Grayrigg CE School - Start Small Think Big

Blog Category: headteacher-blog

We love to wobble at Grayrigg!

In fact, we aim to wobble in every lesson and more often if we can. Wobbling has become one of my favourite words. I’m not referring to wobbling round school like a bowl full of jelly. What I refer to is feeling the wobble when we are learning. Having a wobble when learning isn’t about failing, it’s about finding things tricky and feeling the wobble but being able to ride out the wobble and stand up straight again. If lessons are easy, there is no learning happening. Real learning comes from being challenged and requires endurance. The wobble we refer to is more like the way Weebles wobble…

If you remember the Weebles, you will remember their catch phrase - “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

Well here at Grayrigg we approach our learning like Weebles. We might find it hard, we might wobble (quite a lot), but we never fall down. If the children are finding work easy, they are encouraged (I would even go as far as to say expected) to challenge…

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The right teacher…

In the Oaks we are currently exploring Shakespeare. Some people hear the name Shakespeare and groan, others become excited - I am one of those people who gets excited. Not because I am more literate than those who groan or because I am a teacher. No, it’s because I had the right teacher. The teacher to whom I refer is Miss Dunn, my dance teacher. I guess she was never limited by which Shakespearean adventure she could use as she never had to follow a GCSE curriculum, but she is most definitely the person who helped me to understand and love Shakespeare. When I was ten – I played the part of Puck in the ballet of Midsummer Night’s Dream and had to read the beautiful monologue from the end of the play. She took the time to help me understand (so I could act appropriately as I delivered my lines). So by the time I was introduced to Shakespeare at secondary school, I was maybe at a slight advantage to many of my peers.


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I’m a headteacher - but I’m not the school leader

I guess the title of this blog isn’t quite true - I am a school leader but I’m not the only school leader. All schools have a senior leadership team which is generally made up of the most senior staff. It is common knowledge that governors are school leaders but sometimes we forget to talk about the children as leaders. Pupil Voice is a common expression but we are often guilty of manipulating that voice, only letting them make certain decisions. Policies are often produced in staff meetings or in the head or subject leader’s office. They are shared with staff and governors but rarely the children. Of course, I wouldn’t put the children through producing a health and safety policy but when it comes to things that involved them, I’m sure theirs is the most important voice.

Recently I have explored the idea of an Ethos Team - you can read more about them on their own page (under team in the menu). They were originally formed to ensure the school values are at…

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An afternoon with the Acorns

I must start this blog by letting you all know I love teaching my Oaks class (years 3 to 6). They are incredibly special to me and of course I spend four days a week teaching them and I love to see them grow as people. I love it when they grasp a new concept or achieve something they have struggled with. However, this blog is about my afternoon each week in the Acorns class. It most definitely does not belittle how wonderful my own class of Oaks are - I adore the days I spend with them as much as I adore my afternoon each week in the Acorns. Both classes are special, but it is my afternoon each week in the Acorns that keeps me sane as a school leader.

I genuinely think it should be made compulsory for every head teacher to spend time in their EYFS class/unit. In fact, if I were ever minister for education, I think this would be the first law I would make. I…

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Matilda: Everyone Extraordinary

Why Matilda is special to us!

As part of the end of year celebrations we performed our version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I was then very fortunate to be able to take my wonderful class to see Matilda the Musical whilst on a three day residential in London. The story really does resonate with me. Firstly on a personal level, because I loved the story as a child and remember being taken to a local production of Matilda (long before Matilda the Musical had ever been thought of). I love the idea that one person can make a difference - however small they are. I also love that despite being part of a self-centred, egocentric and uncompassionate family - Matilda chooses to be good.

However, the main reason is how the story resonates with me as the headteacher of our special school. It is the story of an extra-ordinary little girl who does extraordinary things. She is smaller than the other children and often underestimated. As a school we can relate to this - we are smaller than most and…

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Good things come in little packages

Funnily enough, when I first moved to Cumbria 11 years ago now - I never really recognised the strengths of a small school. My previous school had been a large inner city school, which I had thoroughly enjoyed. However, I soon fell in love with teaching in a small school…..

First and foremost, because you really know the individuals within your class. The small numbers enable the teachers to really understand the children in their care. I now can no longer imagine having children for just one year. It’s a huge advantage to know what each child needs to achieve their best, to be able to recognise if one child isn’t themselves and needs some extra care. As a teacher in a small setting you find that you care for the children as if they are your own, you want every one of them to do their best and to be happy. They are there in every decision you make and in reality, it is more than just keeping the “children at…

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Inspiring every child to reach further than they ever thought they could

This was our vision statement when I became headteacher here at Grayrigg CE Primary School. Of course we are a primary school - a place of learning, however this statement does not only relate to academic achievement; for me, it is much more than this. It’s about that magic moment when a child is genuinely surprised by what they have achieved. Every day children at our school exceed our expectations, but it is when they genuinely stop and say “wow, did I really just do that? I am amazing”. I am passionate that every child should have the opportunity to feel like this, not just the most able.

Of course reading, writing and maths are important, so how do we ensure every child reaches further than they ever thought they could in these areas? For us, it isn’t about results or outside drivers, the only driver for the team here at Grayrigg is the individual child. Children all develop at different stages of their life - our aim is to ensure they all have…

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Headteacher’s BLOG

My first blog.

It is incredibly exciting to start my first official blog. I aim to share what is happening in school from a leadership perspective, sharing both the things we need to celebrate and the things we are working on. Whilst Grayrigg CE Primary School has such a special place in my heart, it is not my school or even your school, but the children’s school, which we are all just incredibly privileged to be part of. The reason I say this is that I want it to be completely clear to everyone that the children are the drivers here. They are the reason we make every decision we do and they are at the heart of all of those decisions.

Last year was the culmination of an amazing few year for us - the changes have been described as the school going through a metamorphosis. If this is the case, then 2014-5 was the year that we emerged from the chrysalis and spread our wings as OFSTED said:


So what does…

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James and the Giant Peach

Grayrigg does Kendal Torchlight - and wins!

Torchlight Carnival is a huge event in Kendal and one the majority of school’s participate in. It is one of those events that never fails to remind me how lucky I am to be part of such an amazing school and community. Educationally, Torchlight couldn’t come at a worse time of year, only one week into the first term of the new academic year. Teachers are trying to establish routines, settle in the new children - in theory the idea of building a float, costumes and props should fill me with dread but here at Grayrigg, I love it.

Every year, I am reminded how much the parents (past and present) believe in and support our special little school. As soon as the theme is announced a meeting is held and ideas discussed. This year’s theme could not have been more appropriate; THINK BIG. Parents share their talents, some help with the painting, some make things, some even check the health and safety and of course Mr Dodgson provides the tractor. They get together to…

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What a Cool Canvas

Grayrigg gets a new play space and it’s brilliant

With a stunning view of Whinfell, a large playground and large hilly field nobody could deny that our school’s setting is stunning. Looking out of the windows to the rear of the school is like looking at a framed masterpiece. With the use of two beautiful forests our outdoor learning was good, but I wanted it to be inspirational.

The problem wasn’t lack of space, it was what to do with the space. We had several visits from outdoor developers and all had their merit but nothing quite sat right until a visit from Oliver Wotherspoon from the company Cool Canvas. The first thing that hit me about Oliver was that he was as excited as I was to discuss ideas. Talking to Oliver felt like nothing was impossible, everything we discussed was open ended play, collaborative play.

My biggest fear was spending a lot of money on something that children would get bored of, yes of course I wanted a bit of a wow factor to excite the children (and our wonderful…

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