Sadly I have decided to take a break from the blog. The reality is that there is enough happening at school which requires my time. Comments requested have not been forthcoming and therefore I judge that at this time the blog does little to further the work of the school. I hope that the pupil blog has greater success! Thank you for reading so far. Best wishes, Paul Batchelor.
The summer term is always hard work - enjoyable and worthwhile, but hard. Part of the reason for this is the sense of the impending deadline - the "end of the year" - which means we've run out of wriggle-room. Jobs once put off in favour of other priorities now have to be shoe-horned into a packed term - and what a term! As well as end-of-year tests, numerous sporting tournaments and the summer production, there are reports and evaluations and the finalisation of a budget when even the number of children in the school from September is unknown. Each child's report to parents takes around one-and-a half to 2 hours work (so that's at least an additional working week to squeeze in) despite the class teachers teaching full time. Each child's report will be around one thousand words - so that's 30 thousand words in our larger classes. Twice as much as a university degree dissertation!
We also have a new teacher to appoint. So far over 20 would-be teachers have booked a place for a tour, and whilst I would really value getting to know each individual on their visit, I cannot conduct that many separate tours, so unfortunately they have to arrive in groups, which means I only get a glimpse into the potential advantages each one brings to the post.
We have our annual survey, the OFSTED survey (see the home page of this website) and our values consultation to conclude. Take part please - every opinion matters. We have the class structure to finalise and the draft of the new National Curriculum to review. We have the current School Development Plan to evaluate, a new one to write and numerous reports to compile for the local authority. We are also hosting placements for 2 trainee teachers on their final teaching placements. So the term is looking busy! I will continue to teach for around 2 days per week, but for the first time since 1989 I feel unable to commit to an after school club. A sign of the times, I am afraid. Fortunately there are a number of great individuals - staff and community folk - who are providing a great 'menu' of choices to enrich the children's learning.
Friday's Open Worship (12th April 2013) was a delight. Do join us if you can. Each week I do a quick 'head count' of visitors, and the average is around 28, so you'll be in great company if you can spare the time.
What do YOU value?
Our school has been using a resource called Values For Life as a basis for our Collective Worship for the past 6 years. The resource promotes 18 values in a 3 year cycle, each one lasting one ‘short’ term (a half-term in most people’s thinking!)
Most of these values can be said to be 'human values' and inclusive for people with different or diverse faiths, and also for those with no faith. As a Church of England school, however, we have rooted these values in stories from the Bible. As a Collective Worship resource these Christian values have been taught as part of our Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural education programme.
But there are a few areas in which we see an opportunity to improve what we do...
· 18 values are too many to remember (when we are asked about our priorities)
· Using the full resource lacks the 'personal' touch where we as a community in North Nibley say "This is what we stand for. This is what makes us unique."
· By having fewer core values, and spending more time on them, we will be able to maintain the centrality of Christian, bible-based teaching and add to this a greater range of illustrative stories, including those drawn from other cultural and religious traditions.
You can read the Biblical basis for each value by CLICKING HERE, together with the range of questions / challenges that we reflect upon when each becomes our focus for the term. These summaries contain extracts from ‘Values for Life’ published by Gloucestershire's Diocesan Education Department, and also the website of the National Society.
I invite you to read these summaries and vote for those that you would like to see as core values in the education of the children in North Nibley. You can vote for as few or as many as you like ON THIS VOTING PAGE. You can even suggest your own ‘Value’.
Voting closes June 30th and the results will be shared in July. The results will be implemented from September 2013. The values you help us to select will make a unique and distinctive statement about our spiritual and moral purpose, and affirm our distinctiveness as a Church of England School.
This week I was in a bit of a quandary. We send the text for On The Edge away on the 10th day of the previous month - so March's issue required the text in the half-term break. I duly spent some time thinking about what I wanted to say, and forwarded it to the editors via email. Then I had second thoughts, and further down I'll include 'here' what I decided against including 'there'. What's the difference? Audience! It seems to me that OTE's readership is much wider than 'just' our parents, and although our parents make up a significant proportion of the readership, the message needs to be different. OK - that's obvious and perhaps you got there way before me, but my confusion, I hope, is understandable since I spend a lot of time communicating with different groups.
5. The local authority
7. Community / general public
8. Those with positions in the community - church, village hall, pre-school and nursery etc
9. Prospective parents / children
11. Training partners
12. Other Heads
13. Staff at other schools
14. Comenius partners
There are others too, but less often. In fact one of the exciting things about the job is the variety. Each day seems to bring at least one surprise.
Then there are different types of conversation/communication
1. Making a statement
2. Sharing an opinion
3. Giving advice
4. Giving cautions or warnings
5. Trying to persuade
6. Giving a challenge
7. Offering praise or thanks
(And many, many others - fiction, poetry, factual etc, in public and in confidence... In their literacy lessons children have to get to grips with them all!)
Spoken, in print, on-line! Even this blog is open to the public, but I think you have to want to come here and read this, rather than have it delivered through your letterbox!
So back to On The Edge. It started as a thought about communication and in one draft it became a plea for telling us what we do well, (as well as voicing your concerns). We have put a lot of effort this year into improving the way school shares information about the children's work, the curriculum and the school in general. You can see videos, listen to pod-casts, read blogs and newsletters, vote on issues, and follow guidance on the teaching of maths, the learning of spellings etc. There's the 'virtual bookbag', the shared google calendar to which you can 'sync' a mobile device, Planet Sherston and 'drop-in' sessions to meet me for discussion on any school-related topic. We shared prayers at Christmas and made the service interactive. We even posted ideas about what you could learn from snow during the recent day when school was closed! This is not a list of unrelated communication but the result of a planned and concerted effort to share more.
So what didn't go in OTE? My plea that all this extra work should be NOT be one-way! The comment button is only a click away! Is anyone there?
ICT plays a major part in all our lives, and a big part of our role in school is to prepare children for the future. More than ever before, that future is unpredictable because change is happening so fast. Just think how rapidly we've moved from mobile phones to tablet PCs! So this week I found myself ringing an old-fashioned school bell in order to help everyone keep time during parent/teacher consultations, and offering parents an opportunity to vote on-line (anonymously) so that I could gauge the success of the measure. Part of the 'hidden' agenda is that I am also preparing for another round of Parent Surveys, and doing this on line would save around half a day collating paper-based responses if it proved a popular way of consulting and obtaining your thoughts. It's 2 days after the last Parent/Teacher appointment - and so far there are only 2 votes - both positive - so perhaps as a community we are not quite ready for this.
I spend a lot of my own time exploring new technologies. I love discovering for myself what is - and is not - possible. Only in desperation will I ever turn to a manual! I was so excited to activate an RSS feed for this blog, so that it would be readable on mobile devices and automatically available on other sites. I expect my excitement was a little OTT given the size of this page's readership. However, if you have stumbled across this page for the first time, welcome. Do comment if this blog sparks an idea.
In contrast to the enthusiasm with which the survey page has been received, I have worked with Classes 2, 3 and 4 this week, and each is following a project on control technology. After an initial difficulty logging on, each class took to the technology like ducks to water. And I've also opened up a messaging facility for Class 4 on Planet Sherston. An internet safety talk was required, with the expectation set that behaviour online would be no different from that we expect in the classroom or playground. We don't use unkind words, we don't talk behind one another's backs and we don't swear. I demonstrated how easy it was as administrator to remove this privilege from the children's accounts and I am sure no one wants the embarrassment of being suspended, so I have every confidence that this will be a success. The excitement in the room was palpable. New technology, old-fashioned values - which is a bit of a teaser for my next blog. Almost as if there was a plan! Over half-term we plan to release a number of other Planet Sherston activities - so stay posted!
I've been thinking more about "success". In almost every way you care to measure it, North Nibley is a successful school, enabling children to make significantly better progress in their learning than expected, whatever each child's starting point. Yet 'accademic' success is not the only route to a satisfying and purposeful life. For many the assumption is that accademic success will lead to greater opportunity, greater employability, greater accumulation of posessions/wealth/power/influence, and further 'success'. Yet not all individuals strive for that. I am reminder of this quote by Thomas Merton;
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall”
Asking at school what 'success' means for a child I received these answers from Class 4...
"Success is what you feel for yourself" "Is it success if there's no level of challenge or hard work?" "If you feel successful, then you are!" "You have a feeling of pride." "Success is where you exceed your expectations." "What matters what you think, not what other people think." "You are successful if you achieve your personal best."
How do you define a successful day?
How do you measure success in your life?
I was nearly moved to tears last week when one child, having taken part in a discussion on what makes a better life, decided in all sincerity that in the future she would give time to working in a soup kitchen.
Now this may, or may not, come to pass. But for now this child has a direction and she is convinced that her efforts will make a difference.
Imagine that - a compassionate life of purpose, making a positive difference. Sounds like a definition of success to me!
If you want to read more, below is a famous story.
We came back to school still excited about being the 2nd highest achieving school in Gloucestershire. As such we can be bold in our claims that we know what we are doing and we work hard to secure success for every child in our school.
The INSET day was about creating positive classrooms, wherein each child can feel safe (safe enough to risk making the mistakes that are an integral part of the learning process) and supported at school. Managing stress, including stree for the staff was also deemed a useful part of the day. Sadly I missed the day due to illness - a prolonged cold that wouldn't shift over the Christmas break. I did, however, catch up on those jobs I wrote about last time. Let's hope the term does not become too stressful!
On Friday I closed the school in response to the bad weather. This is never an easy decision (and indeed last year it was not necessary to do so) but taking advice from 3 contacts within the village, the Local Authority and the forecasters, I concluded that it would be better to close than to open. Arrival at school for our far-flung staff was not guaranteed, but of greater concern was the journey home after the worst of the blizzard was due to hit. Other factors included the closure of KLB (meaning that a large number of our families were already finding solutions to childcare issues) and the closure of the school where the pupil means are cooked.
In order to take advice and start the emergency closure 'telephone tree' I made 23 phone calls in the space of half-an-hour, including alerting the LA, and I was impressed with the speed with which the official site included the update to our status. It took a lot longer to update our own site - so many visitors that I couldn't log on to edit the page! (The school site is very popular at the moment - 12 visitors were logged visiting the site on Christmas day!)
I did, however, manage to make available on line a host of snow-based 'fun' activities with the potential for family learning, which perhaps you looked at as you considered how best to spend your day. It would be nice to see some photos. Here is a video of me on a sledge from January 2010. Do you have something similar? However you spent the time, I hope you stayed warm and had fun.
Another busy week - is there any other kind?
The week began with Experience Christmas, a fabulous opportunity for children to explore the different aspects of the first Christmas. Apparently (in a national survey) only 7% of 18 to 25 years olds can give an accurate description of the biblical account of the nativity! A small band of volunteers took the children in 6 steps through the main events, and everyone said they had learnt something new. Thank you to the activity leaders for all their work. A selection of photos are in the news section of the school website. Then the older children sang at the Monday Lunch. Later that day I attended a meeting on Academies.
I taught on Tuesday afternoon, and Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday afternoon I had the great pleasure of taking Y5 and 6 to the Netball Tournament. 5 schools, 8 teams, and by-far the best match was where our A team took on our B team. Again, photos are in the news section of the school website. This week I worked with a small group of children who have volunteered for something rather special at the Christmas Carol Service - but I can't say what just yet... "Spoilers!" as the Doctor might say!
This week I also observed another great lesson, this time on Maths. The children here are very well served by the teachers and support staff, with imaginative and interesting lessons, and super behaviour management. No wonder progress is good!
On Friday we hosted a visit by Pre-school and Nursery to watch the youngest children perform their Nativity. What a delight, and inspiring to see how those who, just 2 years ago, arrived as anxious Reception children, dance and sing solos in front of a packed hall. Well done, children, and also the staff that help them to get there!
On Friday a valiant team of parents prepared the school for the FONNS Christmas Fayre - the first time in a while that the main school building had hosted the event. Once again, photos are in the news section of the school website.
A special word of thanks is needed for the wonderful help given by so many to tidy up the school afterwards. There was a lot to do but the school is 'ship-shape' and ready for learning on Monday. As a result of their 'hands-on' experience of cleaning the school, there was significant support for replacing our aging vacuum cleaners! Thank you if you came and spent money! You were supporting a very good cause!
As well as end-of-term reports for the Local Authority, and the school finances to balance at the end of term, there was increasing pressure to replace the broken Computer Server (now on order) and place the advert for the new Teaching Assistant we hope to appoint in the Spring Term. All these events are deadline-driven. School has to be ready, or miss out. So what happens is a growing pile of non-urgent, but then increasingly-urgent paperwork. It's really tempting to promise myself I'll get round to it during the Christmas holidays, but sadly there are already some major jobs put aside for then.
We have been reminded this week of how precious - but fragile - life is. In our worship time we remembered all those in our community, young and old, who are hurting following this week’s accident and sad, sad death of formal pupil Ollie Pain. The death of a young person is always tragic, and there are no easy answers. In the silence we observed we reflected, with thanks, on the life he had. Our silence finished with a prayer, acknowledging the unique contribution that Ollie, and every young person, brings to our world.
Give thanks for the people you know and the precious times you share together.
This week was all about preparing for the Italian 'mobility' - a visit to another school in our international art project. Actually, that's not quite true. Most of this week was spent working at near double-pace in order to get on top of work that I would not be doing because I was going to meet the Comenius partners. I didn't quite manage it all, hence the belated posting here. Packing at home was a very last-minute affair, and far too many jumpers found their way into my suitcase. I scraped the ice off the car on Sunday morning (-2.5 degrees) and spent the rest of the week in a 't'-shirt (unless I was meeting Italian dignitaries!) Standing in Stansted Airport on 11th of the 11th, observing the 2 minute silence, was a very strange experience. For the first time in many years, we were not able to hold a time of remembrance at school due to the way the date falls.
Miss Wright and Mrs Lewis came too and it was most interesting to learn how other countries organise their learning.
The partners were most impressed with the art work our children had done, and good progress was made within the project itself, in preparation for the final mobility next April. I now have another 'to-do' list! We have returned with multiple pieces of art from our partners, which will be exhibited within the 'Grand Exhibition' planned for next year.