On Tuesday I led the first CPD session of the year with our whole school staff. The session, based at the Globe Theatre in London, was designed to encourage teachers and support staff to utilise the amazing range of innovative learning opportunities London has to offer. As a school based just within Zone 2 in the west of the city, we are lucky to boast good transport links (particularly useful as TFL provide free travel for schools) as well as a riverside location: the Thames is about 50 metres from our school gate. However, as with many schools, curriculum pressures and school ‘targets’ have, in the past, seemingly restricted teachers in their ability to feel confident about taking their pupils out of the classroom and into the world beyond the walls.
Our curriculum (designed initially by a range of stakeholders including pupils, staff, governors, parents and subject specialists in 2014) is underpinned by 4 key drivers: ‘Knowledge of the World’, ‘Enquiry’, ‘Arts and Sports’ and ‘Ambition and Possibilities’. These drivers, alongside a ‘big idea’ help frame each curriculum topic across KS1 and KS2, giving each a real purpose and relevance to the pupils at our school. As part of our Leadership Team end of year reflections and having carried out a number of evaluations of teaching and learning throughout the school year, it became clear that we had lost focus on our drivers and that opportunities to use London as a platform for inspiring learning had been missed.
London is one of the most exciting cities in the world and there are a wealth of rich learning opportunities on our doorstep. It was this idea that I wanted staff to explore during the day. Beginning by setting a bit of context to the day, I took staff back to previous INSETs I have led where we discussed ideas behind the future of learning; the unpredictable world our learners will inherit; the changing nature of jobs; and the concepts of deep learning and growth mindset. The focus then moved on to giving staff the time and space to identify opportunities within London for enhancing their curriculum for the next year baring all this in mind.
The teaching teams approached this opportunity in different ways. Some teams stayed in the room we had booked (with a very impressive view – see above!) and spent their time exploring and contacting organisations on a list that I had provided them with, many of which were based around ‘making’. Others went out into London to research areas/museums/organisations/businesses that would be suitable for their topics. At the end of the day we came together to discuss the opportunities we had planned in and more importantly to explain the purpose of planning these experiences for the children, firmly focusing on the ‘why’.
From a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice where pupils would work with trainee lawyers to put together a court case to a walking tour of street art in East London the ideas had clearly been flowing. There was even a team trying to arrange to visit a sewer!
The day was a great success and every year group now has some firm plans in place for inspiring learning this year. For me, the most exciting part of the session was the buzz around the room as discussions surrounding learning began. In addition, staff were investigating ‘different’ opportunities available to them in areas of maker businesses, including contacting organisations like the Makerversity. The teams were genuinely excited themselves about being in London and were quickly able to connect opportunities available to them with aspects of their topics. Now it is important that as a whole school staff we track the impact of these visits and visitors on the learning of our pupils and share and celebrate them with our school and local community.
It’s going to be a great year.