Tag Archives: community

Prayer Day, Hempsted C of E Primary School

A day with a difference, and a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding one at that!  As a Church of England school, Hempsted has tried to establish stronger links with its local church (St. Swithun’s, under the very capable and inspiring hands of Canon Nikki Arthy) over the past few years in particular.  Now and again, Nikki asks members of the Messy Church team if they would be willing to spare some time to support community- or school-related events.  Being DBS cleared and an experienced teacher, Prayer Day at Hempsted C of E Primary School was obviously one of my areas of expertise and an event to volunteer my services for!

It had been intended to have everyone in the school hall at the start and end of the day. However, due to the current heatwave and 30+ degrees Centigrade temperatures, it was decided to be sensible and abandon this idea.

At their allotted time, the children came into the hall in their class group and with their teacher and any teaching assistant/s.  They had the opportunity to explore up to five different prayer stations in the time available, all centred upon a specific theme, e.g. family; me; friends; world and school.

Mrs Middleton and myself’s role was promoting ‘Love for the world’.  Our focus was on Psalm 8: 1, ‘O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world.’  We explained to the children that Christians believe the world was made by God and it is beautiful.  At one time, it was perfect, but things have gone wrong and the world is not the great place it once was.  This is not how God meant it to be.  Sometimes, children are particularly damaged and hurt by the things that happen in the world.  To begin with, the youngsters were asked to look at the inflatable globes on the table and try to identify places that they had been to, places that they had heard about and places that they would like to visit.  Next, they were encouraged to think about the pain that God feels when he sees his perfect world going wrong.  Then, pupils were prompted to consider children in other parts of the world.  They were asked to hold or hug an inflatable globe silently for a short while, thinking of all the children in the world and particularly those who were suffering.  Afterwards, each child was given a tag with a globe and children printed on it.  On the reverse, they were invited to share their thoughts, e.g. who would they like us all to say a prayer for.  These were then placed at an appropriate location on the world map that covered the table.

Other activities on offer to the children included creating class prayer paper chains, making beaded friendship bracelets, writing teaspoon (TSP … Thank you; Sorry; Please) prayers and decorating gingerbread men/women to hang on a small branch of a tree.

At the end of their session, Mrs Hill encouraged the children to come and sit in the centre of the hall for a time of reflection together.  A number of the children’s prayers were shared and pupil voice was collated about the activities that they had just taken part in.  Many of their prayers focused on family, friends, their school and events that had featured in recent News bulletins. The children clearly enjoyed completing the various tasks, especially the very ‘hands-on’ ones. Perhaps, this is something to consider when planning a future Prayer Day?  Less writing/drawing and more handling/talking, which would make them more accessible to less able and younger pupils too.

Parents/carers were also invited to participate, with sessions available to them both before and after school. Not only did this give them the chance to see what their child/children would be/had been doing, but it also provided them with a few quiet moments for reflection or to discuss any thoughts or feelings that they had, if they so wished.  Days such as these are an effective means of engaging with many sectors of our local community and certainly showcase the delightful school that we are so lucky to have within our village of Hempsted.

A ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to all who helped organise and deliver the day.

Thinking about our world …

And, different classes’ responses …

‘Teaspoon prayers’ (TSP … Thank you; Sorry; Please).

Making beaded friendship bracelets.

Thinking about our school community …

Each class’ prayer paper chains.

Thinking about our family … (with wisdom and support from Cath Wain).

A later e-mail from Mrs Hill stated:

‘Thank you so much for all your help on Wednesday and all your preparation.  The children are still talking about it today and wearing their bracelets, so thank you.  A beautiful day with beautiful weather.’

What a lovely and very genuine summary!  It was a pleasure to have been able to assist her and other staff at the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

C&T, Gloucester Docks/Gloucester Quays

Fortunately, the hot and sunny weather at the weekend decided to hold out a little longer for my meeting at Gloucester Docks/Gloucester Quays with Paul and Max from C&T (http://www.candt.org/).  I first came into contact with both Paul and Max when presenting at a conference at the University of Worcester a few weeks ago.  They had been invited along as their offices were opposite the organiser’s, Professor Maggie Andrews, and it was hoped to be an opportunity for them to do a spot of networking, which they certainly did!  C&T is all about humanising technology through creativity, drama and digital culture.  Over the last ten years, they have been continuously developing new ideas, placing digital technologies at the heart of drama and giving young people the skills and confidence to know that they can make a creative contribution to their community and the world around them.

After an initial chat, I took Max and Paul on a brief tour of the Gloucester Docks/Gloucester Quays, pointing out key features, recounting any historical links that I was aware of, identifying developments currently taking place and discussing issues.  The Gloucester Docks/Gloucester Quays did look wonderful this morning and they truly are an asset to our city.  There is still much potential to be exploited, however, as can be seen from the plans for the Baker’s Quay and neighbouring Blackfriars.  It is amazing how much you take for granted too.  For instance, I have often walked past the large, iconic sculpture, known as The Candle, in the main basin of the Gloucester Docks, but could not tell you much about it or when and why it was placed there.

Later, over a coffee, we considered where we might go from here.  Max and Paul have a meeting concerning a nationwide WW1 project scheduled for Friday; there may be a chance for a Gloucester school/schools to be involved in this too.  Besides, Paul has a few ex-students that are now based within the area and with whom he hopes to renew contact; it may be that they wish to collaborate on a project or have additional links that are worth exploring.  It was agreed that either Max or Paul will be in touch at some stage over the next fortnight once some firmer decisions have been made.  Fingers crossed, as the Gloucester Docks/Gloucester Quays would be an ideal location for a project with so much history and heritage attached to it and I have a couple of schools already in mind who would relish the opportunity to participate in such a cross-curricular and hugely innovative initiative.

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.

 

 

 

Symposium, University of Worcester

Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester, invited me to speak at a symposium that she was organising, entitled ‘Children in WW1: Histories and engagements’, during the afternoon of Monday 8th May 2017. The remit was to deliver a presentation, of approximately 20 minutes in length and aimed at undergraduate and post-graduate students, about our recent WW1 project, how we engaged youngsters, the impact that it had and what we discovered about children during the time of the First World War.  I was told to be prepared to answer any questions that the audience may have too.

Well, considering the time that I had to talk and all that we achieved throughout the timescale of our project, I had to be incredibly selective as to what material I showcased.  I decided to focus on our WW1-themed week’s activities and related events and then ‘zoom in’ on our jam-packed, cross-curricular day.  I included a viewing of our photo story as well since I think this really does ‘say it all’.  I felt rather emotional watching this again a year or so down the line.  It really brought home how much we had done and the positive impact that it had on our local community.  Several in the audience stated that they would have liked to have been part of such a successful initiative too.

My input was followed by a presentation from Julia Letts, an experienced, freelance oral and community historian. She shared creative ways to teach children about WW1, exhibiting some of her latest work with schools within Worcestershire.  These ranged from an hour’s lesson, providing a ‘hook’ for future teaching and learning about WW1, to a themed day, cross-curricular fortnight and a HLF project involving collaboration between four, local schools.  Whilst our projects displayed some similarities, I certainly picked up a few fresh ideas and new approaches to explore with those schools that I have regular contact with.

Comments and questions were very forthcoming from the floor, so a shorter than planned coffee break took place.  I did have another opportunity to speak with Paul Sutton and Max Allsup from c&t (http://www.candt.org/), however.  I am hoping to meet with them next week to see if we can work together with schools straddling both counties.  I am keen to discover more about their immense creativity and the global dimension to their work, especially after all the Global Learning Programme (GLP) activities that I have been involved with over the past four years.

Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly afterwards due to prior school commitments. Nevertheless, I am led to believe that the remainder of the afternoon was just as interesting and inspiring.  Rebecca Ball, a post-graduate student from the University of Wolverhampton, talked about the experience of working class children in WW1.  Afterwards, consideration was given to Worcestershire children in WW1, focusing on themes, questions and histories.  Finally, Maggie Andrews discussed and explored future plans, including the ‘patriotism or/and pragmatism project’.

I look forward to attending/contributing to the next event … I always return home with greater knowledge and understanding of this period of history and feel truly inspired to share this with others.