Category Archives: Contemporary issues

Moulsford. History. Common Entrance.

Its no news to anyone back home, at university or even here at Moulsford that I love my history and its definitely an area I am really interested in teaching. Mouslford are about to go through a whole curriculum change which will happen in the next few months, but for the next few weeks I am seeing the curriculum as it stands now which is with the Year 6 boys and up working towards their common entrance exams. Obviously, there are exams in Scotland but not until the children are working towards their nationals and highers etc.

Image taken from Google – Children at Moulsford can take a common entrance exam in history

So how structured are the two curriculum? We all know how much “free reign” teachers in Scotland get under the Curriculum for Excellence. As long as each child in the class hits the Experiences and Outcomes in the social studies subject, the teachers are able to teach what they like, when they like and how they like. Here at Moulsford the same goes for Years 3 to 5. Children study The Vikings, The Egyptians, World War 2, The Aztecs and more with a range of different methods in which they teach it. When it come to Year 6, everything changes slightly as the boys are working towards their common entrance exams for private schools. The history syllabus for common entrance includes Medieval Realms: Britain 1066 – 1485, The Making of the United Kingdom: 1485 – 1750, Britain and Empire: 1750 – 1914 where they must cover topics like the Black Death, Henry VII, American war of Independence, seven years war and the English Civil War. I certainly think there is a lot to cover in 3 years for boys so young, but if the boys are to go onto do history at a higher level, the lessons that they have now will prepare them. The 60 minute common entrance exam for history in compiled of 2 questions, 1 unseen evidence based question and then 1 essay based question from the common entrance syllabus. They would usually have at least 7 questions to choose from. Schools will then take candidates depending on their score, for top school 65-85% or above.

Image taken from Google – I know many teachers who wish the Government had nothing to do with education. What are your thoughts?

More recently in Scotland, there has been a slight shake up in the way history is being taught. Although this does not affect primary schools as much, the curriculum for exams in high schools has in the past few years changed to include a lot more about Scottish history, rather than history of the world. Many have stated that this is just part of the SNP trying to rewrite history books to create propaganda for their pledge for independence. Personally, I agree that if this is the reason they have changed the curriculum, that is utterly unacceptable to teach children based on something that a political party wants, rather than changing the curriculum to benefit the children being taught. Either way and no matter what the reason was for changing it, this does show just how much power the government in Scotland have over the curriculum. My personal feeling on the matter is, no matter where you are in the world, that we should teach children about what they are most likely to be interested in and most likely to equip them for adult life. As a child, I was sick to the back teeth of Culloden by the third time we studied it, let alone the fourth! There was no need for me to learn 4 times about the Battle of Culloden. Yes, it happened only 70 miles away from my house and yes, it is an extremely important moment in history, but 4! Really! When have I ever used my knowledge that I know about the Battle of Culloden in everyday life? I have written about this subject before, explaining my disgust and anger when a lecturer told us that we should only be teaching about Scotland in Is Scottish history the only history that matters in the classroom? So I won’t bang on about it anymore.

Image taken from Google – The famous Battle of Culloden!

To conclude, I am certainly enjoying attending history lessons here at Moulsford and when discussing history with the other teachers feel very enthusiastic about teaching history on the whole. I do feel that there are history subjects out there which are more important to teach that others, especially when it comes to engaging children and teaching them at age and stage appropriate levels. The Scottish curriculum is really basic and allows teachers to teach what they wish up till secondary level when it becomes a more structured tyrant of constant Scottish history, with little scope to go by. At the end of the day though, there is not much difference here at Moulsford. The boys learn a range of historical topics, until Year 6, when everything changes to make room for that dreaded common entrance exam. However, the topics with this are really broad, so do give teachers more scope to play with when planning for the children. At the end of the day, I could write for days about my love of teaching history and the fact that we teach history to equip our children to learn from the past so they can plan for the future, and no matter how much we as teachers may protest, for better or worse, the one thing we can never change is the say that the governments will always have in the way we do this.

Week 3 – Reflection

Week 3 has been a 4 day week due to Easter Monday being a bank holiday. I’m so used to being in Scotland where most people work and most things are open on a bank holiday but down here in England everyone closes up shop and takes the day as a proper holiday for family time! I think its lovely.

Image taken from Google – this was something discussed at the inset day. We need to ensure we teach in the learning zone and not send children into panic

So Tuesday I turned up to Moulsford bright eyed and bushy tailed, very excited to be going back to the school and found coming back after 3 weeks off, rather a breeze. Tuesday was only an inset day but really productive as the school had booked another teacher from “teddies” school in Oxford – also known as St Edwards – to talk about their skills based curriculum. It was really interesting and gave me some fantastic ideas which I would love to put into practice in the future and highlighted some important points like labeling children, giving the children challenges that are suitable but not in “the panic zone” and how important failure is to children so that they can learn from it. Moreover, as it is a goal of mine to find out about the school from all aspects I attended the staff meeting where, although opened and lead by the headmaster, many of the teachers took part in the discussion by putting forward comments or reminders about certain aspects of the school, their department or their class as well as comments from the bursar, office staff, learning support staff, cleaning staff and boarding staff. By attending the staff meeting I was able to demonstrate my professional commitment to my role as a teacher (Medwell and Simpson, 2008, Chapter 4) which is also a vital part to being a teacher in Scotland according to the GTCS (2012, p. 5) and also picked up on some valuable discussions taking place about the school in the summer term. For example, a discussion was held about the new boys who will be joining at the beginning of this term and it was lovely to see how much emphasis was put into this, to ensure it was a smooth transition from previous schools and happy term for the boys from members of teaching staff and office staff. Another discussion was held about members of staff across the school who would be joining the cleaning department and

Image taken from google – there is a real feeling of teamwork here at Moulsford which I love. Everyone works together and shares any information they can with their collegues.

boarding department which showed me just how vital these role are seen as in the school. Following a whole staff lunch I was kindly allowed to attend the English departmental meeting by the head of English. The meeting was putting emphasis on making English lessons creative and which books children would be reading from each year group. A member of teaching staff from each year group attended this meeting along with a member of the learning support team. There was a huge feeling of shared information and team working which I personally feel is important. I went back home at the end of the day to read Pollard et al (2008, chapter 10) about how teachers should implement a curriculum and found that team working and senior management meetings like the ones I have attended today are key to ensuring a curriculum is delivered to a high standard.

Wednesday was a rather full day for me with classes all day but starting with a whole school assesmbly. The topic for the assembly was faliure after the previous days training for teachers and I wrote more about this in Inset Day – Purple Pens and Labelling Lads. My timetable is set now and I will be doing the same things almost every week and my second lesson on a Wednesday will be in Language where I will be helping a pupil with some additional support needs. This is great experience for me as I be continuosly working with them and hopefully, accross many Language lessons in the following weeks, I will be able to see some improvement in their Language work. To help me with this set of lessons in my remaining time at Mouslford I have read the chapter, providing for special educational needs by Noel Purdy (cited in Cremin and Arthur, 2014, p.372). One interesting piece which I read in this was about individual education plans and how important it is to keep the children involved in their own learning. SEN, Ofsted (1999) found that many primary schools believe that not involving the pupils in the formulation of their IEP targets was a weakness to their own learning. I know that here at Moulsford the children are heavily involved in the creation or their individual education plans and therefore the child I am working with, will be informed in how they can work to help their learning. Furthermore, if I can read this, I will be more informed in how my attendance to the English class can benefit their learning to the highest standard.

Image taken from google – Moulsford understands how important sharing a childs IEP is with them, in turn allowing them to benefit more from their learning

Wednesday continued with my first ever proper music lesson which was with the Year 7’s. They were singing and the teacher has asked if I would like to prepare a song for the boys to sing next week. I am racking my brains but so far have not found anything I deem appropriate for this age group. It is times like this that you realise how much swearing and inapropriate subjects are used in music these days. Moreover, after lunch I spent the rest of the afternoon with the Year 3’s who were doing Language and Humanities. The languages lesson was really active with kung fu punctuation a huge part to what could have been a dull lesson about full stops.

Image taken from Google – I loved this idea of Kung Fu Punctuation!

Moreover, in preperation for my rivers lesson with the Year 3’s next week I was able to prepare slightly more by seeing what level some of the children where at already. This week they were foucssing mainly on Britain and I was able to have some very in depth disucussions with the children about Scotland. Most of the children were interested in the typical Ben Nevis, shortbread, whiskey and Gaelic conversations however much to my amusment a few of the boys challenged my football abilities “as a scottish woman” and were surprised to find I know my way around a football pitch rather well. As funny as I found their suprise, it was nearing the end of the day and I helped the class teacher prepare the boys for home time and even met a few of their parents when sending them out the door.

Thursday was very quiet with me meeting teachers across the school to arrange my lessons for the next 3 weeks, so rather exciting for me! I did attend 3 lessons today though and a assembly about cricket, which was great as I love cricket (I know its weird because I’m Scottish but I can’t help it) and its cricket season at Moulsford so I am definately going to try to attend a cricket tea at some point before I leave! In regards to my lessons, the first of these was Year 4 maths. The children were learning number lines and playing games and standing at the front of the classroom to make themselves a number line. Doing a physical number line with the boys meant they were actively engaged and participating in their lesson and I really liked one of the boys techniques of remembering what to do when rounding. This was 5 to 9 climb the vine, 0 to 4 to the floor. Me and the class teacher were both very impressed with this and both expressed our wish to use this again. As the lesson ended the class teacher had some time left over so played a “guess my number” game where the children had to guess which number the teacher had written on their wwhiteboard in only 20 questions. This meant that the class were using mathematical language which made me think back to the mathematics and science module I took earlier in the year where making maths fun and using mathematical language was actively encouraged by the lecturer in order to

Image taken from Goolge – this was the rhyme one of the boys said in their maths lesson on Thursday. Fantastic!

make their learning significant. Furthermore, 90% of pupils in Scotland feel that the mathematics that they are learning in school is significant to them outside of school (Scottish Government (Scotland), 2014) which means in Scotland teachers are teaching mathematics in a fun and engaging way. I feel that these statistics would be similar here as every mathematics lesson I have attended has been engaging and relevant. My day continued with another fun Latin lesson – I am certain I’m starting to pick up a few words. Break and lunch followed, with a history lesson about King John after with a lot of question and answer for the assessment methods. I will be with the Year 6 history group until I leave and look forward to seeing them continue on with this subject with the magna carter being a heavy feature.

Image taken from Google – Completely throwing it back to the absoloute classic magic key books which I learned to read with (so they must be old!)

Friday was my last day of week 3 at Moulsford before the weekend where I spent a morning with Year 3 doing reading and Science and an afternoon with pre-prep doing games (P.E.). The first thing I was doing, was listening to Year 3 readers individually with the class teacher. I really like to do this because you can have a quick conversation with the children about their book and get to know them a bit better. Reading here at Moulsford isn’t done with reading schemes but in Year 3 the children can choose their own stories. I have never seen this done, the schools I have previously attended have always ran with reading schemes. The difference in the two ways that the schools in England and Scotland encouraged me to go away and read some of Primary English: Knowledge and Understanding (Medwell et al. 2014). I found that although reading schemes can be extremely useful in helping teachers reach their children’s experiences and outcomes and equivalent in England, sometimes they can not be particularly interesting or have controlled grammatical and vocabulary structures (Medwell et al, 2014, p.141). Moreover, I personally feel that by giving children the opportunity to learn how to read by allowing them to choose their books the children will be more likely to pick stories they think they will like and therefore enjoy reading, which may give them a positive view of reading in the future. The difference between the way Moulsford teaches reading and Scotland does really interest me as you can see the difference between the children I taught this year compared to last year and the children at Moulsford definitely enjoy reading more. Furthermore, after my previous post which mentions the negative effects of labeling children, many reading schemes such as the Oxford Reading Tree and Read Write Inc do in fact encourage children to be put into reading groups with their books for differentiation. As much as teachers may like this, surely it is better for the children to learn from books they have chosen where they are not feeling pressured to go onto the next book or be in the “top reading”?

Science followed with lots of interesting expeirments taking place about soil. Some exciting question and answer games took place with an active true and false game which I really liked and discussions in pairs. Following this, the children had brought in their own soil and were putting it into a table under appearance, texture and moisture. This was great for me as next week I will be taking their science lesson where they will be continuing this and growing some broad beans. My afternoon was spent with pre-prep in the games hall where the children were playing active games running around and the discussing the skills they were practicing after. This was something that I compared with giving children their success criteria in Scotland which we know is important for their future development. I am really enjoying games lessons and intend to observe a couple more lessons next week and write about the way that Moulsford does games here compared with Scottish education. Although it has only been 4 days it has really been a busy old week for me here because I have observed loads which can be seen in this reflection alone! I am really excited for next week where I will be teaching my first lessons on my own and also seeing the boarding side to Moulsford!

 

References
Cremin, T, and Arthur, J. (2014) Learning to Teach in the Primary School. Routledge:

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 17th March 2017).

Medwell, J and Simpson, F (2008) Successful Teaching Placement in Scotland: Primary and Early Years. Exeter: Learning Matters. Chapter 4.

Medwell, J. Wray, D. Moore, G. Griffiths, V. (2014) Primary English: knowledge and understanding. London: Learning Matters

Ofsted (1999) The SEN Code of Practice: Three Years On. The Contribution of Individual Education Plans to the Ihe Raising of Standards for Pupils With Special Educational Needs Ihe Ihe . Available online at: www.ofsted. gov.uk/resources/sen-code-of-practice-three-years (accessed 20th April 2017).

Pollard, A., Anderson, J., Maddock, M., Swaffield, S., Warin, J. & Warwick, P. (2008) Reflective Teaching. (3rd ed.) London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Scottish Government (Scotland) (2014) Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy 2013 (Numeracy) [Online]. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0044/00449212.pdf   (Accessed on 24th February 2017)

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