Monthly Archives: October 2011

Primary Education in China – First thoughts from Beijing

Some time ago I wrote a post about exercising together in the morning.   It was an initiative we were keen to develop at school and I spoke of a model I had heard about in China.   Last week I was fortunate enough to witness this in action, and much more.   I wasn’t disappointed, the sight of 3,600 children exercising together in the Beijing morning sun was impressive.   This was our first experience of school life in the Chinese capital.   The children immediately filled us with joy as they saw an opportunity to practice their English with us.   They smiled, laughed and welcomed us with real delight to their school.   The first thing we noticed was the strong traditional of respect observed by childen and adults.   Each morning childen greet their peers and teachers at the doors, they bow and wish them a good day, the smiles on their faces, reciprocated by those they welcome in.

The morning exercise is a great way to start the day in a city with little space for such activity.   The children arrive early to take advantage of the playing areas at the school, to play table tennis, basketball, to run around the running track and spend time with friends before registering and coming back onto the yard in classes. The impressive sight of thousands of children taking part in exercise routines is preceeded by announcements and messages from staff and pupils.   The children take an active role in all aspects of life at school.   They are chosen by classmates as class leaders in key areas, they are encouraged to share their thinking, their ideas and their learning.   They stand to speak and chose those to speak after them, encouraging full participation.  Each lesson is preceeded by a pupil presentation on an aspect of independent study.   Each presentation supported, encouraged and applauded.  The respect agenda is high, supported by Confucius philosophy that underpins the school’s values and beliefs.

Hawes Side, Robin Hood and Experimental School No.2 are embarking on a partnership which will see us all learning from each other, sharing our approaches, ideas and experiences. It will take a while to digest all the things we saw on this visit, but we are excited about the possiblities to learn from each other as our partnership progresses.


The Staff Surgery

Last week we held our first ICT staff meeting of the year.   This was a chance to have a good look at the class blogs.   We asked staff to come with something they needed help with or something they wanted to share that had gone well for them.  The intention of these meetings is for them to operate as a workshop, they provide the time and support to enable all staff to develop their skills and understanding in specific areas.   Over this year we will be holding these staff surgeries regularly, focusing each session on an identified area.

For such sessions to be successful a coaching culture of support and encouragement needs to be present.   Staff have to feel comfortable to come along and hold their hand up without fear of judgement, there has to be a shared understanding that not everyone will get it and if you don’t others will be there to help.   It sounds easy but our profession hasn’t exactly encouraged such an approach in the past.   For many. admitting a lack of understanding or ability would have been seen as failure rather than a cry for help.   Building an environment where people feel comfortable in asking for support from their peers (and the pupils in some cases) is helping us to target support, use our experts and develop professionally from within.

The staff surgery is proving helpful in developing the ICT capabilities of staff but it is a model the could be used in any given area.   As the landscape shifts and schools are being left to search out their own CPD more and more, it is important we make the most of our own internal strengths.   Some of these may be lying dormant as we speak!