrate. The courses were run by teachers, teaching assistants, governors, parents and grandparents and members of the community. One of our local high school has become very involved in the university and they not only bring ten students to the school to assist with the courses each week, but they also took a number of pupils to the high school to take part in a music studio course. Various trips took place this year - to a local library, a local farm, a local restaurant, a local supermarket and to local allotments. It's such a team effort - over 50 adults helped to make it a success (in addition to high school students) and the university is becoming well known in the community.

After the college and university have been completed graduation assemblies are held where the pupils are awarded certificates to celebrate their achievements in their course

All of this takes a mammoth amount of time to organise but it is very much worth it.

A researcher from National Strategies came in to school to talk about the college and university with a view to including it in a publication about parental involvement (due before the end of 2010). I'm quite excited by this and I hope it can inspire others to try something similar.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

River Study

Our summer topic is rivers and mountains and one of my favourite parts of the topic is our visit to a local scout camp for a river study.

Scout Camps are likely to be very busy at weekends but perhaps not during the week. This means that they are ideal for use by schools and it's worth getting in touch with a local scout camp if you'd like to arrange something similar.

We organise the day into three parts - water activities, dry activities and a barbecue.

I'll start in reverse order: the barbecue is a fantastic social event. Transport back to school is not arranged. Instead we ask parents to come to collect their child and to stay for a barbecue. Our school cooks kindly give up their time to prepare the food whilst the children play football and a dads vs children cricket game. Other parents bring chairs to have a sit down and chat. Although it is quite a way before the end of the year, it is almost like the first of our leavers' events as it is a great way for everyone to come together.

The dry activities are orienteering and team games, photography and a river walk (the children are given a list of river-related features to photograph) and a tree study (finding the age and height of a sample of trees).

The water activities are to measure the speed of flow (using a tape measure, stop watch and lots of dog biscuits!) and the depth of the river using rope and a metre stick.

All of the data collected is used in school to form photo collages, comparisons of speed on bends and on straights and graphs to show the depth of the river.