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‘Let’s go on an awesome, Arctic adventure!’, Abbey Park Middle School, Pershore, Worcestershire

Well, today, I was back with my partner in crime, Sarah Shaw, for an awesome, Arctic adventure, but this time at Abbey Park Middle School in Pershore, Worcestershire.  Melanie Hirst, a Year 6 teacher and Geography Subject Leader at the school, had attended a CPD workshop that I delivered last March and, subsequently, signed up to the Global Learning Programme (GLP). After completing the short, Whole School Audit (WSA), she received £500 of e-credits to spend. A perusal of the courses and events advertised online led her to our pupil and staff offering (amalgamating aspects of a successful Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project and CPD workshop for teachers), which she promptly booked for the penultimate week of the school year.  Emily Hastings, a freelance drama specialist (see www.actinguptheatre.co.uk  and www.facebook/EmilyHastingsactingup for further details) asked if she could pop along to see us ‘in action’ … Sarah, Abbey Park Middle School and I were only too happy to oblige … after all, the more the merrier!

Sarah and I had an action-packed, interactive day planned, so it was straight to work!  Initially, we all gathered in the school hall.  The children sat around large tables in their allocated ‘country’ groups (named after nations lying within the Arctic Circle), ready to tackle our starter activity (a jigsaw puzzle centred upon the Arctic).  By piecing together the puzzle, youngsters were able to establish where we would be sailing to for the remainder of the day.





Next, I launched Google Earth and projected it onto the large screen, so that I could take pupils and teachers on a virtual trip, from their home market town of Pershore to the geo-magnetic North Pole.  We considered the distance, direction and time involved, identified countries lying within the Arctic Circle and some of its key physical (natural) and human features, as well as highlighting pressing environmental issues. The aim was to specifically target place and locational knowledge (with a few teachers and support staff learning alongside the children too).  I then outlined the learning objectives and the proposed format for the morning.

Whilst Greenland, USA, Canada and Russia remained with Sarah for a dance/drama session, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland joined me in a nearby classroom or ICT Suite to further enhance their place and locational knowledge.  In their hour with Sarah, the children entered into the world of the Arctic.  They were transported to the region, became explorers and set off across the snowfields and great glaciers.  On their way, they encountered wildlife, both on land and in the sea, and learnt how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.  Some photographs of the youngsters as avid adventurers can be seen below:







With me, the children embarked upon four, different activities in an attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What are the challenges facing the Arctic today?
  • What will the Arctic look like in the future?

Firstly, working in their ‘country’ group, pupils were given two plastic hoops so that they could create a Venn diagram and an envelope containing facts relating to the Arctic.  They were required to sort the facts into those that they believed to be ‘true’, those that they believed to be ‘false’ and ones that they were ‘unsure about’.  They then had to place the facts at appropriate points on their Venn diagram.  Later, I revealed the answers, correcting those statements that were ‘false’ in the process.



I also posed a question or two to the children:

  • Were there any facts that surprised you?
  • If so, how/why?

They had some interesting comments.  For instance, one individual was surprised that penguins do not live at the North Pole despite its freezing temperatures, others were amazed by the variety of wildlife that could be seen in such a cold environment and several were unaware of the sheer size of a polar bear (up to 4 metres tall when stood on its hind legs and having paws the length of a long ruler).

Secondly, again working in their ‘country’ group, students had to match each image with its caption to discover more about the Arctic region.  Once the answers had been divulged, I asked the youngsters if the Arctic region was as they imagined it to be.  Pupils were keen to contribute, which was lovely to see.  The majority did not realise that so many people lived within the Arctic Circle (around 4 million) and that towns with ‘proper houses’ existed, for example.



It was intended for each ‘country’ group to draw up a list of ten words that they felt best described the Arctic.  However, as time was at a premium, I simply went around the room asking each pupil in turn whilst their teacher recorded their words onto the whiteboard. These words will later be inputted into the text box at http://www.wordclouds.com/ to create a word cloud. This word cloud can then be printed, enlarged and referenced at appropriate points to support further written work in class and help reinforce topical vocabulary.

Lastly, it was ‘spot the difference’ time.  In their ‘country’ group, pupils were expected to look carefully at two satellite images that they had been given (of the same place, at the same time of year, but a few years apart) and record how many differences they could spot.  After a few minutes, I selected individuals to share the differences they had observed. When doing so, I encouraged them to use locational and positional language as well, e.g. in the foreground, behind the…, there is no… in image 1, yet in image 2 there is a… .  Pupils were really observant, noting changes to the shape, extent and colour of the ice, in addition to identifying new land. Afterwards, I provided detailed explanations for each observation.

A short break was needed by pupils, staff and consultants before the four ‘country’ groups rotated to complete the alternative session.

Just before lunch, we convened in the school hall for a short plenary.  The ‘country’ groups performed their dance/dramas confidently … Sarah always achieves so much with pupils in such a short space of time!  We then reflected upon our learning and experiences (since I was leading this, teachers were able to gather audio-visual evidence of pupils’ ‘concluding comments’).  We used ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ signals when referring to the learning outcomes.  Both Sarah and I were encouraged by the willing show of thumbs pointing upwards. In order to stimulate an element of higher order thinking, I had hoped to challenge pupils to the following questions, but dinner had to be served and a prompt finish was required :

  • What do you think the Arctic will be like in 2050?;
  • What now needs to be done in order to secure a positive future of the Arctic?
  • Is there anything that you could personally do?

These questions could be explored with their class teachers over the next day or so, perhaps? Each child was then presented with a geography badge as a reward for their efforts, which they wore with pride for the rest of the day.

Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/) kindly arranged for Digby Rawlins to also pay a visit today.  Digby had just returned from a stint on Northabout (the boat that completed the record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge between June and October 2016 – see http://polarocean.co.uk/ for further details); for him, it had been quite a challenging voyage from Ireland to Greenland, but well worth it, judging by the first-hand experiences he had to recall and stunning photographs and movie clip that he shared with the students. Afterwards, Digby invited the audience to ask any questions that they had; he was truly put in the ‘hot seat’ at this point, but it did show how engaged and enthused the children were!








In order to make the day as productive as possible, we offered a CPD session/working lunch for staff involved with the day.  They were asked to reflect upon the morning, identifying WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) and consider their ‘next steps’, annotating a pair of feet as a record of their intentions.  This provided instant and effective feedback for Sarah and I too … we are always looking to develop new themes for workshops/improve what we already do. Besides, we love to leave a school feeling confident that they could replicate the sessions with other year groups/classes.  We both shared further resources/web-links and ideas with teachers so that they could take today’s learning a step further or integrate it into their future curriculum planning. Seeing professionals so appreciative and inspired makes what we do all the more worthwhile.



As can be seen below, the feedback from staff and observers to date has been very positive:

‘Thank you for the Arctic theme day.  The children really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the different activities.’ (Year 6 teacher)

‘Thank you very much.  It was very interesting to see.  I thought what you guys did yesterday was brilliant, especially as your audience were pretty tough.’ (Emily Hastings)

Thank you for having us, Abbey Park Middle School!

 

‘Let’s go on an awesome Arctic adventure!’ (once again!), Gloucester Farmers’ Club

Due to the success of a previous CPD workshop and several requests from individuals/schools, I decided to offer a repeat of the session on Friday 30th June, once again using Gloucester Farmers’ Club as a base.  This proved to be an ideal venue for a reasonably small group last time and did not disappoint today either.  An array of refreshments were supplied at the requested times in an adjoining room.  Our meeting place was well-appointed, airy, clean and accessible to all.  Having plenty of free parking immediately outside the venue was a bonus too, especially when carting my laptop, a large box of resources and balancing a home-made cake!

We began by introducing ourselves and providing a brief potted history of our time in the profession, before I outlined the aims and format of the session.  This helped create an informal, open atmosphere right from the start and was conducive to much subsequent interaction and discussion.

Next, I encouraged delegates to think about the curriculum within their schools and identify links to the Arctic at both Key Stages 1 and 2.  Several connections were made in all years, but once we had picked the National Curriculum programmes of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 to pieces, all agreed that there were many more links that could easily be exploited.  I also drew their attention to the Framework produced by the Geographical Association (GA) when the new National Curriculum was launched, which divides geography into three main areas (contextual world knowledge; understanding; geographical enquiry) and lists age-related expectations for pupils at 7, 9, 11, 14 and 16 years old (http://geography.org.uk/news/2014nationalcurriculum/assessment/).

I shared links to new Arctic-themed resources, e.g. Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/); Polar Ocean Challenge (http://polarocean.co.uk/); SV Northabout’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Northabout/), Arctic Alive in association with the Canada-UK Foundation (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive) and Expedition Greenland: Learning about sustainability through the Vikings, an EU-funded interdisciplinary project (http://www.wilabonn.de/en/projects/723-expedition-greenlandsustainability.html), as well as showcasing a recent Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project that Cirencester Deer Park School in Gloucestershire kindly hosted (http://espley.creativeblogs.net/2017/03/03/global-learning-programme-glp-ks2-ks3-transition-project-cirencester-deer-park-school-cdps-gloucestershire/).

Knowing how precious a teacher’s time is, I made sure that I included a good 45 minutes for delegates to explore these resources/web-links at their leisure.  It was great to see them interacting, sharing best practice and keen to determine opportunities for future rapport.  At this point, both Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch and myself circulated around the room, providing additional guidance and answering any specific questions that teachers had. Below are a few photographs of the ‘action’:

Taking on my role!

Great to see individuals from different schools sharing best practice.

Smiley faces … clearly feeling relaxed and enjoying a reprieve from the classroom to reflect, discuss and plan.

Using their time wisely.

I love having the chance to chat with individuals and hear what is happening in different schools.

Providing ‘tailored’ advice.

Exploring literacy links to the Arctic.

Lovely to have Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) with us … she certainly has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share.

Absorbed!

In deep thought!

Afterwards, we contemplated our ‘next steps’ once we had walked out of the room at lunch-time today.  Some of delegates’ ‘footprints’ can be viewed below (click on each to see an enlarged version of the image):

I was touched by the concluding comments written on the blank postcards that I handed out during the plenary session too.  Here, delegates were asked to ‘sum up’ the session in five words or a sentence or two and note any further resources they would like Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) to provide.  Their responses can be read below:

‘Inspiring, informative, interesting, excellent links/resources and fun!’

‘Useful, resource-rich, helpful, interesting and insightful.’

‘Useful resources to bring geography alive.  Inspiration to move our geography learning.’

‘Well-resourced ideas and clear focus to National Curriculum objectives within an exciting topic – Arctic.’

‘Excellent opportunity to talk about resources and share ideas.’

‘Inspiring; resourceful; great mix of information and opportunity to talk; helpful; real life.’

‘I’m leaving feeling inspired and excited to teach geography.  It has been so useful to have the time to sit and talk, share ideas and plan for next year.  I’ve got lots of new resources to use!  Thank you very much!!’

‘Very informative and fabulous.  Thank you!’

‘Thanks for a fantastic, inspiring morning.’

‘I am very much looking forward to teaching this topic in Term 2 as the course has fired my enthusiasm.  Thanks for organizing the programme on Friday.  It was very informative and offered lots of relevant resources.’

Suggestions:

  • ‘More FS/KS1 resources – interactive games/sorting activities.’
  • ‘Links to videos/live webcams.’
  • ‘Links to world weather anomalies related to climate change.’
  • ‘Link to English text types.’

Small events like these provide an opportunity to engage with individuals, gain insight into what is actually taking place in schools locally (sometimes very different to what is promoted on the school’s website), consider foci for future CPD sessions and ‘magpie’ ideas for new transition projects/pupil workshops.

It was a shame that Jane Pritchard-Meaker, Education Advisor from the Education Performance and Inclusion Team at Gloucestershire County Council, was unable to pop along … maybe next time?

Many teachers expressed an interest in being part of a Geography/Humanities Subject Leaders’ Network, similar to those currently operating for English, maths and science.  This would be something that I would be more than happy to coordinate and run, either with the backing of Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) or The Crypt Teaching School (http://www.cryptschool.org/teaching-school/), an establishment where I will be based part-time from September 2017.  Do visit my blog site at regular intervals to see what evolves.

 

Online Safety Mark assessment, The Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Well, today, I had my Online Safety Accredited Assessor’s ‘hat’ on.  A couple of month’s ago, Ron Richards, Online Safety Consultant at SWGfL, asked me if I would like to pay a visit to The Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great in the centre of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, as they were due for an Online Safety Mark re-assessment.  The school achieved an Online Safety Mark three years ago and it was time for them to apply for re-accreditation.  Would they be able to step up to the mark once again?

I received a warm welcome on arrival at the school.  I met briefly with the Head Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Blanch, and the Online Safety Lead, Miss Jo Fowler, to confirm arrangements for the day, before discussing the school’s completed 360 degree safe self review tool’s submission with them and the Computing Lead.  The school had undertaken a detailed review themselves, reaching the accredited level or above in all 28 aspects.  There appeared to be several areas of strength and only a couple of aspects that might be gleaned to be somewhat ‘weaker’.  I had a few questions to ask about points that had been noted, e.g. their Digital Online Safety Group, the taught curriculum, staff and governor training, parent/carer and community engagement, and was keen to discover more about their future plans.  Answers to my questions were forthcoming, positive and enlightening.

It was then time for the real interview stint!  Firstly, I met with a Year 4 teacher, who is also the School Council Lead, and members of the School Council, the Online Safety Champion and his deputy.  The children responded willingly to my questions and a lively discussion ensued.  I was impressed by both their level of digital literacy and awareness of online safety issues.

Next up, were parents/carers and governors.  The school’s communication with parents/carers is very good and an openness was clearly apparent.  Parents/carers admitted that they often learn about aspects of online safety following discussions with their child/children at home, as well as via newsletters and magazines sent from school, links displayed on the school’s website or items shared via their Twitter feed.  They also felt very comfortable approaching the school for support in dealing with online safety issues that might arise beyond the school boundary. Having a former Further Education computing teacher and GCHQ employee on the Governing Body is certainly helpful when reviewing and evaluating online safety policies and practices in school too!

After a short break, it was the turn of the support staff, representing a variety of roles, e.g. teaching partners, School Business Manager, Lead Pastoral Practitioner.  They provided additional information about online safety education and training and the expected procedures in school.  Our discussion also gave them a few ideas for areas for further development, e.g. to consider hosting another of SWGfL’s fantastic online safety briefings and inviting individuals from local schools too.

Being a two form entry school, it was great to have the chance to meet with professionals from a number of year groups, plus the Computing Lead again.  Teachers were clearly aware of online safety issues and how pertinent it is to relay related messages to youngsters that they teach.  Not only do they deliver a specific online safety module, but they team teach the eLIN computing curriculum alongside the Computing Lead, referencing online safety at regular intervals, as well as on an ad hoc basis in the classroom.  It was also pleasing to hear the same procedures being reiterated, suggesting that a consistent approach is maintained throughout the school.

I then spoke with Martin Treacher from Hempsted IT, the school’s out-sourced technical support and the Online Safety Lead once more.  Whilst I have liaised with Martin and his counter-part, Mike Webb, on numerous occasions before, I have never had to interview him formally.  Fortunately, Martin was extremely cooperative and did not put me on the spot! Seeing a familiar face, and knowing the expertise and insight that both him and Mike have between them, reassured me that the school is in very capable hands.

A 30 minute break to review the evidence and reflect upon what I had heard throughout the morning was much appreciated before feeding back to the Senior Leadership Team.  Although more material is available to access online in advance of an assessment today than even just a few years ago, it is always useful to have some time in situ to explore other documentation and seek any necessary clarification from the Online Safety Lead.

Following my lengthy discussions and perusal of relevant material, I was pleased to be able to give very positive feedback to those ‘at the top’.  The school certainly deserved to have their Online Safety Mark renewed and it was a pleasure to present them with a certificate of attainment.  I hope that they are able to truly fulfill their ‘next steps’ in the very near future and look forward to reading/hearing about their successes.  Remember to ‘get tweeting’!

It was a pleasure to present the Head Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Blanch, and Online Safety Lead, Miss Jo Fowler, with their new Online Safety Mark.

 

 

 

Online Safety Mark Accredited Assessor Update Training

A hugely intensive, but highly informative and very thought-provoking day.  Many thanks to Ron Richards, Ken Corish and Andrew Williams for sharing their endless knowledge, expertise and experiences so willingly.  Participants were also forthcoming in adding comments and providing feedback to the presenters throughout the event too, which was great.

My, along with many others’, log in to Skype for Business went smoothly, enabling the day to start on schedule.  Ron gave a formal welcome and introduction, whilst Andrew outlined the protocol, before providing updates on the 360 degree safe tool for schools, E-Safety Mark & Online Compass. Ron also elaborated on recent collaboration with NAACE concerning a joint E-Safety Mark/ICT Mark assessment and work that had been done with academy groups.  It was encouraging to learn that the E-Safety Mark will shortly be re-labelled as the Online Safety Mark, in line with changes within wider documentation, e.g. from the DfE, Ofsted and local safeguarding boards.

Next, Andrew expanded on the success that has been achieved in Wales regarding engagement with the 360 degree safe tool in particular.  The Welsh Government has shown a real commitment to online safety over the past two years.  Aspects of the Welsh Government Project were shared with us … examples of best practice that could easily be replicated in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland should the same financial backing and support be given from the government.  We must not become complacent … technology is constantly evolving and our behaviours are changing dramatically as a result.

Ron shared Professor Andy Phippen’s (based at the University of Plymouth) 360 data analysis with us.  His in-depth review of the data from 360 degree safe reviews gives an indication of online safety provision in schools across the UK.  His findings are clearly summed up by the following infographic:

Click on the image to enlarge it and discover more about Professor Andy Phippen’s findings.

Ken and Andrew’s combined presentation relating to online safety updates was incredibly well-delivered, interesting and insightful.  They discussed recent trends/developments, both from the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) and SWGfL’s perspectives.  Reference was made to the DfE’s documentation on Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) and Ofsted too.  Ken’s knowledge is endless … I really do not know how he manages to recall every minute detail as he does and keep abreast with technological developments!  Andrew’s background in schools prior to his online safety remit, alongside being a parent, means that he can truly empathise with the challenges Head Teachers, Senior Leaders, classroom teachers, etc. face.  Their session provoked many comments and raised several questions from the audience … it was difficult to keep up-to-date with the accompanying instant messenger feed!  As always, participants’ questions were answered honestly and confidently.

Before a much needed break for lunch, assessors were asked to access Padlet and use this tool to add comments about the current 360 degree safe content and template policies and give suggestions as to how 360 degree safe take-up/re-engagement might be increased.  Delegates had some valuable feedback to give here … now Ron, Ken and Andrew need to digest and debate these further.

A quick lunch was all that was allowed as there was plenty to still be covered during the afternoon.  Ken began by considering the evolution of the online safety message and changing age-related expectations.  This was very enlightening and thought-provoking … I have lots to share with those who have oversight of safeguarding and computing when conducting my next E-Safety Mark/Online Safety Mark assessment.

Andrew drew the short straw, being given the rather dry, although essential, topic of data protection to talk about.  Again, this was informative and gave much food for thought.  Andrew shared recent changes to EU data legislation and focused upon the implications that these have on how we manage what is often highly sensitive information on safeguarding issues. As time was tight, he identified the main changes and outlined how compliance and effective practice could be implemented.  The new 360 degree safe data tool from SWGfL was discussed in more detail too.

The team handed over to us for the final session of the day.  This involved the use of Padlet, the instant messenger facility and having the opportunity to be ‘handed’ the microphone to speak should we wish.  Firstly, we were asked to give feedback on any E-Safety Mark assessments that we had conducted, especially examples of good practice.  Prior to the event, we had been sent four E-Safety Mark reports that had been completed by different assessors. We were expected to read these and make notes on a feedback form, so that we were ready to voice our opinions. Whilst a degree of personal preference might need to be taken into account at this point, there were clearly certain requirements that must be met for a report to be deemed appropriate.  It was reassuring to know the reports I have generated have been of a very high standard!

Many thanks to the trio for a very worthwhile, engaging and reflective training day.  We did miss David Wright, of course … hope to see him again before too long.