Children are revoltin’ – Good behaviour in school is a team game.

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‘Never again will she get the best of me!
Never again will she take away my freedom.
And we won’t forget the day we fought
For the right to be a little bit naughty!’

Revolting Children written by Tim Minchin

 

“We don’t want children to behave”

said no teacher ever.

I’m really proud of the behaviour in our school. Behaviour in our school is really good. It’s really good because we work really hard to make it so. We have effective systems that are rigourously upheld. As a headteacher, part of my job is to back -up the teachers and follow through when behaviour incidents occur. When I came to our school,  behaviour was a problem… a serious problem. I spent quite a lot of time dealing with behaviour. The previous regime had used detentions and exclusions it hadn’t solved the problem. The first thing we did was streamline our behaviour policy and make it really clear for children to understand. We monitored it  and we followed it to the letter. Improvement was rapid. The key was communicating and working with the parents. We very quickly found we’d actually created a policy for a dozen children and the rest of the children didn’t really need it.

Now call me naive if you want, in fact a deputy at another school did just that, but I believe that children want to behave and want to do the right thing. It may be naive but I can honestly say it makes going to school everyday much easier. An important aspect of our school is teaching children the difference between right and wrong. For me the true test of behaviour is what children do when you’re not watching them not what they do when you are. Trust surely has to be the goal of any behaviour policy.

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That’s not to say we don’t have behaviour incidents…sometimes we do. Children sometimes do the wrong thing, children are sometimes naughty. At the age of ten I got the slipper from the headteacher for kissing Helen Massam in the maths storeroom. I can honestly say that the punishment did not stop me kissing girls – although thinking about it I have always held an disproportional hatred of slippers. But when I wasn’t allowed to be Maths monitor now that was the punishment that had an impact. Understanding how to effectively manage behaviour is an ‘all hands on deck’ task and disruptive behaviour needs thinking about from all angles.

I know that  bad behaviour occasionally comes from inconsistent routines and practices.  I’ll be honest as a teacher sometimes I have had lessons that have gone completely Pete Tong, sometimes the children have become over excited or I wasn’t clear enough on expectations, sometimes my lessons were just duff.   If we’re honest about this  however then we can get it right in our classroom. If we portray ourselves as infallible then we give away the power to change it. Being able to reflect on our lessons and think about how it could work differently is important. Tweaking what we do can have a huge impact, we are not excusing bad behaviour (whatever the circumstance children who misbehave should be responsible for their actions) but actively seeking to address it.

A key ingredient of improving behaviour is working with parents and if necessary supporting parents as well. Parents supporting the school’s actions, especially in a primary context, probably makes the most difference in improving behaviour. I remember my son getting into trouble for scratching his name into a desk. When he got home the first thing we did was march him back to school and made him apologise. We then offered to pay for a new desk. I can say categorically he never did it again. Creating relationships and trust with parents so they support the school in it’s work cannot be underestimated. To do that you have to communicate the good as well as the bad. You have to celebrate pupil’s successes. The more we pay attention to the behaviour we want the more likely we are to get it.

 

Sadly in some schools honesty about behaviour is used as a weapon against a teacher. Teachers need to be able to be open when they are having a problem without fear of it being used against them. We need to create cultures in which we can be honest about problems and issues.  We need SLT’s to listen and act to support teachers. We need effective systems that are  upheld and don’t waver. Being honest about the issues and challenges is actually how you solve them.

…and don’t get me started on “Well they weren’t a problem when I taught them!” probably one of the most damaging phrases ever uttered in a school.

 

‘Bad behaviour
Was my saviour
Making mischief
Used to make my day’

Bad Behaviour Super Furry Animals

 

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New year…New Hope. Deep breath and a big grin.

NEW HOPE

This is the start of my fourth year as a headteacher at East Whitby. The hopes and aspirations for the year are vital. The seeds that are planted in September are the ones you nurture through the year. Year on year we have as a school steadily improved, not change, change, change  but building on the strengths we have and most of the time pushing in the same direction. Fact is we can’t control the outside, but we definitely can control the inside. We can’t change  the “weather.” DfE and Ofsted will do what they do but we will be ready to react accordingly to that, we’ve got sun-cream, wooly hats and umbrellas at the ready.

I do however have a few wishes for the upcoming year. Ones that we will hope to fulfil in our school.

Firstly I wish for this upcoming school year that we, as teachers, act on the principle that education is not only about the mind — but that it’s about the person.   I believe a school must function  for the purpose of developing students as whole people, not just merely as empty minds which require regular and constant filling up of knowledge.  My wish is for teachers to remember that there is more to student learning than simply pumping the mind with facts and information.  That is not saying that we don’t have to teach stuff because blatantly we do and obviously that is our core purpose, but there is so much more to what we do and we ignore that at our peril.

I wish that we can get children to that spot where learning is a motivator in and of itself and that we embrace the joy that brings. Sometimes we have to engage and excite to get the children there. School should be a joy. Children should rush out to tell parents what they’ve learnt. Smiles and happiness should be synonomous with school, so I also wish that  we make time to have fun! Is it too much to ask that we find time to laugh? Time to breathe, and wonder, and imagine, and daydream? Time to draw and sculpt and create. Time to rest  as well as time to work.

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Which brings me to my final wish I also wish that as teachers is that we remember that each person we see sitting in front of us each day is a human being, a person with feelings, thoughts, emotions, complicated baggage, issues, story, problems, joys, sorrows, hurts and pains and  that we never lose sight of the humanity of the people in our schools and we never lose sight of our own humanity when we work others.

Now is equally the perfect time to revisit what you are about and to look at those values. Here are ours as a school. I think they stand us in good stead.

East Whitby Vision and Values

At East Whitby we take pride in developing outstanding teaching and learning by holding the highest expectations of all our pupils and knowing the children well. We challenge all children to strive for academic, creative, sporting and personal accomplishment within a broad, vibrant and enriched curriculum. Our students are given time to explore subjects and develop deep understanding.  We celebrate perseverance, resilience and risk taking, ensuring children welcome challenge and are not frightened to make mistakes.

We encourage children to take ownership of and responsibility for their learning, so they have the confidence and curiosity to ask questions, solve problems and respond to quality feedback. Children are praised for hard work, determination and having a positive attitude. In order to create an inclusive school where everyone can flourish, whatever their background, we promote an ethos of respect and empathy, where diversity is valued and celebrated – both within school and the wider world.

Pupils are taught the virtues of kindness, appreciation and what it means to be courageous. Special care is taken to educate everyone in the East Whitby community about the needs of others and how best to meet them.

We foster open and honest communication with parents, carers and specialists and actively seek to engage with all members of the East Whitby community in a positive supportive manner. High quality teaching is a key priority at East Whitby and the relationship between staff and children underpins inspirational, supportive and effective teaching and learning.

Staff are actively involved in identifying their support and training needs and this leads to careers with clear progression. We ensure that there is a wide range of quality training available and that staff are able to learn from each other and share good practice.

It is our aim for all children to leave East Whitby as confident learners with self-belief and an abiding respect for others. We aim to instil a lifelong love for learning and a strong grounding for future success.

 

We promote achievement by:

  • Holding the highest expectations for all
  • Striving for every child to make the very best possible progress
  • Being restless in our pursuit of excellence

We develop as confident and independent learners by:

  • Providing learning which excites passion and curiosity.
  • Embracing challenge and not giving up
  • Trying our best without fear of failure
  • Speaking knowledgeably about our strengths and areas of improvement

We value supportive and positive relationships by:

  • Bringing out the best in each other
  • Showing pride in one another’s achievements
  • Creating strong partnerships between home, school and the wider community

We appreciate others by:

  • Valuing and respecting the rights of others
  • Making sure everybody feels listened to
  • Promoting good manners and caring attitude

 

So take that energy and passion that we all start this new year with and make it a good one, whatever the “weather” throws at us.

Not the Messiah! There are no magic wands.

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Felt I needed to clarify my headteacher tweet. Now going on a internet break

The new academic year is always a fascinating thing. Dreams, hopes, ambitions often fill the air with their heady perfume. However the dreams and ambitions of the last few years seem to be more akin to survival than forging new paths. It is hard. It’s hard for Teachers, SLT’s and heads. I genuinely don’t have all the answers, as a team we have a lot more.  For us this year it’s about doing what we do but better. Honing /polishing/ tweaking.

This however is the point when the “Experts” swoop, praying on the stragglers from the flock.
Never thought I’d agree with Michael Gove but I have to say I’m sick of “Experts”

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There are a lot of people who essentially promote themselves as the new messiah…The man with all the answers (They are invariably men)…They are infallible, armed with their sword of research, their shield of “I think you’ll find…”, the sacred armour of “I know best!”and the helmet of mansplaining. They will without any knowledge of you and your school proceed to tell you how you are wrong and they are right. They will tell some anecdote about some school somewhere that did this thing and it was all amazing.

They will offer you a vision after your 40 days wandering in the desert. A picture of a perfect world, a luscious place where the sun always shines and the lemonade river flows past the lollipop trees. They will tempt you. They will dazzle you with sparkly figures often written on the side of a big red bus. They will present this years thing. (5 years ago they would have flogged Learning Styles or Brain Gym)

 

They will then present their Holy Grail.

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“Do it like I did once…it worked for me” They will say accompanied by choirs of angels exalting their panacea to the heavens.

What frustrates most is the seeds of discord that these “experts” will sow amongst teachers. They will blame SLT’s or heads.

Except they often haven’t done it really. They haven’t led a school and faced the myriad of challenges that fly at you like stalker birds. They haven’t actually put themselves out there and put their career on the line by taking on the challenge.

Those that have invariably won’t tell you what to do, they’ll coach, question and help you find your solution.

Having worked in 7 schools in 23 years the one thing I know is that there is no one answer. What works in one place often won’t work elsewhere. The one common factor in school success is hard work, commitment to the vision and the whole school pushing together.

Now let me show you one I prepared earlier…

*Not all experts do this by the way, some genuinely bring expertise in their area, they are passionate about what they do. They don’t make wild promises. 

 

 

Bookblog No4 The Journey by Francesca Sanna

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Firstly I just want to say that this book,  in my opinion, was the best picturebook released last year. It is an absolutely stunning book. However it is not an easy read, elements and themes in the book are both challenging and provide a window about something we hopefully will never experience ourselves.

We hear the words “refugee” and “migrant” thrown around so much these days that we run the risk of being desensitized to these stories or worse that these words become scape-goats for our woes. Currently in this country they are almost dirty words. When I posted a tweet a while ago recommending a few books that deal with the issue of migration I received some pretty foul abuse.  I was accused of indoctrinating children. The words and the stories behind the words seem to have been lost.

This book thankfully gives some of that story back to the people who are beginning and enduring  this kind of journey every day. I have to say I was in tears the first time I read it. 

The story begins with a normal family doing those normal  things that we all do by the seaside. It looks lovely and idyllic, but the water feels incredibly dark and foreboding. And indeed, a wave of war comes and washes away everything that the child narrator knows, destroying their family in the process.

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In the aftermath of this the narrator’s mother is forced to make the heartbreaking decision to leave all they have known. Many other people are leaving and dreaming of a country far away with mountains, cities, forests, and animals – all different from what they know.

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This sets up and creates “The Journey” of the title – the family packs up and decides to follow. The trip is long, dark, and dangerous. The farther they go, the more of their precious  belongings they leave behind. (I only spotted  this after Matt Tobin pointed it out to me) When they finally arrive at the border, they are turned away.

Sanna plays pictures against words wonderfully. The use of the child as the narrator creates a naivety and innocence to the written narrative that she exploits brilliantly. As a reader we always know more. She uses a wealth of artistic devices to do this. It’s a book that repays time spent exploring it in spades. Having used it with a number of classes they completely get it too and instinctively interpret the amazing images.

The pictures are all so strong, it’s hard to choose which to highlight, but for emotional power the twin images of the mother encircling her children for protection in the darkness of the forest will linger long in the mind. (see below)

On the left hand page they are all awake and gazing at each other with a warm hue of colours creating an image of protection and love. On the right hand  page (It’s colours notably muted and darker), the child’s words ‘But mother is with us and she is never scared’ counterpoint the image of the mother’s tears cascading down as her children sleep. The subtle change in tone between the images conveys the mother’s fear, the constant threat and the relentless despair that the mother feels. That the children are oblivious to these things makes the page doubly powerful.

Pages-from-Journey-PDF

 

Sanna however decides to leave us on a picture on hope, linking it to the cyclical nature of bird migration, where movement and migration follows the seasons so that life is more bearable and dare I say safe but also that there is still a wish to ultimately return “home.”

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 A beautiful heartbreaking picturebook with real heart that deals with real world issues in a deeply compassionate way. Moments of threat and fear.  (9+) (A great class explore for Year 4 and up. With care could be used with younger children )

Themes :- Forced migration, immigration,  family, loss, hope, travel, voices and viewpoints

I’ve added Amnesty’s fantastic question resource that really help you dig into the text.

Amnesty International Exploring The Journey Together

Matt Tobin blog on The Journey

http://mattobin.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/the-journey-francesca-sannas.html

Also these books would also work brilliantly alongside it giving different perspectives.

 

 

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Safety First…Are you doing this?

Stop Look Listen Sign

“…In the rush we become

Some things we thought we’d never be

We were surprised by how hard

Left weary and scared

By the nights, spent feeling incomplete

And all those evenings swearing at the sky”

All at Once by Airborne Toxic Event

I can only describe it as one of those weeks. That statement both says it all and is a complete understatement for the week I’ve/we’ve had. I have not had a lot of sleep this week, lots of time has been spent running through my head how we could have done things differently. I’m not sure we could have by the way but that only makes you feel more useless. I’m glad the weekend is almost here because next week cannot be worse. It has hit home this week both how important our job is but also why it is vital that we listen to children.

“…And it comes like a punch

In the gut, in the back, in the face”

We don’t know what’s behind the front door. We don’t know what is going on in our children’s lives but we need to listen and pay attention. When the child lashes out. We need to notice. When the child acts in an unusual way. We need to notice When they dawdle over going home. We need to notice. When they won’t get changed for PE. We need to notice. When they never seem to be equipped. We need to notice.  When the shoes have a hole in. We need to notice. When they haven’t got a coat. We need to notice

WE NEED TO NOTICE.

I worry about systems in school that almost seem to ignore the pupil. Systems where symptoms are addressed but not the cause.

We need to ensure we have robust systems in our schools that join up the dots. that pulls together all the information we receive, that doesn’t dismiss the little things. Systems that put child well-being and safety at the heart of what we do. What we do in our school, our systems does all those things.

Sadly even then it may not be enough. Even if you do all that stuff, it may not be enough. Even if you have all the systems in place, it may still not be enough but at least maybe, just maybe you can look at yourself in the mirror and say we tried.

Book blog no. 3 The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

I had started bloging about another book but after finishing The Explorer by Katherine Rundell I was compelled to just let people know how good it is. For anyone asking for a recommendation for a book set in the rainforest this is that book.  (And that is coming from someone who loves Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea)

A plane crash strands four children in the Amazon. It leaves Fred, Con, Lila, and Lila’s little brother, Max stranded and struggling to survive in a harsh unforgiving environment.  Together they search for shelter and forage for food, all the while Rundell drops hints that the story is more than this which ultimately is exactly what it turns out to be. The dangers of the Amazon leap from the pages the children lurch from moments of success and joy to moments of danger and peril. Just as we feel the children stand a chance nature comes and trips them up.  A map, found by chance,  leads them to a ruined city of secrets and the eponymous ‘Explorer’ of the title.

Rundell as she did in Wolf Wilder creates an evocative believable word and then inhabits it with great characters. The sounds, smells, flora, and fauna are vivid and tangible in the mind. The Amazon she creates is beautiful, wild and astounding. Initially I was struck by similarities to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and that desperate human need to survive, but the characters ultimately make it a very different story.

It is the characters that hold the story together. The developing relationship between our four survivors  is fantastically done and as in Rundell’s other books is the bedrock from which she builds hers story. That she then has the confidence to throw this up in the air  in the second half of the book and challenge our thoughts about the characters and their motivations is a fantastic. Whilst I believed in all the characters I have to say that Con was the character for me, she is indeed a “Lion-heart” and it was her journey that I enjoyed the most in the story.

Rundell describes here what she wanted to achieve with the book. I have to say she absolutely hits it spot on.

 

I’m trying to be very careful about spoilers, as for me the joy was discovering this as it happens. Howvever the playing in the rain scene was a truly standout moment that truly evoked the idea of childhood.

It’s a cracking adventure and a great story. Go read it.

 

 A thrilling fast-paced survival adventure with real heart set in verdant and luscious setting. Moments of peril and some really rather disgusting sounding food.(maybe that’s because I’m a vegetarian.) (8+) (A great class read for Year 4 and up)

Themes :- Friendship, loyalty, survival, Caring for the environment, coming of age, trust, honesty, broadening horizons.

The link below is to Bloomsbury’s Teacher writing  resource pack

Explorer teacher resource pack

 

Most of all, though, I wanted to write a book in which the children discover that they are braver they think they are. I wanted to write about children discovering that the world is more beautiful and more complicated than they had ever imagined. I wanted to write about fire and food and love. Survival stories are after all, at their heart, about why it’s worth living in the first place.

                                                                                                  K.Rundell for London Review

Book blog No2 Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

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I’m going to put it straight out there,  this is a fantastic book. I have already said on twitter that Pax is one of the best books that I read last year (It was the best book till I read Raymie Nightingale). I would go so far to say is it should be an instant classic.

Pax is a story about a boy and his pet fox and the unbreakable bond between them. The best children’s stories are  little bit dark, and in this book there are whispers of violence, loss and death. Yet the it is also utterly and unashamedly about love and this makes the  tale both powerful, emotional and ultimately redemptive. That it does this without resorting to sentimentality is an achievement in itselfThe story is set in the context of an ongoing war  which whilst being fictional could at the same time  be any historical or contemporary war.  Pax,  is the story of a  12-year-old boy and his pet fox.  It begins with betrayal as the boy’s father forces him to abandon the fox and then takes on a quest structure as the two friends embark on a fraught journey to find each other and make things right.

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Elements of the book are not an easy read. Bad things happen and the book doesn’t shy away from them. Pennypacker uses alternate chapters between Peter, a young boy whose father leaves to fight in the war, and his fox Pax,  who must learn to adapt in the wild in order to survive.

The chapters written from Pax’s point of view are insightful and provide an animal’s perspective of humans and war. Pennypacker worked with a number of experts on fox’s behaviour and this is evident in how she he helps us understand their world.

While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes. Peter’s epic journey is complicated when he breaks his leg and is forced to rely on Vola an eccentric woman and war veteran fighting her own demons.

Both characters grow tougher and wilder as the story progresses and this really lends the story a coming of age feel. The balance of the chapter structure works wonderfully and drive the narrative forward relentlessly.

 

Pennypacker’s use of language is dense and complex. ( Upper KS2 teachers it will challenge and then some.) It is also absolutely wonderful. I have included a brief sample just to whet your appetite.

“The fox felt the car slow before the boy did, as he felt everything first. Through the pads of his paws, along his spine, in the sensitive whiskers at his wrists. By the vibrations, he learned also that the road had grown coarser. He stretched up from his boy’s lap and sniffed at threads of scent leaking in through the window, which told him they were now traveling into woodlands. The sharp odours of pine — wood, bark, cones, and needles — slivered through the air like blades, but beneath that, the fox recognized softer clover and wild garlic and ferns, and also a hundred things he had never encountered before but that smelled green and urgent.

The boy sensed something now, too. He pulled his pet back to him and gripped his baseball glove more tightly.

The boy’s anxiety surprised the fox. The few times they had traveled in the car before, the boy had been calm or even excited. The fox nudged his muzzle into the glove’s webbing, although he hated the leather smell. His boy always laughed when he did this. He would close the glove around his pet’s head, play-wrestling, and in this way the fox would distract him.

But today the boy lifted his pet and buried his face in the fox’s white ruff, pressing hard.

It was then that the fox realized his boy was crying. He twisted around to study his face to be sure. Yes, crying — although without a sound, something the fox had never known him to do. The boy hadn’t shed tears for a very long time, but the fox remembered: always before he had cried out, as if to demand that attention be paid to the curious occurrence of salty water streaming from his eyes.”

From PAX by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

Pax is as much a powerful tale of the costs of war as it is a story of boy and fox, It offers insights into the impact that the barbarity of war has on humans and animals alike. Pax is ultimately a compelling and heartrending coming of age story. I have to say I cried quite a bit.

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A special mention must go out to the illustrations by Jon Klassen, award-winning creator of the picture book hat trilogy (I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat, and We Found A Hatif you haven’t read them, find them and  read them now!), his artwork magically captures the tone and feel of the book: charming, homespun and emotional.

There are moments of darkness, loss and the graphic brutal reality of war which for me would place it firmly for Year 6 and Year 7 pupils or older. (10+) I would recommend reading the book before using with a class, then you can make informed judgements about suitability.

Themes :- Friendship, loyalty, pacifism, war, environmentalism, redemption, coming of age

 

Pax discussion Guide from Sarah Pennypacker’s website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book blog No1 The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

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“Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there lived a dark and stormy girl.”

Firstly I Think this book should be being talked or thought about as a book for sharing in our classrooms. It is an absolutely thrilling piece that at turns plays with and shocks the reader and ultimately becomes the fairytale that the opening sentence alludes to.

The story is set against the background of the yet to happen Russian Revolution and the seeds and shoots of rebellion weave their way through the book ultimately driving the narrative. The fact that children are very much the agents of change in this story ensures it has at it’s core an innocence. The picture drawn is of a society very much of have and have nots, with the have nots beaten down and oppressed. Feodora Petrovich and her mother Marina live in the Russian wilderness, not too far from St Petersburg. Though they’re the only humans for miles, they’re hardly alone – not exactly. The Petrovich family has been “wilding wolves” for centuries – since the days of Peter the Great, in fact.

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Wolf wilding is the exactly that : training tamed wolves (though evidently that is not truly possible) to survive in the wild, without any human interference. Feo and Marina take in wolves who were kidnapped as pups, sold as pets, and subsequently became “dangerous” or “nuisance” animals as they aged. Many of “their” wolves left with a piece of their former owners, literally: fingers, ears, noses.

This life is broken by General Rakov who as the antagonist very much acts as the catalyst for the rest of the story. He imprisons Marina and is hellbent on killing the wolves. The story then settles into becoming a quest as our heroine aided and abetted by motley band  in the form of Black, White, and Gray, her adopted wolf family, Ilya, an unwilling child soldier gone AWOL and Alexei , a fifteen-year-old agitator from a nearby village set about freeing Marina from prison before she is executed.

The real strength of the book is down to Feodora. Feo is a fantastic character – feisty and determined like all the best heroines. She’s part wild herself, and more than a bit wolf. She is more than a little rough around the edges, not at all sure how she should talk to people – but she wins others over through courage, loyalty and her  unwavering moral compass. This is a girl who just does not give up. Her relationship with Ilya is the core of the book and the growing fraternal love between them becomes the rock on which the story is built.

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What really works for me is Rundell’s wonderful use of language (words are not ever wasted) and her ability to tip the story between harsh brutal reality and wild fantasy fairy tale without the story ever missing a beat. The entrance to St Petersburg made me want to stand up and cheer, whilst the language of Ilya’s dancing was truly balletic.

There are moments of pure wonder in this book, bits that made my hair stand on end and bits that had me reaching for the tissues.

The Wolf Wilder is a powerful, magical, heartfelt fairy tale. Combining break-neck action with wonderful literary description, the writing grabs like a wolf might and never let’s go.

As a final note the illustrations by Gelrev Ongbico are phenomenal and really add to the text.

Tygertale’s lovely blog focussed on the illustration.

There are moments of brutality and violence which for me would place it firmly for Year 5/6 pupils. 

Themes:-  right and wrong, freedom, family, strength, bravery, sacrifice, rebellion and rewilding

I have included Bloomsbury’s teacher notes  here

The Wolf Wilder Teachers Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SATs…SATs…SATs ( rolling eye and a massive sigh)

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“SATs, huh, good god
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing, Say it again”

                                                                                                         My new Karaoke Anthem.

Actually that’s wrong. Well designed assessment at the end of phases of education should be incredibly useful. Assessment that supports a childs transition from one phase to the next and supports the next teacher or school in getting it right for the pupils. Assessment that clearly passes on information about what a child can and can’t do and the next steps.

Sadly SATs does none of those things. SATs are a measure of schools not pupils, the pupils seem to be the least important aspect of the process. Most secondary schools will say “Well they aren’t there now!” when they look at a pupils SATs results. Undoubtedly that’s true in the same way that if my son had taken his GCSE’s in September he would definitely have not got the grades he got in May.

Many schools feel they are being driven to prep…prep…prep for the test.  Some schools going as far as to say that they’ll be doing weekly SATs tests to parents as if it’s a good thing.  The high stakes nature of the tests is equally driving a narrowing of school curriculum. I firmly believe that if you stop teaching children stuff and narrow your curriculum then actually you’ll damage children’s chances of achieving in the Reading test as it is currently designed.

I applaud Ofsted and Amanda Spielman when they talk about curriculum. I also know as a school in challenging circumstances rightly or wrongly the dice are stacked against us with regards to Ofsted, it is a fact that a greater percentage of schools with challenging catchments are rated  ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re staring down the barrel of a data shotgun.

Now don’t mistake this for me being anti-SATs or testing because I’m not. Don’t think this is me making excuses for low expectations because I’m not. My school was well above national last year and will be in line this year. We believe children should be Literate and Numerate they are core to what we do in our school.

What I am sick of is the sham that has been Assessment for the past 2 years at the end of KS2. I won’t rant about it here I’ve already ranted enough about Writing and the Interim Assessment Framework (ITAF). I won’t use the word cheating with regards to this but I think we can agree not all schools are playing the same game or in some cases even on the same field.  That’s before I even get going on the impact it’s having on writing. Some schools are not even getting the same guidance.

Here are my previous Writing rants.

Writing…Honestly, we need honesty.

#whatawritemess – Independence and honesty.

honest

This year to add to what can only be described as the absolute shambles that the new SATs have been we have the marking of KS2 SATs, especially the GPS paper.  That many teacher’s and headteachers have spent their valuable weekend time  looking to see if their pupil’s papers have been marked correctly is frankly appalling. The biggest issue is the inconsistency of the marking and the pernickity-ness (I like that word) of the mark scheme.

This is before we even get to the car-crash that will be “2020 SATs and the impossibility of progress” (not keen on the new Harry potter book)

The Independent Assessment review group set up by the NAHT suggested some interesting ways forward both on testing but also on the idea of high-stakes accountability. Sadly I don’t think many have read it. I think its worth a read. Their six guiding principles may give us a start point for getting it right.

Redressing the balance – Assessment Review Group 2017

  1. Assessment is at the core of good teaching and learning
  2. Statutory assessment should be separated from ongoing
    assessment that happens in the classroom
  3. Data from statutory assessment will never tell you the whole
    story of school effectiveness
  4. The statutory assessment system should be accessible to
    pupils of all abilities and recognise their progress
  5. Progress should be valued over attainment in
    statutory assessment
  6. The number of statutory assessments in the primary phase
    should be minimised

So I don’t really have any solutions to this mess but I know we need to stop and rethink. We are currently heading down a blind alley and we need to admit it’s wrong and do something about it.

We need this to be the key question

“How can we make statutory assessment help children on their learning journey?”

It seems sadly the children’s learning part has been completely forgotten.

Perspective…Step back and take another look

crash-comic-word-wording-speech-bubble-pop-art-style-burst-background-47728501

“Here you go
Way too fast
Don’t slow down
Gonna crash
You should watch
Watch your step
Don’t lookout
Gonna break your neck”

Primitives Crash

 

This is a short blog about moments.

Just over a two weeks ago I had a moment. I don’t remember a lot of the moment. I remember a bang. I remember smoke.  Then the next four hours are a blur. There have been tears, lots of tears. There has been an inordinate amount of hugging. Small car vs 40 ton lorry led to only one winner.

It did however make me stop and think. It also did the brilliant thing of putting front and center the important stuff. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way of finding perspective but it definitely has done just that.

So this blog now will unadulteratedly and unashamedly be a little…well…cheesy.

I was lost on a winding road
I thought that life had nothing left to give
Then you came and showed me that just to live
Was the greatest gift of all?
And you showed me

Life is a celebration
And Lord, I’m gonna celebrate
Don’t you know that life is a celebration?
So come on now and celebrate, celebrate
Life is a celebration

 

The moment has led to perspective.

You forget how the job swallows you…At the end of the day it is just a job.

You think yourself invaluable…The place will carry on.

So as I walk back into school. I look at our SATs results with pride not worry. They’re an honest reflection of the children in that cohort. Did they work their socks off…Yes. Could they have done any more…No. Do they still love learning…Yes. We won’t play the game where we just prepare children for tests. Education is bigger than that. That runs through the core of our school and I will fight tooth and nail to defend that.

Walking on the beach with my boys at the weekend after five days of solid rain. Perfect and precious. The sand whipping across in swirling patterns, the roaring and crashing of the waves. The hugs and laughter.

DDuiquYXsAEDafU

I have some brill friends on twitter, as a group we created  #PID17. That it trended on twitter that day brought us great joy and smiles. Check out the hashtag it’s rather fab and just very silly. Thanks everyone who joined in you reet made me smile.

Perspective is a precious thing. I’ve been jolted back into mine and it feels as though it’s on a slightly different axis to the one it was on before.

I’d say you need to find a balance but in reality there is no such thing. It is a series of ebbs and flows, pushes and pulls. Managing how you deal with that is key. At some points there is no choice and you have embrace and do the thing that needs doing.  Fighting it creates more stress.

Taking time to intentionally be alone – to sit in silence – is an important and essential part of life. For me, it provides perspective and balance.

Books and reading, strumming badly on a guitar, pretending to surf (really just bobbing about on a board), cooking a chilli… Find your thing… Take your moment.

So give the job your all, then walk out the door and make sure you give life your all too. It is just a job, one of the most important jobs perhaps but it is just a job.

Gotta go I’ve got some balancing to do.