Sunday, September 25, 2016

Messing around on the water...

As September draws to a close and the autumn nights get longer I have become increasingly aware that my morning puppy walks across the fields resplendent in shorts and T-shirt will soon become another fading memory of summer....but not quite yet.  So just as age can be a process of denial so is my autumn...if I don't stop wearing shorts then perhaps it won't stop being late summer!  

So after a genuinely fabulous week I am sitting here blogging before our afternoon tennis lesson.  

Last weekend was my daughter's 15th Birthday.  

She seemed to enjoy herself. Loved playing tennis in the drizzle, meal in town with her friends, sleepover and then asked to go into London on Sunday to catch a Top Shop event, part of London Fashion Week, at Spitalfields Market.  

If you haven't visited Spitalfields then perhaps you should, full of interesting stalls and lots of different food stalls that aptly display London's wonderful diversity and ethnic breadth.  We went for Caribbean this time, the girls grazing on patties whilst I went with Jerk Chicken Curry.

We then decamped to Oxford Street for a spot of retail as Chloe went Birthday shopping before catching the fast train home via Yo Sushi.....and a phonetically challenged Costa Coffee outlet :))))

Monday started with an early morning walk with Yinka before school called.  A glorious way to begin the week......and a wonderful sunrise.

School itself brought the long awaited arrival of our new School Business Manager, Melanie Puttock.  Melanie's appointment is another important step in creating a modern school office to help take the school forward.  A huge thank you to Mrs Reeves and Mrs Lowery for running the school office and finances with a member of staff down for so long.  

And then to the highlight...three days on the water with a group of 9-10 year olds.

As I have mentioned before on my blog, a key element of how we will raise standards is through the quality of our curriculum and the experiences we provide for the children.  Not just what they learn but how they learn.  Our aim is to create confident, independent, resilient learners who thrive on the challenges new learning presents, secure in the knowledge that they have the capacity to succeed.  Our Year 5 trip to Bewl Water is directly linked to that.  Providing children with new experiences that will enrich them, taking them out of their comfort zone and enabling them to over come the challenge and succeed.  Great for self-esteem and confidence and once you've kayaked or sailed across a reservoir an exam or new maths challenge shouldn't hold quite the same level of fear.

It was an amazing trip, probably the most enjoyable and rewarding school residential I have experienced in over twenty years of working with children and one that will have had a huge impact on the children.  They were a fabulous group of children...polite, impeccably behaved throughout, empathetic to each other, collaborated and showed determination and stamina to succeed and overcome fear when it arose and master new skills when demanded.  

We started gently with a low adventure course aimed at team building and collaborative problem solving.....building their confidence and sense of partnership prior to hitting the water!

The first afternoon and last morning they went on a solo kayak or rowed an open canoe across the water.   (photos to follow)

Every evening the children went on a night walk around the reservoir, returning each time to hot chocolate and on the last night requested a scary bedtime story...bless!

Wednesday was without doubt the day everyone enjoyed the most....a whole day sailing in the autumn sunshine.  It was wonderful to see how far some children had come in a few hours from being anxious and reluctant to go on the water in a canoe or kayak to sailing, some solo, across the water....manipulating the toppers with confidence and control and loving every moment.

We started off by collecting the boats and various bits of equipment

Then each child was shown how to assemble their own boat...which they then did.....before being checked by the instructors

And then out on the water glorious September sunshine....utter bliss

We ended with a few water games....well with 30 children not wanting to leave the water a splashiest soon ensued!

A fabulous day on a memorable trip.

I returned early on Thursday as the school had been asked at the last minute to host a meeting for head teachers from our local consortium.  Sad to leave early but in truth the meeting should prove very valuable to our School.  The other schools agreed to set up some inter-schools sports competitions and further develop collaboration between teachers including I hope more peer observations across the schools.  These activities will all bring significant benefit to our children and the day was very successful and full of lovely compliments about our children and the school environment we have created.

Friday saw the culmination of our whole school project on Roald Dahl.  Every class having chosen one of his books and spent the first few weeks of term reading it and basing their learning around it.  An exhibition of their work is on display in the main school hall for parents to view until Tuesday morning...please try to come along.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Roald Dahl Day

One of the key ways in which we will improve standards in the school is through providing the children with an exciting, challenging and rich curriculum in which to learn.

Yesterday was very typical of this approach.  The children have spent the first two weeks of term immersing themselves in a Roald Dahl book, generating a range of reading and writing outcomes and Friday was their celebration of this.  Once completed, their learning will now be displayed for the whole school community to visit in our Main Hall as part of our frequent whole school exhibitions.  I hope you are able to come along and see for yourself what fun they had and how much it helps their learning to develop.

The costume character parade was wonderful to be part of and all the staff were so grateful for the amazing efforts made by the children and their families to create such a spectacle.  


They think it's all is now......

So the sight of August tans and new school uniforms must mean that another school year is upon us. I hope you all managed to grab some family time over the summer and enjoyed time away and fun days out.  

I don't do bucket lists but if I did....I've quietly always loved the magic of the Tour de France.  Perhaps it's the Francophile in me, the fact that I remember French holidays as a child when you would occasionally come within touching distance of the Tour on your journey Gite-bound..the remnants of a village or a town's big day...chalk markings on the roads, signs...And so I've always wanted to experience it for be on the Alpe d'Huez with a lovely French picnic and a cold rose, spending the day soaking up the atmosphere as the crowds reach their frenzy.  First the break away riders sprinting for the summit appear and then the power of the peleton sweeps past....  and then join the villagers to celebrate long into the night, like they always did in my old Asterix the Gaul cartoons.

Well to explain to anyone who has not worked in a school, the end of the summer term can often make school staff feel like they are in their own Tour de France and are desperately trying to hang on to the back of the peleton as it starts another climb...and what a contrast to the start of a new academic year, just a few weeks later, when everyone comes back bright and breezy, smiley and tanned. 

I had a wonderfully relaxing summer myself ...and for once, we were blessed with glorious sunshine.  After a very demanding and taxing year, the break was most welcome.  

Having made the somewhat questionable decision to get a puppy earlier in the year, this did dictate that we spent August in the UK and not venture to foreign climes.  It must be the first summer for many years that we haven't stayed in France during August. I did manage a day trip, which I will get onto later.

Chloe started her holiday before I'd even broken up, going to Italy for a week with her school.  She came back full of giggly tales having had a great trip which included white water rafting and a bag of dirty washing that could have been pulled from Lake Springfield!

Beyond an abundance of puppy walks, 

trips to the sea

including several paddley walks on the Bay, 

Sunset bbqs, 

There were also numerous trips to London, that included........

The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

The Serpentine Gallery

But by far the standout event was our week in the Yorkshire Dales with a few members of my family.  As boys we spent much of our childhood there so naturally have quite a strong, nostalgic attachment to the place.  This year we went with both my parents, one of my brothers and his wife and a jackapoo...that occasionally answers to the name of Yinka!

The Yorkshire Dales is a truly beautiful part of this island and one well worth a week of anyone's life.  The weather was wonderful...warm and sunny every day bar one and the views as spectacular as ever.  

I also managed to fit in a trip to France to do some research for our upcoming World War One topic next month.  I went with a colleague who has been helping us shape our curriculum, to investigate how we might fit in the Battle of the Somme.  We went to Arras and had a very productive day.

I also made a conscious effort to get back into some semblance of regular reading...despite the fine weather.....well I read these books....

So here we are, already into another year that I am really looking forward to.  We have been fortunate to have recruited some excellent staff over the summer who have already added much to our staff team with their expertise and enthusiasm.  We now have specialist Art and Music teachers in Ms Kelda Storm and Miss Catherine Dillon and a specialist Maths teacher in Mrs Rachel Semmens who will also be supporting in other areas of the school.  We also found ourselves having to recruit an additional Reception teacher over the holiday and were delighted to recruit Miss Jenny Lawrence who has lots of experience and a wonderful calm way with some of our youngest children. We also have our new School Business Manager Mrs Melanie Puttock joining us on Monday.