Category Archives: LfL – Section 3

Culture Walk Around Moulsford

  • How is space allocated? Who has space

All staff have a space whether that be a classroom or a desk to themselves or a room to do work in. It depends on the job of course and how much space they will need but each member of staff in the school has their own space to do work. Outdoors space is vast with the school owning a lot of property within Moulsford and land in Moulsford itself. The land is mainly used for activities/games/outdoor learning, as is the river.

  • What is displayed on the walls?

There are lots of coulourful bright displays like the one oppostite, whether it be of the childrens work, pointers to help the children remember facts or about growth mindset which the school (and I) think is really important. As well as this, there are lots of things about British culture, as this is not a very diverse school due to the catchment area, it considerably helps to teach the children when the staff can display posters and boards expressing British culture in modern life. Many teachers choose to have a small display of posters or pictures about them so that the pupils know them a bit better. For example which football teams they support, photos of goals they are proud to have acheived, their favourite theatre production or a book they enjoyed as a child. Furthermore, in the dining room there is a huge display of every single school photo ever taken since the 60’s along with the house trophies which I think is really nice because it means a lot to the children as many of their own fathers may have gone to Moulsford and it shows just how long the school has been around for. Additionally, as you walk into the schools entrace there is a huge (and I mean huge) cabinet of awards that the school have won through sports, academics and music. This shows just how proud of its pupils Moulsford is.

  • Bulletin boards with positive messages, general information, promotional contests, expired information

Bulliten boards and messages for the teachers are just outside the staff room as this is where everyone congrigates at break and lunch times. Inside the staff room there is a huge whiteboard where the teachers write on a calendar of events over the coming weeks and can add to it as things crop up and trips/matches get booked. After looking, there is no expired information on the boards. If something has happened it is either wiped off or taken down, the school are really good with this.

  • What is displayed on desks? Lockers, other areas

Desks in the classrooms vary from room to room. For example some classrooms have ordinary tables and chairs, in music the are chairs with a small flat peice of wood that comes up for the boys to put work on, in Year 3 they are “old fashioned” desks where the lid lifts up for the boys to store their work and in design technology there are some stools (like in the art classroom) and their desks which have equiptment built in to help the boys in lessons. When it come to games, the boys store their things in the home changing rooms in lockers. If there are lots of games or like when it comes to cricket season there is a lot to carry around and store, the school may also suggest use of the away changing rooms if there is not a match on. Moreover, in the dining hall, there are tables and long stools going along the width of the hall for easier access for teachers to be at the head of the table when it comes to family service.

  • How are common areas used

The staff use the staff room on a daily basis, it is very rare that a member of staff wouldn’t go to the staff room at least once in a day. Another common area is the lunch hall which, again all members of staff will use in a day, especially the boarding staff and boys who will have breakfast, lunch and dinner there. The outside areas (astro turf, fields, river etc) are used daily for playing at break and lunch and then in the afternoons for games, p.e. and then junior/senior after school activities. The boarding boys and staff often use the outdside area as well after school. The boarding area has two seperate common areas on with a tv and sofa and another area with a small kichen and table games, which they are welcome to use at any point after 5.30 when boarding begins.

  • What is the norm for communications?

Communications are usually done via email or via conversation in the staff room. As everyone congrigates there, it is really easy for staff to discuss any concerns or to praise a pupil to one of two members of staff, however if there are lots of members of staff needing to be told something this would be done via email or staff meeting. There are regular staff meetings where information may be shared where the headmaster will attend and there will also be an admisitrative staff member taking notes. Communitcation for the boys is generally done in assembly 3 times a week or during registration where it is vital the boys know where they are to go at the end of the day (games, bus, prep or home etc). Furthermore, at the end of each assembly there is time given to all members of staff who need it to just quickly say anything they need to to a whole year group, house or school.

  • Conversation vs. email – tone of messages

Everything in email is done very professionally. Everyone is polite, however some of the members of staff are married or related and therefore I would imagine that it would become a more realxed tone. Everyone at Moulsford is really friendly and conversation is really informal unless discussing a pupil. Although, I am saying everyone is friendly and relaxed, nobody ever crosses the line when disucssing pupils or situations within the school, everything remains really respectful. Aditionally, I would however say the staff are a lot more relaxed and informal than you might find in other state schools, but this is just because of that family feel, friendly tone the whole of the school gives off and I think it is really nice to be somewhere that feels so warm and welcoming. All staff members converse throughout the day in the staff room at breaks and lunches so it is very easy to communicate with members of staff throughout the day. Every member of staff also has their own email as well, most of which are hooked up to their phones so if they get an email from a parent they can answer straight away.

The Culture of Moulsford. The Teachers Perspective.

As our placement is completely up to us as students, we do have some structure as to what we have to include in our folios. One of these is a piece on the culture of our placement and how we do this piece is completely up to us. I have decided to conduct interviews and questionaires from various members of staff from accross the school and collate the answers in a blog post on here for confidentiality and fairness. I am aware that I wanted to do these interviews but not name any names as so many member of the school look on my blog frequently, so this is the best way I could think to do it. So what did I ask, and what were the answers?

What would you tell a friend about Moulsford?

The Moulsford sports hall is massive and just shows how serious they are about sports

Most people were really positive saying things like “you do something different everyday” and that the school is amazing for sport/socialising. From my observations, that school is amazing when it comes to sport with the boys doing games/p.e. nearly every day though classes or activities. Sport is something that the school highly values and feels that the children should have regular access too. Additionally, someone told me that the one thing they would tell a friend about Moulsford is how passionate the staff are. From experience in my time here, I was instantly shown just how friendly an environment this is to work in. Everyone is so friendly as well, they are all willing to help and want me to do my best and even with this here, staff that I hadn’t even come into contact with were willing to talk to me and answer my questions. There is such a family feel here and for the time I have been here I have been delighted to feel a part of it. However, with any job there are highs and lows. Some of the staff were not quite as positive, mentioning the fact that the school can become political, feeling that if you’re not in the crowd you’re clearly left out. I have not personally seen anyone being left out, in the staff room everyone is always very chatty and happy to talk to anyone, however I am only seeing a snapshot of life here for 6 weeks.

What would you like to change about Moulsford?

I asked the staff this question, because I feel that there are always ways of improving everything. The staff all said that they would like to see a more diverse range of students i.e. class, disabilities etc. Although you can walk around and in each class there is nearly always a child with a form of disability e.g. dyslexia, I fully see why they brought up class in this questionairre. At least 95% of the boys at Moulsford are English white middle/upper class but this is most likely due to the catchment area and the fact that it is only people earning a certain wage bracket that can afford a private school for their children. Moreover, other things mentioned were the astro facilities, the elitism and the fact that whole school decisions should not be parent led. Some staff members even said that there was genuinely nothing they wanted to see change. Additionally, there was a lot of talk about the amount of support for the pastoral side of the school. With a designated head of pastoral care and also a boarding house, I am seeing a tremendous amount of pastoral care being given to the boys compared to what I see in Scottish state schools. However, I do also feel that sometimes there is a culture in the school of “man up” as an all boys school. If a child falls over I am used to the rush over give him a plaster and ensure he is feeling well. Although here all of the staff are exceedingly caring and kind, there is a man up attitude from most teachers which could be considered harsh for boys of such a young age. Lastly, one member of staff wrote that they would like to see less of the “if your face fits” culture especially in terms of favouritism. Unfortunately, some staff said that they would not be willing to say if there was anything, which did not really help me, however I do understand that some staff would like to keep their ideas private and respect this fully.

Who is the hero around here and why?

There was a huge response to this question, with everyone having different answers, but I couldn’t write everyones names because of confidentiality and the fact this is a public blog. So I am going to write their job title insted.

  • The staff on their Gap Year, because they always goes the extra mile.
  • One of the sports teachers Mr O, because he’s great at teaching sport.
  • Headboy and scholars, “A” team sportsman.
  • Anyone putting their trust in us when we do things differently.
  • Mrs R because she is very calm, takes her time to get to know everyone and always gets involved.
  • Head of pre-prep because they lay the groundwork for future educational sucess.
  • All the staff who come in everyday
  • The sports teachers

What is your favourite characteristic of the school?

Naturally, every single answer to this question mentioned the setting. Just look at it though! There is a beautiful riverside which the school utilise, especially in the summer and not only that it is only an hours drive away from London so the boys can go on loads of school trips to the theatre, museums and art galleries. I wrote about learning support and the amount of work they do throughout the school, so I was glad when a member of staff told me that they felt there was a lot of support for students with dyslexia. Moreover, I have mentioned the family feel before and the homelieness of Moulsford which is down to the friendly staff and the fact that staff bring their pets at school. The pets go on outdoors learning trips like forest school, I have mentioned Bosun the dog before in my posts. Moreover, some teachers felt that the oportunities for academics, sport and other for the students and the staff were their favourite parts to the school.

What kinds of people fail in your organisation? (Students/staff)

Staff felt that it is quite hard for students to fail. This is most likely down to the fact that there is so much support for the boys and everyone will happily rally together to help any child in need. Some said that if anyone was to fail, it would be the less able/academic or non sporty boys who could become overwhelmed by workload and fail at their exams. However, we must think about failure as something with isn’t always academic, and someone can be a sucessful classmate as apposed to a successuful scholar.

Staff wise, those who may fail in this environment would possibly be those with a lack of confidence or anyone that fails but doesn’t try again. Unfortunately, some staff members said that some staff are not given the individual attention they need, so if they were to fail, they didn’t feel supported. This is absoloutley the opposite of anything I have seen here, with the amount of heads of department and a real heirarchy of staff, I think if staff members really felt that they needed support, all they would have to do is ask for it. However, everyone is fully entitled to their opinion and obvioulsy as I have said before, I am only seeing a snapshot of life at Moulsford as a teacher.

What question would you ask a candidate for a job?

Questions were varied and are as follows;

  • What would you bring to the school/staff room?
  • What evidence do you have of team playing?
  • Outside of learning what skills/talents do you have that will enhance the staff body?
  • Describe an aspect of your personality that you feel would benefit the school?
  • Are you flexible?
  • Tell me something unusual about yourself?
  • What do you condider makes a successful teacher?

I think it is extremely interesting to in fact see that the questions here are mostly based around the staff body. This is clearly something that the school feels is important when choosing a candidate for a job, mainly to consider what kind of person this particular school is looking to employ. This will help me in the future also, when I am looking for jobs in this field.

Boarding Life at Moulsford

Image taken from Google – what is your first impression of parents who choose boarding schools for their children?

Here at Moulsford, boarding is offered for boys Year 5 and up, Monday to Friday, 4 nights a week. It is flexible and boys can choose to stay for 1, 2, 3 or 4 nights in a row if they choose. There is also the opportunity for some boys to actually stay until 8pm if they’re parents work late as “day boarders” and leave when the other boys go to bed. When I was the boys age now, I was reading the st Claire’s, Malory Towers and Naughtiest Girl in the School books by Enid Blyton and daydreaming about going to a boarding school myself. For a time I was even considering giving up the idea teaching all together when I was told I would never get the grades required, so considered becoming a house mother. However, that dream was shattered when I was (falsely) told I needed a nursing degree of some sort, so gave up the idea and fought even harder to get the right grades needed to become a teacher. This week, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with the boys to talk to them about their experience boarding and also discuss the work needed to be put into making the boarders life as comfortable as possible by the house parents.

Many people that I know, have the opinion that boarding schools are for children who’s parents are too busy to look after them or for children with disciplinary concerns. Now I am here and experiencing the boarding side to private schooling, I see that it simply isn’t the case. I did ask the boys why they were here and received many replies such as “because I enjoy it”, “because its great practice before I go to a full boarding private school” and “because we can use the schools facilities”. The schools facilities are incredible and the boys could truly want for little more each night. The majority of the boys parents live little more than 15 minutes away from the school as well, so if they needed anything or felt home sick they are only a phone call away which is so handy for the boys, the families and the school. Moreover, the boarding facilities not only include activities areas, kitchen spaces, comfortable living areas but also a sick bay run by the matron each night between 5-10pm and after that the boarding parents, who also live in a flat on site. This is rarely used according to the boarding parents, but they are glad they have somewhere that the boys can go should they feel unwell or unable to sleep.

The routine is structured enough that the boys always have free time, dinner, extra prep, free time and then hot chocolate and reading before bed. However, their free time is their free time and the boys change into their home clothes and choose to do whatever they want. The boarding parents put on daily activities for the boys in both sets of free time, however there is not obligation to participate, although encouraged. In the run up to exams and if the boys have a test the next day, like any pupil from a state school, the boys will sometimes choose to revise for that subject rather that to spend time doing activities. There are two communal areas with sofas, TV’s, kitchen area and games tables as well as their own rooms and the school grounds which they can use. The boarding parents like to take the boys down to the sports hall to run around and play active games with the schools equipment and often even join in with their games. No other state schools that I know of run after school sessions where the children can literally do as they please, it is usually a structured activities program, so I quite liked seeing what the boys got up to in their free time after school.

Tuesday nights evening activity was actually run by me. I took irn bru and shortbread for the boys and I did a short talk on Scotland and taught them some words in Gaelic. I wasn’t expecting much as it was only a very short 15 minute talk with some questions at the end so I was really surprised when the boys loved my talk and even asked me to go back. I was quite delighted to say the least that I had successfully run an activity for 35 boys where they all had taken part and enjoyed it. Not in a million years did I think I would have even 10 boys show up to my talk, let alone all of them! I truly thought there would be a certain knack to getting them engaged in participating but after speaking to the boarding master, he said himself that the boys usually choose to go to the boarding house and take part in any activity going, so getting them engaged isn’t as tough as I’d originally thought. This is definitely a difference to what I am used to in state schools. Regularly, there is a battle between teachers and pupils for engagement in activities – even the fun ones – so I would definitely be interested to see what kind of reaction my talk would get in a state school.

Before I left the boarders I was just able to spend some free time down in the games hall with them playing football, wall climbing, playing tennis and talking to them all about boarding life. The boys bed times are staggered by year group and as they each go off they get their hot chocolate as they get ready for bed. Once ready, the boarding prefects go and listen to the younger boarders read, and are often rewarded with a stash of sweeties hidden away in the boarding masters cupboard (I absolutely didn’t have any *cough cough*). So once all the boys were away to bed, that was my evening with the boarders over. Once I would be leaving, the boarding parents would do their usual rounds of checking bedrooms for chatterboxes and any suspicious behaviour before going into their flat and most likely doing marking or lesson prepping themselves for the next day. I asked the boarding parents why they chose to become boarding parents and they said because they loved the school, the pastoral side to education and because it is great stepping stone to go on to greater things in education. They didn’t mention their degrees and especially didn’t mention they had a nursing degree. Further research since then has confirmed that in fact no boarding school dictates that a nursing degree is essential to being given a job as a house parent and only matrons require this on certain applications.

I honestly had never thought about becoming a house parent or working with boarding houses since the time I thought maybe it could be a career opportunity when I was around 10. However, I can honestly, from the bottom of my heart say that Moulsford has changed my mind about boarding and I might even be as bold as to say that becoming a boarding parent is something that I am really interested in as a career move. They are so close knit here at Mouslford (staff and boys) and I honestly get a strong family vibe from them, as though they are all here for a common reason and just want to enjoy what time they have at the school. It takes something massive and life changing to change my mind about becoming a teacher and I think the boarding staff at Moulsford would be proud to know they have had that lasting impact on me. I am so so looking forward to visiting them again before my time here at Moulsford will be up.

Image of the boarding school itself

 

Pupil Participation

Image from google images – the boys all wear badges similar to these

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a pupil council meeting and see how Moulsford run their meetings. A boy from each class showed up including the pre-prep classes, the head boys, the headmaster and the deputy head (pastoral). All the boys were wearing pins to show their status as a pupil council member and patiently, quietly waited for the headmaster to call them into his office to begin the meeting – which impressed me a lot. A chair (one of the boys) had already been appointed and throughout the meeting ran through each of the items on the list which ranged from cups in the canteen to sporting opportunities to a skate park on the grounds. Each point was discussed and supported by the headmaster and the deputy head (pastoral) no matter how big or small the matter or how silly it was either. A lot of the time it was suggested that if the matter in hand was a possibility it would need to be run by the bursar before any final decisions were made on the matter, but no idea was ever shot down. Nothing point was rushed through and every suggestion was treated as a democracy with the headmaster suggesting the pupil council take a vote on the matter if there was a lot of debate.

It became clear to me throughout the meeting that the pupil council is taken very seriously in the school by the way the children’s opinions and suggestions were carefully taken into consideration and the way the boys acted during the meeting. However, the more research I did, the more I realised this is not something which is special for Moulsford. The Department of Education in England is supportive for all schools to have structures similar to pupil councils in place which can allow pupils to discuss the issues that affect them and hear their opinions. Moreover, Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states clearly that children and young people should have a say in decisions that affect their lives and by having a pupil council, Moulsford are clearly doing this. The experience of sitting in on a pupil council meeting has definitely showed me the importance of listening to your pupils in a school and is something which I feel all schools should have.

Image from google images