Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Numbers can't tell the whole story ...

365 days.  195 school days (including inset).  1290 hours (allegedly, but I know some staff who reach that before Easter).  208 children, rising to 266 at its peak.  11 classes.  1 OfSTED inspection (and what an inspection).  1 impromptu but devastatingly good rendition of "Starman".  Simple, when you think about it.  But there is so much more than this, and so much more to consider.

It is a little heavy-handed to break down a school year to a list of numbers, and some numbers don't make sense to anyone but those few in the know.  However, it is generally numbers that stand the test of time.  55BC, 1066 and all that, Aston Villa 1 Bayern Munich 0 etc. Surely 4.24 pm on Monday 22nd July will come to own some significance.

Here, I hope it serves a few simple but well-intentioned purposes:

1: To celebrate a twelve month of success.

2: To celebrate the amazing achievements of our ever-growing number of children, and

3:  To celebrate the all-too-often forgotten works of the staff and governors.

Here goes (and trust me, even if you don't know all of them, you'll know when I'm trying to praise and when I'm seeking to do something... else.)

91 - The percentage of year 6 children at or above the national expected level for maths
3 - The number of years in a row we have managed to beat the national average
18 - the overall percentage improvement for year 6 writing in this year's SATs results
5 - The number of consecutive years our APS has exceeded the national average
4 - The number of consecutive years above the floor target (not achieved in the 8 years leading up to 2010)
90 - The percentage of homegrown children achieving the nationally expected level in year 2 reading
3 - The number of children who scored 40 out of 40 in the Year 1 Phonics test

2 - Meaning "Good", the grade OfSTED awarded the school for Achievement

32 - The number of drop in observations I conducted during terms 5 and 6
0 - The number of inadequate lessons I saw in that time
Countless - The number of hours teachers and support staff spent in improving teaching throughout terms 2, 3, 4 and 5 during the teaching toolkit project

2 - Meaning "Good", the grade OfSTED awarded the school for Quality of Teaching and Learning.

10 - the number of children who have managed 100% attendance for the year
2 - the improvement on the same number last year
11 - the number of the children who were on 99.4%+ (only missed 1 day or less)
4 - The reduction in the number of children excluded
6 - The number of letters the governors had to send out for the wrong reasons

2 - Meaning "Good", the grade OfSTED awarded the school for Behaviour and Safety.

10 - The number of staff who have presented to the LA at the core visits this year.
2, 2, 2 - The scores at the 3 core visits this year (As with OfSTED, 2 equates to "Good")

2 - Meaning "Good", the grade OfSTED awarded the school for leadership and management

And, going forward, aspire - achieve - enjoy still rules

83 - Percentage of children at ARE for reading and maths by the end of next year
27.5 - APS for next year's year 6
1/3 - The reduction in childhood obesity
0 - The number of fixed term exclusions
1000 - The number of followers we want on twitter
0 - the number of issues we will face that started on facebook.
7 - The number of David Bowie songs we will learn in term 1.

I cannot offer a thank you great enough for everything that has been achieved this year.  To all the staff, please choose the combination of wellwishes from the list below; you may have one or all, or a selection, they are all offered with my most sincere thanks:

Have a wonderful holiday

Bon voyage colleagues, and good luck in your new adventures

Thank you for your herculean efforts this year

Thank you for being part of this very special team

From my desk, from my corridor, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you all.

Have a wonderful summer.

Until we once again combine to push back the boundaries of pedagogy ever further, that is all....

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fini - Day 5 (Will he do it? Reprise)

Traffic jams come in many sizes.  Baring in mind the scale of everything we've done this week - i.e. monster - it comes as no surprise that we were stuck in a monster of a jam.  However, this will not and does not mar the overall view of camp 2013; it is still being hailed as "totes amaze-balls" by one.

Many people asked me today about my big decision.  A girl of my size never says never, but I am going to polish the baton in the event of its likely passing on.  Whatever the weather, a 5th camp deserves marking, so I would like to thank all of my co-pilots down the years.

Roll of Honour:

Walmsley (2 tours)
Sims / Brown (3 tours)
Correia (Mr)
Dark (Princess of -ness)
Correia (Miss) (2 tours)

Furthermore, I would pay tribute to those who have been in the role of delivering our services.  Special mentions to

Andy & Rosie (and all the Essential Adventure gang)
Mark Briggs
Hannah and Roy

Finally in this section, thank you to Exmouth itself.  You have always welcomed us, looked after us, cared for us, and been glad to see us leave (I wouldn't blame you).  The rain may visit elsewhere in the world; Exmouth, to me, will always mean sunshine.

So, allow me to leave the final words to what I love the most: music.

The following lines should be sung to the tune of "King of Rock'n'roll" by the immortal Prefab Sprout.

All our crazy preteen angst
Doesn't stop us off'ring thanks
To those stars who filled our tanks
As we peer out on each morn
An adventure has been born
Opportunities galore
To tease me
Zigs zags, wet shoes
Beach barbecue
Gore Lane
Exmouth camp
Home of our dreams
Dream helps us recall
The joy of water sport
The beach, the scene, the hall
Five and six painted the town
Daring to leap and surf (and drown)
How will we ever live it down?
Archers, rifles
Take aim
Gold spot!
Gore Lane
Exmouth camp
Home of our dreams
Now the coach has been, and back
All our soiled clothes unpacked
I'll remind you of the fact:
How we took a group of teams
And exceeded all their dreams
Whilst we captured all their beams
Low ropes old floats 
"This is heaven sir!"
Zip wire
Gore Lane
Exmouth camp
Home of our dreams  (repeat to fade into the sunlight)

Thank you all.
Bless you all.
That is all?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day four part two - every new beginning leads to some other beginning's end

Well, the last wetsuit has been soaked and packed away.  The body boards and skim boards have been returned to their shelves, the archery targets taken down and the rifle alley disbanded; we have all given our disco clothes (i.e., our last salvageable outfit, generally with odd socks) that one fantastic airing.  I tried to explain what a “rite of passage” is to the kids, then realised that I was wasting the time of one of theirs. 

How will we look back on camp 2013?  And how will Camp 2013 look back upon us?  After all, it is not just the campers of Badock’s Wood who make a camp.  First of all, it is most pleasing to report that the camp leaders, and the leaders of every activity we have undertaken, have commented on our children’s politeness, positive attitude and determination.  We had a very high success rate on all activities, with 96% hurling themselves off the platform onto the zip wire, easily the most terrifying thing we have asked them to do all week.  We’ve managed to find friends to play with on every trip to the beach, and secured numerous hi 5s from the cool kidz running the water sports activities. 

And how does it rank?  I’d say fairly high up there if I’m honest.  I cannot recall too many things which have made me close to heart attack or blood boiling point.  More importantly, that memory bank of magic has been replenished to bursting point, with another host of amazing scenes during today’s epic water sports session.  Other people in my position will appreciate it when I say that there have been 8 or 9 heartbreaking (in the right way) moments this week that remind me why I said I'd do it.

I have been ably aided and abetted in all this by my three irreplaceable co-pilots: Hathway, Correia (2nd tour) and Norman.  Thank you all – giving up a week of life often goes unappreciated; hope we managed to make it filled in another way. 

Trust me, there have been stars, and a thousand legends born.  We have too many to mention, and it would be unfair; furthermore, they are the kind of occasion where you have to be there in order to understand why it was so important.  What I will say is this: many children have grown in more than stature this week, and for that I would pay the price many times over.

But enough of my ramblings.  You’ve had to put up with my tosh all week.  Let’s leave the last word to those who, time and again, weave the magic that makes this thing so special.  At (full roast pork dinner with all trimmings) tea this evening (followed by jam roly poly and custard) we asked every child, what was your favourite part of the week and why. 

Here’s what they said.

Gary – aka Robin Hood; aka Spider Monkey: “Archery, because it was so much fun.”

Lamarah – aka Lamermaid: “Everything was really fun to do.”

Jamal – aka the J-meister: “Everything, because it was so much fun.”

Brooke – aka Brooke Swift: “The sea trampoline – the waves kept bashing me.”

Josh – aka Boarderboy; aka Mr Helpful: “Body boarding – I’m good at it now.”

Luke – aka the barracuda: “Everything, because it was amazing.”

Kiah – aka KiahNoFear: “Archery and rifles, because they were really fun.”

Nathan – aka “Take off those trousers and that united top!”: “Body boarding because I like jumping waves.”

Shelby – aka the Bad Hatter; aka Raftsbane – “Trampoline, because the waves kept crashing me, and Miss Norman got bashed.”

Kile – too many akas to mention, but our favourite is K-ayaker:  “Jumping off the jetty into the lake, because I was doing flips”.

Morgan – aka Princess Maria: “Zip wire because before it I was afraid.”

Bruce – aka Mister Fifty: “Zip wire – it was fun because I’d never done it before.”

Alex – aka Conger (as in eel): “Zip wire because it was fun going fast and shouting stupid stuff.”

Jessica – aka Princess Jessybell: “Everything – all very involving.”

Dayzee – aka DayzeeDoo: “Everything because it’s fun.”

Carissa – aka Rissyroo: “Building rafts because it was the first time I ever beat the other team… and stayed dry.”

Bradley – aka Flipmeister: “Skim boarding, loads of fun.”

Ellie – aka Princess: “All of it, because it was so much fun.”

Kessie – aka Deadeyed Wombat; aka The Legend; aka “Our immortal leader”: “Water sports, it gave me inspiration for future water experiences.”

Ebrima – aka Top Hat: “Everything, because it was so good.”

Kelsey – aka George (of the Jungle): “Zip wire, because I didn’t do it last year.”

Chandler – aka Spider Monkey II; aka Tandellar: “Body boarding, because it was good when  you jumped the waves.”

BaiOmar – aka The Baiomara: “Archery, skim boarding, rifle shooting, jumping off the jetty – everything.”

Megan – aka Hello Vera: “All of it because it was an experience I can never forget.”

Last word I think to our special little Laurel.

Lauren – aka Willisbane; aka Lollipop: “All of it, because I’d never done it before and I loved it!”

Enough said.  From Exmouth after another wonderful year, that is all.

Day four - the big one! Part one

Just a normal Thursday morning really.

You wake up, very late.  You crawl to breakfast in your PJs, and smack down three or four bowls of frosties, a couple of plates of sausages beans and toast.

Then you get into a wet suit, head down the rickety stairs leading to the secluded beach, and indulge in a spot of body boarding, skim boarding, lifesaver games, and the sea trampoline.

Of course, we were going to go on the power boat, but the waves were too big.  Shame.

So instead, we decided that we would play on the trampoline for longer, do some more body boarding, then have a late lunch.

Once we've had a long lazy lunch, we're heading back down there.  Have a nice afternoon wherever you are.

For this morning, that is all.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Magic Moments- camp day three

This morning was one.  I woke at 6.38 (my normal school time) and again at 6.47 (the snooze alarm) before waking again ahead of any children at 7.15.  Yes, the shenanigans of morning 1 were isolated to then, and we all got a good night’s sleep.  We had to wake almost every child to get them ready for early breakfast. 

The thing about camp is that it’s filled with magical little moments that remind you why you do it in the first place.  They’re unhidden, spontaneous, unintentional, and utterly wonderful.  The children don’t know they’re creating anything special, they don’t actually know they’re being anything other than themselves, but then, isn’t that the point?

There’s something so deliciously human, and so incredibly beautiful about two or three beings working innocently and surreptitiously together to create a moment of sheer electricity.  To err is human, to do something super is surely superhuman.

(Of course, camp also brings un-magical moments.  This year’s thus far have included socks on the beach, canine phobia, smells relating to boys and a spider’s nest in the ladies loo.)

So, what have we seen? 

Unspoken but monumental bravery, on repeated occasions.

Year 6 boys (never knowingly sensitive) egging on a reluctant year 5 girl to “Give it a go! You’ll love it!”.  (You want to know now, don’t you.  She did it.  Twice.)

A quiet, diligent year 6 girl taking a lead and pushing a group towards success.

A year 5 and a year 6 – who would never ever have anything to do with each other – teasing each other playfully on the jetty, the one encouraging the other to jump.  She did.  He followed.  They laughed together in the water. I beamed with pride.

A brave year 5 gymnast joining in with teenagers on the beach, and teaching them a new trick or two.

Everyone joining in without asking to bury someone in the sand…at their own request.

A boy stood confidently astride a hand built raft, before launching himself headfirst into the lake.

A year 5 girl, never famed for her courage, offering up her paddle, before launching herself off the raft at the lake’s deepest point. (Neither one has seen or heard about the other)

The sheer determination of young children, normally shy and retiring, to push themselves to their limits.

The joy of achievement.

That’s why everyone remembers camp.  No-one remembers the bloke who runs the water sports or the lady at the archery.  No one remembers the food (which they should do here, it’s gorgeous and plentiful) and no-one remembers why they were so afraid in the first place.  People remember camp because it is packed with memories that have a highly important personal value.  They remember the first pen pal, the first time they stood on a surfboard, or flew down a zip wire, the first independent feeling of sheer exhilaration, that feeling that you achieved something you never thought possible. They remember that amazing feeling you couldn’t possibly hope to experience at home on 11.40 on a Wednesday morning.

In short, people remember the magic.

And I shall confess I had forgotten.  I still remember my year 6 camp (a smelly muddy hole somewhere outside Birmingham – Coventry, I think it was called), and those memories just about remain. Yet I have been blessed with a new set of memories, a new store of magic for every time I have put myself forward for camp as an adult.  When I saw that boy astride the raft today I watched in awe, and the magic returned.  Despite the fact I was in the lake, I soared high above it, watching this amazing personal success, privileged to be party to this wondrous revelation, a reveller at the Glastonbury of myths (album by Brooke Swift versus the Bad Hatters).  Suddenly, the magic was all around me, and I realised I’d been sat in the midst of it all week. 

So, has all of this affected my momentous decision?  I am happy to admit that today my faith has wavered, my resolved tested.  But this isn’t my blog, this is magic’s blog, and a happy celebration of how lucky I find myself to be able to create the circumstances that allow such wander to flow.  Therefore, earlier than we have done so far this week, I am contented to say – with enormous expectation of what magic we may weave tomorrow – that is all.

For all the parents out there, let me summarise it more literally: today we have asked your children to negotiate a low rope assault course that almost wrecked their hands, then climb into a tree and hurl themselves off a platform along a 120 foot zip wire.  Then, after lunch, we asked them to build a raft out of barrels and planks, then ride it around a lake.  Simples.  Just for fun, we then spent an hour launching them off the jetty into the lake.  Then ate too much pizza.  Then went the beach.  That isn’t all…

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Nick name or band name? Camp, day two

Due to the monumental feats of strength of character, camp is a hallowed place where legends are made.  The fables of mythological greatness that we shall pass down to our young ones are forged in the smithy that is camp.  As early as day two, true history is made.  When it is made, it has bestowed upon it the greatest honour any camper can bestow upon another – a nickname.

Some children already had subtitles and alter egos as they launched into this camp; who can fail to have heard my liberal use of the K-monster and Brucy-Baby monikers within our usual corridors of power?  Yet some wait for their moment of unsought destiny to have their own label thrust upon their eternal memory.

Today has been such a day.  Under a sun sent to torture and with weapons and tools hitherto unseen, we have fashioned our own brand of victory from the absent clouds of despair.  Your task now is to define the true nicknames from band names my weird subconscious has formulated of its own despicable accord.

So, if I tell you that today has been spent rifle shooting, at archery and beach barbecuing / swimming, and a bonus session of beach gymnastics with a group of locasls, it will come as no surprise that we found someone renamed “Robin Hood”, after his first fledgling attempts with the yew.   (It was Gary.  You know, Mr “I’ve-never-done-this-before-so-I’ll-just-stick-it-in-the-dead-centre-of-that-targety-thing”?)

So here we go, simply answer ‘nickname’ or ‘band name’.  Answers, of a sort, below.

1.       Brooke Swift and the Golden Target
2.       Mister Fifty
3.       Brooke Swift versus the Bad Hatter
4.       Dead eyed Wombat
5.       Flapjacks and clotted cream
6.       Bubblebottom
7.       The Incredible Case of the Tiger Fighter
8.       Whisper or silence
9.       The Penance fulfilling Six

With more fear than key stage 2 threshold levels, your points to 19 (where did they get that from?!?) this week are:

1:  Nickname, attributed after the aforementioned Brooke casually stepped up as the last archer in the team competition and scored the winning gold.

2: Nickname, attributed to Bruce for his average score with 5 bullets.

3: Bandname, or potential episode to the new Harry Potter series.  Made up after an archery shoot-out between Brooke and Shelby, where both amassed 20+points.

4: Nickname, attributed to Kessie as she continued to score consistently well in rifle shooting, then archery.  Just the odd 25 here and there.

5: Neither.  Than was my pudding at lunch, and it was lush.

6: Nickname, attributed to … oh I couldn’t possibly say.

7: Nickname, attributed to Kile.  Many will see his cuts as a gentle scrape against some rocks in the pools yesterday.  But we know different.  After a terrifying escape from Paignton Zoo, many animals threatened the public at large.  Our Kile, too shy to mention it, came out the hero. Honest, ask him.

8: Bandname, and one I rather like. But it’s also what we’ve been offering as a choice for the last few awake.

9: Nickname, attributed to a group of boys who had better NOT be doing that again.

Due to this morning’s 5:06 am start, yesterday’s blog now seems as if it were written in the mists of time.  However, a long long day never prohibits an ultimately successful one, which – with the exception of one of two noses getting redder – is exactly what we have had.  Therefore, with much much happiness in my heart, much weariness in my bones and no alteration to my BIG decision as yet, I am happy to say that is all.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Day One - Orcombe coastal road strikes back

So, first day down.  What have we learned?

Coach drivers who at first appear humble may well have the slogan “speed demon” emblazoned somewhere upon their vehicle.

That the joy of finding a crab is still mesmeric, even when you thought it would be horrible.

That 3G is as unreliable up here as anywhere else (sorry for the late messages Miss Andrews).

That no-one, absolutely no-one, likes the zig-zags.  Still.  Ever.

That we have some fine swimming costume-age this year, and some oven more fine one-sies.

Sometimes, even factor 50 is not enough.  However, a cold shower and a bag of peas can always be relied upon.

Seaweed, apparently, is slippy.

Generally, a positive and successful first day with loads of fun, loads of grub and lots of giggles and cuddles, and more than just a smear of sun cream.  

May something higher than David Bowie have mercy on our souls tomorrow (dull day tomorrow  Bacon and egg brekkie, archery, rifle shooting, beach barbecue, more time in beautiful Exmouth – or, as one child calls it, “Heaven”).

For day one, that is all.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Will he do it?

Every year I mumble this promise to myself under my breath. In this week of every year I make my honorable oath to remain true to what I say in ... this week of every year.  I silently swear that it will happen, and try with all my eyes-closed-tight might to bring it about.  I see the words loom large in my mind's eye, and use this image to build their strength and meaning.   I don't let anyone hear it until I have built up my own conviction.  Parts of me hear it though; my knees hear it and high five one another; my feet hear it and dance - of their own accord - in silent joy to the theme of the Hallelujah Chorus, and my back groans and creaks a yell of apoplectic whimsy.

Once I have a little more confidence, I start to rehearse saying it to others.  I even develop something of a self pitying grimace to accompany the phrase in the hope they will take it more seriously.  I start by sharing it with family members, who, much as they do throughout the twelve month, ignore me with unadulterated disdain.

So I try it out on friends and neighbours, who know me not enough to gauge my levels of seriousness.

Then I try it out on colleagues and children as if they may proffer just a note of interest.  I clasp my hands together, and look not enormously dissimilar to Richard III - auditionees, keen to impress my earnestness.

Yet none of them seem to register my honour.

Perhaps the words seem feeble, or non-commital, but I do not see how their meaning can be lost.  Yet, as I say the words with passion and conviction, none seem to believe me.

So, this time I must compose myself.

Take a breath.

Believe in the power of what I have to say.

Know that I am right.

Never falter from the virtue of my cause, as I say out loud:

"This will be my last camp!"

There.  I've said it.  It's out there.  Couldn't take it back even if I wanted to.

I'm sorry...what?

What was that?  You don't believe it?  You think I'm making it up?  How can you think that?

Oh, I see.  Apparently I said it last year, and then after water sports day told everyone to ignore me.  Is that right?  And the year before that after I got all those kids to the top of the climbing wall.  And you think I'll do it again.

Well, we'll see about that.

You just tune into the blogs every night next week from Exmouth camp and we'll see who's right, shall we.

So there.

That is all, until next week.........