A couple of years ago I had the great fortune to visit schools in Italy. Having visited a number of schools around Europe over the last few years I know what I experienced in there in term of their use of ICT was not usual. It made me realise how far we have come in this country, and although there is still much to do to ensure our curriculum is relevant to children and our use of ICT prepares them for tomorrow’s world – we certainly have the edge of many of our European counterparts.
Through the British Council we were developing a project with partner schools in five EU countries (Germany, Finland, Italy, Czech Republic and Belgium) at the initial planning meeting I suggested we use a shared blog and maybe create a wiki for the children to collaborate. This raised a few eyebrows and voices of concern but most worries were allayed when we agreed that at our visit to Italy we would go through how each online element of the project would work. It’s fair to say we were working with a number of differing levels of competence regarding ICT and this was borne out on each of our visits, but the Italian visit in many ways seemed to set the tone for the subsequent trips. On reflection, I certainly over estimated the use of ICT in the project.
On arriving at the first of our Italian partners’ schools we set about going through how to use the shared European blog we had created. The teachers very proudly took us to their ICT suite. The large, iron shutter, similar to a high street shop’s protective front, was unlocked and lifted to reveal a small suite with all computers and monitors covered with dust sheets. ‘Don’t the children use the computers very much?’ asked James, one of our staff. ‘The children?’ came the reply. ‘These are not for the children!’ It didn’t look like the staff got much use of them either!
One of the things that has delighted me most in school this term is the rise of pupil led clubs. As a large school it is always difficult to ensure all groups are catered for in terms of extra curricular provision. Many staff give up a huge amount of time to run clubs in their own time, but this term the programme on offer has been complimented by a number of additional groups run by our older pupils. They have organised a range of clubs such as ‘Little Actors’, ‘Dance Divas’ and ‘Little League‘ all aimed at the younger children and run at lunchtimes and after school. The children submit a written bid outlining, where and when the club will take place, how long it will run for, what the children will do and how many places they can offer. They have to find a willing adult who will oversee their efforts but this is a straightforward role for staff and they do not interfere with the organisation, planning or delivery of the sessions.
The children have shown a huge level of responsibility in organising their clubs, from advertising via assemblies and visits to classes to creating poster, writing letters to parents, taking registers and planning in detail exactly what happens at each session. They have shown real leadership, consideration and maturity in how they go about their business. The ‘Dance Divas’ for example, are over subscribed so the Y6 children organising the club have a waiting list for next term! At the end of each six week course they are putting on a special assembly for the dancers to show what they have learnt to the rest of the school! As this club runs after school the organisers make sure parents are there to collect their children and have introduced themselves to families both through their letters and in person at the end of each session. The ‘Maths is Fun’ club has been organised for Y2 children and the Y6 girls running this club have spoken to the Y2 teachers so they can target their fun maths games at areas of most need. The Little League football club has also given some of our Y6 boys the opportunity to work together and organise themselves to the benefit of the infants, in a way that they can struggle to do on their own!
The children running these clubs are learning an awful lot about teamwork, organisation, planning and accountability (they have to ensure they are at the club in good time, well planned and ready for action!) They are evaluating their sessions and adapting things in light of their reflections. They are thoroughly planned and are providing exciting opportunities for the younger children in school who don’t always get the range of options that the older children do. The younger children love attending these clubs and working with the Y6 pupils. They want to please them and try really hard each week with their given tasks. It is proving to be a great model for extra curricular activity and one that looks set to go and grow.
The Kaizen Network is a supportive network set up some years ago by a group of likeminded headteachers who were frustrated by the top down model of networking being promoted at the time through government and local authorities. We shared similar passions and beliefs around education and were keen to work in a collaborative way to bring about the best opportunities for our schools. The network has enabled us to work on a number of areas including the development of pupil voice, parental engagement, use of new technologies and the sharing of good practice and ideas. We have organised shared training days, brought in key note speakers to shared conferences and linked up with partners around the world. The children meet with their peers in partner schools to share their learning and they video conference with partner school in Australia. This week we all collapsed our usual staff meetings to enable the Kaizen teacher forums to take place. These forums enable staff from our different year groups to meet with their peers in our partner schools to share areas of common concern, talk through new ideas and share practice and resources in a collegiate and supportive atmosphere. The current arrangement sees YR and Y1, Y2 and Y3, Y4 and Y5 and Y6 meet as four separate groups. This week it was fantastic to have a Y7 teacher from a local high school come along and look at children’s writing with the Y6 teachers and share how APP is rolled out in her school.
The forums rotate around the schools in the network so staff are also able to visit different settings and see how other schools and classrooms are organised differently to their own. It’s a powerful model of professional development, non threatening and encouraging with no top down remit. Staff are asked to find areas of common interest as a starting point and the forums then develop and take their own course. The next stage in the forums will be visiting each others classrooms during a working day. Possibly teaching together, maybe observing each other in an informal but helpful way, whatever staff come back and say they want to happen – our role as headteachers is to facilitate that. In today’s shifting educational landscape the network is more relevant and important to us than ever and we fully embrace and exemplify the school to school support model – but I don’t think any of us would have done things differently anyway.
About four years ago we started wondering how we were going to display all the digital content we were amassing at school. The children were producing so much work, and it wasn’t like we could pin their pen drives to the wall!
Display for their efforts became important to us as we wanted the children to know how much we valued what they were doing. We worked with a company who came in and fitted screens around the school. We had given them our requirements and they delivered. We were able to schedule our pupils’ work to play at certain times and centrally produced material around healthy schools, exercise etc.. complimented our own efforts.
After a few years of this system however, we became more critical about what we wanted. In the words of Lane Clarke ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’ and when we set out our understanding of the potential was limited. As time passed we grew in our understanding of things and began to develop a much clearer idea of where we wanted to go with the set up. Last summer we met with another company called CMS. We had discussion with them about where we saw such a service going in schools and how they could support the curriculum, making learning both relevant and fun. We were already full of ideas of how things could develop and it was great to meet such open minded and helpful people. CMS immediately understood where we wanted to go with our school TV set up and came in and fitted a green screen studio for us over the autumn term.
The studio is small but as the children will tell you it’s like a tardis because once you’re in it you could be anywhere! From reading the Tudor news outside the Tower of London as Anne Boleyn is beheaded, to reporting on the erruption of Krakatoa, the studio can support writing, directing, acting, speaking and listening – the possibilities are endless. Our dancers are performing a routine called Decades in a show next week and children are reading the headlines from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Their newsreels will be broadcast over the performers. Groups of children will use the studio as a voxbox to discuss and evaluate their work – a bit like the jungle den on I’m a Celebrity’ or the diary room on ‘Big Brother’. You get the idea! It’s early days, but the potential for broadcasting the children live around school (and into homes via the blog) has given us another fantastic opportunity to enhance the children’s learning opportunities giving them a great range of skills to develop along the way. It’s an exciting time for Hawes Side TV!
To see a short film about the TV studio and green screen go to: