Monday, 17 December 2012

Three gifts for the age of austerity

Last year I offered up my first Christmas blog on the idea of an alternative set of kings or wise men.  Those of you who took the time to read it (all three of you) have intimated that it wasn’t half bad, and that none of you took any offence, for which I am eternally relived.  Therefore, I have spent my idle moments of the last three or four weeks considering how this year’s blog-essay, or “blessy”, may shape up.

I enjoy my morning drive to work.  I never tire of the views of the effortless countryside that I have to ride through for the first part of my day.  Chris Evans on the radio is (just about) tolerable, and you get enough news to get you thinking, enough banter to get you smiling, and enough cheese to keep you regular.  However, the theme to which the news has rightly returned time and time again in recent months is the plight of the poor around the world; not necessarily, however, the economically poor.  Not a week goes by when a story does not tug at the heart strings: obviously, the situations in Greece and Portugal, but more than that, people ill and dying, that poor nurse and the radio hoax, and, this weekend, the events in Newtown, Connecticut.  It strikes me that the world is becoming scared of its own shadow, and that we are poor in ways beyond money.

However, at such a time of the year, when generosity abounds, surely we should be able in some small way to counteract the effects of these troubles?

So that is what I am seeking to use my Christmas message for this year.  My objective is to offer up three gifts for a world suffering through an age of austerity.  I am fully aware that, despite their low cost, it would take an Herculean effort to dispense them globally.   Equally, some people might feel I sit in my place of comfort (and joy) and don’t appreciate all that goes on.  However, three gifts I have to offer, and I hope that at least one of them will resonate with you each.

As with last year, my offerings come with the caveat that no offence is intended, and no harm sought: I seek merely to provide something to think about – this is, after all, although you would never believe it from my usual ramblings, and educational website – and to ponder, maybe even to discuss and debate.

Therefore, after much consideration (and I genuinely mean that – one of them changed only yesterday) I have chosen to offer as my Three Christmas gifts:

Something “done well”
A little humility
A good night’s sleep

Allow me to explain their significance, at this time of the year and at this point in our historical evolution for our race of beings.

I am a great fan of the radio presenter and broadcaster Marc Radcliffe.  I have followed him at various times of the day or night through various stations and incarnations as he has offered up an ongoing variety of music, or, as he humbly puts it himself, “playing some records with a bit of talking in between”.  During a holiday this year I had the great pleasure of reading the latest instalment of his various autobiographical grumblings, entitled Reeling in the Years.  In one of the later chapters, Marc recalls asking people what their favourite thing is in music.  Various celebs and mus-oes offer their own notions of this, but the one that struck me the most was from Lou Reed.

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to listen to someone when it comes to these issues, it’s Lou Reed.  His answer was technical, cool, eloquent, yet stunningly beautiful.  His answer to the best thing in music was “the change from and E chord to an A, but done well”. I think he’s got a major point here, and not just in the sense of major chords.  Yet his crucial point is simplistically faultless – perfection can be found in the smallest of movements and issues, but only if it is done well.

At this time of year, our ears are forced to near bleeding by some pieces that we hear every single twelvemonth.  As much as I love the Pogues, and the romanticism of the song and its own unique story, Shane McGowan’s voice is hardly a thing of beauty.  Equally, although I’ve nothing whatsoever against the bloke, Shakin’ Stevens could hardly be considered to have added immeasurably to the yuletide oeuvre.  Again, the story behind and the generosity surrounding Band Aid is something I always enjoy far more than the song itself.    

However, for every man from Wolverhampton ripping his voice box to shreds (and readers of last year’s Christmas blog will know I have ought but fondness for the great Nod) there are, within the latter end of the those CD box sets, two or three examples of Christmas cheer done, as Lou would say, well.

But you have to look for them.

Many may guess that I am about to mention Bing Crosby.  Only in passing; my mate Adrian Burns sang White Christmas in one of our school plays, and since then that is the only version I can reasonably tolerate.  Aled Jones? Not for me, although when it is doing its job, i.e., accompanying the wonderful cartoon, then the Snowman as a whole piece is indeed something done extremely well.

No, I would encourage you to seek things done well in other, less predictable places.  Listen to Chiqitita by ABBA, all of it, gone on, and then just when you’re saying “Phew, it’s finished” listen out for the amazing piece of piano playing.  Now that is done well.

Similarly, although the words “Cheesy synth pop” are normally enough to make me put my head in a bucket, I always feel festive when the opening bars of Wonderful Christmas Time kick in. 

Greg Lake’s guitar playing.  Say no more.

Although I said I wouldn’t mention Bing, the harmony between him and David Bowie in the middle of Peace on Earth is a bit awesome. 

But, let us go beyond music, where things are done well every day.  London, never my favourite place on the planet, must be given an enormous clap on the collective back for the Olympics – now they were done very well. 

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the jubilee, and, last year, the royal wedding – now that was all done extremely well.

Yet, how could I possibly offer up one of these as a present? 

I was actually thinking of something a little closer to home.  Something more tangible and do-able. 

The way I’d like you to look at this gift is like this: if there is a key event you are worried about, e.g., the cooking of a turkey, the presentation of a pudding, whatever it may be, I hope that you will feel that you did it well.  The satisfaction of a job well done / done well is immeasurable, and so I hope you earn and enjoy that feeling sometime during the next few weeks. 

Or, I hope that something is done well on your behalf – that surprise gift, that meal you’re going to, that visit to a relative.  Whatever it may be, I hope you will look back and think to yourself “Now that was pretty awesome!”  That is what I wish for you when I talk about something “done well”.  I wish that you get the chance to look back on something you did, or something that was done for you, and you get the chance to enjoy how wonderful it was.

So, first gift down, and, like a camembert or bottle of plonk, it may take a while before you feel the full benefit of it, but it is well meant and intended none-the-less.

And so, onto the next invisible parcel beneath our ethereal tree of austerity…

Recently I had the joy of taking my seat at Villa Park.  I have been lucky enough to visit some of the world’s greatest grounds, including the old Wembly, and the Nou Camp, but nostalgia and memory lane make Villa Park glow with special sparkle for me.  Cold wet Wednesdays of the 80s and 90s come flashing back as I walk along Trinity Road.  Sunny Saturdays of yesteryear, including my first, sleep inducing visit as a 4 year old, tumble into my mind.  After a League Cup Final victory in the early 90s, the players paraded the trophy at the front of the Holte end, which, for a full ten seconds, shone with electric white as fans took their photos of the momentous occasion. 

The game was, shall we say, dull.  Very much not done well.  However, one incident stuck out.  One minute to be precise.  The nineteenth. 

You may be forgiven for thinking that you have missed an essential law change to the game of Association Football that imbues the nineteenth minute with some kind of special status.  Fear not, the game as a whole remains largely unchanged.  However, at a Villa game, the nineteenth minute is special.

As the large red numbers on the digital clocks at either end of the ground changed from 18:59, every man, woman and child stood on their feet and loudly, loudly applauded.  Their joint motivation?  Every nineteenth minute of every Villa game sees this act as a mark of support and friendship for our club captain, Stiliyan Petrov, who is currently battling a rare form of leukaemia.  Of course (and I feel sure you have filled this blank in for yourselves already) Petrov, or Stan as he is affectionately known, wears number 19 on his shirt. 

I knew this was coming.  I have joined in with it myself whilst watching them on my own at home.  Yet I was struck dumb by the spectacle of fans from every section of the crowd, including the away fans, standing deferentially and applauding warmly to mark their own respect for an outstanding servant of the game and his club. 

That is humility.

Every summer, I smile as I watch the “Race for Life” posters adorn buses and billboards. A few summers ago my wife took part, taking both the running and charity sides very seriously.  The kids and I took our place next to the barrier towards the finish line, and watched and cheered.  I told the kids we had one rule: cheer everyone.  All the competitors had turned up with their own agendas, and who were we to question them? 

So we stood there and cheered.  I was, however, extremely glad I had taken my shades, as I was repeatedly left at a loss by the messages of hope, of remembrance and of love that adorned people’s pink t-shirts.  As they ran past, I could do little but read the heartfelt and tender messages on the back of the competitors jerseys; messages to those they had lost, but still loved.

And in memory of these departed loved ones, thousands of women turned up and ran.  In their often ill-fitting running gear, and their tutus, in their angels wings, cowboys hats, sequins, tiaras and regalia, they ran. They laughed.  They encouraged each other. And they remembered.

That is humility.

Like many of you, I woke on Saturday morning to the news of the shooting at an American elementary school.  Like many of you, my thoughts turned to “Not again!”, and “Why always in America?”, and my condolences to the parents and families who have lost loved ones so close to Christmas – indeed, at any time.  I forced myself to watch, with discomfort, as parents and teachers openly wept together, and comforted one another.

However, my abiding memory was of watching President Obama (forever in my mind President now, not Barak or plain old Obama)  almost unable to speak.  One of the leaders of the free world demonstrating what it is to care.  To stand in front of the assembled press of most of the globe in the knowledge that what you are about to say and do will carry gravitas, must carry gravitas, and to simply and beautifully show what it means to feel sad. 

The world often needs its men and women to stand up as leaders; yet, on rare but important occasions, which creep up on us without our knowledge, we need our leaders to be men. 

That is humility.

Although I do not wish your homes to be visited by tragedy this year, as my examples seem to point, I do wish you to be visited by some humility.  Whether that humility take the form of some compassion shown to you and yours, or by you and yours to another home, or in the act and deed of another, I wish you to be visited by a piece of humility that reminds you that, in this troubled world, decency still thrives.  If I could offer you anything, it would be this.

For tangible evidence, look no further than the words of In the Bleak Midwinter:

Question: What can I give him?                                 Answer: Give your heart.

Couldn’t put it better myself.  Therefore, whatever you receive this Christmas, with the bad news that will almost inevitably touch the world in the weeks to come, I hope it is given and received with a humble heart.

So that brings us to package number 3 from our Santa’s sack of imagination. 

I am all too aware that, in comparison to many, I lead an extremely cushy life.  There’s always enough in the account for a bottle of wine, or two, I’ve never missed a mortgage payment and I enjoy the odd holiday here and there.  My wife and Mum and Dad would instantly jump in shouting “You’ve earned it Chubs!”  Be that as it may, there’s no reason for me not to acknowledge the nice things I enjoy in life, for which I am grateful all the year round.

Furthermore, even when my job is most keenly brought into focus, for instance, during our recent OfSTED, even then I could enjoy what I had around me.  Everyone urged me to “get a good night’s sleep”.  But that adage for me has always been pointless – I always sleep.  The only two things that have every kept me awake are hayfever, or too much sleep during the day.

But I am fully aware that it is not the same for everyone.

Although I mentioned above that I did not want to linger on financial difficulties, I am all too keenly aware that people do lose sleep, and they lose sleep about money.  Never more will this have been keenly felt that in recent months.

Yet there are a million personal reasons why people lose sleep.  Although it doesn’t affect me, I am all too domestically aware what detrimental effect tired people can have on the mood of a household. Furthermore, I have seen a growth in an alarming number: the number of people who live with the fallout of relatives and loved ones with poor mental health.  Even worse, the thing that hurts me the most, if the number of invitations I keep receiving to MARACs are anything to go by, domestic violence is massively on the increase - not just in areas of low income. 

As I alluded to at the end of last year’s blessy, these presents are intended for people the world around – middle of a warzone, or silently living with an ever present fear of danger within your own home.  That sentiment remains.  I would wish for you a night’s sleep uninterrupted by the worries of money, violence, sadness, illness to a loved one, or the proximity of conflict – political or personal. 

I would wish for you to drift into, as PG Wodehouse used to say “a touch of the deep and dreamless” for the entirety of a night, then those few beautiful moments in the morning of blissful forgetfulness.  When reawakening brings realisation, I hope that your night of fortifying slumber will allow you to look upon your problems with refreshed resourcefulness, or give you some moments of respite, or find you resolved with greater strength to face your issues. 

This world holds precious little physical escape for those in need – but there is ample mental respite if we have courage and the wherewithal to take it. A good night's sleep, free from the shackles of the worries of this world, may be just what is needed to strengthen ourselves against the harshnesses we face daily. 

So, there you have it.  I hope, in this ghostly little essay to have raised the ghost of a question and the merest phantom or spectre of something you may find valuable.  The things I have presented (no pun intended) cost nothing, at least in earthly money, but could mean something invaluable and incalculable to someone near… or far.

Therefore, may I take this opportunity to wish you the merriest of Christmases, with the gifts I have humbly offered here.  Please take as many or as much as you would like; or, if not to your taste, just a small soupcon of the most useful one. 

Whatever you are doing this year, I hope your Christmas is enormously special.  In this austere world we face in 2013, let us work together to build something we are all proud of, and will keep us going until the boom times return, as they no doubt will.

Keep safe everyone.

For another year, that is all.

Friday, 7 December 2012

"OfSTED inspector you say...?"

Yes folks, it's all official now.  The report is out, the biscuits have been eaten, and the self-evaluation has been endorsed.  OfSTED visited the school in mid November and they said, quite simply:

"Badock's Wood is a good school."

They also said loads of other lovely things about the brilliant children, about the amazing staff, the superb governors and our brilliantly amazingly superb school.  They used words like "remarkable", "ultra professional", "welcoming" and "exemplary", (and, no, not in phrases such as "It would have been nice if you were ultra professional"), but in positive, affirming ways that made me not a little proud of all we have achieved.  More than any of the other 5 inspections I have undergone at Badock's Wood, this one was a whole team effort, and every single person - adult and child - played their part to perfection.

Most pleasing for me, the inspectors saw the real us - all our faults, all our wobbly bits, and all the amazing stuff we manage to do every single day.  OFSTED has its critics, but I have to say that this was yet another fair and open inspection by a group of people who wanted nothing more than to help us get even better.

The report went live on the OfSTED website yesterday, and with it, the start of the next exciting stage of the amazing journey that is the Badock's Wood improvement story.  All I can say is

Thank you, from the very bottom of my 
swelled-to-bursting-with-pride heart.

As for the future, that is by no means, or even in your wildest dreams, all.

That is all.

PS Coming soon, the second annual Willis Christmas Essay (sponsored by Aldi wine)

Friday, 23 November 2012

Let's send this MoBro viral!

What follows will represent a public service announcement on behalf of the B(adock's) W(ood) B(roadcasting) C(onundrum):

Dear Blogamigos,

I have logged on this evening with the notion to mention a number of things.  I intended to mention the amazing output of display work in key stage 2, the wonderful writing in key stage 1, the creativity in EYFS, the irrepressible optimism of a school community pelted and battered by the ambient conditions, the almost faultless uniform as of late, the wonderful outcomes from our music lessons, the quality of the learning environment and the general fun, not to mention the luxurious upper lip accoutrements of my fellow mo's.  (We also had some visitors last week, but, I'm sure we'll hear more of that soon.)

Yes, I logged onto this 'ere blogspot with a veritable cornucopia of bloggage to disperse, like an epostman of unadulterated joy.  My aspiration was to create an e-image of such pedagogic ground-breaking vision and boundary defying educationalism as to send our detractors into paroxyisms of apoplectic apologia (and make our fans go "Whoop" with delight).

However, I was stopped in my tracks.  Normally approaching the blogathon with the impetuosity and enthusiasm of a crash of overheated rhinos, I was sent into the mudholes of ceasation by the statistics of resistance.

Would you believe that this blog, my ramblings, a thoughtless and, let us be honest, untalented bunch of escribble, has acquired nearly 5000 views.

Nearly 5000?

What are you people doing with your time?  The television has been invented you know?  

I am humbled and staggered by the amount of views this has generated.  Perhaps some people mis-typed "mrs wilson's blag" into a search engine... 4 and a half thousand times...I don't know, but I am amazed to have received so many "hits" (without feeling a thing).

But, me being me, I always look for the next thing, the next project, the next...headlong delve into idiocy.  If there is one thing you can always rely on me for, it's a truly unnecessary, ridiculous, brainless scheme.

So, blogmates, here's your next big mission:

Send the MoBro viral!

I want to get more hits than a Korean nightclub dancer, more hits than an hilarious photo of an alsatian dog telling a joke, more hits than photos of Kylie on a night out.  The best thing is we can all achieve this together.

Pass my blog onto people you like.  It could be the gift that keeps on giving...not very much.

Even better, send it on to people you don't like.  Encourage them to send it on to people they don't like.  The whole world could be making friends they never even knew they had by sharing all of the nonsense some bloke from a tower bloke in Brum spews up everytime he sits at his laptop in the middle of the corridor at BWBC.  By sending someone you don't like something they won't like, surely we'll get the whole world singing together by Hanukkah?

I have found my niche in life at last.  My mum would be so proud.  Although, on reflection, perhaps its best she doesn't know how to use the internet.

Stay warm, dry and safe everyone.

That is all.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

And as the end of term 1 drags its knuckles towards us...

...I agree with the sentiments of most of the staff that it has all come as a bit of a surprise.  I thought this term would seem ages and take forever, but, low and behold, not three strictly come dancings later, and we are home and dry on the eve of the end of term 1.

So, my little friends in Blogland, what have we learned in term 1?  What can we add to our roll of perpetual information from this 7 and a half weeks?  What do we possess now in terms of knowledge that we did not previously?  Well, quite a lot actually.

We now know:

  • "S" is not a pirate's favourite letter of the alphabet;
  • Nursery children are oozing with confidence, and love the new bikes;
  • Reception children can write, extremely well;
  • Our reading continues to get better and better (so does our stock of reading materials, and so does our library);
  • That it's so much easier to serve a whole family when you have a school with a children's centre;
  • That year 1 and 2 know who their special people are (and, my!, are they special);
  • Year 3 can drum, but we're not so certain about rapping...
  • Year 4 can really enjoy themselves when building a fire;
  • The glass in year 5 needs steamproofing, from all the work they do when they're in the right mood;
  • Year 6 know how advertising works, even the slightly strange stuff.
But more than that.  We have collegiately learned that only when we stand together strongly can we overcome our barriers to learning.  We have been reminded of the power and potential of this great group of adults and children we're building.  We have once again been knocked out by the sheer depth of their generosity, and the staggering versatility of their piratical costume departments.  We have discovered yet more ambassadors for the school - adults and children - and we have continued to show off everything we possibly can.

Thank you all so much for making this brilliant term happen, and thank you to those adults who simply said "okay then" when I put them in an extremely difficult position - I do know the job you've done and what it meant.

Finally, as you may well venture to bonfire parties between now and when next our paths corss, please, please please make care of yourselves and each other.

For the rest of this year, that is certainly not all, but for now, at the end of an extremely productive term, with a huge smile and me feet up, that is all.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

On the button...all 9 of them

September has now vanished - how? - and we are into the cold, wet nights of October.  Despite the cold exterior, we are all basking in the glow of a warm interior (which includes - read below - expeditions into the exterior) made sultry and balmy by the hyper productivity of our amazing cohort.  Once again, I have been blown away by the wonderful learning projects that seem to take place right from the sunflower room in the children's centre to the year 6 class.

To sum up, here's a riddle for you.

Where can you find, all in one afternoon:

 - Spanish tuition in line with a tapas exposition?
 - Rocket building on a par with NASA?
 - Cricket to rival anything seen (by men) in Sri Lanka?
 - Writing to make Dickens say "What the Dickens?!?"
 - A version of the the three little pigs more similar in size to War and Peace?
 - A drainage system to make the Hoover dam weep?
 - Sweet - based experiments that would have Willy Wonka in paroxysms of apoplectic joy?
 - A woodland expedition that would make Ranulph Fienes run home to hide under his bed?

Well, take a guess.

Still no idea?

Here's a clue: rhymes with Fay - Locks - Should.

Answers on a postcard chums.

Stay warm.

That is all.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Someone get him off those drums!

This website has just offered me a "Streamlined post editor".  I have no idea what one of those is, but if you saw me at badminton last night, you would know full well:  I am already quite streamlined enough, thank you!

So blog - eagues, how goes it?  Are you well?  Looking forward to Autumn with all the impending joy as a bear looks to hibernation?  Or are you, like me rubbing your sequinned mits with glee - glee - at the proximity of a new season of Strictly?  Or are you just smirking for the fun of it? Oh well suit yourself.

So, how did this week go for you, me hearties?  Did you all enjoy talk like a pirate day?  We, as per usual, threw ourselves into it with sheer unadulterated gusto, and showed the world how it was done.

But was that the highlight?  Oh no.  Oh no no no no.

The highlight came today, seeing a row of loved violin cases outside class after their very first violin lessons.  Then seeing them taken outdoors for a lunchtime practice, and the pride with which people held and played them.  Then seeing people leave school with them this evening with them strapped to their backs, ready to rehearse and stretch those soon-to-be-aching fingers at home.

It does not stop there.

Tomorrow, the drum teacher lands, as does the guitar teacher, and then we will hear about the ukulele teacher, and soon our corridors will resemble on of the passage scenes from the first Fame movie.  All japery aside, it made me smile... and not a little bit proud.

Dare to dream everyone, as one day soon, Miss Dark may allow you - yes you Mr D - to have the keys to the music room during your lunch.

September has been a really positive start everyone.  Well done.

That is all.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Your face is familiar...

I’ve seen you before somewhere, haven’t I?  Yes, yes, I’m sure.

Did you once play drums for Spandua Ballet?  No?  That can’t be it then. 

Were you once reserve goalie in the local park team?  You remember, it was really cold and wet, our friend Alan’s dog was the first choice keeper, having saved 17 penalties in a single first half, and you were sharing the gloves with a bloke two pitches away?  No?  That not you either?  Oh.  Oh, okay.

Perhaps we once met somewhere more ethereal, perhaps more cyber optic?  Was it – yes! I knew it was you all along.  Yes, of course! How have you been doing?  You look well, you’ve not changed a bit.  Well, a bit older and a bit greyer perhaps but other than that not a bit.  Of course, I recognized you at once, it’s you:

All of my companions in the blogosphere!

It’s so lovely to see you again.  I’d love to tell you all how much I’ve missed you during the long, lovely, sun kissed sojourn that has been the summer.  I’d really love to…

Anyway, let’s get on with the most important news-since-we-last-met:  we are now of course Badock’s Wood Community Primary School and Children’s Centre, and very pleased we are too.  Our first official visitor lands tomorrow, called “The Lord Mayor”.  Pretty impressive eh?  Before all that however, we got down to some serious training as a whole organization on Monday – the results of which can be seen on the BW website. 

This summer we have mostly been listening to the Zummer 2012 playlist, by yours truly.  Ruben know all the words before the second playround; Thea knew all the weird noises by the second month.  From Arctic Monkeys to Xanadu, from Sunsets (Avalanche City)  to moonlight (ELO) and sunshine (Katy Perry) to the rain (Mint Royale) we have had a ball.  I hope you have too.  You all seem to have come back clean, healthy, shiny and refreshed, and I am delighted that we have been joined by over 20 new friends throughout the school, even before our shiny new reception and nursery children join us.

So, as I said to the staff on Monday, I could tell you all about our aims this year, but Paddy MacAloon of Prefab Sprout does it so much better than me, so here he goes:

“Our plans are ambitious, a blue print of wishes,
That will come true, and when they do –
Folks from the valley will look up and say
“You finally built it! Can we come and stay?!
And cynics will marvel and say “We confess
There were times when we thought it was just an address”.”

Once we’ve built it, they’ll call it amazing.

That is all for now, but, rest assured, there is so much more to come this year.

That is all.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

This is our quest...

As we head into the final throes of 2011-12, I am put in mind of the lyrics of The Impossible Dream, known by my generation as an anthem almost utterly murdered by Carter.  However, it is still a late-on-a-Friday-night favourite, and the lyrics, with just the merest of tweaking, suddenly sound rather apt.  When I laid out my plans for the School Improvement Plan at SLT in early summer 2011, they all looked at me with a searching look (i.e., they all started looking for my common sense).  When I started talking about the children’s centre project, people looked at me as if I were inviting IBS.  To me, it is and has always seemed, just the right thing to try to do. 

Therefore, going even further beyond the pale of the mighty Carter, I offer you a slightly alternative, self-indulgent version. 

To dream the impossible dream
To reach for a target so high
To bear with a dignified quiet
Those moments when apathets sigh
To improve on what’s already good
And observe, pure and chaste from afar
To strive on a cold Tuesday evening
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest - To strive for that star
To prove only the narrowest of minds Prevent raising the bar
To stand up for what’s right Without pausing to see
If it’s realistic to strive for your FFT D
And I know if I'll only be true
To what I always knew to be best
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
So, just to recap in laymen’s terms:
EYFS results still on the up
Key Stage1 results on the up
Key stage 2 results way, way, way up
Provision up, and still going…
Attendance up

With all the success we’ve had this year, it is difficult not to be proud.  However, there are now several more ticks on my to-do list, bringing me closer to a leaving date.  That, however, is another story, and another song.  (For some staff, my leaving will probably be accompanied by Russ Abbot’s “Party”.) 

I shall conclude simply thus:

“Thank You”
For working late into the night on amazing planning, or quality assessment, or stunning displays, or that piece of maths work you’ve hated all week, or keeping your uniform neat and smart all year, or taking those reading books home, for bringing in all those letters, for running in with those packed lunches at the last moment, for staying at that governors meeting late into the night, for making that awkward phonecall, for smiling in the playground, for being one of the thousand citizens who works silently and diligently to make this place the special place it is every single day – to every single one of you, thank you.

Have a great summer.

From a proud head’s desk, that is all…for now.

PS In non-laymen’s terms: FFT D across the board, and APS averaging 3.8+ throughout.  Not bad eh?  That is definitely not all.  

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Not they zig-zags again mind!

So here we are, the second annual BLOG-FROM-CAMP. The weather has been kind, by which we mean it hasn’t killed anyone we know, the food has once again been quite exquisite, and the staff at the camp have, as per usual, been legendary.

I always begin camp week with a little worry, trepidation and concern, especially over whether or not I still have enough energy for this kind of nonsense. (At the time of typing, my aching back, bruised shins and sunburnt face are all crying out “No old timer – you haven’t!”) So how has this year’s gone? Well, more from me later. Let’s first of all offer a shout out to all the amazing people who contributed so much to this week.

Elizabeth, for doing our washing and making our cream teas; Phil and Dave for ensuring our tents don’t fly away in the middle of the night; Rosie, Doug, Kieran, Andy, Mark and the boys for all the brilliant activities, and Nadine for running the whole shebang. Last, but by no means least the children and staff of Fairfield school, who were out of this world!

And the best bits? Too numerous, random, private and special to mention. So, over to our other campers.

What was the best bit kids?

Jessica – Trying to get up on the surfboard, and holding my fingers in a weird way to get arrows out of the targets!

Blake – My favourite part of camp was building the raft, because we learned all different kinds of knots, and it was fun on the water.

Alex – The disco, because it brought two different schools together, and we all had loads of fun!

Aaron – I loved the body boarding.

Ashleigh – Rifle shooting, because it was awesome!

George – My favourite bit of camp was skim boarding because it’s kind of fun when you slide across the floor.

Macy – My best part was the body boarding because it was easy and you could jump over the waves.

Finlay – The raft building was best, because we got to jump in at the end.

Lamarrah – I like the body boarding because it was something new to try.

Sandra – My favourite part was the water sports, because we got to play around in the water.

Morgan – I liked the part where I was the first one to stand up on a surfboard.

Kacper – I loved the zip wire.

Ethan – Almost all of it – every dessert, every bit of food, and I loved all of it except where I had to jump into the freezing cold water

Ellie P – Archery and the disco were the best bits.

Holly – I loved the archery.

Elisha – I loved all of the adventure day; building rafts and bridges, and going on the zip wire.

Ellie G – I loved the zip wire.

Kelsey – My favourite part was the archery because I’ve never done that before.

Miss Correia – Learning a new dance in the disco, and being part of the gang and school camp experience.

Mrs Brown – I particularly enjoyed the food, not slipping of the mattress, laughing at the bedtime fashion parade, body boarding with Lamarrah and Finlay, and helping Ashleigh surf.

And Mr Willis? The usual: having a huge lump in my throat every time one of these amazing individuals pushes themselves over the edge and succeeds. I don’t mind confessing to a few quiet, private moments at the end of the water sports today when I saw children from Badock’s Wood skim boarding, surfing and pushing it to the limit, when my shades were not just for the sunshine.

I began the week thinking it would be my last camp. Now, aching back listen up, I’m not so sure.

From another privilege-to-be-a-part-of Exmouth, that is all.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Soon, my son, shall come the rain...

So I'm sat in my kitchen, out at the washing, feeling sure my wife said something about washing and rain....  hang on a sec, it'll come to me....  nope, it's gone.  Never mind.

So dear blogbuddies, how goes it since last we blogstrutted?  We have made a sure and firm start to term 6, with the vast majority of the school taking up where they left off at the end of term 5 - hard work and high standards.  Books and displays continue to impress (and the governors have been into and around most of them already this term) and displays of our children are finding their way into the children's centre, and vice versa.  Ms Lacey's class even found the time to sneak down there last week to share stories, without even telling me! 

Therefore, what have we learned since the last intrepid meanderings of an inexperienced blogmasher?

Quite simply this - when in the right frame of mind, and with the right expectations from the grown ups, our children are quite amazing.

As for the small minority to whom this does not apply, watch out.

Short one this week folks, but next week I am hoping to bring you only the second ever blog-from-school-camp, which last year won some kind of Perrier writing award (or so I'm told - it'll have to go on the shelf behind my Little Chef Best Colouring 3rd Place certificate 1986 and my 2 Michelin stars).

So for now, from someone who looks as if he's about to get wet and in a whole heap of washing related domestic disconcord, that is all.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Five sixths down...

Greetings fellow travellers through the Blogosphere.

33 weeks done.  Five sixths gone.  10 / 11 months down (loosely counting).  Where has it gone?  What have we achieved?  What have we to show for our endeavours?

Well, plenty actually.  Except windows.  We've covered all of those with work.  It's darker than November by my desk at the minute.  However, to keep me company, I have a stash of work so huge it will cover several display boards, which it is going to do throughout term 6.  I also have loads of paper which doesn't want to go in any of the thousand folders I have accrued, but that is a job for tomorrow and an invention entitled bin.

So, what have we learnt since last our blogpaths crossed?

Year 1 and 2 do not like witches, but they do like Quinten Blake.  And Angelina Sprockett.  And Mr Magnolia.  And hedgehogs.  Pretty much everything except witches, if truth be told.

That year 4, despite the end of that particular topic, will not leave the bugs alone.  The bug hotel is currently busier than Fawlty Towers on a rainy jubilee holiday weekend.

Reception can write. And write. And write and write and write and write.  A lot.

Year 3 are slowly turning into legends, and a tall Welshman was quite rightly strutting around here with his RAG sheets on show like his leek on Dewi Sant.

Year 5, in their own utterly unique way, are extremely creative.

Nursery love a project.  So do the nursery children.

Finally, it is a universally acknowledged truth the country long and wide that year 6 do not like the time immediately after their SATs.  I can hear the sound of tearing even now as heads and year 6 teachers forcibly remove the hair from their heads.  Come on Year 6 - sort it out! You are better, more beautiful people than this.

(Or, scrub that and rewrite - Come on Government - sort it out! Let the children of this nation enjoy their final year of innocence, naivety, childhood without the ever looming presence of a false situation that means more to the adults than it does to them!  Who ever got refused a job because they didn't get a level 4 at the age of 11?)

Have a superb jubilee weekend and superb half term everyone.

From a tired but extremely proud and happy headteacher, that is all.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Two weeks in

When I said, at the height of the Indian Summer last September, "Please will you get me an umbrella?", my wife looked at me like I'd asked for an umbrella at the height of an indian summer.  Who's smiling now, in wet trousers and shoes, eh love?  Who's smiling now...

So, two weeks on and its business as usual: amazing work, incredible behaviour, and ambassadors who have made us proud to belong to Badock's Wood.  Year 4 science, year 1 and 2 hedgehog posters and reports, year 6 maths, year 3 letter writing, year 5 ...pretty much everything - it has all been really impressive.  We asked some people last week to turn their behaviour around - they have done it, in spades.  Year 1 and 2 had a trip to the zoo on Tuesday - without getting wet! - and were all apparently amazing.  To cap it all off, we have been joined by 4 new friends this week in years 2, 3 and 4, all of whom have proven to be, in the words of Mr Davies, "legends" (insert own Welsh accent).

And has this inclement weather dampened our enthusiasm?  Thwarted us in our endeavours?  Negated our joie de vive?  Rained on our parade.  Nay, and thrice Nay Mr Bumble.  We've wet.  And got on with it.  Job, as they say, done.

In my last intrepid meanderings into Blogsville I spoke about the exciting new partnership with the Children's Centre, and the start of our joint work.  Well, we started.  My, did we ever get started.  We made a really exciting start to our project and what should be an enormous benefit to everyone.  Already, we have started to work more closely together for families and individuals.  Job, as they say, started well.

All joking aside, all I really wanted to say at this point was an enormous thank you to the 60 new colleagues who came together with such positivity and enthusiasm to embark on what promises to an exciting, ambitious journey.  And what a potential destination...

Keep dry and stay safe everyone.

That is all

Thursday, 29 March 2012

If you were me, what would you say...?

Term 4 reaches its conclusion, the Easter egg hunts have been conquered by the vainglorious (or, year 5 scabbling around on the floor) and the sun shines on the righteous.... or Southmead, as we call it. What have we learned?

- When challenged so to do, year 6 know how to show off;
- That fairgrounds come in all shapes and sizes;
- That starting a topic off on the last day of the previous term works wonders;
- That discussion, open and honest, can bring about improvement for all.

The whole fairgrounds / pirates / giants thing went down a storm, and the school is all the more colourful for the efforts of the whole team. This unseasonable weather at the deep end of the term has allowed us all to take our learning outdoors, and my how we have enjoyed it. I would just sign off this part by saying "well done everyone" - I've seen the RAG sheets, and I'm well happy.

As George said to me this afternoon - " 'Ave a nice day tomorrow...when I'm having a lie - in!". Well, on many other occassions, the wind up would have hit the spot, and I'd have been forced to mess up the spikes on his hairdooooooooooooo. As it was, he couldn't been further from the wind-up-truth: I am really looking forward to tomorrow's inset, as it is the start of a new and exciting chapter in our history - we start our work with the Children's Centre!

Not only am I really looking forward to getting to know loads of new colleagues and friends, I am also enormously excited about what we can create. Just think of it. The potential, the possibilities, the projects, the outcomes. I think it can and will be amazing.

So, if you wer eme tomorrow morning, in front of a staff that has more than doubled, what would you say? What message would you give? What points would you put across? It is something I have been thinking about for weeks, and I am really looking forward to getting this fantastic project started.

So, as we think about what to wear tomorrow (after all, it is important girlfriend) and look forward to Mr V's BBQ, have a great start to what I hope will be a cracking Easter hols, and stay safe.

For now, with great excitement about what I have to say next, that is all.

Except for

All the best Vaise - take care xxx

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bears, giants, pirates and fairgrounds

A new smartphone app perhaps? Maybe the ingredients for a winning entry to Come Dine with Me? Or things it is unwise to sit on?

No. That's our term 4 curriculum.

Oh yes, it is. And what fun it has looked. The work around the school is so exciting, so colourful, so well presented, so crammed with learning, that I have been late for meetings, so engrossed have I been with reading things when I should have been on my way.

And these are still competing for display space with the dragons, puppets, bridges and meals we have on display from last term's learning. Can't be all bad surely? No, sir, not one iota.

So what have we learned in the last few weeks, running up to International Women's day?

We have learned that some quieter friends are now happy to speak in assembly.

Some older friends are extremely good at showing how kind they can be.

Some parents should keep their own counsel.

Some of our taller friends keep putting art in very interesting places.

Above all, we have learned that, thankfully, spring is on the way, and aren't we all delighted it is.

Advance news: coming soon - the biggest running club in the world EVER! Get your trainees out grandma: if I'm "running", then so are you.

Happy International Women's day everyone.

That, finely put, is all.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Or Worry, about February...

Half a year, half a year, half a year onward, into the valley of learning, pedagogy, progress, innnovation, energy, commitment, fun rode the 228 (rising to 239 if you count the nursery children)...

Three years ago, the evening before the February half term, I was head of a very different school. We had no special needs provision, limited progress, a curriculum so thin you could hold it up to the light and see ... the light, and attendance so poor - on all levels - that we had more empty chairs than a Fabio Capello Q&A session at Whitehart Lane. Now, we have special needs children outperforming the national average (oh yes we do Miss Andrews), good to outstanding progress across all areas, a curriculum that features Banksy, Traction Man, the trachea, pirates, dragon's eggs, winged beings, creating digital music, and ... Dizzee Rascal. Furthermore, our attendance, if continued, will beat last year's record breaking 91.4% by some considerable way.

Where will we be three years hence? On the eve of the mid point of the 2014 / 5 school year?

All plans for the hovercar are to be put back into geeky wardrobes, and Aston Villa will not have won the Champions league ... repeatedly. But where do you think we'll be? Where do you hope we'll be? How will you ensure that? Isn't that what Aspire - Achieve - Enjoy is all about?

Oh dear, I appear to have gotten serious. I shall stop, and instead try once again to install Primary Sassoon font to this rubber band laptop (you know the pain you have wrought on me Mr V!?!) and do my homeowrk in readiness for one of my much enjoyed linguistic bouts of thought - i - ness with my mate Josh.

Well done on a brilliant half year everyone. Are you going to rest on your laurels, or look upon your works, say "Nah,", and build something even better?

Having left you something to ponder, I shall say merely, that is all.

PS Mr Bernstein, I do not want the job, thank you very much. I do not like John Terry - or any racist pig headed ( insert own defamatory noun), I can't work Wednesday nights (it will clash with badminton) and I simply will not take the pay cut. All the best.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The lady said they were from the world's number one university, I said "And I'm from Birmingham, pleased to meet you."

January is almost gone, and we are 1 / 12th into the battle over a new year. How's it been for you so far? Cold? Well, winter does do that...

We've now had four weeks of term 3, with just two to go, and I am perpetually staggered by the work going on around the school. This week, observing lessons as I have, I have seen massive pieces of art in creation, electronic music in composition, mathematical problems in solution, and lengthy writing in edition. Furthermore, I have been delighted to see work coming in from home - dragons, writing, pictures, all independently started and finished (with the help of some extremely talented parents and grandparents). Praise assemblies at the moment are a joy because we hear so many positive and pleasing stories. I heard an amazing story today of one of our reception children, who was clearly unwell, determined to come to school to receive the praise he rightly deserved for learning all his words - by all accounts, he was waiting by the front door of his house! So all in all, we're not cold, just extremely busy.

What have we learned in the last fortnight? Well, today we have learned, or simply remembered, that year 5 do not like it when their teacher is out of class, and think that the rules of the school suddenly no longer apply. I hope that they have learned this afternoon, that this is simply not the case. I think Miss Norman may have a word or two to say come Monday morning..

Besides that, what do we now know that we didn't before?

Year 6 (and 5 when they're in the mood) are amazing artists. Dare I even say cool?

Year 3 and 4 can really crack on with that maths when they put their minds to it.

Year 1 and 2 know a thing or two about dragons (and about making them)

Reception know how to be a dragon, to an incredibly consistent rhythm.

But these observations do not even skim the learned surface of the pudding of academia we have feasted upon in the last few weeks, and we shall not stop there. Next week there are meetings for all the grown ups about helping all our children to become even better readers (as well as a few other meetings...)

Have a funky February everyone.

That is all

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Half way through January? You're having a laugh

A happy new year to all my dear, dear blogomies out there in Cyberville, and I hope the new year has brought you the greeshoots of success, prosperity and happiness for the 366-odd to come.

You all know me, never one to make sweeping generalisations or bold statements, I would like to start off the blogyear with an announcement: this blog is, and shall remain,

olympics free.
It's not that I don't enjoy them, and that I'm not proud that we'll be holding it and doing an all round better job than Paris would've, but I'm already sick off seeing that logo, and having my Co-co pops packet adorned by a cyclist who I've never heard of. Come on team GB, I'm right behind you, just, ...stay in front of me.

However, one thing we will not be free of is giving. The pack for the Sports Relief mile arrived today. We will observe it, oh yes we shall. Watch this space.

So, we're back, from outer space, let see what's been occuring round this large and funky place.

Our new nursery friends are amazing, and the general expansion of the school has been excellent to watch. Key Stage 1 have decorated their corridor with the most amazing traction man work. Years 5 and 6 are working really well on really hard novels. Year 3 and 4 appear to have come over all healthy...

Most importantly, I was enormously proud on Thursday evening when I walked down to reading club, watched running club go off on their jog, saw the millions of parents helping us, before I walked over to cooking club, tripping over all our guitars on the way. Nor do I mind admitting to a "hairs on the back of the neck" moment on Wednesday when key stage 2 sang the Scientist word perfect, first time. Some magical moments, and we are (as the title of this blog would suggest) barely half way through January.

Things bode well.

Well done everyone.

That is all.