Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas miracles

I had some of the most wonderful moments of my career so far this afternoon.  Thought I'd share.  As we are such a very little school I am always conscious of not writing in a way that might identify a pupil.  Therefore I will refer to 'the child' rather than gender specific terms.  This might make things read a little oddly at first but is important.

It was our Christmas carol service this afternoon.  One of my favourite occasions of the school year as our whole school family and the community come together to sing and celebrate.  I always open it with a very short poem, usually one I have found about half an hour before and this year was no exception!  I then hand over to the children as it's all about them.

The first brilliant moment came early on, during Silent Night.  Two new children, who were too nervous to even stand up in last week's nativity, not only stood up with their class but sang too.  One child had hands over face but I could see the little jaw moving so there was definitely singing going on.  That was a massive step forward in a week. 

I then saw one of the best bits of positive behaviour management I have ever seen in my life from one of my staff.  We have a child who sometimes becomes very angry, the child isn't able to express feelings in words very well and tends to express with violent actions and curses.  Fortunately it happened during a carol so no one could hear the swearing!  The member of staff got right down to the child's level and quietly and calmly reminded the child to use words to explain the feelings of anger.  The member of staff then supported the child to do so and the whole situation was positively resolved before we even finished Calypso Carol.  No one other than the staff even noticed the blip.

The next brilliant moment came when another new child, who has come from some tough circumstance and changed school in a crucial year, stood up and sang too.  There was an obvious pride in the singing and I glowed with that pride too.  The same child had also been chosen to do a reading.  This is where I glow with pride for my staff too as the brilliant class teacher had taken calculated risk taking to it's limit here!  This was the first time, ever in the child's school life, that this child had ever been chosen to stand up and read.  At anything.  Thinking that one through a little further there have probably been many occasions where that child has seen others chosen and not been trusted to read.  I can understand why.  At an occasion so public the idea that nerves, pressure and a number of other factors might make a child suddenly shout or swear or both is a pressure on staff.  But my staff know that the sense of achievement and pride for that child when they manage it is worth every bit of that pressure.  The child did stand up and manage it, and very well indeed.  The sense of accomplishment and pride from the child, and the family, were obvious. 

When we are taking on a difficult to place child there is always a pressure because of the impact on results.  We have very small cohorts and floor targets are the same for us as they are for everyone.  I can understand the fact that some headteachers worry about taking these children on but that will never be a consideration for me, nor my staff when we are thinking about taking on a child.  Safety and the impact on learning for other children sometimes are, but never results.  Headteachers that avoid that impact on results though, will also miss out on that feeling I had this afternoon.  Knowing that your ethos and staff have created an opportunity and feeling of pride for a child where it hasn't been there before.  Knowing that child may well remember that feeling for years, maybe for ever. 

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Brave leadership

It seems I have volunteered myself to speak on this topic at the upcoming teach meet London event on 11th December at Greig City Academy. So I suppose I had better give some thought to it. I have lots of thoughts but stringing them into something coherent that only takes 7 minutes to say is going to take some preparation! The idea of me speaking for 7 minutes and being succinct produced what can only be described as a guffaw from husband! He has a point. I am not naturally succinct.

This is a point I need to get in somehow, read your audience. The lead inspector in our very recent Ofsted was a neat, methodical, succinct person. This was obvious in the first ten minutes. My anecdotal, passionate, heart on sleeve default style would have been disastrous! I had to stick to point and stay on message. It was essential to be sharp and clear.

Apologies at this point, this is not going to be a succinct, sharp blog post! I am gathering my thoughts in a foggy/bloggy cloud so that I can sift through them. Constructive feedback would be much appreciated!

I suppose that sharpness was brave, I know I'm not very good at it and it would have been more my comfort zone to be anecdotal. But it's essential to sell your school and there is a narrow window sometimes.

To speak at all at a large event would have been literally inconceivable to any of my friends and family when I was very young. I was elective mute until around the age of 5 although I could speak very well from the age of 2. I wold only speak to my mum and then only behind closed doors. At one point my dad used to go down the road to the phone box and ring me to say goodnight. I would speak to him on the phone!

I continued to be painfully shy throughout my school life. I had great friends, many of whom are still a part of my life and was never bullied. My school days, particularly my time at Dover Girls Grammar were a really wonderful time in my life. But I hardly ever spoke! Maybe that's why I got on ok with my peers, they could talk and they thought I was listening. I wasn't by the way, I was in my own world most of the time!

I chose to study at my local university and stay at home. Mainly because my dad was very ill by then. I didn't go out but made some good friends with other students who stayed at home. Mainly mature students, which I like to think gave me more perspective than I had before on careers other than education.

Things changed bravery wise when my dad lost his battle with cancer in my final year of university. I decided over the course of the three most hellish weeks of my life that the only thing to do was get on and do what I had always wanted to. Teach, make a difference, change the world in whatever small way I could. It wasn't the time for losing the plot, for falling apart. It was time to be brave. So I decided I would also speak at his funeral. I had just turned 21 and there were several concerns from my close family about whether it would be awful to allow me to put myself in that position. I was the girl who never spoke. It was unimaginable to them that I could ever do it. Mum knew I could though.

I read this:

Dad had his private pilot's licence and loved to fly. Reading it was a blur but apparently I read it clearly. Any time I have to stand up now and speak I know I can do it.

The appearance of confidence, not arrogance but confidence, is one of the essential skills of leadership. The rest of the organisation need to know that you are their figurehead. That nothing phases you. They also need to know you are human though, it's how we deal with mistakes that most often shows our true colours.

I have heard it said a lot recently that selling yourself and your school with your confidence in the first ten minutes is vital. Whether it be parent, community member, adviser or inspector. People said after our Ofsted 'You were so confident.' I know I appeared to be and also, lets not forget the confidence an amazing team of staff gives. Their work and dedication meant I knew what I said would be seen in practice. However, under the surface I felt like an athlete that had prepared for years for a performance and only the performance counted. Bravery was needed to override the fear of failure. To know and communicate through every pore how amazing our school is.

I don't want to make any of this about Ofsted really as it isn't. It's about me having a vision for making a difference 16 years ago. Then working, learning always, reading, meeting and knowing people, build that vision into more. Into a school ethos, that is sustainable.

I had a great conversation last week with an artist and coffee shop owner about art as a state of being. Great school ethos is a piece of beautiful art. It's inspiring, it changes everyone for the better and it evolves. You have to be brave to create that and keep going when it feels like you're slogging away and getting nowhere. I read this at prize giving in summer 2 years ago when I was feeling like that.

What Ofsted has given is validation for that bravery. I am going along the right lines. Humility is also very important and brave leadership certainly isn't hero leadership. Anyway, here's the link to the report which I am very proud of everyone for.

If you stuck with this blog to the end thank you! Be brave. Never be arrogant. Deal with mistakes proactively and honestly. Be yourself. Enjoy making a difference. It's the best job in the world.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Different strokes

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear the swimmer Chris Cook speak recently. This was part of the build up to the Olympics for the children of our area as they had been part of a successful project called 'pass the passion' to get the Olympic torch to arrive in Dover.  He also met with the district school council.  His motivational work is based on something very close to my heart, keeping it simple. 

He tells a story about being referred to a sport psychologist in the lead up to the commonwealth games in 2006.  He was feeling overwhelmed at the time by the many different elements to training and nutrition and felt rather aggrieved when the psychologist told him he had an easy task.  When he argued about how difficult it actually was the reply he got was 'No, it's simple.  All you have to do is swim two lengths of the baths faster than everyone else.' 

This really struck a chord with me in relation to keeping school improvement simple.  It also took me back to my own amateur sporting days.  When rowing for our local senior four we had two basic adages.  'Don't pay any attention to what any other crew can alledgedly do, we can only do something about what we do' and 'start as fast as you can and then hang on by the skin of your teeth until we cross the line!'  In other words, in the famous words of my mother when we lost our first race of the season 'well, just row faster than everyone else!'  We did, and won the next 12 races becoming coastal amateur rowing association south coast champions. 

Chris Cook also told a fabulous story about winning gold in Melbourne in 2006.  His foot slipped off the start and it would have been the perfect excuse not to do well.  However he came back from far behind to win.  It doesn't matter where you start and what hampers your progress, it's determination and hard work that's the key.  Thinking about swimming then led me to compare the various swimming strokes to types of leadership.

In my first four years as a headteacher I have spent a fair bit of time trying out lots of different 'swimming strokes' of leadership.  Front crawl - where you can get up quite a bit of speed but your head is down apart from the occasional breath.  By the time you properly look up you find everyone else is floundering behind a bit in your wake.  Breast stroke - ok for the very experienced but I found my arms and legs got all out of time with one another causing clumsiness and confusion.  This stroke badly done as a leadership style commonly leads to muttered comments among staff about the right and left hands not knowing what one another are doing.  Butterfly - fine for the natural born swimmer but when most normal mortals try it we just look totally ridiculous.  Back stroke - relaxing but absolutely no idea what is going on ahead until you bump your head on something. Doggy paddle - hard work...and looks it!  As a child my favourite stroke was a sort of mixture of two.  Breastroke arms with front crawl legs.  Then as I became an experienced swimmer and practised more I found breastroke was fine and not so clumsy, and that sometimes I could do a length or so of front crawl if more speed and purpose were required.  Of course the stroke must be adapted to times where the waters are rough, or when the government switches on the wave machine.

It's well worth remembering though, of course, that swimming is fun and makes us feel good.  So does leadership.  Achievement in sporting terms is the best feeling ever, and so well worth the hours of training , the commitment and the sacrifices made.  Achieving the best we can as an organisation and pushing ourselves to the limit feels tough and too much sometimes.  However, it is also full of a sense of purpose and pride in the children we are doing it for.

Many thanks to Chris Cook for the inspiration and I will look forward to seeing him again at the Kent Headteacher conference in July.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jumping up and down in muddy puddles

I chaired the first meeting yesterday of a working party to rewrite the behaviour policy. I randomly selected parents, staff and governors and will be meeting with children as well. Three years ago the staff and I decided on the policy, based on the model one. The governors ratified it and that was it. This is going to sound daft, but I'm not entirely sure the children and parents were all that clear on what was in it!!
This often happens with policy making. Leadership is needed, of course, otherwise nothing would actually happen. However, sometimes that ends up bypassing the very people that are within the system. The people the system is for. Whom we, as leaders of public service organisations, are there for.
When I started the meeting I spoke about wanting them involved and gaining clarity about everyone's views. However I also said that our policy is based upon the assumption of good parenting. We may be in loco parentis but we are not their parents. To come back to one of the strap lines within the every child matters policy several years ago 'schools do not raise children, parents do'. We accept fully our responsibility to educate, and in a far wider remit than purely the academic. However, the effective teaching of basic manners and social skill begins a long time before they rock up at the school gates aged 4. The bottom shaped indent at the foot of our stairs from my 2 year old son is testament to this! He tests all of mine and his father's considerable behaviour management skill by the way, but that's for another blog!
In every school in existence the issue of bullying raises its head. I think this emotive issue has so much linked to it within our own consciousness that it is almost impossible to remain objective and calm about it sometimes. Especially for parents. I can be calm and objective until the cows come home...until my child is scared or upset. It is natural as a parent to fight tooth and nail for your child. This is instinct, it taps into the rhombencephalon part of our brain. The fight or flight bit, which is based on reaction and incapable of reasoned thought.
What was encouraging about yesterday's meeting was that parents feel children are well taught within the curriculum about what bullying is. They know the difference now between unpleasant incidents and systematic bullying. They know we will listen as adults, and that we don't ignore bullying. We know it can happen in any school.
Sometimes though, we find that children fixate on blaming another child for things. They constantly tell parents about that child's behaviour and how upset they are by it. And when we really look at it, they are enjoying the attention that gives them from that parent. This is a tough one to accept folks, but sometimes as parents we feed the problem.
I say we as this happened to me a few years ago when my daughter was in reception class. She constantly talked about being afraid of a certain boy. She talked a lot about his behaviour, chair throwing for example. It was hard to deal with. I found myself feeling concerned for her, I have worked in a few different schools and I know what schools have to deal with when there is a difficult child in the class. But now my inclusive views were being tested. At the expense of my child? It's not quite so easy then is it! On top of that my mum was in my ear about it as she does a lot of the dropping off and picking up.
Then I realised that this talking about the behaviours of this certain child was becoming a little habitual for my daughter and for my mum, and for me!
We decided to stop allowing her to talk about it. Of course we didn't put it to her in that way. You need to tell your teacher about that we said if she started, then we changed the subject swiftly. Slowly but surely she chatted more happily about school.
A couple of weeks later we saw the boy and his mum in the supermarket. My daughter rushed over to him, they said hello to one another quite happily and laughed and messed about while the shopping was packed. I'm guessing perhaps she wasn't as terrified of him as we had at first assumed.
As parents we don't always acknowledge our own feelings, pressures, guilt, worry when we are dealing with our children.
Bullying is a real and worrying issue in many schools and, particularly with the steep rise in social networking, an increasingly difficult issue to tackle. My view is that awareness, calm and pro activity are key.
In order for us to effectively tackle bullying issues in school we need to be allowed to. We need the child to be there, not absent. We need parents to communicate faith in the school and the system to children. We need the two way communication to be good.
Schools though need to remember how it feels to be afraid that you might be letting down the most precious person in your life. Because that's how parents feel in these situations. Schools also need to remember that sometimes that fear becomes instinctive and the strong urge to protect your child can override anything. We would wrestle bears for our children so, in the face of that, what the teacher says isn't always regarded highly if the child still seems afraid.
To return to the assumption of good parenting I will finish with this. Yesterday evening my 2 year old son and I had to go and pick my daughter up from gym club as my husband was late home. My son was dressed in his pyjamas, coat and wellington boots. It was pouring with rain. It had been a lengthy, busy day and I was shattered. As we left the sports centre he ran into the middle of a huge puddle and began to jump up and down for all he was worth laughing his head off. He refused to come out and my weak attempts to persuade him failed. In the end I bribed him with a 'yummy frog' (aka Freddo)that I happened to have in my pocket. I had to wonder what would have been thought of my parenting at that moment as this pyjama clad, wet, chocolately 2 year old was persuaded out of a puddle into the car after his bed time!
Parenting is hard, most of us are doing our best. With support from wellington boots and bribery! It isn't always perfect and we are always learning. Teaching, and leading in a school is just the same.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Brave New World

'A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.  Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.'

The opening to one of my favourite ever books, Brave new world by Aldous Huxley.  Part of the list of essential reads given to me by my father when I was little more than a kid and he knew he probably wouldn't see me into adulthood.  To be fair, I'm not sure I'm there yet. 

The motto is not disimilar to many of the mission statements and straplines I have seen in education in my 14 year journey so far.  Similarly to Huxley's context though, I'm not sure that 'identity' is defined in the same way as I would define it.  To me identity is my central core.  The lines I won't cross, the values that get me up every day and keep me going when things are tough.  Also my daft sense of humour, penchant for chatting to strangers, and tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. 

I sometimes wonder if, with social networking as it is now and my love of it, I will get myself into trouble at some point.  However, before twitter I chatted to people on trains, buses, in toilet queues and at festivals. I also feel that this is the me-ness of me.  It tops up my love of people and reaffirms my belief that people are good.  The vast majority of us all want the same things, the rest is pressure and media camera angles.

Individuals, eccentrics and those with their own identity didn't really fit into the 'Brave New World' as Huxley depicted it.  The impression sometimes is that they don't into education either.  However, surely sense would suggest that the opposite should be true.  I'm not even sure that the opposite ISN'T true!  If you look at outstanding schools one of the common similarities is brave and different leadership.  The government want innovative leaders, Ofsted like that and much more importantly, they get great results. 

A formula for success in education has been the suggestion since I have been in it.  However, what actually works in my opinion, is the opposite to that.  Breaking the mould, daring to be different, trying new ideas.  Whenever I go to a local authority briefing there is a new grid with steps to tick to get to success.  The last one raised a wry smile with me as ours have inserted a new level above outstanding which they have entitled 'world class.' Ironically I was world class a couple of years ago, but at the time it meant I was rubbish and in need of support!

When my son wants to perfect something he has a go, messes up, then has another go.  He adjusts his approach tries new methods and perseveres until he achieves success.  When he first rode in one of these cars he caused a furore at the toddler group his grandma takes him to as he disappeared into the bit under the front and got himself stuck!  He is pretty good now though, he can steer and pick up speed.

In this brave new world we need to be brave enough to have a go, believe in what we are doing and speak up for ourselves.  We need to refine our skills and knowledge so that we have our impact evidence at our fingertips.  This is what leaders have done in the business world for years.  This is already rewarded by inspection teams and it gets results.  Obviously we are not in the business of hatchery, but we are conditioning the future population.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

New visions

We have this odd habit in education of discarding the nuggets of value in the old whenever we embark on the new.  My great nan, who had some first class sayings, would have called it 'throwing out the baby out with the bathwater.'

National Professional Qualification for Headship ran for around 15 years and was the first 'formal training' there has ever been for Headteachers.  There were a lot of pros: the discussion and role play, the networking with others from all areas, the chance to practice interview skills for an interview like no other, the mind gamey stuff (make all these tables into diamonds) the analysis of how we handled tough stuff.  It eventually evolved into something that was brilliant and effected such amazing growth.  The coaching element to it's final reinvention was fantastic and, alongside my nagging, completely changed AHT as a leader.  Headship has changed completely, there has been literally an exponential change.  It's one of those rare moments that I find myself admiring the visionaries at DfE,

Then there was new visions.  A chance to reflect and grow a year into the job.  All of us dealing with our stuff together.  Sharing ideas, across counties.  The rich diversity of views is still something that myself and my colleagues talk about.  Only the other day I found an envelope in which, in my first new visions session, I had written what I wanted to achieve in my school.  I dreamed big as ever, but 3 years on I have achieved every one of those aims.  That made my week better I can tell you! If we don't think big we only ever get small.

Then came the 'end of NPQH' press.  The damning figures on those who didn't become heads.  I have to wonder whether any of that was to do with NCSL, I suspect it was more to do with the very real chance of being out of a job associated with headship.  The criticism that it created 'text book' heads.  Only from 'text book' people.  And I would argue that those people will always be like that.  Not many text book people fancy this job anyway as a rule!

During the week I attended a meeting to talk about collaboration ideas.  As part of that a colleague reminded me about the tools provided by NCSL.  I have to confess to having had a bit of a sulk with NCSL.  When it became perceived as a government organisation and NPQH went by the by I put it on the back burner.  I wonder how many colleagues did the same.  However I went back onto the website that afternoon and renewed my membership (he is a very respected colleague!) Since then I am almost as fond of NCSL as Twitter!  There is such a lot of interest, and such a chance to shape change.

In my experience those in education that say, at most levels, that they have no voice tend to be the type that lack the proactivity to have one.  Or the positivity that make the voice one for the improvement of learning for children.  Well the NCSL is your voice.  Membership is free, there is a wealth of useful and inspiring information.  There is a circle of colleagues, always my favourite thing about NPQH. In fact I still see some of my learning circle.  There is the facility to use NCSL to set up a group for your academy, collaboration or federation.  So that we still stay linked together somehow.  I am very grateful for the vision of the colleague that reminded me of this.

Sometimes new research and initiative makes us as leaders feel we have to act. Group reading and APP reading have really affected reading in some very positive ways.  But they have also caused the end of class stories and fun reading in some cases.

We read at our school, I mean for fun.  Like a class story that the teacher reads or we spend a chunk of an afternoon pairing kids up to read together.  Look at the excitement on the faces of a yr R and yr 6 child as they they start the mr man book they have chosen together.
Same idea as NCSL, reading is brilliant, especially together.  Leadership is brilliant, especially together. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mirror mirror on the wall....

I have always been rather afflicted with my own reflection.  I can hear husband laughing at this first sentence when he reads it! I don't actually mean the one in the mirror every morning.  Having said that there are mornings, after sleepless nights with children or school worries, that I could probably turn faint hearted individuals to stone!  I mean self evaluation, reflection, appraisal.  Deciding which bits of you are rubbish and what to do about them, and even harder which bits are fabulous and ought to be shouted about.

This comes to mind for two reasons, the fact that I am working on school self evaluation this evening and the reception class fairytale topic.  Our youngest are immersed in fairytales at the moment.  There is a large pair of giant's legs dangling from a beanstalk on the ceiling. This is literally terrifying if I pop in at the weekend and forget they are there whilst unlocking!  It's ok, no giants were harmed in the making of this learning environment! It's actually a pair of AHT's son's tracksuit trousers stuffed with newspaper with wellies on the end.  As well as the beanstalk there are gingerbread men, woodcutters happy woodland creatures and best of all a huge 'mirror mirror' on the wall. 

I find writing reflectively quite hard, one of the reasons I started this blog.  With it being a small school I always seem to be too busy doing the work to write about it.  I am not naturally a folder keeper and am stunningly bad at filing.  AHT has steadfastly trained me into some systems she put into place while I was on maternity leave. I have to say they have been lifechanging.  This sounds a grand statement but no longer do I waste hours looking for important documents in folders labelled 'stuff...2009,  stuff 2010' etc.  So although I don't find reflection itself hard, I am naturally almost too reflective, I do find making it useful, showing impact and making a paper trail very hard indeed.

We have spent several years in education completing a huge self evaluation document with seven sections that wrote the script for any impending inspection.  When that disappeared I decided to combine self evaluation with the school plan.  The idea being that I reflect, decide what to do next and then plan to do it.  Sounds simple doesn't it....

The trouble is, I have a tendency like many teachers to focus too much on the items on my to do list that are not ticked.  That alongside the constant barrage of media charging us with the responsibility to 'improve, attain more, aim higher' can make positive reflection hard.  As school leaders our 'mirror mirror' has a tendency to give messages that douse our positivity, sometimes even filling us with dread.

Reception class are so positive about themselves within their play and their learning.  Two of them arrived at my office door with a slightly singed gingerbread man a couple of weeks ago and were so proud that they had made it for me themselves.  They often happily tell me as I walk past them what their fairytale character has done that is fantastic in the game they are playing  'I'm the woodcutter Mrs Moore and I just saved EVERYONE!' 'I'm Cinderella and I'm going to the ball to dance and have a lovely time.' It's not just enjoyment, they believe in the magic.  The fairy godmother can make everything ok and those who are good will prevail.  In some ways the naivity of childhood but maybe we lose a little too much of that in the very profession that should keep some of it.

I suppose the point is that we need in this profession to believe in good and to take time to be proud.  To feel really happy with what we achieved, even if it is a little singed around the edges.  To admit sometimes that, like the woodcutter, we saved the day.  What we want to do next will then build on what we feel proud of, which is a solid foundation for future success.

Being proud of what we have done well isn't complacency it's positive reflection.  Alongside challenging next steps and honest evaluation will lead to improvements and excellence.  Hey, maybe we will even have some fun! 

Monday, 20 February 2012

Welcome to Term 4, pick up your flippers at the door...

Our new teacher started today.  It is fantastic to welcome her into the school family and I can already see how well she is going to fit in.  Given that she is my first teacher appointment in four years in the job I have decided that her induction needs to be a priority.  She represents a third of the teaching staff and I'm also really aware that we tend to just rely on one another to do things.  Well, that's all very well if you know it's to be done!  I have managed the part where we attract someone fantastic, now I need to make sure she is welcome, included and (most of all) happy.  Happy, invigorated teachers make for exciting learning experiences and happy achieving children after all.

She is joining quite some team.  A brilliant AHT who can construct just about anything out of card and polystyrene, among her many skills.  A job share partnership that fulfill the promise of the Beatles song in the days they work between them.  And a team of support staff that literally lift us to heights that we couldn't imagine.  Never has the term support staff been so well used.  Years of work has ensured that everyone knows the difference they make to learning.  We're not perfect, of course, but if Carling made staff teams...

The induction to our village school began in a way that I hadn't quite envisaged.  However, reflecting on my day, quite appropriately.  As we unlocked bright and early this morning it transpired that part of her classroom floor was under several inches of water.  My brilliant secretary and I did what we usually do in such situations.  Panic wildly for several seconds before consulting the list of plumbers.  We then spent a few minutes balancing their average speed of response to a call out with how much we like to see them.  All of this was an education to our new teacher and probably not entirely as PC as it ought to be!  Anyway we decided on speed of response due to the quickly developing water feature.  As relaxing as the sound of running water is, her classroom is the furthest from the comfort facilities. 

Ken from across the road was with us within five minutes.  His wife ousted him from the shower as soon as she got the call!  The first assembly of term was then spent on a combination of school values and 'oooh what's Ken the plumber doing now?!' We have assembly in that room due to our lack of hall on site.  An hour, a nice cuppa and some top work from Ken completely solved the problem.  Burst pipes in the water heater as it turned out. 

The time spent in loving our neighbours pays off always.  Local meetings and groups are often on evenings and weekends but effort made for them means they love us too.  To the point where their morning shower and cuppa means less than helping us.  That is invaluable with no caretaker and a tight budget.

Our new addition to the team will have to be content with a view of the duck pond from her window rather than her own personal water feature!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


I had a great chat with one of our TAs last week.  It was the snowy day and we had all gone up to the village field to make snowmen and throw snowballs, the kids came too.  She is doing a foundation degree and aspires to be a teacher.  'What do you think about what creativity is?' She said as we sat down after school.  When I related this tale to my husband that evening he expressed surprise that we were not still sitting there with me talking and her having glazed over several hours before!  Anyway, it turns out they are 'doing' creativity at uni at the moment and she has been hearing a lot from other students about 'off the shelf' creative curriculums.  The sort that became popular after the excellence and enjoyment document and cost megabucks to buy in.  She said that it had occured to her that buying in a scheme to follow isn't all that creative.  I congratulated her on that insight and then reminded her of some of the games the children had played in the snow at the field that day.

A group of year 5 and 6 children had built two snow forts to hurl snowballs from.  But then they had made thrones, crowned a king and queen of each and the game had gone up a level.  The back stories for the dynasty of the snow kingdom could have inspired a Sky 1 drama!  I then reminded her that several years ago, when those children were in her class, they had done a fabulous creative project on castles. Part of that had involved them role playing outside.  She immediately remembered how much she had enjoyed playing with them and developing their language.  I explained that this was the hook onto which they then hung learning, and even better than that they will have those skills forever.

Ken Robinson gives a fantastic talk on creativity in which he talks about the aesthetic aspects of the arts. He then goes on to say that children need aesthetics, rather than the anaesthetic of calming medication or an overprescriptive curriculum.  We all hang memories and learning onto music, art, drama and above all fun. 

My favourite creative moment in the snow that day was a year 6 boy who was walking across a fresh, untouched patch of snow hitting it with a stick.  When asked what he was doing he replied 'I'm making dinosaur footprints Mrs Moore, if you looked down from a helicopter later you would think there had been a velociraptor here.' Now, that's creativity!

As ever though, our AHT cut through my eulogy on creativity with brilliant simplicity.  'All you have to do is work out what the kids need to do, find out what they love, put the two together and use your noddle!' Amen to that!