Values Part 2- 7 months along the road

These are the values we should be concerned with. These are values for humanity and they are the same no matter the country we live in or the culture we’re brought up in.

values blog

It’s been 7 months since we started our values journey and in my opinion 7 of the best months I have had in school during my 7 years here. I’d like to point out the time that went before values was in no way bad but this school year has been defined by positivity and warmth between staff and students. I recently retweeted my initial values blog entry and then connected with some like minded teachers and engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation about the power of Values Based Education and how we should all be focussing on this area rather than worrying about British Values! This conversation has inspired me to reflect on our VbE journey, so here’s what I have learnt whilst travelling on this path. I hope it will support anyone who is considering introducing VbE in their school and be of interest to anyone sharing a love of VbE.

Deciding your valuesdecisions

In my first blog entry I wrote about how we decided on our values for the first year.

This is just my experience BUT I now feel it’s better to decide on your first year values and then reflect on how the children have responded and the school has embedded them and only then at the end of the school year decide on your second set of values. For me this is more beneficial as we did not involve parents in our first year values. They have now experienced our practice and been informed about assemblies, activities and the language of each value and they are now in a good position to offer some opinions for our second set of values.

Keeping values at the fore of practice – I have learnt for VbE to be a success and make an impact staff and children need to be practising, talking about and thinking about values everyday. We need to keep our eye on the prize!

The weekly eye on the prizeassemblies, values leaves and some extremely committed teachers and TAs have ensured that our values have stayed at the fore of all we do.

I regularly walk into a classroom and hear a teacher naturally referring to a value as part of the lesson. This is an example of what I heard last week during a year 3 English lesson about persuasion.

Teacher- Should animals be kept in zoos?

Child – yes because it means people can see them

Another child – No because they don’t have much space

Teacher- That’s true people like to look at wild animals but last time I went to the zoo the big tiger had a small enclosure and did not look happy and there was a man banging on the window and shouting at the tiger. I wonder how the tiger felt?

Child – scared and upset. Why didn’t you stop him?

Teacher- I know I should have done but I was a bit scared of him I should have had more courage shouldn’t I? What could I have said?

Child – you could have said stop that and have more respect!

Both courage and respect have been school values. This is just one of numerous examples of teachers weaving our values into their lessons on a daily basis.

The same is true of a walk onto the playground where the majority of duties are carried out by TAs but the values message is as strong here. Almost every incident that is dealt with uses the language of values to rectify it through explanation and questioning. I often hear- what value could you have better shown during this problem? How could you solve this problem using one of our values?

Values assemblies

  • These have been essential in our approach to Values. I do two weekly values assemblies; one for ks1 and the other for ks2. Here’s what I’ve learnt works
  • To ensure participation and a full understanding of each value assemblies need to be differentiated for ks1 and ks2.
  •  In ks1 assemblies use stories with pictures to support each value and stimulate discussion. Books from Amazon displayed through kindle for PC work best during an assembly.
  •  In ks2 assemblies use stories of inspirational people to support the value.
  • Relevance to the children’s lives are crucial- we learnt about Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and their act of charity through Live Aid in the same week band aid 30 was released. Many children then went and downloaded the new single. I used the Hong Kong student protests to help illustrate manners and politeness in situations when anger could take over. Children then became aware of these protests and followed the news intently.
  •  All members of staff need to be present to hear the message and use it in their classroom practice.
  • Getting the music right is essential. The children always enter Values assemblies to music and know there will be questions about the lyrics. I love more modern music and have used  Cat Stevens Don’t be shy, Rod Stewart Never Give Up on a Dream, The Thomas Tank Engine Determination song and The Bucket filler song to name a few.
  • Use of video grabs children’s attention and I ensure every assembly has a video clip as way of highlighting our Value.
  • Thunks are great and now form an integral part of every assembly. The children enter to mucis and sit in silence considering not only the lyrics of the song but a THUNK that is displayed on the screen. My first question of the assembly is always- So what do you think aboout the THUNK?
  • A few assembly thunk examples can be seen on the first slide of these presentations
  • KS2 Grit
  • KS2 wk1
  • Good assemblies take a lot of preparation so on occasion use an off the peg assembly. Buy this book for quality values assemblies that take very little preparation even better each assembly has an associated image contained on the CD included with the book.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Twenty-First-Century-Assembly-Classroom-Activities/dp/1781350078

 

Some of my favourite videos used in full or part in assemblies are below

Emapthy and Compassion – this has been played and played ever since in all classrooms!

Respect differences and yourself

Determination and resilience

Communicating with parents- here’s what I’ve learnt

  • Parents will actually read newsletters when they  feel they can be involved in a part of school, therefore I try to detail what the children have been learning about so parents can follow this up at home. It seems to be working! All my news letters follow the same format.
  • Here are some examples of my newsletters

2nd issue October newsletter2

October 2014 newsletterfinal

Jan 2015 newsletterpdf

Another practice that’s worked really well for us is linking values to practical activities works to give the value purpose and ensure children never forget it’s importance. Some examples are below

Manners and politeness – European languages day- children looked at the language of politeness in other countries

Respect – Respecting other cultures through our Culture box project.

Charity – The children organised a bring and buy sale, art exhibition and raffle

 Empathy and compassion- children visited and sang Christmas carols in local nursing homes

 Caring for the environment – during this month litter monitoring teams for the playground were introduced and the school garden initiative also launched.

And finally I’ve learnt that children are never too young to start talking about values. My ks1 assemblies have demonstrated this. This term I plan to do assemblies in Foundation Stage using my ks1 approach and linked to the values we have already covered in the main school.

 

 

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Lesson observations with impact

impact

I’ve never been keen on lesson observations simply because I’ve always doubted the bang for buck of this education staple. I appreciate that we need accountability in schools and we need to ensure that every child is getting the best learning experience but I’m not convinced a one hour, or less, prearranged observation is the answer. I imagine no SLT really believes in this either but still it continues because of the need for a paper trail.

Basically my philosophy, that I’m now 100% committed to no matter what the powers that be say, is that observation must form part of CPD and it is all about teacher development and deep discussion about learning.

In my quest to find an observation arrangement that has real impact these are the methods I’ve tried and a brief evaluation of each.

Traditional lesson observations carried out by me, the head,and with Ofsted style gradings.

Key points

– Stressed teachers

– Performance lessons that were not a true reflection of day to day practice

– Competitive staff room chat

– Stressed head trying to observe 20 teachers and give and write up feedback

– Targets that were conveniently forgotten

IMPACT  ON LEARNING AND TEACHING = 2/10

Lesson study cycle

Key points

– Great to get teachers into each others classrooms

– Non threatening approach

– The joint planning element made it developmental from the outset

– Our inclusion of pupil interviews after the lesson was insightful

– Some stronger teachers felt they got less from the experience

– Pairings could be difficult as there were clear preferences for certain partners

– Time consuming and needs teacher release to be most effective

IMPACT ON LEARNING AND TEACHING = 7/10

Planned learning walk brief drop ins

Key points

– Teachers and assistants still felt they needed to put on a show

– Good because all classes could be seen in one or two days

– Feedback given as a whole school rather than individual so no one felt singled out but equally no one felt uniquely responsible for the development issues.

IMPACT ON LEARNING AND TEACHING= 4/10

Unannounced drop ins trialed in ks1

– This is best done mid session and by talking to each table about what they are learning and how doing their tasks helps them

– I found this most useful for looking at whether all students needs were being met and how most able were being stretched.

– Not enough time in class to give very detailed feedback

– Good for checking on whole school priorities

– More a monitoring tool than a developmental method

IMPACT ON LEARNING AND TEACHING = 4/10

Pick and mix observations- this is my newest incarnation of the lesson observation process. It started with the premise that all staff are different just as all children are different. We differentiate work for pupils to make progress but we expect teachers to fit into a one size fits all observation process. Through staff consultation and my knowledge of staff strengths and weaknesses I set about trying to make each teachers lesson observations unique to them. I wanted them to take risks and through the observation and working together ask me and the SLT to answer specific questions that would develop their practice further.

See my staff questionnaire here:

 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xliK7PcJwa4Upr6Yp4uBeJ6e6zTNWYGjSR9HWh842po/viewform

Key Points

– A collaborative process

– The observer and teacher /teaching assistant meet prior to the observation to look at planning and resources and discussion about the impact on learning occurs

– This is an individual approach with different teachers choosing different approaches

– Teachers are encourged to focus on an area they want to develop and not deliver a show lesson

– Feedback answers questions posed by the teacher

– Feedback focuses on discussion of questions and development is planned through another series of questions

– The teacher /teaching assistant then uses future practice to address the questions posed and will answer them further in the next observation period

-Through initial discussions we organised training as part of the process and then observations focussed on how the teacher used the training to support the classes learning.

IMPACT ON LEARNING AND TEACHING = 8/10

In summary

I really liked the lesson study cycle method but in a school without a floating supply teacher and a day that doesn’t finish until 16.30 time is hard to find for two members of staff to work together to make this most effective.

This years pick and mix observations have proved a meeting in the middle ground of lesson study cycle and teacher individual needs. We’re yet to finish all observations but so far the feedback received has been positive. I intend to use a follow up questionnaire to  monitor the impact.

Finally some examples of the questions teachers wanted answered:

1. Is my approach accessible for all?
2. Is my questioning effective?
3. Are all children achieving?

Is there enough creativity?

Is my questioning useful/effective?

Could this material be presented in a more practical and enjoyable way?
Are my expectations appropriate and well judged for the students’ learning?
Are the activities that I use making the most of often limited time (30 minutes for example)?

1.Is my carpet-time at the right pitch and length?
2. How can I maintain the attention of such a large and diverse group?
3. Am I meeting the needs of all of my students? Are they on the right path to being prepared for Year1?

 

Witnessing a christmas miracle. The little book of calm at christmas.

christmas

After 18 christmases in schools I think I may be finally experiencing a christmas miracle. With only 8 and a half working days to go we are a cool, calm, collected and healthy Primary team. The likes of which I have never seen in my current school or any past work place. Knowing that this is quite an accomplishment I feel the need to share why I think we are in this position in the hope that in the future peace and love may reign throughout the land for all Primary schools!

So here are my top 5 tips to keeping the school sane at christmas.

1. Over communicate

At this time of year it’s not just our professional life that’s busy but our personal life too. It really is this busiest time of year for most people and it’s inevitable that we will forget things, even if they’ve been written in our diary or stuck on our classroom wall for weeks. So my philosophy is remind, remind and remind again. Rather than being the pedantic leader that I may have been in the past and tutting ” I put it on the calendar a month ago” or ” Well I sent a parent newsletter two weeks ago” and becoming stressed I am now at peace with the fact that at this time of year people’s heads are full to bursting and for school life to proceed smoothly I do need to repeat myself. At the end of the day it only takes 5 minutes to write a daily diary or send a reminder email to parents and I’ve learnt this is well worth the effort because it takes a lot longer to placate a parent who has missed their child’s performance or a stressed teacher who forgot a deadline.

2. Forgive and be quick to make amends

At this time of year more mistakes are made than any other. Parents and teachers are tired. Children are tired and even worse, over excited. At every turn there is a potential for disaster, so forgive. Sometimes that also means seek forgiveness yourself and admit you’ve made mistakes during this time aswell. I”ve also learnt that at this time of year as a head it’s worth taking the blame ocassionally, even when it wasn’t your fault, just to keep the much needed peace. If mistakes are made by individuals find a way to fix them as quickly as possible, don’t hesitate to call a parent who may have missed their child’s end of term achievement assembly and reschedule where possible. Some things are too important to spend time blaming people for! As for the children, yes they still need the school sanctions when they misbehave but don’t let tiredness cloud judgements and make us overract. Tired and over excited children rarely make good choices!

3. Do not take your eye of the ball

This year, more than ever, we have embraced the work to the end rule. The work is enjoyable and creative BUT it is not all filler no killer. In fact there is no filler. We have produced more art work than in usual weeks due to our Art Exhibition and Christmas Art display in the entrance hall but other than that we are still teaching the normal curriculum and the children are still following the usual routine. For me this is essential. This year there are no big christmas performances but small scale singing and dancing assemblies, all of which have been practised in the classroom when there has been a spare moment and the singing and dance nature fits exactly with school objectives. There has been no fighting for stage time as the expectation is only one session on the stage before the dress rehearsal. More importantly being deliberately low key has meant the eradication of competition between teachers. In the past our class performances were legendary, fuelled by the desire to produce the most elaborate christmas performance. However during this period the stress levels of the staff also became legendary and the overall experience of the children did not impact enough on their learning to excuse the amount of subject time missed.

4. Have fun

With the work to the end rule and the scaling down of performances it would seem that christmas and the fun aspect of this time of year has been forgotten. This is not the case and would make me very sad to think that the children were being denied school christmas memories. We’ve just been very selective about our fun and made sure that at the same time as having fun we are also modelling, and ensuring the children are displaying, our first term’s values. So our final weeks activities have all been linked to our values of charity, empathy and compassion. With respect and good manners never being forgotten. Our fun has included:

  • A bring and buy sale for charity
  • A maths quiz
  • An art exhibition for charity
  • Christmas Art
  • Choir singing in old people’s homes
  • A “pay it forward” christmas campaign where small acts of kindness are recorded by the recipient on paper hearts and stuck on a central display area to serve as a constant reminder about the importance of kindness at this time of year.
  • One dedicated Christmas activity day
  • Final day of term cinema trip
  • Staff Bake Off for charity
  • Christmas jumper day for all

5. Love one another

This shouldn’t take much explanation but at my school we really care about each other and people’s emotional well being. Here are the little things that make the difference at this time of year:

  • Don’t just make yourself a cup of tea but make one for others aswell.
  • Make usual weekly tasks a bit special – for us it was a christmas decorating staff meeting with cava and cakes and time for a chat
  • Hold special fun events as listed above
  • Give staff a christmas present- it’s not very exciting but all staff receive a christmas hamper as a thank you for the term’s work
  • Say thank you and recognise individual efforts
  • Ensure plenty of cake is in the staffroom during the last two weeks of term.
  • Smile at all times- positivity is the best gift at christmas and it’s catching. This is especially true for SMT!

So a happy Christmas to everyone and I wish you an enjoyable and productive last few weeks of term. May you all find time for a cup of tea and a chat each day whilst remembering ……….20141207_083221

 

Assessing without levels- Our Approach

Assessing without levels- Common sense prevails hopefully!

assessment

How many teachers have religiously marked books on a daily basis including evaluative targets, written and shared targets with their children , carried out  half termly, termly and end of year summative assessments,  marked them, carefully assessed how the information fits the sub level descriptors,  made targets from the parts of the descriptor not met,  recorded both raw score level results and targets in a word document,  transferred this to an excel doc, written a report copying the results and targets into another format,  met with parents talked through the report and explained the unique targetsfor their child only then to be questioned not about their child but about what everyone else in the class has achieved!  The meeting, and the final stage of the assessing and reporting process, ends with you knowing nothing is likely to  change despite the 30 hours writing reports,  30 hours marking assessments,  further time finding appropriate targets and the 6 hours of parents meetings. This process has taken essentially two weeks extra work outside of the normal working day. And my question- what’s the impact? As Hattie would say what is the effect size of a teacher putting in all this effort? It would be worth a study!

I’d like to put it out there whatever the impact I’m not sure its not enough! And that in most cases that same teacher could have spent the time talking to the child (feeding back verbally about their learning and next steps) and then gone straight to the parent meeting and given the parents the same information without the mountain of paperwork leading up to it. What’s more because that teacher then had more time, 2 weeks worth, to sit at home and concentrate on planning for next step learning those students would make better progress!

It’s with this is mind that I set out to devise a system that would encompass all of the tasks that have proved so time consuming in my experience over the years. I want teachers to be abe to focus on what the children have and need to learn and how they need to get there on a daily and weekly basis, not just at the end of term.  Teaching isn’t an easy career and to do it well you need to be a hard worker but everything we do should have impact on learning in relation to the time and effort put in. So as we shook up our curriculum we’re now giving assessment a wobble too. Life without levels and a new school management system called Phidias is looking brighter and hopefully more parent and teacher friendly. What I am about to describe comes with the caviat that this was devised before the latest government publication which of course could mean our new approach doesn’t fit a prescribed government system, which was apparently never going to exist at the time we pro actively devised our system. Oh well if it works we’re keeping it – inside out remember!!!

You can read the government consultation document here  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/performance-descriptors-key-stages-1-and-2

For more information on Phidias school management system visit http://phidias.co/default

Here’s what we did

  • We shook up the curriculum and identified what we would and wouldn’t cover to support the learning and interest of the pupils in our school (a British school in Spain)
  • We made a commitment to recognising personal and social achievements in our values based education school
  • We decided on personal and social objectives from year 1 to year 6 which we could assess and when achieved would mean our students were well rounded and society ready- not purely secondary ready!!!! We named then Marvellous Me Skills.
  • We then took each subject area and did what many schools have done and chose the key objectives that would show if the children have progressed through our school curriculum.
  • We put them into accessible language.
  • We decided to see the children’s progress as a learning journey (We stole this from Foundation Stage) and the image of them as a car travelling along a road. We broke our assessment into three levels ( Not the 5 that I now see for some subjects in the government consultation)

Getting ready

Going steady

Arrived

  • SMT compared the objectives across the whole of primary to ensure progression existed for example –  put on and take off jumper in year 1, tie shoe laces in year 2, make own bed by putting on a pillow case and a duvet cover in year 3 (the latter to be assessed during our residential trips)  etc… Note I chose to exemplify our Marvellous Me Skills as these are key in our new assessment.
  • We entered all the objectives into our new system.

This is where we currently are so the next part is the in theory bit.

Within the next few weeks tablets are arriving for each teacher. The idea is that teachers and TAs can bring up our management system and access their classes as they teach and as they cover a key objectives they can record each pupils achievement during the sessions immediately after a converstaion or at the end of the teaching session, whenever is most relevant. The important thing is it can be done with ease.

Note that whilst we were entering the objectives into the system and now waiting for the tablets we are keeping track of progress using the same objectives on old style spreadsheets. This is a little repetitive for this term but in future won’t be the case.

So as objectives are covered the teachers use formative assessment and enter the position of the pupils against the objective into term 1,2 or 3, depending on when in the year we currently are.

Once again in theory,  at anytime we can interogate the system to tell us the percentage of the class that have achieved each stage in each objective. We can quickly see which objectives need revisiting or extra support for certain children.

At the end of each term we can press a button which will convert our information into a report detailing the objectives taught and where each child is in their personal learning journey against each objective. Parents can immediately see which areas their children need help in and at the parents meeting which accompanies the reports the teachers can explain how they can help at home. The report the parent sees is a more attractive version of our data entry and also has a personal comment section as well as the objectives. However the key aspect is that the teachers only have to input data once and can spend their time using the data to help them plan to support the individuals and groups within the class.

Obviously we are still in the early stages of this but once our first reports are sent in December I will update with examples and parental feedback. As we will be revisiting many of the objectives in English and maths and the skills in the other subjects the objectives will be commented on each term and will be able to be seen in the reports across the three terms so hopefully parents will be able to see improvement from term one to term three and if not then they will have been individually spoken to to explain what we are doing in school to support their child.

Why am I feeling positive?

It’s about our children

It’s a planning/ assessment and tracking document

It will inform support staff

It allows all staff to contribute

All staff can see the expected achievements of each year group

It can be understood by the children

It’s a report generator

We received positive parent comments after the October newsletter highlighted changes

Please see my October newsletter that explains assessment and reporting to parents on pages 3 and 4. October 2014 newsletterfinal

Values Based Education – First steps

values

Why we decided to adopt VbE

Each year we seem to try a different approach to our PSHCE curriculum and to date we’re still to find the right fit. We did SEAL for a few years and that was adequate, but merely adequate. The problem was it was very prescribed and and no one followed it as stipulated BUT the whole school themes and the assembly ideas bonded us from year 1 to 6 with a common language. Ultimately though it was too unwieldy and we looked for an alternative. We spent a few years just relying on assemblies and whatever happened to have gone wrong in the playground for our PSHE focus. Then last year we came out of the wilderness and used the ideas of Sean Covey, son of Stephen R Covey, and took the Seven habits of happy kids and some aspects of the US leader in me programme. http://www.amazon.co.uk/7-Habits-Happy-Kids/dp/1847384315

Although American and quite cheesy in parts the children responded well and began to use the language of the habits in school and at home. Parents were informed of our approach and some even went online and purchased the books that accompanied the programme. It was a successful year but I didn’t feel the programme had the scope to repeat so again I was looking for something new an inspirational to fill the void and meet of schools unique needs.

I have already spoken in previous posts about the new curriculum leading to many changes and how we, as a primary team, decided we needed to focus more on the skills needed for society in our school curriculum. In our discussions we identified the need for more work in the area of values and moral choices. Although identified as an issue for the children if you were in our staffroom on occasion, the administration area when the photocopier breaks down or the dinner hall watching the dinner staff you’d know the adults still have a way to go in this area too! With this is mind I spent the summer researching approaches to values and came across

http://www.valuesbasededucation.com and the book From My Heart from Values based Education Trust founder Dr Neil Hawkes.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/From-My-Heart-Transforming-Through/dp/1781351066

Dr Neil Hawkes is an ex headteacher, adviser and all round passionate individual who truly believes that the future of humanity depends on our children having strong values. He also believes these values should be taught throughout school as well as in the home. He is inspirational and extremely accessible and the more I researched the more I became a fan and a believer!!

You can also watch Neil talking at

Neil’s approach to embedding values into the school curriculum was such a simple idea and I could see so many opportunities to get children and staff excited about values and using the language of values. I also really liked the idea that VbE isn’t just about children but the whole school community, including parents and governors.

The Values Based Education Trust (VbET) also have many quality marked schools that are happy to share their experiences of embedding values in their schools. You can find them here http://www.valuesbasededucation.com/quality_mark_schools.html

It’s always a challenge to find face to face or even voice support for new developments working in Spain but while I was looking for a possible school to ask to visit I found a VbE workshop was taking place in the UK near to where my parents live. Best of all it was a free workshop! I got in touch with Nigel Cohen at VbET and he kindly organised for me to attend. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about VbE at the end of September and in turn sharing this with staff.

I wanted to begin the process of embedding values at the start of term so I had to rely on my own research to introduce it and get started. This was also when I struck gold and saw this blog entry from Andrew Cowley http://newdht.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/building-values-based-education.html

It was great to know someone had the same plans as me for the year ahead and had introduced it to staff already. I contacted Andrew and he very kindly shared everything he had with me for which I am extremely grateful.

The staff session

Values based education was an easy sell due to the fact that it addressed many of the the issues we had raised as a staff at the end of the previous term. Staff we on side from the outset.

In this first session before any discussion it’s important to share Neil’s definition of what a value is “ A Value is a principal that defines our actions and behaviour

Once the theory was over I used the two questions that Andrew had used to focus staff on a discussion about values.

1. Can you think of 5 people who embody postive values?

2. Can you think of 5 positive and 5 negative values prominent in today’s society?

These questions were excellent and generated some brilliant observations of society and the behaviours that adults and students exhibit because of the values that society encourages. The discussions really opened up the language of values and made us all look deeper into our own values and actions. We could all see that we too needed to be more mindful of our values on a day to day basis.

And so it begins – after much polite discussion!!!

Our first 10 values are:

September -Politeness and Manners

October – Respect

November- Charity

December- Empathy and Conpassion

January – Positivity

February . Resilience and Determination

March – Courage

April – Caring for the environment

May- Forgiveness

June- Friendships and Relationships

Introducing values to the children

I introduced the idea of values in key stage assemblies and was very careful to pitch the concept at the level of the children I was addressing. I was really pleased with the children’s thinking during the assembly and they gave some wonderful answers to my questions.

“My mum has the value of love because she cares for me and makes me feel happy inside” Year 1 child

” My friend Carlos shows the value of friendship because he always plays with me and shares his things” Year 2 child

” I admire Nelson Mandela for his values. He valued equality and peace because he wanted everyone to be the same  and not fight” Year 4 child

” I think Jesus had good values because he cared about other people more than himself so he had the value of sacrifice and modesty” Year 6 pupil

Once the children had, like the adults in the staff meeting, started using the language of values I introduced the grand plan for values education and explained our first value.

We decided that the children showing values should be celebrated so we have a values tree in the entrance hall for all to see and when the children consistently show values or do something special related to values they are given a leaf to help our tree grow stronger. Children can also give each other and adults leaves for the tree.

IMG-20140912-WA0001

20140911_133734  20140911_133755

Finally for the first steps I have introduced VbE to the whole school team using a personally addressed letter to each member of support staff. They too can give students leaves for our tree. Parents will also receive details of the VbE project and will be asked to participate.

On Reflection

I would have very much liked to have involved parents and other members of staff in the initial decision about our first year Values but time was against us. I do however plan to involve parents in the evaluation of the process and I intend to canvas them on the second years values which will make our school values complete.

The Early Impact

Within the first few days I have seen more polite language being used but best of all I have heard the children speaking about values with each other and other members of the school.

Some examples:

While I was covering a year 4 class art lesson the children were busy working on their Picasso self portriats and one girl asked a boy on her table for the brown. She asked in a rather abrupt manner ” Give me the brown now!” The boys response ” That wasn’t very polite, I think you should remember our Value this month is Politeness and I think you’ll find you were missing something from the end of that sentence” Upon which the girl put her hand over her mouth and said ” Ohh yes, sorry. Please could you pass me the brown thanks” The boy passed the brown and said “There you go and thank you for asking so nicely!”

I was so pleased to hear this conversation and I know without the values focus it would not have happened.

In another conversation the day after the one above I gave a PSHCE lesson with the same year 4 class. It was all about the language of politeness. At the end of the lesson a boy, not normally known for his maturity or sharing of ideas, came to me and said. ” All those words and phrases we’ve throught of, I think you should type them up and laminate them and put them around the playground to remind people these are the words we should be using. Because it’s easy to be polite in class because you and the teachers can help us but when we are on the patio it’s really easy to forget”

I thought this was a great idea and I’ve invited the boy to come to my office on Monday and type the words up and laminate them himself to give him ownership of the idea. He was beeming as he walked away.

Both the children in question have a leaf on display recounting these moments.

Let’s hope week 2 of our journey continues to be as successful.

Resources for sharing- Please feel free to download and use these templates

Assemblies

Year 1 and 2 – Introduction to values and our first value of politeness

Values year 1 and 2

Year 3,4,5 and 6 – Introduction to vlaues and our first value of politeness

values intro KS2

Letter to non teaching staff about VbE and how they can support the development

Letter to staff

 

Creativity what’s the point? Why choose to be more creative in your school?

 

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett

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“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.”

–James Russell Lowell

Creative learning is not about pure discovery learning it’s about teaching children enough, using creative and engaging strategies, in order for them to then think, question and enquire further to create an idea or thing using their creativity.

Why attack the principles of creative learning?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of comments about namby pamby creativity and how creativity impinges pupils progress. It’s an issue I’m struggling with. I don’t see how if a school puts creative teaching and learning at the fore of its vision it can fail to have a positive impact . Now I may not have a doctorate or have carried out an action research project (yet) on the theme but I live every day as a head of primary and I am constantly observing, questioning and evaluating practice for impact. So during the last seven years in my current setting I’ve had enough experience of what works and not to make some judgements. These judgements are made in and about my setting;

  • A non selective primary school where 98% of students speak English as a second language.
  • We take children from age 2 to 11.
  • We follow the national curriculum for England
  • Some children are the age of the year below in England because of our January to December birth year entry system.

Our setting means we have to adjust the curriculum to suit our learners. The notion of school curriculum is essential for success and the development of children’s language, in order to communicate learning through thoughts and ideas, is our principal concern. Therefore developments in creative teaching and learning do impact on pupil learning and engagement because they are giving our pupils the opportunities they need to experience learning and the language they need to assimilate it. I do however believe what I know is not solely relevant to my school.

What should creativity look like in a school?

I also recently read an article about how labelling what creativity is and is not actually stifles creativity. I disagree, I believe it’s essential staff have a common understanding of what we are aiming for our children to experience in order to make sure a creative approach still challenges and meets the needs of all learners.

Maybe it is best to start with what it is not in my opinion:

It is not simply letting children simply play with resources vaguely linked to a subject

It’s not giving all subjects parity of teaching time

It’s not an opportunity to avoid challenge and differentiation

It’s not about children exclusively leading their own learning

It’s not about knowing every child’s preferred learning style and pandering to it

It’s not doing things in a certain way because that’s how we’ve always done them and someone once said it was creative

It’s not about saying there is no place for text books ever

It’s not about complete freedom but it’s not about doing exactly what you’re told all the time either!

It’s not anarchy although if you’re looking for a bit of fun this book gives some lovely creative starters! Tried and tested by my 3 year old!

So how do we teach creatively and develop enquiring minds? What is it that works?

It’s a common sense approach to teaching and learning.

It’s giving the children a real experience of what they are learning about in order for them to question and enquire further.

We need practice that allows children to live a learning experience before they can be expected to enquire about it or express creative opinions and ideas. Creativity is stimulated by children owning some knowledge, conveyed by a teacher, TA or expert adult, and then using their own logical enquiry and thinking skills to express creative ideas and reasoning to gain more knowledge independently.

For example- they need to visit a castle, walk around it and hear stories about the people who lived in the castle and the climate of that period in history before they can comment on:

  • Where is the best place to build a castle?
  • Why castles had draw bridges?
  • Why there are slit holes in the turrets?
  • Describe your day as a knight living in a castle.

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It’s teaching to engage learners

Cross curricular projects, the use of props, different media sources, outside speakers, song, dance, links with different countries…… I could go on but the best way to get creative ideas and motivate and inspire learners is through an interesting lesson

Text books can help practise knowledge but once that knowledge has stuck they need problems to solve to challenge and learn more and these must be problems they can get stuck right into.

It’s knowing your school is unique and embracing the school curriculum aspect of the new curriculum

You have to ignore what the crowd is doing and look only at your school and the children and community surrounding it. You must remember one size does not fit all and ensure your development priorities and teaching reflect this. I know I harp on about it but purposeful creativity, that will engage and inspire and have a lasting effect on pupils, will not exist in a school unless it adopts an inside out approach.

It’s having a flexible timetable

There’s a lot of pressure from parents and in some schools senior leadership to plan a weekly timetable that is followed for the whole year. This is a bad idea! Timetables must be flexible in order to allow teachers to respond to the needs of their children as the week goes on. Teachers also need to know they can choose to have a 3 hour art lesson if it suits their learning intentions. There’s nothing worse than getting the clay out and having to pack it all up after half an hour and then the following week get it out again and repeat the process, still without a complete creation and worse still using another 15 minutes to clean up AGAIN. I see the best results and the greatest satisfaction when I send a whole day on clay work and the children have a finished creation by the end of day. This why as well as a flexible timetable special days, special weeks, community projects, participating in school and other competitions, performances, day and residential trips and sporting activities longer than an hour should all be given a place in our curriculum.

It’s providing opportunities away from the classroom to act on ideas

As mentioned above trips are essential and the best trips link with the curriculum. A programme of residential trips that are adventure and environmental focused compliment PSHE and science learning. Trips should also be used to bring alive history learning our castle trip above is a case in point. Within the day the children experience castles through historical role play, they dress like people living in the castle and even eat their lunch as they would have done. Our best trip is a night away linked to the reading of Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuki’s kingdom. The children are taken to a field in an eco farm that we partner and they take part in a series of survival activities which include making their shelter to sleep in for the night, making fire with sticks and glass and cooking their food over an open fire. During the 24 hours to children have to use initiative and creativity- the tasks given to them mean they have no choice!

School clubs are also the sign of a creative school. They shouldn’t just be restricted to sport but embrace aspects we know are important in school but can’t always fit in. Clubs like sewing, photography, Minecraft, gardening and cooking are all curriculum enriching in a creative minded school.

It’s helping children to think independently and make choices

Don’t lock up resources ever! Children need to own their classrooms and know them like the back of their hands. They need to feel confident in leaving their seats to choose their own resources to use to solve problems.

Give children the chance to act on their ideas and lead the adults in the school. Never deny them the chance take an idea and grow it, you’ll be surprised just what a group of children can achieve.

It’s recognising all achievements

Children should be recognised for their ideas and not only rewarded for neatly presented written work afterall verbal and pictorial ideas communicate as much information and thoughts as written ideas. Sporting and artistic success in and out of school should be recognised both in class and in assemblies. Giving one child his/her certificate from an outside activity could turn another child on to an activity they never thought of but also raises the self esteem of the child receiving the certificate. The school should have a process for rewarding good work/effort in all areas of the curriculum.

Crucially celebrating achievements should ensure a variety of aspects are reported to parents. It’s about reporting on the gaining of life skills and special school moments unique to individuals not only academic subjects.

Look for chances to share with parents and the wider community whole school creativity and make every child a star. Exhibitions of work can be organised for any subject and are a fantastic way of celebrating creative output.

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It’s still about progress in learning

I don’t see being more creative in our teaching makes us any less accountable for pupil progress. Teacher’s should,as part of good teaching ensure they are keeping records of pupil’s progress against the objectives taught. They should be prepared to explain any lack of progress with evidence. However they should NEVER teach to a test for months of a school year.

In summary the points outlined in this post are my opinions and those that I use to lead the vision of creativity in my school. They appear to be working at this moment in time.

To conclude when I talk about creativity and a creative school I don’t believe that a teacher should specifically teach creativity. I believe that teaching in a creative way makes children more creative and more able to think for themselves.

Teaching by allowing children to enquire, think, experience, question and solve problems means they are being creative.

I truly believe creative minds are essential for success in the world as whatever changes are thrown at a person, a creative mind will cope with it.

 

 

It’s your curriculum- Own it! Part 2

“Educationists should build the capacities of the spirit of inquiry, creativity, entrepreneurial and moral leadership among students and become their role model.” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam- Former President of India

The result of the last post was a shared vision and a great start but at this point in the story that’s all we had- some great minds thinking alike and we now needed more. As a leader I now needed to lead and this is always the scary part, where my mind fills with doubts in my abilities to make this work. I needed to actually manage this change and make the Primary department a different, improved place to learn and work within. Rather than jumping head first in and shouting- “Yeah, we all think the same so off we go let’s be creative!” I wanted to convey an air of caution and approach this change in a reasoned step by step manner. I strongly believe all change should be able to be evaluated for impact. It’s crucial that participants see what their efforts to effect change have achieved, after all change is not easy.  Our next step was to make a baseline of where we were in relation to our school curriculum. Again I turned to my current favourite guru Will Ryan, I used his analysis table for looking at various aspects of curriculum and where we felt the primary department was, in one column and the significance that we felt each aspect should have in another. A score of one to five was given in each column for each area. I plan to use this, alongside the success criteria from the school development plan, to revisit the successes and development points for curriculum provision in June 2015. When I collected the group sheets I looked for the areas where the staff had scored what was currently happening in our school low alongside rating it as highly significant in their personal belief column.

So where are we?

From the completed analysis forms I ascertained that the following areas needed to be addressed to ensure real curriculum change took place.

  • School leadership needs  to provide a passionate, dynamic and imaginative lead on the curriculum
  • The curriculum needs to be a source of enquiry rather than a content of knowledge
  • The children need to be taught how to become enterprising
  • The children need to be taught how to become emotionally intelligent
  • The curriculum needs to help children to become socially responsible
  • A range of ICT opportunities need to be used across the curriculum
  • Classroom accommodation and learning environments need to better support the curriculum

I’ll admit it looks bad but there were many areas we scored well on and now we have clear measureable areas in which to improve that link directly with our shared vision.

Put 30 teachers and teaching assistants in a room for 3 hours, with tea and biscuits and as well as some great professional dialogue you get A VISION and A DIRECTION. Not bad for a day’s work. I don’t mind saying I was feeling pretty pleased. I felt like a leader. Like I had motivated a group of people to run a marathon, we’d survived the training schedule, crossed the start line and completed a few miles. Then someone said BUT and I knew we’d hit the runners wall! A BUT wasn’t part of my plan so I had to think on my feet after all as Anne Bronte said “There’s always a but in this imperfect world.”

What did we learn from this session?

  • That a BUT can change the mood of the room!
  • That BUTs cannot and should not be ignored
  • That staff have to get things off their chests before they can move forward
  • That  meaningful change is not possible until you break down the barriers

In my next post I’ll address the buts and the barriers to curriculum change. I will  also share my opinions on why schools might shy away from adopting a more enquiry based, creative curriculum that embraces values and life skills.