Category Archives: Contemporary issues

Religious Instruction

Image taken from Google

Image taken from Google – Moulsford teach morals in every subject throughout the school

Moulsford, as with many other schools across England prides itself in being a Church of England school. This means that during assembly the boys are expected to pray, sing religious hymns and uphold christian values. I have myself observed this in practice and remember prayers and assembly singing, well from my own school days in Ullapool. The children do not only learn about Christianity at Moulsford but all faiths and with a specific Religious Instruction teacher at the school who is also head of Year 7. Morals are also taught throughout the whole school at all times with the every teacher ensuring this is upheld throughout all classes.

Image taken from Google – a lovely example of a wall display for R.E.

With Easter being a large part of the previous term, an Easter service was held with hymns and narratives from the bible read by the boys themselves. The school choir directed the singing with the orchestra playing the music for the hymns and I felt that this was a whole school effort to make the assembly a big part of the school year. Children do also attend regular assemblies every week where praying and hymns will take place in each one. Furthermore, even though the school as a whole caries out some christian practices as a Church of England school, it strives to not only teach about Christianity but about world religions, contemporary issues, historical figures, current affairs and moral dilemmas in weekly Religious Studies classes. As a subject from Year 1, the boys with learn through active discussion, media, ICT, external visits and outside speakers. This continues until common entrance in Years 7 and 8. There is a Common Entrance Religious Studies syllabus which is followed at Mouslford and prepares the boys for their common entrance examination to their senior private schools which is sat at the end of Year 8. I myself have looked at a Religious Studies past paper where the questions follow subjects such as Elijah, the 10 Commandments, Jesus, Cain and Abel etc. They are nearly always from a subject surrounding the bible which interests me as in my opinion, as it is a Religious Studies paper, shouldn’t it have questions from all world religions and not just Christianity?

The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in Scotland does not have that many experiences and outcomes for religious education and is actually titled “Religious and

Image taken from google – an example of some of the things the children following CfE will be taught

Moral Education“. It focuses on christian beliefs, practices, traditions and values, expecting the children to explore Christian stories, images, music and poems from early to fourth levels. Furthermore, practices and traditions in CfE will include things like Christmas and Easter which is very similar to the practice I am seeing daily at Moulsford. Additionally, having the values of what is fair and unfair and the importance of caring for, sharing and cooperating with others is again, similar to Moulsford’s values and there are certainly some comparisons between CfE and the National Curriculum in the way they teach Religious Studies. CfE do not only focus on Christianity but also all religions, with “World Religions” being the buzzword for this topic, so that teachers can focus in on any religions they wish and again teach about beliefs, practices, traditions and values of other religions. The National Curriculum in England actually sees religious education as another curriculum subject, as opposed to a programme of study by subject, where the subjects are more structured by key stages. There are some guidelines, but there is no specific content which needs to be studied at each key stage. The National Curriculum definitely contrasts with the common entrance exams for private education which do have a syllabus for Religious Studies.

Image taken from Google

To conclude, as one of my goals is to work with a different curriculum, my research into how Moulsford carry out Religious Instruction has been extremely interesting for me. The school as a whole teaches fantastic morals and although practices Christianity through the Church of England, encourages all religions. There is very little difference in the actual teaching of Religious instruction when it comes to the Curriculum for Excellence and the National Curriculum, so it is important the schools feel that they do what is right for their students. With regards to Moulsford, I see how crucial it is for them to stick to a syllabus that will not only enhance their learning but give the boys a better chance at passing their common entrance exams. Overall, I think Religious and Moral education is taught to a very high degree in all curriculum’s I have looked into to write this blog post, and certainly feel we as teachers, are equipping our children to live in the fantastically diverse country that we have in this modern age.

Inset Day – Purple Pens and Labelling Lads

Yesterday’s inset day was a lovely relaxing first day back for the teachers before the madness of the children arriving! Moulsford had booked a local teacher to talk to us from a private school in Oxford who are changing their curriculum, like Moulsford, to a more skills based curriculum. As he started I already liked the idea of what he would be talking about and he ended up keeping me engaged throughout his whole talk and giving me fantastic ideas to come away with to put into practice.

Image taken from google – is this really how we want children to feel when we label them?

The first thing which the gentleman discussed was ensuring as teachers we have high expectations of all our students. One of the problems in teaching at the moment can be the way we label our pupils from “low ability” and “lazy” to “gifted” and “clever”. I had never actually sat and thought about how my own thoughts and discussions with colleagues could have such an effect on the child themselves but I am really glad I have because I have realized now that it can really influence a child and their own expectations for their learning. Even the parents start to pick up on children who are in top sets or low sets and it reminded me of the episode of desperate housewives (I know sorry, but it was a good example) where two of the main characters go crazy trying to figure out which one of their children were in the higher maths class by stealing homework to look at from other children.

Image taken from google – what does this image really say about us as teachers putting children into sets?

Now although that is going to the extremes and is from a made up show, there is definitely something there to think about, because labeling our children as teachers clearly has an effect on our pupils. Granted, this can often be positive with children thriving from the praise of being a “star pupil” or an “A-grade student” but those labelled as “weak” or “unable” are, in my opinion far less likely to try to get better grades. The RSA have an interesting article on a system where at the start of the year every child is given an A grade and they have to continually show good academic work to keep the grade. Their research shows in fact that children are likely to try to hold on to the A they have been given rather than being given a C and to then have to try and bring it up to an A.

Growth mindset is everywhere at the moment and is something which was also discussed about in the talk. I can honestly say I didn’t really understand it fully until yesterday, it was just words that professionals kept using and I was reading in academic books and journals. However, now having done the activities in the talk I can say that I understand more of what growth mindset is and how important showing children that they can change is. Intelligence shouldn’t be seen as a fixed point, it should be seen as something which can be developed. Moreover, failure was discussed at the talk as well and how giving the children an opportunity to fail and learn from it, is just as important as giving children an opportunity to learn. This was then continued as the main focus for today’s morning assembly for the first day back. The head master made the point interactive by having children up at the front and re-iterated the fact that failure is something which should be seen as positive as we are able to learn from it. The following video was also shown, in order to prove to the boys that failure can happen to anyone, not just them.

Image taken from google here is an example of the pit

The last 2 points of the talk were challenging children and giving children informed feedback. I always try to challenge my pupils no matter their age or stage, but I dont challenge them to the extremes where children go into the “panic zone”. The teacher leading the talk discussed “the pit” with us and what using this tool could do for our teaching and the childrens learning. When discussing feedback, we looked at many different ways in which feedback can inform the children of ways they can improve on their work. Many different marking strategies including two stars and

Image taken from google – here is an example of the purple pen of progress in action!

a wish, peer assessment, question and answer were discussed in groups, but overall the main marking strategy I will be taking away from this is the “progress pen”. The idea behind this is that the children will be able to write in comments in their books around the teachers comments about how they will progress in their learning and more specifically they use it to answer their next step targets that the teacher has given them. To be picky, the amount of time this may take students to create a target for each piece of work could be lengthy until they get the hang of it, however the idea behind it is something I like and I feel it is a great way of teaching children that they should be in charge of their own learning!

To conclude, I feel that labeling children can be dangerous and the the RSA have come up with something very different with their ideas of starting off every pupil with an A grade. I personally don’t like to label children, however sometimes when discussing the child’s progress and ability in certain subjects I do see how these terms can creep into conversation, even if they are positive! Furthermore, I definitely think the learning pit and the purple progress pen are teaching tools which I like and would  use in lessons, even as just a student myself to make children in my class feel better about their learning and feedback. It is our job as teachers to ensure that all children feel that they are in a safe space to fail and by teaching them these techniques we can get one step closer to making them feel that they are in a safe space.

Image taken from goolge

 

Week 2 – Reflection

Each week on this placement, I must right a short reflection on my time at Moulsford and link it to the GTCS Scottish Standards for Provisional Registration. It was the last week of the Spring term before they boys go off on their Easter break and there was a lot of random days and lessons that there wouldn’t be in the average week at Moulsford. However, is any week a normal week when it comes to school life? Either way, I took it all in my stride and have had an extremely productive second week at Moulsford.

Image taken from google – lovely to see lots of music tuition going on this week and to see what an important part it is to school life

On Monday it was one of these days, where it was a day full of house music and I wrote the blog post Musical Madness at Moulsford all about the day. This is a tool that Moulsford as a private boarding school use to bring children throughout the school to work together on a common goal. As a musician myself I found the day a fantastic way of speaking to the boys and forming a professional relationship with some of the members of staff that were in the house Bering. Furthermore, I found myself having discussions with staff members from across the school, all in different roles, about the work that they do on a daily basis, most of which I found insightful. As a teacher it is important to develop a culture of trust and respect with other members of staff and the pupils and I feel by taking part in the activities here at Moulsford I am doing this. Moreover, Cremin and Arthur (2014) concur, and believe that by managing a team of adults to ensure that all children can access a range of curricular opportunities, adapted to the children’s own needs in this type of culture, it will facilitate a child’s learning.

On Tuesday it was a normal teaching day where I spent the majority of the day with the pre-prep children and staff. This lead me to write the blog post First Time at Phonics, because it was my first ever encounters with phonics in a teaching setting. I had no idea how useful phonics could be to children in the primary classroom and on Friday morning discussed even teaching a lesson on phonics early next term. Furthermore, on Tuesday I also attended forest school for the third time where we did a Gruffalo hunt with the children. The children all seemed to really enjoy it, although by the end of the hunt were getting rather tired. This made me think about the amount of activities in Moulsford which are packed into the average school day which can be immensely fun and rewarding, however the longer days could lead to tiredness. Since my time here I have found that the length of the school day is definitely a big difference between private schools and government run schools with some children attending school from 8am to 6pm. Following Tuesdays excitement, on Wednesday,I was extremely excited to be invited to attend a pupil council meeting with the staff and boys. A one of my goals is to learn about schools from all aspects I personally felt that watching the children discussing matters throughout the school that are important to them was really interesting. Additionally, I was able to see the trust and respect that there needs to be between staff and pupils in a school once again after Monday. The day did make me think a little more as well about my goal which is to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom. Furthermore, as important as the staff members are in a school, the children are equally as important and over the coming weeks I think I will try to speak to some of the boys in the school about their experience at Moulsford to gain an insight into this aspect of a school.

On Thursday I spoke to the lovely team in Learning Support and wrote the post Learning for Support and Support for Learning about the experience. I felt the experience made me closer to successfully completing one of my goals “I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom”. The Integrity Standard for Provisional Registration (GTCS, 2012, pp. 5) “critically examining the connections between personal and professional attitudes and beliefs, values and professional practices in order to inform and shape personal and professional development effect improvement” is linked closely with this goal. To gain more of an insight into what a learning support staff members role in the classroom is, I went on to read chapter 8.2 Working together: other adults in the classroom by Cremin and Arthur (2014) in Learning to Teach in the Primary School.

By Friday, the school was in a quick paced flurry of excitement as the term was about to end. Each class was tidying up their individual form rooms, making mothers day cards

Image taken from google – it was great to sit in on Mark Reading where this was a huge theme throughout the morning!

and easter gifts to take home. As mentioned earlier, I myself had a chat with the Year 3 teacher about doing some lessons of my own at the beginning of next term. To start with, over the Easter break I will be planning a lesson on rivers, mathematics and phonics to each last an hour. To help me plan I will be referring to the National Curriculum (Department for Education, 2017). Before the children all left for their break away from education, it was time for Mark Reading which is something I would usually refer to as an achievement assembly.

To conclude this reflection, during 3 of these days on placement I have written 3 critical blog posts about my time here at Mouslford and feel that I am critically examining personal and professional attitudes and beliefs and challenging our own assumptions and professional practice which is also one of the Standards for Provisional Registration (GTCS, 2012, pp. 4). Furthermore, to add to my practice I am completing my goals through frequent academic reading which I am referencing in the blog posts and observations in the school itself. Being away from the Prep school for 3 weeks will certainly be bitter sweet as after a busy term at the University and going in to placement straight away has left me shattered but, I am have the experience of a lifetime at Moulsford and just want to keep going back everyday.

 

 

References

Department for Education (2017) National Curriuclum. [Online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-english-programmes-of-study (Accessed on 25th March 2017).

GTCS (2012) The Standards for Registration. [Online]. Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/about-gtcs/standards-for-registration-draft-august-2012.pdf (Accessed on 25th March 2017).

Teresa, C. and Arthur, J. (2014) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. Abington, Oxon: Routledge. Chapter 8.1 – The changing role of the teacher

Learning for Support and Support for Learning

I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom

If you are keeping up to date with my blog and reading it daily, you will be familiar with my third goal for this placement quoted above. Today’s main learning focus for myself was Learning Support in my fantastic placement school. This is a part of school life I myself have had a lot to do with as a child. Readers for my previous posts will know that I went through the Gaelic curriculum in the Highlands of Scotland but may not know that I actually have severe dyslexia which was discovered at 14. I am very open and honest about it and throughout primary school struggled with reading, spelling and especially Gaelic language. After my father was ill and passed away, a lot of my work slipped further and this was put down to what was happening in my home life. Not till I was 14 did anyone spot that there might be more to it and sent me for a screening. After being diagnosed with severe dyslexia, the only support I was given by the school was extra time in exams even with me and my mother crying out for more support. The exception a was few individual teachers who were kind enough to give up their own time recording notes for me to listen back to and giving me one to one support. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The reasoning the school couldn’t support me further was down to funding and time and like so many others, my schooling may have been so different if this hadn’t been the case. So, my experience was not great, but this was 5 years ago now and times have changed since I was at school. Here is a good video explaining what Additional Support Needs in Scotland are currently recognised to be.

Today, I was able to have a chat with the Head of Learning Support for Moulsford which is where I have received the majority of the information for todays blog post. Moulsfords Learning Support is constantly busy as they have over 50 boys who need support from 4 full time and 2 part time Learning Support teachers. Their work ranges from one to one support to early morning group working interventions and it is massively supported by the other staff in the school and used well. The interventions and resources used vary from child to child but some that we discussed were for reading and maths recovery, group work and extra time in exams. At Moulsford, similar to the practice I am used to seeing in Scotland, additional support can be long and short term. It can range from the child having an additional support need (long term) to a parent being unwell (long/short term) to the child having a broken wrist and being unable to write (short term). No matter what the support is, no child is turned away and every child is catered for. Additionally, the school also have additional language and speech therapists, occupational therapists, school counselors and many other visiting support staff to support the children in any way they may need.

Image taken from TES Resources

Learning Support at Moulsford is well catered for as it is integrated into every classroom as well as 3 individual rooms being used for one to one support. If you go to Moulsford all over the school you will see these dyslexia posters provided by TES, informing staff at the school what to look out for in students work.

But how does all this compare with the Learning Support in Scotland? For a state school in Scotland, they must have support in place for children with additional support needs after The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (and the amended 2009 version) was passed and are currently enforcing it through Getting it Right for Every Child and the Curriculum For Excellence in schools across the country. Iain Nisbet also chairs The Advisory Group for Additional Support for Learning in Scotland, who focus on eight areas related to additional support for learning over a two year period at a time.

Image from google. Scotland are putting great emphasis on GIRFEC at the moment to help children who have Additional Support Needs

However, some may say the Learning Support at a private school like Moulsford also has a serious drawback. Unlike in Scottish/English state schools where any support given via the school or outside support staff (i.e. NHS) is totally free, at a private school, one to one Learning Support is charged on top of the fees their parents already pay. Moreover, I personally see the benefits to this as in Scottish/English state schools and the NHS, money is drastically being withdrawn and children are being turned away constantly and therefore not receiving the support they need. See here for more. At Moulsford every child in Year 3 is screened for additional support needs and then after that teachers and parents can raise concerns where the child may be screened again. Once a child has been screened and an additional support need flagged, the child will have an Individual Educational Plan drawn up for them – similar to the ones I have seen schools use in Scotland. The whole system at Moulsford is amazing, nowhere else have I seen every child being screened for support needs at Year 3 and wonder if I had been given a screening at the same age for my dyslexia, would it have been spotted and schooling made easier for me?

A short quote about individuality which should be taken into account when thinking about learning support from google images

I cannot change my own past and experience through the Scottish education system, but can certainly say that my point of view is that the Learning Support team at Moulsford have absolutely got it right from their screenings to the resources they use to the range of support staff who come into the school. In Scotland, I think we could learn a lot from the Learning Support team at Moulsford and would do well to take on board some of their practices and values. Before my meeting with the head of Learning Support ended, I had enough time to ask one final question which was “What piece of advice would you give to me as a trainee teacher for spotting and then supporting children who have additional support needs?” The advice given was to use differentiation, early intervention and if something doesn’t seem right, to always question it. This is advice which I am sharing so that I can not only enhance my own practice but readers may be able to so as well. I can certainly say that today has been one of the most educational for me so far, definitely hitting one of my goals for this placement. They are a lovely team and I look forward to learning more from the Learning Support team more over the next four weeks.

First Time at Phonics

Image taken from google

Phonics at Moulsford has become part of the curriculum from pre-prep up to Year 5 over the past couple of years. For those of you reading this who are unsure of what phonics are, they are the first strategy that children should be taught to help them learn to read by using words that are made up from small sounds called phonemes. Before Moulsford, my own experience of phonics was limited and I was never completely sure of what they were, how they were taught or if they worked. Although I have not been at Moulsford all that long, already I have been in many classes who are using phonics regularly and putting this strategy at the forefront of the children’s learning. Moulsford also follow the national curriculum for England for teaching phonics which means that more resources are often readily available online. Each class I have observed during their phonics lessons have had around 16-18 boys in and have used a range of activities to develop knowledge and understanding. Lessons at pre-prep level are taught every morning for half an hour and the older years mix phonics in with reading time and English lessons.

Image taken from google of a good example of a resource teachers may like to use in their classrooms

Euan Mclelland for the Daily Mail, mentions the benefits of teaching phonics, saying that phonics is a cost-effective way to help raise literacy levels across Britain and that teaching phonics closes attainment gap while not asking more from pupils than what they are used to or capable of. Also, the London School of Economics (LSE) have found teaching children to read using sounds rather than individual letters, far more effective and that this can be of greater benefit to children with English as an additional language. Furthermore, Rhona Johnston and Joyce Watson at the University of Hull have studied the implementation of phonics in classrooms from 1992 to 2004 and found that the teaching of 3.5 hours of phonics per week can bring children’s spelling, reading and vocabulary up considerably, concluding that there is considerably less time wasting in the classroom with phonics teaching and that the scores were generally better.

Andrew Davis has argued in the guardian that phonics doesn’t work and there shouldn’t be so much concentration put into phonics at a young age. Moreover, he states that English is a hard language to learn with words having many different spellings all with different meanings. He also says that there is no consideration in phonics for children who need braille and sign language and is therefore not an inclusive method to bring into the classroom. This point is strengthened by Abigail Marshall arguing that teaching phonics is an arduous process for many dyslexic students and that phonics-based teaching won’t help children with dyslexia because their reading barriers lie elsewhere.

Image taken from google images of a twinkl resource for phonics

Some of the resources that Moulsford have been using include books and websites from Lego superhero books to phonicsplay.com and twinkl. From what I had heard about the what phonics was I wasn’t expecting it to be taught in such an active way, with the children being so engaged. Games like the one here, from twinkle, include throwing a dice and then choosing a word from that to read and put into a sentence. Additionally, writing out words on whiteboards, possibly a more traditional way of teaching reading and writing, are still included in the daily lessons and the children also have a phonics book which will go home with them. This is where the boys can find the correct words in the home environment to match the sound for that week, which in turn with also get parents involved in their child’s learning. The children also make use of technology playing games on their smart boards in small groups or individually trying to find the correct spelling for the words on an ipad app.

To conclude this short post, every activity I have experienced are all key points which I will try to take away and put into my own future practice as a teacher, especially with phonics becoming more prominent in the Scottish Curriculum. My experience at Moulsford is certainly teaching me a lot about education in England, especially early years English in this case and this means I am hitting my goals for this placement already! I am hoping that after easter I may be able to try my hand at teaching my own phonics lesson and sifting through the wide world of resources out there at educators fingertips…

Image taken from google of some good outdoor phonics ideas

Image taken from google of resources which can be used

Image taken from google of resources which can be used

Cognita De Vita

Learning From Life…

The title of this post is written in Latin as I am writing today about my first ever experience going into a Latin lesson. It was extremely interesting going into a classroom being totally unaware of what the children were learning about and saying. The teacher was extremely helpful by asking the children to explain what constituted a verb and giving the English before the Latin. Also, the teacher kindly handed me a sheet of the present passives so I wouldn’t be in the dark in what they were saying. I found the experience gave me a slight insight into how it must be for children coming to Britain with English as an additional language or with no English at all. I have had similar experiences going into French and Spanish lessons in previous placements as I have been fluent in Gaelic from a young age but have never had a wish to learn another language as my interests lie in social studies. At Moulsford, the boys learn Latin from Year 5 onwards, however this may change with the new timetable where they may start at Year 6. Latin not only consists of the learning of the language but also about its history as this could be a scholarship opportunity for some boys in the future.

Picture taken from google images

I have said myself that I have never been given the opportunity to learn Latin and that is purely down to the fact I went through state school. Yes, I was lucky in the sense that my parents lived in an area where the Gaelic curriculum was offered and decided that I would go into the Gaelic medium at 3 however, I am aware of the fact that this is not the case in the majority of schools in Scotland, let alone the rest of Britain. Private schooling is certainly one of the only options available if you want your child to learn certain languages including Latin unless you are willing to move, however according to The Independent Latin is said to have made a surprising comeback within state secondary schools over the past few years. I had a look on website for The Association for Latin Teaching where they have a list of all of the schools which offer Latin as a subject and state schools are certainly in the minority. It is clear that if you wish for your child to have any form of teaching instruction of the classics then private or independent schools are the way forward. 

Picture taken from google images

Professor Dennis Hayes believes that Latin should be taught in every primary school (no matter whether they are private or state) and be taught throughout school, not limited to the middle and upper years. He suggests that it would transform education in English schools and that subjects should become more accessible to children in state schools. Furthermore, I agree with Hayes that children should have the opportunity in all schools to access classic languages, but that I feel this only a dream. The current state education system in Britain is underfunded and the Financial Times recently produced an article stating that English schools will face a 6.5% cut in funding and expect it to happen by 2020. Therefore, the likelihood of the government spending a drastic amount on Latin teachers and a new curriculum for Latin is low when they are taking away money from other departments.

Some readers may ask why Latin, but I ask why any Language? Surely there is a benefit to children learning a language no matter what. I have had people say to me that Gaelic is a dying language and should be left to die instead of pouring money into it when there are more important things to be spending money on.  However, my argument to this is that I have used Gaelic throughout my life to converse with friends, as an extra exam on my University applications and most importantly in my job when I worked as an early years practitioner in a Gaelic Nursery. Furthermore, the same could be said with Latin with other students. Half of our English vocabulary is made up of Latin words and roots, it is argued that Latin is the most efficient way to learn English grammar and it is a part of our history as a country. Each language has its positives and negatives but I feel that Latin is a good language to teach children and should be taught in all schools. I look forward to observing more Latin lessons at Moulsford and hopefully learning a few Latin words myself. Today’s lesson certainly gave me something interesting to think about.

Gratias ago vos pro lectio!

 

The Moulsford Forest School Experience

Do we ignore the importance of outdoor play?

I am so lucky to have today visited a forest school with the pre-prep year groups from Moulsford. It was a new experience entirely for me and having bought wellies in preparation, everyone knew how excited I was to be given this opportunity. Outdoor education is something I tend to miss out of teaching because there is either not enough time or the weather in Scotland is horrendous at the time. The forest school teacher was extremely kind and helpful, explaining everything to me and getting me involved with the whole day. We all started by going to the forest from the school around 15 minutes away on the school mini-bus. The children were all dressed in rain suits, hats, wellingtons from home and warm clothing because there is no shelter or indoor area. The journey was short but the children were all excellently behaved and were told a story about Bosun the dog who sat in the back as good as gold barking along with the story. The atmosphere was really heartwarming for a total outsider to forest school like me. Moreover, it is an amazing opportunity to have a dog with the children on these trips which is so well behaved and plays so well with the children.

Upon reaching the forest the children walk from the busses parking place for around 5 minutes to a large clearing all cordoned off with fences and blue rope. This was the childrens are to do anything they wanted play, build, climb, sit. They can literally do anything they want. However, the first thing they have to do is to go and do their own check in pairs around the clearing that the blue rope, fences, ladders etc are all still intact and safe which they then report

My own image taken from the clearing

back to the forest teacher. After this the children are free to play on or build whatever they wish. The dogs ran and played fetch with the children for a long time however after a while the children went off to do their own thing – mostly climbing trees, logs, ladders, pulling the ropes and building swings. Furthermore, many children ran over to the forest teacher to ask if they were allowed to do certain things like building a swing or climbing a tall tree, to which the forest teacher always responded “what do you think?”. The open ended question gives children an opportunity to think about the situations safety and sense and they are also able to decide about something themselves. Giving the children this amount of responsibility can give great results for their confidence, as all children can be successful in answering the questions. The Queens University of Belfast believe that asking children open ended questions can play a salient part in the development of young children’s thinking.

The children received a snack which changes every week, and after that it is time to go home. With this group of children there was no moaning about leaving and they just did what they were told – something I am certainly not used to when leaving something which is so much fun. Leaving was just the same where the children were allowed to run in front with the dogs providing they were always in eyesight of the adults with them. This is one of the only rules of forest school which also include not going outside the boundaries and when climbing a tree ensuring the branches are as big as the children’s wrist and there are always 3 points of contact on any climbing instrument whether this be two feet, one hand or one foot, two hands etc. The relaxed atmosphere of the forest school means the children have a better chance to enhance their social and emotional skills and develop their imagination. Sarah Olmsted states in her book, Imagine Childhood, that the key main keystones of childhood are nature, imagination and play. Building on this, I had a very in depth discussion with one boy about fairies and elves living in trees and he was able to tell me about each room in the tree and what they would eat for dinner etc. He then took his imagination and played with the tree pointing out where the windows were and climbing up and down the ladder to look at them. The same boy also expressed his love of forest school saying he liked being able to play outside and climb the trees.

My own image of the clearing

In addition, it is important to be critical and ask is forest school really everything its cracked up to be? The paper work is intense, the risk assessment alone which I haven’t seen yet but will be writing about later in the term, I can only imagine is extremely lengthy and jam packed with things that could go wrong. The risk of taking the children to a forest is far greater than having them play in a classroom, especially with children climbing trees which they could fall down and building with logs and twigs which they could get splinters from. However, without children taking these risks how can we really ensure that children receive a hands-on learning experiences in a woodland area in a classroom. How can we ensure that their imagine develops to its full potential if everything is structured? Is a forest the most hygienic place to be taking children to? These are all questions surrounding forest schools across the country and its legitimacy in schooling today.

To conclude my blog post for today, the practice which I observed today has given me something to really think about with forest schooling, however for me personally the positives fully outweigh the negatives. The benefits are never ending and forest school is something I’d like to get more involved with here at Moulsford and then develop into my practice as a working teacher in the future. I feel that every child should have the opportunity to just play, yes they need to learn, but what about play! It is discussed all the time about play in education and putting learning into play, but I think good old fashioned play with no structure like I observed today, for me, is the most beneficial thing that any child can do in their lifetime. Because of this, I leave you with this thought…