Grayrigg CE School - Start Small Think Big

KS1 independence

Building on the amazing start.

Anyone who knows me and my school knows how proud I am of the early years. I’m confident that the nursery and reception children get an outstanding start to their school journey with our fantastic team in the Tiny Acorns class. OFSTED confirmed this at the end of February when they judged the early years OUTSTANDING.

The problem when something is so fab, is that it makes everybody else’s job a bit harder to live up to this amazing start. One area we have really looked at over the past couple of years is key-stage 1 and I have to say my visits to the Acorns class (KS1) this year have definitely left me just as excited as my visits to the Tiny Acorns (EYFS). The main challenge we faced was developing their independence. In our Tiny Acorn class, children use tools, make their own pizza toasties for snacks and lead their own learning: To then move into key-stage 1 to be taught more formally would, in my opinion, be a step back. I’m…

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Dance like no-one is watching

I’m sure everyone in the school community or anyone who knows me at all knows I love dance. As a child it was my favourite thing to do and as an adult I love to go to the theatre to watch a ballet or a musical. One of my favourite nights of the year happened this week – the Brewery Dance Platform. This is an annual event which has now been running for 15 years, where local schools take a group of students to perform at the Brewery Arts Centre, along with other schools, in front of a packed audience.

Each school produces their own dance routine - some work with dance specialists, some choreograph it themselves. The evening is a celebration of dance of the pupils - but why does it mean so much to us at Grayrigg? Every school makes it work for them but one of the most important things to us is that it is not a performance for those who attend after school dance club - it is part of…

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The trials and tribulations of an Early Years Teacher – part 1

There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a child discovering something for the first time and we fully support children doing this themselves, through an engaging interactive environment. But what about all the other stuff, as teachers, we need to get them to achieve? Quite often you’ll find learning that focuses on everything children can’t do, rather than strengthening what they can do and encouraging children’s engagement in learning through following the children’s interests. I’m sure everyone has been challenged on formal based aspects - “Can they read?” “Can they write?” “Can they count?” But what about all the things that matter to them? I fully recognise that children need to meet certain expectations but if children aren’t ready, then how can this really instil a long term love for learning?

We set up our environment at the start of each term with the current cohort of children in mind. This means looking at the resources we have and tailoring them to the needs of the group. Not only…

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Wrecking Ball

Some of you may call me a geek but I had a wonderful time at the weekend - not because it was the weekend but because I spent Saturday with the whole staff team at a conference in Lancaster. The conference was Beyond Levels - and these events have taken place all over the UK. The initial reason I was interested was that a hero of mine Dame Alison Peacock is one of the key organisers of these events. I have read her books and visited her school and can’t help but be inspired by her child centred approach to headship. The whole focus of the day was about assessment and the purpose of assessing children’s learning and how we do this so it is meaningful. When I talk about assessment - I don’t mean SATs or end of key-stage tests, I refer to the assessments a teacher makes throughout the school day and in his/her feedback that informs us where the learning goes next. This is a common misconception - it is important to…

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A church school

Any mention of the word inspection in school makes you worry, makes you question every decision you’ve ever made so when I received a phone call on Monday 10th October to let me know that our SIAMS inspection would take place later that week I was a tad nervous. We have a SIAMS inspection as well as OFSTED as we are a Church of England primary School. Our last SIAMS took place in 2013 and the outcomes weren’t great, we were in the middle of our OFSTED improvements, I hadn’t even started to address the improvements needed for this part. Of course, I wanted the inspector to see how the school had improved, I worried whether or not they would see the improvements or whether she would think there was still so much to do.

Anyone who knows me, will know I have a tendency to worry more than I need to - I like to think it’s because I care about this place so much - many would say (including my Mum) it’s…

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A very special visit…

In July we were joined by Alistair Bryce Clegg and his lovely wife Fiona. For those of you who don’t know, Alistair is an Early Years guru. My book shelf contains every one of his books and this year both Mrs Neal and myself have had the pleasure of attending his conferences. His pedagogy and practice in the Early Years is amazing and his work inspires me and many others (9, 370 twitter followers and numerous Facebook friends). I’m sure every single Early Years bookshelf contains at least one of his books. Even though he has never visited Grayrigg his work has had a massive impact on our school and has played a huge part in securing the rapid improvements in the Early Years.

It was quite a while ago, that Alistair suggested he would like to visit Grayrigg, just for fun! Initially I was excited; I planned not to tell the staff but was far too excited (and had to make sure they were all in on the day of the BIG visit). The…

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Looking back

Half term holidays go ever so quickly and are often a time to catch up on work, but this half term was also an opportunity to pop back to my home town of York to visit my family, in particular, my brother and his new family. Whenever James and I get together we end up reminiscing about our childhood. We had a wonderful childhood and went to a fabulous school called Park Grove. I have the fondest memories of Primary School. It was most definitely Park Grove that was responsible for me wanting to become a teacher. We often drive past my old Primary School when we go to stay with my Mum in York and I still get excited at the beautiful red brick, Victorian building. In June 2013 I was able to take my Oaks class to have a tour of my old school, one evening during our residential. It is much bigger than Grayrigg, although it was relatively small in numbers when I attended. The school suffered a fire in 1996 as…

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The Headteacher’s Coconuts!

Last week I had one of those moments where I needed to clone myself. I was in the middle of a confidential conversation with a parent, when a smiling little face appeared in the background with something in his hand. Fortunately, Mrs Hendrickse was able to stop and admire the child’s treasure and take him out and I finished the conversation with the parent, but I made a mental reminder to pop into the Acorns later and find out what treasure he had been holding in his little Tupperware pot. 

The treasure which he held so proudly was a smashed up coconut. The Acorns thought this strange large hairy nut was amazing, some had seen them on holiday; nobody had ever tried one, but all of them were excited by this amazing and funny looking hairy thing. Fortunately it was my office day so I was able to jump in the car, pop down to Morrisons and purchase 10 more coconuts, some coconut water, coconut cakes and anything else I could find…

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Spontaneity and spirit…

I wander’d lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o’er vales and fells,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of sapphire bluebells.

If you have ever read one of my blogs, you will be aware how much I love my job and how privileged I feel to work in such a beautiful little school. Grayrigg is a truly beautiful Cumbrian village on the edge of the Lake District, but what makes Grayrigg and my little school truly special is the community spirit that surrounds it.

Driving home last Thursday (after a long week of Year 6 SATs) I noticed the bluebells were out in flower, the sun was shining. I stopped the car so I could take a photograph. Later that evening as I flicked through the days photographs on the I-pad, I was again struck by the beauty of the flowering bluebells in the sunshine.

So, at 9p.m that Thursday evening I had a thought “I want to do our weekly BIG write in amongst the bluebells…

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I caught Mrs Neal sunbathing…

At last the sun is slowly sneaking out and the Acorns took full advantage of this on Tuesday. As a head, I spend some time monitoring the quality of teaching in our little school. One way I do this is popping into the classrooms on my heads office day. I say that I’m monitoring, but to be honest I can’t manage a full day working in the office without the odd visit to the classrooms. On Tuesday I walked in to the acorns classroom to find it was empty. This was no surprise, the children were all outside so I wandered out into the outdoor area where the children were all busy beavering away.

Mrs Neal however, was sitting on a small pile of pallets, wearing her sunglasses and a huge smile on her face - enjoying the sun - she really wouldn’t have looked out of place on a yacht in the south of France! Of course she wasn’t just enjoying the sun. The sun glasses she wore were because of the sun, but…

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