Summer Holiday: Part 2…Bookings Now Being Taken

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This time last year I wrote a post entitled, ‘We’re all Going on a Summer Holiday’, which focused on transition funding and programmes for children moving from primary to secondary schools.

Today, as I board a train at Bradford, I discover that Minister of State for Schools, David Laws, has announced £50 million for the second year of the summer schools programme. For further details, click here.

The arrangements look similar to last year but this time round the net appears to be wider, in that ‘Eligible schools that have Ever6 FSM (i.e. pupils who have been registered for free school meals at any point in the last six years) and pupils who have been looked after continuously for more than six months by the local authority (LAC) making the transition into Year 7 in September 2013 can take part in the summer schools programme by completing a short, simple online form.

Last summer, Evolve SI introduced their successful XLR8 programme to help overcome some of the problems children experience when making the transition from Year 6 to Year 7.  The first set of successful XLR8 Camps took place in Birmingham, Bradford, Swinton and Lincoln. Having read the recent evaluation reports from DfE regarding Summer schools 2012, it would seem that the XLR8 programme was visionary in that it achieved many of the recommendations for future courses.

The XLR8 programme was designed specifically for Year 6 pupils and activities were hosted in the secondary school that pupils would attend from September onwards.  The 2012 programme focused on two key themes:

  • Super-Heroes’
  • ‘What’s Your Big Idea? THE Next Big Thing…’

Each XLR8 day included sessions focused on:

XLR8 Vitality – these physical engagement games included a range of exciting teambuilding, quick thinking and problem-solving challenges. They were not limited to sports and multi-skills activities!

XLR8 Enterprise – these sessions looked at discovering and developing the pupils’ enquiring and productive minds. Learners were given opportunities to design and develop an idea, service or product that could be presented in a ‘Dragons Den’ meets ‘Junior Apprentice’ style team challenge with literacy, numeracy and promotional elements.

XLR8 Talent – allowed learners to develop their creative arts and performance skills. Evolve SI invited professional young performers (e.g. urban poets, actors, choreographers and motivational speakers) to excite and inspire the pupils to develop the confidence needed to undertake performance opportunities. These were shared with parents and carers at the ‘Talent Showcase’.

XLR8 DigITal Me – introduced and developed pupils’ abilities to fully utilise the internet and digital media in order to nurture their interest and enthusiasm in this important area of the curriculum.

The aim of all sessions was to build pupils’ confidence in their own abilities whilst making new friends with pupils also making the transition to their new school.

The initial XLR8 courses had a unique ability in that they got everybody physically active in an inclusive atmosphere and provided a mix of education, health and physical literacy benefits whilst addressing the transition agenda.

“…Evolve were extremely professional and flexible throughout the entire process.  They had a genuine understanding of our needs and the challenges we face and provided an effective and hassle free solution for us.

The Health Mentors were excellent with the children and we have received positive feedback from staff, parents and pupils who were involved.  We are looking forward to extending the XLR8 programme this year so that we can maximise the pre and post course mentoring opportunities to provide an even more seamless transition for next year’s new intake…”

Deena Satchell, Year 7 Coordinator, George Dixon Academy, Birmingham.

For further details about the types of activities on offer and the impact that the 2012 programme had on pupils please click here.

As you can imagine, Evolve are looking to build on the successes of last year and are now planning an expansion of the XLR8 programme in 2013. This year, Evolve are operating a more comprehensive package that allows pre-Camp mentoring sessions in primary schools during the summer term and post-Camp mentoring sessions in secondary schools during the autumn term. This approach will ensure Evolve’s Health Mentors can:

  • Identify and address issues or concerns relating to pupil progression to secondary education;
  • Support the ongoing academic attainment of pupils during this often challenging time.

Further information can be found here. Evolve welcome the opportunity to discuss how XLR8 could play a key role within your transition strategy in 2013, accommodating the specific needs and interests of your school.

Images courtesy of Paul Atherton.

BETT…Not Just a Trade Show

BETT 2013

I did not intend to write a post about this year’s BETT Show as there are far better reviewers and bloggers out there sharing their insights and thoughts.

However, having visited Day 1 of BETT 2013, I had two separate conversations with two different teachers, whereby I asked them whether or not they were attending the event later in the week. Their mixed and somewhat surprising responses were:

  • “What’s BETT? “
  • “No, we have no money in our budget so what’s the point in going?”

I know that BETT is by nature a trade show and that vast amounts of money are involved. However, the range of conferences and Learn Live workshops and seminars on offer were rich and varied…and they were all FREE! The ones in the BETT handbook and corresponding BETT app were superbly supplemented by the ones on offer at the Stone stand, curated by Tony Parkin.  Another worthy mention must go to Night Zoo Keeper for hosting yet another successful KidsMeet session.

Friday saw the ultimate FREE CPD event…TeachMeet. Tickets were as rare as the proverbial rocking horse pooh. However, a chance conversation with Mark Martin and Milverton Wallace at the Hackathon event meant that I was able to secure a spare ticket for John Bishop, trainee teacher and Director of Evolve SI, who had heard much about TeachMeet, but had never attended one. This was somewhat akin to attending your first ever football match…at Wembley…for a cup final.

The first of many entertaining and informative presentations was made by Stephen Lockyer and Ben Waldram, with their BATTT campaign. For further details of ‘Bring a Teacher to Twitter’ click here. By bringing John to #tmbett2013, maybe I was ahead of their game plan.

The crowds evident during the week were not there on the Saturday, possibly affected by the part-closure of the DLR. However, those of us who made the effort to get there early were rewarded by the truly inspirational Tim Rylands, Tim proceeded to drop one pearl of wisdom after another. I had heard much about Tim, but never heard him speak live. My copious EverNote-taking, was interspersed with genuine ‘wobbly chin’ moments during Tim’s unique performance, ‘Back to Their Future”. For further details click here.

I so wish the two teachers I met on Thursday had witnessed not just Tim, but the many listed speakers in the smaller arenas, as well as the 20+ TeachMeet Takeovers on the stands, which allowed for even more sharing of ideas.

Maybe the BATTT campaign needs to include another sub-campaign…BATTBETT?

On a personal note, may I take this opportunity to say huge THANK YOUs to the many I met during BETT 2013. You know who you are…your warmth, generosity and ideas know no bounds.

The Primary School Bucket List…101 Experiences a Child Should Have Before They Move To Secondary School

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Following two days sat at my laptop, developing ideas and material for Evolve SI as part of their long-term XLR8 Transition Programme, this weekend saw a return north, where I was given the welcome opportunity to reacquaint myself with a very wintry Pen-y-Ghent, one of the Three Peaks within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. As we walked, my friends Ed Roe and Cat Steel talked about their travels and experiences: dry stone walling, sheep shearing in Iceland, as well as trekking in the Himalayas and the Grand Canyon. These conversations reminded me of two events:

Working at Oakworth First School, Peter Hey, who was Head Teacher at the time, suggested that the Year 4 children could successfully complete the Three Peak Challenge. The Friday Walk Club was thus born, mini-buses were booked, maps were perused and supplies bought.

Week 1 we would climb Pen-Y-Ghent (691 metres), Week 2 would be the turn of Ingleborough (723 metres), Week 3 would be Whernside (728 metres) and Week 4 would be all three combined, including 24.5 miles of walking in less than 12 hours. Bearing in mind these were Year 4 children, not Year 6, a certain amount of Kidology was needed. On Week 4, when a child asked, “Are we there yet?” the reply started with, “Well…you remember when we climbed Pen-Y-Ghent…well…”

Needless to say, the experiences of such expeditions would stay with these learners forever. These experiences allowed the learners opportunities to develop courage, self-belief, enthusiasm, resilience, teamwork and more.

The other event that came to mind during the descent was that of a Training Day for the My BD5 cluster, including Bowling Park, Marshfield and Newby Primary Schools. The keynote speaker for this event was the inimitable Mick Waters, who asked the assembled delegates to think of their learners and their needs. We were then asked to devise a list of opportunities that a child should experience while at primary school.

With this in mind, I have started to compile my own suggestions…a sort of Bucket List for Primary Children. Obviously, one experience would be to climb a mountain. The others, in no particular order would include: visit a theatre, rehearse and perform their own work live on stage, work with an artist, exhibit and curate their own work, make a film, meet an author, ride a horse, study the local area and contrast it with another, learn to read a map, visit a foreign country, interview someone who lived during World War II, create a meal, float on a boat, create a blog, lead others in an area in which they have a passion, go into a forest, build a den, go underground…

Where possible, I would use public transport so that children develop life skills such as the ability to read timetables and know how to conduct themselves in public.

What would be in your list?

How would your own wish-list of experiences fit with where your school is currently at and where it is going? Is it possible to follow what we believe in within the current economic and education climates?

Such experiences take time to plan and organise, funding arrangements and Risk Assessments can be complex and parents can sometimes be difficult to ‘win over’. However, you will be creating opportunities that learners will feel, hold and remember, often creating a springboard for further personal exploration.

When is a Child No Longer a Child?

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When is a child no longer a child?

  • Is it when he/she discovers that Santa Claus does not really exist?
  • Or is it perhaps when the child realises that he/she will not live forever…that one day they will die?

A wonderful christmas with family and friends at Lineham Farm was followed by an impromptu visit to Krakow, Poland. New Year’s Eve 2012/13 started with a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. As you can imagine, the weather was decidedly cold. Walking into the camp through the gates under the banner, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ was even more chilling.

It soon became apparent that it was almost impossible to comprehend the sheer scale of what took place in Europe during 1930s and 1940s. Of the 1.3 million people who entered Auschwitz, 1.1 million perished in the most brutal of circumstances.

Wandering through the buildings brought to mind Dave Hulston’s work on Whispered Histories, in which he talks about listening to the voices of people who have trodden past paths. In the case of Auschwitz, it is not just the voices but the screams and wails of sheer terror.

The images and text which narrate the history of the people in this place make you question man’s inhumanity to man. I tried to capture my own images from the camps but it genuinely was a hopeless task.

Having lived and worked in Bradford, the exhibtion highlighting the plight of the Roma and Sinti people was particularly poignant. The images of these families, particularly those of the children and the looks in their eyes, will haunt me forever.

The exhibition included the words of George Santayana:

“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again”.

How we teach our own children about the Holocaust continues to be open to debate. There are many organisations and websites dedicated to the subject, some more valuable than others.

Highly recommended is the work of the Peace Museum, which includes details about the forthcoming Build a Bridge event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January 2013.

For further insights visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

The Tarmac Party

Journey 1

Journey 1

Journey 3

Journey 3

Journey 2

Journey 2

Journey 4

Journey 4

You pull into the services on the northbound M1 for a coffee and a sandwich, then notice the petrol gauge. From the pump you see a figure by the side of the building. The cardboard sign he is holding reads ‘M1 North’. He is wearing a combat jacket and baggy, checked trousers. His hair is shorn on the top and sides, but left long at the back. He has a full rucksack, a carrier bag and a battered guitar case. What would you do?

For me there was no dilemma. Having hitch-hiked for many years, many years ago, my response was already made. Back in my youthful years, I made a promise to myself that if/whenever I had my own car, I would always ‘return the favour’ for the lifts I received both in the UK and abroad.

So introductions were made, the luggage was loaded and Artur and I continued north. Unlike the traffic, the conversation flowed freely. Artur talked passionately about his homeland, Poland and the issues it was facing. He was also eloquent about the many other countries he had travelled through. The subject matter of our discussions was eclectic: from music to literature, politics to racism, beliefs to vegetarianism. This latter subject arose from the sight of a wagonload of carcasses that were strewn across the gridlocked carriageway opposite, prompting Artur to comment, “If the walls of the slaughterhouses were made from glass, then surely more people would turn away from eating meat.”

We talked about priorities and the choices relating to work/life balance…the importance of living as if you were going to die tomorrow, while learning and dreaming as if you were going to live forever. We talked about the need to consider the journey, not just the destination. This brought to mind the work of Dave Hulston and the guiding questions:

Who are we?
Where are we and where have we come from?
Where are we going?
How are we going to get there?

Artur talked about the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and reminded me that there are many good people in the world, contrary to the messages of despondency and negativity spread by certain sections of the media. This brought to mind, the film, ‘Pay it Forward’ featuring Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel-Osment, which I recommended to Artur.

In some ways, Artur reminded me of my younger self and our chance encounter means I now need to reconsider the line, ‘I am an optimist at heart, my cynicism is simply a result of confrontation with reality’.

At Junction 29, we said our farewells. Artur clambered out of the car onto the hard shoulder before continuing his journey. So, if ever you see a traveller, I urge you to lend a hand. You never know, you may be reminded about who you once were, what you have become and what you could yet be.

London Festival of Education: What Does an Educated Person Look Like?

LFE‘Who would give up their Saturday to talk about education?’ This was the question put to Chris Husbands by his wife, prior to the inaugural London Festival of Education, held at the Institute of Education (iOE) this weekend. The answer it seems was ‘Many…over 1500’, as witnessed by the long queues at the registration desks and the numbers in the main auditorium.

Organised by the IOE, the TES and Suklaa, the event featured an eclectic range of presenters, who stimulated, engaged and challenged those attending during the course of the day.

Michael Shaw, Deputy Editor at the TES, provided the welcome, while also inadvertently starting the game of ‘spot the educational cliché’.  Michael then introduced Amber, a Year 10 student from Camden who spoke eloquently and passionately about linking past hopes and experiences to future ones.

Discussing what an educated person looks like, Michael Gove, in conversation with David Aaronovitch, was given an easier ride than anticipated. However, he did manage to provoke the audience with some glib comments, most notably, “You can’t have teaching without assessment because otherwise it’s just play.”

The only downside to the incredibly diverse programme was the dilemma it created; which session should be attended? Luckily, the world of Twitter and #LFE2012 ensured regular, often humorous, updates as to what was happening in the other sessions.#LFE2012

Personal highlights included the inimitable Tim Brighouse, who according to Tony Parkin, proved to be the perfect antidote to Gove.

Quoting Temple, Tim asked:

Are we going to treat children as they are, or how they might be?

Word after word of wisdom followed, including the statement:

Young people should be taught to think for them selves and act for others.

Understandably, there was great anticipation surrounding the presence of John Hattie, who was able to add a global dimension. However, it was Pasi Sahlberg who really gave educators hope as he shared lessons from Finland, rather than Singapore, whose virtues had been extolled by Gove. Pasi told the audience:

Learning has to be goal-oriented, contextual and cumulative.

He also gained a round of applause for recommending we keep the politicians out of the process of education reform.

While Lord Adonis plugged his latest book on the main stage, I attended the Rebel teachers’ workshop. during which the audience were reassured and entertained  by Kenny Frederick, Mike Kent and the extremely witty Martin Latham. It was a case of standing room only in the same room, as Sir Michael Wilshaw took to the microphone, ready to share the views of Ofsted.  Wilshaw was on a charm-offensive and he was remarkably successful, generating applause rather than the scorn that people had anticipated. That said, there were murmurings over his London-centric view of the education system. Admittedly, it was billed as the London Festival of Education, but I think he could have recognized that there are outstanding schools in other parts of the UK who are equally able to share ideas, innovations and inspirations.

Elsewhere, Anthony Horowitz was urging the audience to “Forget what happens outside your [school] walls because the Government will continue to be idiots.” Anthony was discussing ways to stop killing the love of reading with Michael Rosen.  Michael also featured in the final session, ‘What do the Best Teachers Share?’ Judging by Michael’s responses and those of his fellow panelists, the answer is not just passion, it is the space to talk…something we also need to give to our learners.

The event also provided plentiful opportunities to catch up with friends from various fields of learning, as well as make new acquaintances. Thank you once more to the fellow educators, presenters and event organisers. Looking forward already to next year for the second London Festival of Education.

#TM…The Evolution of TeachMeet

Just before October half term, I braved the car park formerly known as the Northbound M1 to attend #tmsenbradford at Greengates Primary School in Bradford. Over the past year, I have attended similar events ranging from the one hosted at the impressive Mozilla HQ in London to the inaugural #CampEd12, which was TeachMeet on a completely different level.

The #tmsenbradford event was organised by Andy Gaunt (@andygfarsley), following a suggestion by Nicola Gaunt that educators host a TeachMeet focusing on SEN and inclusion. Andy co-hosted the event with the experienced Tim Bleazard (@idletim), who provided both witticisms, threats of camel throwing and technical support.

What struck me from the outset of this event was the mix of people, many of whom were making their debuts at a TeachMeet. Was it a landmark in the evolution of TM, whereby it goes mainstream…moving away from the ‘Twitterati’? After all, the event had been advertised on Bradford Schools Online  and backed up with emails…not just tweets.

Apart from David Weston (@drdave89) who proceeded to provide an eclectic collection of ideas in his own inimitable way, almost all the other presenters highlighted ‘more traditional methods of learning’. David’s illustration of a child building a PC was mind-blowing to many in the audience, as was his explanation of teaching children to code with Scratch and the way it makes children realise, ‘I can do that’. That said, David did finish his set with ideas to teach RE using plasticine and how calligraphy impacts on the ‘art and quietness of children’.

Bradford’s SEN Learning Support and Behaviour Teams were at #tmsenbradford in numbers, not just ready to share their ideas, but also to listen to the needs of SENCos and others. The event certainly opened up dialogues and strengthened future lines of communication.

All in all, despite the relative quietness on the Twitter front, #tmsenbradford was a successful event. Many thanks to the organisers and presenters; hopefully, the ‘newbies’ will return to the next event.

Better still, maybe they will also consider using the TeachMeet format within their own schools and host an in-house TM once a term? This would allow not just teachers, but all adults to share examples of outstanding practice, practical innovations and personal insights.

Those schools wishing to take it to the next level could then let the children share their ideas on learning too. But hey, one step at a time.

For details of forthcoming TeachMeet events follow, click on the camel.

Images c/o and