Now I am not really one for practical jokes (I tend to find them frustrating and sometimes more than a touch cruel), but in the name of learning I will confess to condoning two curriculum ‘wind ups’ this week. Teaching colleagues in Years 4 and 6 asked me if we could stage announcements about changes proposed for St Peter’s as a means of provoking outrage and indignation amongst pupils which would lead them to improve their persuasive writing, reasoning skills and communication. Year 4 pupils were informed of plans to reduce morning playtime to a 5 minute drink and toilet break, and lunch to a 25 minute refuelling stop, whilst I gravely announced to Year 6 that we intended to sell the school field for use by an electricity company and for the construction of new homes. The Year 4 project was aided by a formal letter allegedly written by me to go to all families, and Year 6 were further convinced of my field selling plans by the cordoning off of a large section of the field to allow for ‘surveying work’ to begin. The responses from the pupils were a mixture of shock, dismay and rebellion; chants were prepared, letters were drafted and placards were planned. I for my part made sure that parent mails to families in Years 4 and 6 were sent to both allay fears of terrible change and also to try to get people on board with the project if debates continued at home.
These exercises revealed two things to me, both of which I knew already but which are always beneficial to have reinforced. Firstly, it was wonderful to see how quickly, sensibly and passionately the children became engaged in an activity which revolved around their school and what they see to be the great benefits it provides. Our children clearly recognise and enjoy the value of the social interactions at break and lunchtimes, and the wonderful resource that we have in such a large and diverse open green space in our school field. We are very lucky as a school to be able to offer the children the time and space to learn and grow outside the classroom in both structured and free-time activities, and long may this continue. Secondly, the exercises revealed the creativity and commitment of the teaching staff at St Peter’s. Add to this their willingness to actually encourage a situation where they are working with lots of livid children, and we are fortunate indeed to have at St Peter’s such a wonderful teaching team.
Mr R Cunningham