QUESTION: (From teacher to a child in a circle who had just finished a Circle Time Session): “Having experienced this circle-time – what would you like us to do differently?”
ANSWER: (from 9 year old child): “I think we kids need more time for imagination and drama. Today I have been on a diamond beach and felt the sun on me. It’s taken me away from my reality – which is a very hard reality… and now I feel calmer and happier.”
Twenty five years ago Scotland embraced my Quality Circle Time Model in it’s entirety – Golden Rules, Golden Time, Positive Lunchtimes and Weekly Circle Times, Bubble Times and Think Boxes. I ran for many years a series of Train The Trainers courses funded by Scottish Local Authorities so that teachers, deputies and heads could be accredited to train others in the key features of my Golden Model. 25 years ago Lorraine Brodie (now Napier) attended one of these courses. Her school, Kirkhill Primary School in Aberdeen, has many challenges.
Kirkhill Nursery / Primary is a co-educational, non-denominational school situated to the south of Aberdeen City Centre. Most learners are from the local school area – a mixture of local authority and private housing. The current school roll is 348. 18.1% of P4-7 families use their entitlement to free school meals and almost all P1-3 learners use their entitlement to free school meals.
Lorraine was determined to keep everything going. She had a fabulous deputy, Shona Milne (who later took on the headship after Lorraine). What Lorraine has/had was a huge passion and fire to achieve the vision of a child-centred listening school. She wanted her families to experience the emotional safety of everything being consistent. She understood that her children and parents would only come round if they perceived all these new ideas as forever ideas. And yes, the children pushed against the new rewards and consequences and yes it was still difficult to get parents, before they come straight up to the school, to check that their children had used the listening systems first before they were entitled to have their say. Kirkhill, due to the Local Authority’s recruitment policy had a steady changeover of staff so it was vital that they all got training regularly. ‘Plan, Do, Review’ was a strong mantra that everyone adhered to. I can honestly say that I have never seen such grit and determination as I have in Kirkhill staff over the years. If they weren’t on board with putting children at the heart of everything, then they left. Last week I visited again to run a closure INSET day which included a family circle of children coming in the afternoon so I could demonstrate a circle time. They debated all the systems and there was a wonderful moment when they were talking about using Golden Time as one of the consequences when a young lad was put on the spot when another child said “yes but you lose Golden Time quite a bit and it doesn’t look as though you care”. The child replied, thoughtfully, “Of course I care but I don’t show it on the outside… but inside I’m gutted”.
I am incredibly heartened by what I see going on. Every aspect of my model is in place. The next step is that children will be invited into adult working parties. We now need separate working parties for the dining hall, the playground, the weekly circle times and reviewing the rules, rewards and consequences systems. Staff decided that they need to shine up their own wellbeing working party – it’s exhausting working in a school like this. It’s volatile at times, hilarious, sad, fun, frustrating, challenging and rewarding… but unless you renew your own energy you will have nothing left to give to the children and parents.
So a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all Kirkhill staff, past and present, and all the children and parents – you strengthen my spirit, make my soul sing and make my heart go golden every time I think of you. You are a tribute to what can be achieved when individuals have commitment, vision, energy and kindness in abundance. I salute you.
Website Editor’s Notes
Here are a couple of previous blog posts about Kirkhill Primary School.