Friday, 28 February 2014

Have you ever seen a beetle on a big dipper in Bristol?

As Term 4 starts and February waves its tear stained hanky in adieu, I though it only fitting that we take a quick peek at what's happening in the world of Badock's Wood.  I also have one eye during these net musings on something lumbering into view in the distance - the new curriculum.

Once again I have to sit here and state, with almost gratuitous smugness, that I am enormously pleased with the curriculum we have built.  Key stage 1 are learning all about minibeasts, and have turned their attentions to transforming their corridor into a subterranean terrorscape.  Years 3 and 4 are discovering how amazing their home city truly is, without even mentioning a bloke in a top hat.  At their rather cool end of the corridor, years 5 and 6 are embarking on their topic of Thrills and Spills, a mechanical and technological tip toe around the fairgrounds of the world.  All in all, you could say, its pretty cool.

Added to that, I sent a year 5 boy in to year 4 the other day to teach numeracy (this isn't budget cuts; this is a #placeoflearning).  I observed reception on Wednesday, and saw how they are developing as confident and inquisitive learners, then observed year 6 today and noticed how the children of Southmead collaborate without any issue.  The children walked into assembly this morning to be greeted by one of our year 3 girls playing the piano.   One of the year 1 boys has been teaching most of his class about hundreds, and our year 4s have been marking each other's (extremely long, detailed and adventurous) writing with diligence and detail.  I awarded my first Aspire Achieve Enjoy award at 10.10 on Monday morning, and my last at 3.15 Friday afternoon.

On my way down to a vibrant and busy early years from my desk in the corridor, I was struck by two things:

1 - How engaged key stage 2 were

2 - How engaged key stage 1 were

The place even smelt busy.  This doesn't happen by accident.  A number of factors must converge and #playtheirpart in order for this to occur.  Primarily, the incredible conscientiousness of my colleagues.  Equally important, the diligence of the learners and of the learning.  The environment has to be conducive to success, and the routines and surrounding / supporting cultures embedded.  And the curriculum has to be exciting.

You can have all the tools, gizmos and gadgets in the world of education and beyond, and as much money as you can print.  Yet if the curriculum isn't right, and it isn't delivered in a vibrant, dynamic package by skilled practitioners, its all for naught.  This morning, this week, have reminded me of that repeatedly.

So, it is with not a little trepidation that I contemplate the new curriculum.  I am most looking forward, I think, to classifying rocks and soils one afternoon in year 3.  That sounds exciting.  Doesn't it...?  Furthermore, I cannot wait to get to grips with looking at British history that must be taught chronologically up to the point at which we emerge from the pondweed.

Where's the fun?  Honestly, I have to ask myself what was in the tea at this meeting.  Furthermore, it seems somewhat counter productive that, in remaining a proud local community and authority maintained school, we have to opt in to this stuff, whereas our freedom friends can opt out.  Where's the equality of opportunity for children there?  Where's the moral imperative?  Once again I cry, where's the fun?

Fear not.  As ever, I have something of a solution, packed in a compromise wrapped up in the cloak of an agreement.  Our children will receive the new curriculum.  Our school, as ever, will meet its legal and statutory obligations.  On our terms.  Our children will get rocks, and British pondweed to the third century, but they'll get it packaged in our own brand of curriculum, something exciting, enjoyable, and irresistible.  They'll get their legal entitlement and their beetles, their big dippers and their Banksys.  And still, year 5 will teach year 4, reception will continue to grow in confidence and stature and the children of Southmead will collaborate in their learning.

There's the fun.  There's the imperative.  It's all too easy to view these issues as a trial.   I see them as a privilege.

From a brilliant term 3, a fantastic February and a promising start to term 4, that is all.