Saturday, 26 June 2010

Tell Us Your Story

Please show your support for this fundraising inititative:

Tell Us Your Story is an online charity project. It aims to raise money for the Street to School Programme that will help 500,000 children get off the streets and into education.

Tell Us Your Story is giving people the opportunity to recognise and reward others who have made a positive impact on their lives or in their community over the past year.

The project is supported by Aviva, will donate £1 for every entry received to the Street to School Programme - a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.

A weekly prize of £1000 will also be awarded to the local hero that captures the hearts of visitors to the site and receives the most votes. One overall winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel for a prize worth £10,000.

Railway Children is the UK charity partner for the Street to School programme. Railway Children is the only charity working across the UK with vulnerable children. Every year in the UK, 100,000 children run away because they’re unwanted, unloved or abused and many are never reported missing.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Careers Day

In June Year Six hosted its annual Careers Day.
 The idea behind Careers Day is that children are encouraged to ask a parent (or grandparent) to come in to school to talk about their career. It is a fascinating day and once again we had a variety of careers to hear about. A police inspector, army sergeant, football scout, human resources manager and district nurse proved to be very popular.

The brief for our visitors is to give a 15-20 minute talk about their career to inspire the children. Each person presented slightly differently - many used PowerPoints this year, others preferred to bring in work-related items to share.

The purpose of the day was to give the children a taster of the possible careers available and to encourage them to think about the future (although not necessarily to make their mind up about a career).

The day was a valuable addition to our money and careers topic.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Weeknote 4

This week I have...
  • Socialised far too much!
Between football matches, parties and christenings I haven't got much at all done this week!
  • Refereed football matches
Our world cup competition is now in its junior phase. It's keeping me busy every lunchtime, and for a little while during the evenings whilst I update the information on the school website
  • Realised how lucky we are
We have had visitors from our partner school in Tanzania working in school this week. It was a delight to meet such enthusiastic, teachers who are desperate to do the best for their pupils. I have been choked up a few times this week to hear how lucky they think they are to come to our country to learn. It was amazing to learn how they teach enormous classes with no equipment. The work that Tanzed are doing out there is amazing. I'll write a quick post about this when I get chance.
  • Organised our university project
I'll write more about this when we finish, but our University and College had their first week on Friday. Staff, parents, grandparents and members of the community come in to school to run courses on something 'different'. Week One ran smoothly, but there's still much organising to be done for Week Two!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Weeknote 3

This week I have:

Visited Alton Towers
Blimey this place is expensive, but at least we had 2 for 1 vouchers. Alton Towers is amazing. I loved all of the rides - Th13teen is brilliant and Rita and Nemesis remain my favourites (Air was closed when we went over). It's just hard to not be amazed by the way the park has developed over the years. I'd love to see the way they go about Improvement Planning. It would be interesting to compare their process with the process used in schools. They too have to constantly improve, be innovative and meet the needs of an ever changing world.

I tried everything to avoid starting writing my reports, but I had to in the end. So far Maths and English comments are written.

Cheered on the England team
Last night's howler by Robert Green was a disaster, but I think he will take the blame for what was overall a very average performance. I love the atmosphere when our friends get together to watch the game. But I think I might arrange for the Wednesday afternoon game to be screened at school - I'd never be home in time!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The new curriculum is no more...

On Monday, the government made a significant announcement regarding the new curriculum:
"Along with today’s significant qualifications announcements, ministers also confirmed that they will not proceed with the last Government’s proposed new primary curriculum, which was based on a review led by Sir Jim Rose. The new curriculum was due to be taught in schools from September 2011, but the relevant clause in the Children, Schools and Families Bill did not successfully pass through the last Parliament.

Nick Gibb said:
'A move away from teaching traditional subjects like history and geography could have led to an unacceptable erosion of standards in our primary schools.

Instead, teachers need a curriculum which helps them ensure that every child has a firm grasp of the basics and a good grounding in general knowledge, free from unnecessary prescription and bureaucracy.

It is vital that we return our curriculum to its intended purpose – a minimum national entitlement organised around subject disciplines.

Ministers have always made clear their intentions to make changes to the National Curriculum, to ensure a relentless focus on the basics and to give teachers more flexibility than the proposed primary curriculum offered. They will shortly announce their next steps.'

In the meantime, the Department has advised schools that the existing primary curriculum will continue to be in force in 2011/12 and primary schools should plan on that basis."
This announcement has disappointed myself and teachers all over the country. It seemed as if teachers were finally being listened to regarding what is taught in school. The creative curriculum, as it was dubbed, was the answer to many problems - it streamlined the curriculum, it allowed schools some freedom for how to teach and it meant that teachers, and pupils, could be creative - to do something different rather than the 'same old'.

Now we are told that after large amounts of money being spent in its creation and many schools already working on its principles we are told that it has simply been abandoned. It seems the government want to continue with discrete subject teaching.

I am really frustrated by this news - the creative curriculum was to be our focus for next year - mainly because David Cameron talked so frequently about his dislike of waste. How can he justify this wastage? (It's not just taxpayers' money spent on research and developing the curriculum, but also the wastage in time and effort in schools in introducing a new curriculum which we are now told is incorrect).

A report in the Guardian says that dropping the new curriculum will save £7million. However, I'm assuming this figure refers to planned expense, not what has already been spent - a figure which, as far as I know, hasn't been published.)

I hope that the government have a better plan up their sleeves and introduce a curriculum which combines the positives of discrete subject teaching and the creativity of areas of learning. I hope that they work with schools on this, not for schools. I hope that they will give further justification for why they have taken this decision, not just in a short press release. But most of all I hope they sort something out quickly - the curriculum which is currently law is outdated and drastically needs revamping.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Pop Maths Questions

I don't know about you but I enjoyed The Chris Moyles Quiz Night which finished its second series a while ago. My favourite part was the Maths Questions - I always thought they would be great to share with my class.

Well, here they are, on the shows producer's website. Perfect for a mental maths warm up!

I recall a few other artists being featured on the programme which aren't featured here. I hope they will eventually be found somewhere on the internet eventually!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

iPhone School & Prof Development Apps

I wanted to share a few iPhone apps that I have downloaded which could be used to support work in the classroom and to help with professional development:
  • Tweetdeck
Tweetdeck is my preferred Twitter client. However, the new Twitter app is looking very useful...
  • MobileRSS
I use this feed reader to keep up-to-date with education blogs. I have only ever used this RSS reader app so I have no frame of reference, but I find it hard to imagine a better app for this purpose.
  • Tumblr
I'm using this app to share ideas which feed into a widget in this blog. I love its simplicity.
  • ColorSplash
With this app you can take a photo and make it black and white. You can then highlight a feature in colour to make it stand out. It's incredible easy to get started but needs real concentration to master it, but you can produce some great results. You could use it to inspire a piece of writing, or to introduce a historical artefact.
  • Teaching UK
The Teaching UK was created by Mark Warner for his Teaching websites. This brilliantly simple app delivers education news and competitions, teaching and ideas and also the latest tweets. Excellent for professional development. You can download the app here.
  • Comic Twist
I like the fun of this app. You can add thought bubbles and speech bubbles to a photo. I'm not teaching Science at the moment (this is my management time) but I think this could be used to create concept cartoons with the children - to encourage them to discuss concepts and work through misconceptions.
  • Tiltshift
I have used this app to take photos of the school grounds. Again, it is so simple to use and it produces brilliant results. Tiltshift blurs parts of photographs to focus on a particular feaure. The effect makes the picture look a bit like a model village.
  • PhotoStamp
When visiting other schools, I frequently use my iPhone to take a quick photo of a display or resource that I like. I use the app to add a watermark to say where the picture was taken.
  • Mathemagics
I love maths (I know, I'm sad). For a bit of fun (hmm...) I downloaded this app which teaches you mathematical tricks, like squaring a number ending in 5, multiplying in the 90s and multiplying if the 1s sum is 10. I love the app, and I know my class will too after half-term!
  • StoryCubes
Rory's Story Cubes is brilliant! I found this app at the Education Show in March. Rory's Story Cubes are nine dice with pictures on them. You roll them all to reveal nine pictures. You can then use the pictures to create discussion or for story telling. I found that it helps the children to develop their verbal storytelling and also to improve creativity. The iPhone app recreates this on the iPhone. The one problem with this is that I can't display my iPhone screen on the IWB, but I can use my visualiser to display the screen. Alternatively I can save the picture produced by the app and email it and share it on the screen. You can download the app here. You can follow Storycubes on Twitter. Read more about Story Cubes at the website.
  • RAG
"The Random Activity Generator is an iPhone application. You give the iPhone a shake, the cards spin and you are given a random activity to do. Hundreds of carefully crafted activities will keep you busy for hours."
I love the idea of this app, but I'm not convinced of its worth in a primary classroom just yet. Put simply, I think some if the 'random activities' are beyond the children. There are many which would work, but when using it with the children, I would be frustrated if the activity was too hard for them. I would love to see a primary version of the app which is based on the knowledge and skills of the primary curriculum. In its current form, I feel the app is more for secondary schools or for staff use. I would use the app with staff to be an icebreaker activity or for team building work on an INSET day. You can find out more here and download the app here.

You can read more about education apps available at Mark Warner's Teaching News website here.

Do you use any iPhone apps in the classroom or for professional development?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Weeknote 2

This week I have...

Become barbecued out
In the last seven days I have eaten at four barbecues, cooking at two of them. I've become an expert at cooking sausages and burgers. Now I love barbecues but I think I've probably had enough for a while. Anything to avoid writing reports...

Sorted my iTunes
Since getting my iPhone in January I have started to use iTunes to organise my music. I wasn't keen at first, but now I'm hooked! I love thie idea of setting up smart playlists much easier than the way I organised my music before. The one problem with iTunes is that I am a little bit OCD when it comes to my music. I need to know the year it was released and the album it was taken from. Therefore, it is taking me ages to update this information for every track I have! Using Wikipedia, Everyhit and Discogs I am gradually piecing the information together. Working backwards through the alphabet I am now working on artists beginning with 'S' - I think I've got more songs by artists starting with that letter than any other!!

Completing some long-standing jobs
Half-term has given me the opportunity to catch up on a few jobs that I've not been getting around to. I have updated my Linked In profile, listed some items on Ebay, sorted my clothes, installed our energy meter (from N:Power) and started to tidy our garage. I really must make more time for myself and do the things I enjoy during term time.

Monthly Review

The more I read #uppingyourgame by Doug Belshaw, the more I like his tips for productivity. One of the ideas that intrigues me, and one that he uses on his own blog, is 'calling yourself into the office.' Doug writes:
"Instead, as recommended by Dan [Pink], why not ‘call yourself into the office’ at the end of each month after having made some commitments at the start of it? These don’t have to be work-related. In fact, far from decreasing your work-related productivity, having projects over-and-beyond what you do in education often leads to productivity gains.

It’s natural to want to keep these commitments and targets quiet and to yourself. But they’ll be a much more powerful motivating force if you share them. I’ve found sharing these online via my blog or social networks such as Twitter much more powerful. People can hold you to account; you’re much more likely to stick to them!" Purchase your copy of Doug's book here.
I think a monthly review would be useful and would make me more focused, so I plan to give this a try. Although there may be personal targets I'd rather not share, I will have three personal targets and three 'professional' targets. As this is my first one, I have nothing to review, only to set targets for the month.

  1. Go running eight times (This will be a big achievement for me, and it will put me well on the way to completing a 10K run in Tatton Park in September.)
  2. Start playing squash again - play three times (This is a game I love but haven't played at all in 2010.)
  3. Begin to tidy up the garage - make two trips to the recycling centre (Two trips is probably only touching the surface! At least it's a start.)
  1. Organise the school's 'university' project (I will spend time in the half-term and my entire first week back preparing for this. Then plenty of time will be spent during the three weeks that it runs. I need to make sure that I stay on top of this.)
  2. Write my school reports (I hate writing reports. I find every excuse possible not to write them. But I need to.)
  3. Collate the pupil questionnaires (The results need to be collated and shared with all stakeholders.)
Here goes nothing...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Money topic

Over the last couple of weeks we have delivered a short unit on money.

Our main focus was our Grow A Pound Week. This exciting week begins when the Friends of the school give the children a pound each to form a business. They team up into teams of up to four and decide on a service they would like to provide. They put together a business plan and carry out market research to find out prices and try to estimate the popularity of their idea. They then spend their pounds and prepare their business for opening.

The children run their stalls at lunch time. The businesses this year vary - from games to shoe shining, from caricature drawing to jewellery making. The children in the rest of the school are able to visit the stalls and purchase items/services. Parents are also invited to attend.

During the week each business keeps accounts which are used to prepare graphs.

What is interesting about the week is the way their ideas evolve during the week, aiming to meet the demands of their customers. I like how the children work well as a team and interact with their customers, changing their sales pitches for older pupils and for the children in Foundation.

In the end £57 was grown into nearly £500 - each pound given out was grown into over £9! The money will be used to pay for a leavers' treat to go bowling, and also to buy something for the school (at the moment they are thinking about buying head microphones).

It was also interesting to see the lack of awareness of how much money is worth. Prices were sometimes plucked out of thin air and the unrealistic ideas of what they can buy with their money revealed a naivety which needed to be addressed. Lots of guidance was needed with this and the children's understanding improved during the week.

During the project we also completed a classroom project on money. We used the Bank of England's resource 'Pounds and Pence' to do this. This is a very child (and teacher) friendly package which enabled the children to meet with concepts such as what money actually is, interest, savings, loans and inflation.

This resource is available to download here. There are videos included, but these can also be found on YouTube.

The topic certainly engaged the children after their SATs.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New Timetable

Thos of you that follow me on Twitter may remember that I was asking for samples of school timetables a while back. The reason for this is that I was given the role of revamping our school day timings.

This process is not as simple as you might think and these documents came in very handy:
Management of the School Day Circular 7/90
Designing and Timetabling the Primary Curriculum

The reason for the revamp is that we realised that our time table was too short. Whilst there is no legal minimum number of hours, the suggested minimum is 21 hours for Key Stage One and 23.5 hours for Key Stage Two per week. The number of hours does not include registration, breaks, assemblies or collective worship. Both Key Stages were short and it was clear that we needed to increase the number of hours. But after scrutinising the samples of timetables that I collected (from local schools and via Twitter) it became clear that most schools did not just work to this recommended minimum number of hours but that they had MORE than the suggested minimum. Most schools had a minimum of 24 hours teaching time.

We had to act quickly to make any changes to the timings at the beginning and end of the school day. Governors and parents must be consulted (2 weeks notice needed to be given to parents about a meeting) and three months notice must be given to parents and the local authority before a change can be introduced at the start of a school year. This meant that the whole process had to be completed by the Whit half-term (the end of May).

After researching timetables and the legalities, I worked with our newly formed change team to put together new timetables. We were pleased with the timings that we had put together. These ideas were then presented to the whole staff who gave their thoughts.

Then, we had to discuss the proposed new timings with the parents. This seemed to go surprisingly smoothly (I was expecting more of a debate). The school council were asked for their thoughts before myself and a member of the Change Team presented our proposed new timetable to the governors. The governors were in support of the change and so finally myself and the Senior Management Team confirmed the new timings.

The new timetable will begin in September and it gives significantly more teaching time than before and it also allows time for registration, breaks, lunch and assemblies. We will start school at 8.45am in September and finish at 3.25pm. We will have a third lesson in the morning (to be a guaranteed slot for guided reading, mental maths, handwriting, spelling and grammar amongst other things). Years Three and Four will continue to have a ten minute break in the afternoon whilst Years Five and Six will not (that should be an interesting experiment!)

So now we have to wait until September to see how the new timetable works in practice, but I can't wait to see the benefits that the new timetable will have.

Weeknote 1

After reading Doug Belshaw's post about weeknotes, I felt inspired to begin my own weeknotes series.

According to are:
"...Updates about what your business has been doing over the past seven days or so.

They're about reflecting on your work, your achievements, and what's on deck."

This notion of reflecting on my practice is something I have tried to do more since completing my Leadersip Pathways course in March. Therefore, weeknotes seem like a great way to do this. However, knowing the irregularity of my blog posts, maybe 'fortnightnotes' or 'everysooftennotes' would be a more appropriate name. In fact, to prove my point, my first weeknote is late - I refer to the week ending Sunday 30th May.

This week I have..
Helped to organise our school's talent show
It would appear that I have become a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I guess all teachers do! I never realised that my teaching career would give me experience in using audio equipment. My main role in organising the talent show this year was to organise the music side of things - creating iTunes playlists for the acts, setting up microphones, balancing the audio and providing music for before and after the show.

Completed the process of revising our school hours
Over the last few weeks I have led the process of revamping the timings of our school day. This process involved consulting with staff, pupils, parents and governors before finally announcing to the parents and local authority this week that our new day will start at 8.45am and end at 3.25pm for juniors (infants starting at 8.55 and 3.15). It was a relief to finally get this sorted.

Learned the value of INSET days
When I am a headteacher, I will value the importance of INSET days as a day to promote teamwork, develop the curriculum, explore teaching strategies (that use technology and that don't) and for building skills for teachers. All of these will benefit the children.