From Naughty Boy to ‘Outstanding’ Head Teacher; A Reflection on Educating Drew.

I put ‘Outstanding’ in quote marks as Harrop Fold, from the Povey’s book, has yet to be given Ofsted’s outstanding seal of approval. Nevertheless, I believe Povey to be an outstanding head teacher from what I have watched and read. He is committed to making ‘the’ difference to his school and it seems through this book and the Educating Greater Manchester series to be working.

I had fallen in love with the team and the teaching styles of Harrop Fold School in Little Hutton from the Educating Greater Manchester series and when I found out head teacher Drew Povey had written a book, it was the first thing on my Christmas list (alongside a guillotine paper cutter and a laminator – nothing screams soon to be Newly Qualified Teacher and broke student more). Fast forward to the day before my placement and I have finally finished reading the book. Personal commitments and university assignments overtook the importance of the book but nevertheless it was fantastic and I could not recommend it enough to anyone and when I got the chance, I simply could not put it down.

Drew Povey had inspired me from the minute I set eyes on Harrop Fold in Educating Greater Manchester but what was clear from the book is the are many of others who inspire him from his brothers and his teachers to people he quotes in his books such as Obama, Churchill, EM Kelly or Spiderman. There were many messages in the book anyone could relate to; business leaders, head teachers or school teachers. However, in this short post I wanted to pick out a few parts of the book I related to most and the messages that were prominent to me.

Anyone who knows me will know me as quite a sporty person growing up (ok that hasn’t stuck too much throughout university but I am known as the sporty one in my friend group) and the links Povey makes between education and school including a chapter on having a playbook as probably the message that rings through the whole book to me. Povey’s leadership style often comes back to what he had learnt from rugby training and coaching. He uses tactics from rugby to get the ‘difficult children’ on side, he set up a rugby team at Harrop Fold to give these something to commit to at school; having the ‘hard lads’ onside rippled through the school and there was a murmur that Mr Povey was a ’sound guy’. Povey noted the importance of keeping these students onside and committed to creating a no exclusion policy, he wanted to ensure no child was written off which was an incredibly warming feeling. The importance of understanding the student’s behaviour, the root problem and not just looking at the bad behaviour was something perhaps I overlooked the significance of before and I was quick when faced with challenging behaviour to look at this as a personal attack and deal with the behaviour and not seek out the issue behind it all. In all honestly, the last time I remember dealing with significantly challenging behaviour, which did not stem from an additional support need, was in first year of university and thus reflecting back I did not really know much at all at the time of the placement although it was a great learning curve.

Throughout university, any assignment has told me to reflect more which I have tried so hard over the last two years particularly to work on. I probably took it too far when I had five page weekly reflections on my third year placement and it is still a goal going into my final placement to work on. Throughout the last chapter of the book it was evident how reflective the whole book had been. The process Povey suggests at Harrop Fold is that the teachers take on a new challenge for a certain period of time, reflect and review. If the challenge is making a difference they continue to monitor but Povey makes clear not all of the challenges were worth the time and energy put that the school team put into them. The open and honest dialogue between the different teams in Povey’s four types of meetings are what I aspire to achieve to make sure I am not wasting time and energy on strategies that are not working but continuing to reflect and notice the positives in my practice as well.

Although this post only picked out two things, I wouldn’t want to give too much away about the book. However, this book made me think deeper about my practice; about different techniques and pedagogical strategies I perhaps never have come across otherwise. I am very intrigued for the second series of Educating Greater Manchester. I am ready to see if there is any more inspiration Povey and his team at Harrop Fold can continue to develop in me as a teacher and I am excited to see how the school is getting on. Mostly, I am excited to see how these inspirations can play out in my practice as an NQT. If you haven’t already, I would recommend any teacher to read Povey’s story.

Povey also talks about Harrop Fold’s no exclusion policy to the Education Select Committee in this short video; https://twitter.com/HarropFold/status/965159166997422080.

Reference:

Povey, D. (2017) Educating Drew: The Real Story of Harrop Fold School Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Limited.

Take a Wonder into the Woods

As the old favourite goes – if you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise.

After missing my placement lifestyle of being so relaxed and enjoying nature, that and after reading ‘Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress Among Rural Children’ (Wells and Evans, 2003) – I decided to drag my flat mate, Steph, on a stroll around the country park nearest our flat. What I anticipated to just be a wonder around a picturesque park was quite different. I did not realise all of the different activities the country parks had to offer for families/children.

The first weekend, we visited Crombie Country Park. Crombie Country Park had multiple different walking routes the longest walk being around the loch and only at a distance of 2 and 3/4 miles with another 3 slightly shorter routes as well. Before we went off on our walk, I was not aware of what Crombie had to offer, especially for children, even the spectacular scenic views surprised me. Amongst the beautiful scenery however there were a host of surprises to keep the children entertained. There were activities such as find the giants, an orienteering course with different levels and little woodland “animals” hidden around our walk.

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Find the Giants in the trees

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Part of the orienteering course for the children

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The hidden animals

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No excuse to not take the children here!

Crombie Country Park also had the facilities for tree top trails, a play park, a young naturalist programme on a Saturday and a picnic/bbq area. Amongst this, there ranger team are on hand for activities such as arts and crafts or guided walks as well as school trips from nursery through to secondary to assist teachers and lead outdoor activities in the park.

A week later, after still being in awe at Crombie, Steph and I headed out to Monikie Country Park just across from Crombie. Whilst Monikie has less trails to offer that we could find, they were currently hosting the Dragon Matrix, which I am devastated I never managed to go to, which took up a lot of the park forrest areas. However, Monikie had a beautiful walk around the lake, a play park for children, a huge green space and lots of picnic tables where a few families were enjoying a picnic. Even with all of these facilities and resources, there were only two or three families at Monikie as well.

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The Dragon Matrix – cross curricular learning – outdoor education, art and technology!

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Perfect for the family – a beautiful walk and a great play park.

However, even with all of these different activities and play parks for the children, both Monikie and Crombie Country Parks were surprisingly quiet. There were only one or maybe two families that Steph and I noticed in either of the two parks. Considering the fact we went on a weekend, during the afternoon, once I realised all of the activities and the park, I did expect there to be more families at the parks. As after Steph and I had discussed, this is what my of our parents would have taken us to do on a weekend when we were younger. This made me really reflect on my recent reading about outdoor education particularly this quote below from Adam (2013, p.524).

“Accompanying the obesity concerns are fears for children’s safety which are leading to increased indoor activities (Jenkinson 2001; Palmer 2006; Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008). This trend towards children being ushered indoors has occurred despite the fact that statistics about risk outside the home are relatively small compared to parental fears (Coster 2007; Waller 2007; Alexander 2008; Layard and Dunn 2009).”

This shows thimg_2558at due to parents fears in this contemporary society and the desire to keep their children safe, they’re wrapping their children up in cotton wool and not allowing/taking them outside to experience these amazing resources and opportunities that the Country Parks offer.

Steph and I are determined to make these walks a weekly event with Forfar Loch Country Park next on our list. I would definitely recommend taking a break from all of the assignment or work and getting yourself to one of the country park to see all of the fantastic natural resources and activities they can offer for yourself or for your class. Why be stressed when you can go play outside and call it educational?

 

References 

Adam, K. (2013) ‘Childhood in Crisis? Perceptions of 7-11 year olds on being a child and the implications for education’s well-being agenda’ in Education 3-13 International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 41(3) pp.523-537 London: Routledge

My Dad is on Facebook!

Strange educational blog post title – yes.

However, after 6 years of protesting how much he dislikes facebook, around a month ago my dad officially joined the digital space and made a facebook account. This shows me just how much we are moving towards a digital age and how much our lives revolve around the internet.

This combined with Derek’s lecture today made me think about how much I really know about the resources available online – which in fact is very little. I spend a good proportion of my day online for a variety of purposes and I am constantly connected with having multiple devices. For someone who spends a fair percentage of my day online, I felt that I should be aware of what children are using the internet for. Turns out, I don’t.

I have recently had a keen interest in outdoor education sparked and am beginning to look at this linked with the decline of playing outdoors in childhood with the link to the rise in technology. This had given me a rather fixed view on technology. Technology had been something I apportioned blame to for lack of play and creativity in young children recently. Turns out, I am wrong.

Although, there is a strong link with the decline in outdoor play due to technology. Technology is not entirely the bad guy. It can stimulate creativity and play. I have never heard of many of the resources Derek enlightened us to in his lecture today nor have I ever played Minecraft (sorry Derek). I have a youtube account but don’t exactly use it. It is clear, I am not a digital native. But, I am willing to learn. With my dad finally accepting that we are moving into a more digital world and joining facebook, I think it is time I look at digital learning space and resources available to children and teachers. It is time that I move into this digital age before I head into a class and become the teacher that does not know how to switch on the latest technology.

I hope by looking more into the resources available online that this will give me a more critical stance on outdoor education and technology. No one subject area works best for every child and I should know about a variety of different ways of learning rather than just the areas I am interested in. It maybe time to download Minecraft. Do you even get a Minecraft app? Well, I am about to find out. Wish me luck. Digital immigrant here I come. Like father like daughter. The 21st century is awaiting.

First day at Nursery!

On Wednesday, as my previous blog post stated, I was off for my first day of nursery for part of my Transition Project at university. The nerves this morning were there a little bit but not as much as the night before.

The minute I walked into the school, I was greeted by a lovely receptionist at the front desk for the school which automatically made me feel more relaxed.  When I arrived at the nursery, they weren’t exactly expecting me. Which seems to be the issue whenever I arrive at a school so thankfully that never made me nervous at school. I was introduced to the staff at the nursery which was a team of 16 ladies for a nursery which can have 60 3-5 year olds and 10 2 year olds in their panda room. Although, they currently aren’t working at full capacity.

Immediately, this amount of children and the size of the nursery was a big change from the nursery I went to which was about half the size in both respects. I had not yet seen the size of the nursery but I was imagining it to be quite big. Much to my surprise, it was about half the size I expected however it did have a big outdoor space to play. Outdoor play is something I am hugely passionate about due to the positive impacts it makes on childhood; the statistics on how well the Scandinavian countries, from whom outdoor play holds a substantial part of their pedagogy for early years’ education; and because many of the fond memories I have of my childhood are from playing outdoors with my parents.

The afternoon in a nursery was very similar to an episode of “The Secret Life of Four Year Olds” from channel 4. There was a lot going on for the children to choose from but apart from at the beginning and the end of the session there was no structure to the day; it was all free play. When the children first come in, they are spilt into six groups of ten (when the nursery is a full capacity) to have a chance to speak with one of the nursery teachers* and to do the register amongst other things.

The group I was placed with for the beginning was consolidating what they had learnt yesterday from their visit from “Farmer Jill”. Firstly, I thought the fact that they had left this consolidating until today instead of the group time at the end of yesterdays session was a fantastic idea. This meant that the children could go away yesterday and think about what they had learnt , giving them time to process all of the information they had learnt before they had to summarise their knowledge. This was very similar to what I can imagine a structured lesson with a small group of Primary 1 pupils could consist of. When we began the questions on consolidating their knowledge were very closed questions such as “can you remember who came to visit yesterday?” but this meant that all of the children knew the answer but the same children were always the ones who wanted to speak which quickly became chaotic was three or four children were shouting out different things. The children’s group leader* improvised and had the children pass round one of the spaces which meant that the children all had a chance to share what they could remember from yesterday and what they enjoyed most. This first half an hour of the afternoon session was very structure and the children were sitting for a long time before they got to play. However, I can see this as beneficial for the children for when they are moving into primary school and are expected to have structured lessons all day very soon.

The rest of the afternoon was free play for the children. One of the big things I noticed was the lack of interaction with technology. There were two computers and one smartboard that the children, as far as I am aware, can use. However, the children were much more interested in doing activities such as baking, making puzzles, arts and crafts but mainly they were interested in playing games outside including tig and tag and hide and seek. To see children enjoying playing outdoors in the current age when technology is an ever growing medium and outdoor play is steadily decreasing was very encouraging to see.

One of the big things I have observed with the teachers in the nursery today, is their range of tone of voice and their excitement when talking with the children. I was always aware that this would be something I would need to work on when going into an early years setting as my ability to change of my tone of voice with ease can be rather limited. To be able to observe how the nursery teachers do it and how the convey excitement when the children are excited about something is definitely something I am paying close attention to. It was also when the children were speaking over one another in group time, the teacher was never cross or shouted at them but the way she spoke when she asked them to allow someone else to have a turn meant the children understood what they were doing was not kind to the person whose turn it was to speak. I am hoping that through observing this practice over the next 8 weeks that to be able to pick up and replicate some of their skills to be able to improve my practice for my third year placement.

Overall, I had a fantastic first day at nursery: there were many great opportunities to observe, learn, build bonds with the children and most importantly, play. I am thoroughly looking forward to going back after the October break.

 

*As I have not yet had the chance to ask permission to name the teachers in my reflections, they will currently stay anonymous.

Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to Nursery We Go

Before I get started, Happy World Teacher Day!

Facebook reminded me today that it was 5 years ago that I lasted stepped foot in a nursery. That was for a grand total of one afternoon and I was a 15 year old who was keeping an open mind to my career path. I must have had about 4 different careers I wanted to do after I left school at that time. Now, after that week’s work experience 5 years ago, I am in my third year of studying to become a primary teacher and I am heading back to nursery today.

I have signed up at university to take part in a research project – #UoDTransitionEY on twitter if you’d like to follow our updates –  with my tutors and 7 fellow students. The project is to get the eight students into a nursery setting for one afternoon each week, for eight weeks. The aim of the project is allow the students to develop their communicative and free play skills in an early years setting before our third year placement in the early stages of primary school (primary 1-3). The project comes with out any paper work or folio work that would come with a normal university placement and it is solely to allow us to focus on developing our skills with young children.

My skills with young children are on the limited side. I have taught swimming lessons, athletics classes and played with younger children whilst out in America at working at a summer camp. However, my main base of experience working with children tends to be with children normally over the age of around 8 years old. Therefore, this project is looking to be a fantastic opportunity for myself to gain some experience and confidence working with younger children before going to my third year placement.

However, today I am currently feeling rather nervous. It’s the first day at a new place with new staff and new pupils which always seems a little daunting. Yet one of my biggest worries (a typical girl one that is) is what to wear? This already makes me feel a little bit more at ease than I would heading off to placement on my first day as there is no paper work, no file, no questions that I can forget to ask. It’s all about play, having fun and developing my confidence today. The tweets from my tutors are definitely helping to lower the nerves and encourage the excitement!

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So let’s go play!

After I pick out an outfit that is. Wish me luck.

The Issues with the Outdoors

Reflect on what you have read. What challenges may there be when beginning outdoor learning with a class? How would you plan and prepare for this?

Evidence – Write a reflection on the positive aspects and challenges of outdoor learning. Plan an outdoor learning lesson with a focus on Health & Wellbeing. Where will you go? What experiences/activities will you organise to ensure the Health and Wellbeing outcomes are met?

Taking a class outdoors for learning as I realised on my Learning from Placement there can be numerous risks. There were lengthy risk assessment documents for every potential risk that could happen on every activity they provided. However, whilst on placement, not once did we have any incidents during the 6 week period I was there.  This is due to the fact that the correct measures were in place because of the risk assessments.

In the beginning stages of taking a class outdoors and away from the school grounds, my biggest fear is losing a child. I am aware that if I build relationships with all my pupils and have the ability to trust them, then this should not be an issue. Setting the correct boundaries with the children and not allowing them totally freedom at first to make sure they are all able to come back when asked or stop where told to do means that I will still have control over the situation whilst allowing the children to have that freedom outdoors.

I believe thoroughly in the power of play and the effects being outdoors can have on children, especially since being on my placement in second year. I think that the outdoors generally has the ability to give children the sense of responsibility, freedom, independence, challenges, builds resilience and defines personalities. It has a huge impact on health and wellbeing in children as Stirling council, in particularly St. Ninians Primary, has proved with their daily mile challenge. Getting their children outdoors every day for their day mile has reduced obesity levels to the point where no child in St. Ninians is obese.

Although teaching outdoors come with its own set of risks. These cannot stop children from going outdoors. In a time when playing outside is quickly deteriorating due to fears of risks and of people: in my opinion, teachers and schools are in a position to educate. They should be taking children outdoors for their health and wellbeing and to educate children as well as parents on safe places to be outdoors and what the children can learn from being outdoors. When I take my class outdoors, I feel I have a basic knowledge already on places in Aberdeen that I could go or organisations that I could contact for resources or help. However, there will still be risks – which will always be there but through risk assessment and risk management, working with my children to build responsible citizens then these can be a part of learning.

When I was reading through chapter 11 of Dirty Teacher, there were issues such as weather, poisonous plants and wasps which are all valid issues but issues that can be overcome none the less. When I was working with Adventure Aberdeen, we never cancelled a session due to the weather – even in the snow in May. When I plan on doing an outdoor session with my class I will be advising parents in advance that we will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland – hopefully if its summer to send them with both a rain jacket and sunscreen but if we are in winter to make sure they will be well wrapped up. At Adventure Aberdeen, there were multiple times we were supposed to do activities that were water based activities but due to the weather these plans had to change, much to the disappointment of some children. However, the session was never completely cancelled – as Juliet suggested in chapter 11 – we changed the session to fit with the weather and it changed to a session where the children would always be active, such as cycling.

With weather, I have experienced both extremes whilst at camp and whilst on placement. As already stated on placement, the children were out in all weather conditions from sunny days in the sea to snow sand sledging. However, at camp, the as soon as it rained – in a little bit – the children’s activities were changed from normal schedule to rainy day schedule. This meant that the children were kept indoors even when it was just drizzling. You could tell from the children that this was frustrating for them as they looked forward to the activities they had selected and these were often cancelled, normally these days were back to back. In my views, if Scandinavians countries can have children out in all weathers and this clearly has an impact on their children’s wellbeing and education then we should follow the lead of Adventure Aberdeen and the Scandinavian countries and try to get our children out in all weather conditions.

Another issues that Juliet raised was poison plants. Poison plants or endangered plants were constantly surrounding children when I was out on placement. However, in the woods, if any plants were endangered or poisonous, the had a red stick next to them. This drew attention to them which could have made children go over and touch them but instead the inquisitive children wanted to know why there was a red stick in the forest and what it meant. This is an idea that can be taken into the local area or the playground to bring attention to the plants but can also be explained before to the children before we leave the classroom that if they see the red stick then it means not to touch the plant because it can be dangerous.

A final idea that Juliet suggested was to do with the animals we find out in nature such as wasps and spiders. Juliet’s idea of a wasp drill I think is a brilliant idea as children can tend to panic when a wasp comes near them. This idea can mean that it would significantly reduce the risk of children being hurt by a wasp. This would also lead into different lessons such as instruction written on helping other children to minimise their risk of being hurt and they find a wasp, which is already died, to investigate wasps further. The idea of creating a spider web with wool was something I thought was a way to explore spiders and it could be a topic of discussion for why spiders make webs. However, if I was doing this with children and we were looking at the outdoors, I would take them outdoors for this. I would have my class outdoors with ropes getting them to create a web using the ropes and the trees in a forest, making sure the web was tight and had little holes. I would then get the groups to discuss why they thought the spiders web needed to be tight and compact. This means that we can use the outdoors for learning interdisciplinary: taking art through the creating the web; using the web we have created to learn and discuss spiders; then use the outdoors to try and find some spider as well as discussing if we should or shouldn’t touch them; but also discussing what other animals we can find in the forest.

Dyslexia: A Break Down

After an input from one of our lecturers, Will, where he state that if we aren’t aware of the different Additional Support Needs (ASN) then we were being ignorant. Two of my friends and I have decided to look into Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia. As normally if you have one of these ASN then there is a stronger chance you will have another, if not all three as these come as a family of ASN. Through this blog post I am going to briefly give some information on Dyslexia.

What is Dyslexia?

“The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’.” (British Dyslexia Associations, no date)

Dyslexia is a common addition support need – a person who has dyslexia struggles with reading, writing and spelling. It is a lifelong problem for those who have dyslexia but there is support out there for them.

1 in 10-20 people have Dyslexia – therefore in a common sized primary school class in Scotland, it is more than likely that teachers will have at least one child who struggles with dyslexia if not more.

Unlike many ASN, Dyslexia has no impact on intelligence.

Dyslexia mainly affects the person’s ability to processing and remembering information that see and hear which can impact upon the person’s learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. 

The Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia are for the majority, spotted when they are in primary school and begin to focus on reading and writing.

The NHS (no date) states that the signs of dyslexia may include:

  • “read and write very slowly
  • confuse the order of letters in words
  • put letters the wrong way round – such as writing “b” instead of “d”
  • have poor or inconsistent spelling
  • understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
  • find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
  • struggle with planning and organisation”.

Dyslexia and The Eyes

The reason I had chosen to look into Dyslexia is that I have a form on dyslexia called Irlen’s Syndrome (which is commonly known as visual stress) which affects how you see text which is common with people with dyslexia. Below is an example of visual stress.

Dyslexia

People with dyslexia often cannot focus when reading standard black writing on white paper. People with dyslexia tend to prefer to have the paper a different colour – the colour of the paper depends on the person. I prefer grey paper which is very uncommon whereas yellow can be very common. There are things called overlays which are coloured plastic sheets for people who have Dyslexia or Irlen’s syndrome to place over paper to filter the paper to the colour they need. Below I have included a yellow and grey overlay but there are multiple different colours which can be seen at the Dyslexia website (ADD hyperlink). For some even the overlays are not even and they have tinted glasses to the colour they need.

Dyslexia and the eyes, Irlen’s syndrome or visual stress can cause symptoms such as the following:

  • “Blurred letters or words which go out of focus.
  • Letters which move or present with back to front appearance or shimmering or shaking.
  • Headaches from reading.
  • Words or letters which break into two and appear as double.
  • Find it easier to read large, widely spaced print, than small and crowded.
  • Difficulty with tracking across the page.
  • Upset by glare on the page or oversensitive to bright lights.”

(British Dyslexia Association, no date).

This can affect the child’s reading ability, making reading very tiring and a chore for children who suffer from it. However, in my own experience after getting the appropriate support, through my grey overlay, I found my love of reading come back.

What can a teacher do to help?

The following advice I have taken from dyslexia.com (Hodge, 2000).

  • Make sure anything that needs to go home, for example messages about when they need to take their physical education kit in, when parents even is. their homework etc, is all written down in a diary and checked before they leave, The advice also suggests getting them to have a couple of friends phone numbers at the front of the diary in case they are confused by what they are to do they can phone and check.
  • Break down tasks and instructions into short chunks of information that is easy to remember.
  • When they are copying from the board, try writing every line in a different colour of every second word underlined. With the technology these days, if you are using power point or interactive smart boards if you have a child who needs a yellow overlay, make the slides have a yellow background – this does not make a difference for anyone else in the classroom but makes it easier for the person who needs the overlay.
  • Make sure the reading stays on the board long enough for the children to read (and if necessary copy it down) it thoroughly and not rush.

The website has lots of advice on different areas including: reading, writing, copying from the board, spelling, maths, homework among others.

 

 

 

More information

Irlen’s Syndrome http://www.irlen.org.uk/

Dyslexia Shop http://www.thedyslexiashop.co.uk/stationery-for-dyslexics/specialist-paper.html

Advice for in the classroom http://www.dyslexia.com/library/classroom.htm

 

 

 

References

British Dyslexia Association (No Date) Dyslexia and Specific Difficulties: Overview Available at: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyslexia-and-specific-difficulties-overview Accessed on: 23/01/16

Hodge, P. (2000) A Dyslexia Child in the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Parents Available at: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/classroom.htm Accessed on: 27/01/16

National Health Service (No Date) Dyslexia Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Dyslexia/Pages/Introduction.aspx Accessed on: 23/01/16

 

Upstart Dundee Launch

Upstart is a campaign for a nationwide moment to push back the starting age for school in Scotland from 4 or 5 years old to 7 years old to allow time for play and for children to be a child for as long as possible.

Queue the mad panic from parents. But just wait… There are so many benefits it may be time to step out of your comfort zone and into a new adventure and here is why.

comfort zone

The lecture theatre was filled in Dundee – Brenda (the Convener of Upstart) expected around 30 people but with a keen audience of over 330 people turned out it was the biggest launch for Upstart yet.

Upstart Launch

So why would we want children to start school later?

I have already looked into this in an early blog post available here.

In Scotland, we are keen advocates of learning everything as quickly as we can and we have one of the lowest school starting ages in Scotland with only 12% of countries worldwide having their children start school at 4-5 years old where as 66% of countries have children start school at 6 years old and the remaining 22% of countries have their children start school at 7 years old. An OECD survey shows that the 22% of countries that have their children start school at 7 years old are the countries with the children who tend to do the best academically.

Those countries that start at the age of 7 years old have a play-based kindergarden for 3-7 years old but by the age of 11 years old there is no difference in reading ability and those who start school at 7 years old are in fact keener to learn to read than their peers who started school at 5 years old.

In Finland, they do the least number of hour of schooling in the developed world yet still get the best results. They start school aged 7. They play until the age of 7. They lead healthier lives physically and mentally, they live longer and they are still better academically.

If we are living longer lives as adults, which Brenda quoted could be until 120 years old for this generation, then why are we continuing to decrease the time that a child spends playing?

The idea that children should play until the age of 7 is not a new idea. Sue Palmer, the founder of the Upstart movement and a language and literacy specialist, informed us at the launch that the idea originated from the Greeks.

The benefits of play are extensive. Sue Palmer and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk stated that free play build and influences many areas of our lives: it builds resilience, problem solving skills, social and communication skills, self-regulation, a love of learning. Free play influences creativity, sensory development, emotional experiences, friendships, a child’s thinking ability, motoric development, and the quality of marriage in later life. But the problem? Free play, such as playing in a sandpit, does not look like learning and in Scotland we love to push education.

Prince George at two years old is off to “nursey school” – into school at two years old. But according to the press it is not for the Prince to have a chance to play to develop all of the skills above it is to get him “into lessons” (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Metro). We are too quick these days to put extra pressure onto children by adding the element of schoolification to early education.

The experiences a child has clearly affects the kind of adult you are. The pressure put on children currently has a clear impact on their mental health as children and as adults. In Scotland, there is a real decline of play – due to the school starting age and the development of technology. 2 in 3 children aged between 5 and 16 years old have their own tablets and at least a quarter of children are sent to bed with their tablets. In Scotland, there is also a huge increase in mental health problems and there is a widening achievement gap. How does our First Minister plan to fix this? By putting yet MORE pressure on children and teachers by reintroducing standardise testing – they didn’t work with the old 5-14 curriculum so why are we going back to this idea? Why do we not move forward for a 21st century change? Into a new revolution. A new adventure. An adventure where play and childhood is at the forefront?

Convinced? Follow the national Upstart movement on Facebook here and on twitter @UpstartScot.

Still unsure? Have a look at some more evidence

The “Running Revolution” in Stirling.

For this blog post, I am going to look at Outdoor Education in particular comparing Sweden and the UK (in particular St Ninians, Stirling).

After our lecture inputs Brenda, I found myself in awe at Sweden and their approach to learning. I am very keen to learn more about outdoor education and this is what I intend to do with my learning from life placement this year hopefully as well as just getting a part time job with links to outdoor learning.

I found myself eager to complete the TDT tasks for the comparative education with Sweden yesterday and realised how far behind the UK actually are in terms of outdoor education. I remember being in primary seven and the class asking to go and learn outside about a topic and being told we couldn’t as it hadn’t been risk assessed. However, Sweden on the other hand, totally trust their system, pupils and most importantly the teachers to not do anything that would cause huge amounts of risk.

Today however, I just read an article (The Running Revolution) about a school in Stirling, Scotland which prompted this blog post. St Ninians School have recently made the news around Scotland for the fact they now have no children with childhood obesity and they have also managed to increase concentration in class. Their secret. The great outdoors. As cringey as that sounds – it works in Sweden and it is clearly working in Stirling. In Sweden, the teachers state that getting outdoors for at least half of the school day in preschool Runningbuilds good health in children. Whilst at St Ninians this has proved that even getting outdoor for a small part of the day has improved the health of children by reducing the amount of children with childhood obesity to zero. St Ninians have spent the last three years having a daily mile – this is where they get their children outside to walk or run a mile every day. The teachers choose when in the day they do it, whenever fits best with their timetable for the day.  The only thing that stops the classes doing their daily mile is heavy rain or ice.

The teachers and the children both clearly benefit from this scheme – the teachers have commented on how much the children enjoy going out for the daily mile or it would not be maintainable with their enjoyment. The teachers and children both benefit from the increased focus and concentration in the classroom as well. Therefore it shows that taking 15 minutes away from teaching time can clearly impact positively on the learning time in the class. In Sweden, the teachers cannot believe that the children especially in early years education are not getting outdoors to play and enjoy childhood. St Ninians, Stirling clearly are edging towards this aspect of outdoor education and enjoyment with the children at their school with even just a very small proportion of the day.

In my opinion, I believe that this shows that outdoor education clearly positively impacts on the learning, health and concentration of children at school. Both Sweden and Stirling have been able to prove this statement. Sweden tops European League tables in literacy by the age of 10 and Stirling have been able to banish childhood obesity from their schools. Other schools in the UK are beginning to take notice to Outdoor Learning, more now due to the success at St Ninians which is a positive but slow start compared to Sweden.

I have left a link to the Guardian newspaper in a hyperlink above in case anyone wishes to find up a little bit more about St Ninians and their daily mile.