Okay, this is going to be a big and passionate blog! For that reason, I have divided it into Part 1 and Part 2!
I am brandishing a sword of revolution and truth and I am calling you all to arms with ‘my gang’ so you become one of ‘our gang’! Forgive me (and please stay with me) as I am sure the blog is going to tumble out in a disordered way as I have so much to say and too many ideas leaping round for attention.
I am back to my passion that all primary schools needs to adopt an older people’s home (see blog: Adopt and Older people’s Home.). I am back to this theme with even more passion as it is fuelled by sharp flames of anger, ignited by what the school I am working with is having to endure (more of this in Part 2!)
I was invited to carry out some training at Watercliffe Meadow Primary School – one of my favourite schools ever and I will write more about their strengths and the challenges they are facing in Part 2!
A visit with the children to Watercliffe’s local residential home was truly wonderful. I have attached some photos. The older man in the photo with the wand says it all. There is magic in each of us – if only someone would give us some attention and notice it. Lets all unite in wanting to see the magic in all older people in residential homes and wave our collective magic wand in one hand and the sword of truth (for Part 2 of this blog) and revolution in the other. One for all, all for one.
I mentioned in Part 1 the fantastic Watercliffe Meadow Primary School in Sheffield. It is about to be awarded our very special Gold Award (the last schools who received this were Kirkhill Primary School, Aberdeen and Maplefields School, Northants (a section to celebrate these wonderful Golden Schools on our ‘coming soon’ website). I love Watercliffe because over the past four years they have taken a very difficult situation and turned it around in a very inspiring way. Originally Watercliffe evolved when three failing schools were closed in Sheffield, a wonderful LA that often features near the bottom of the SATS league tables. It is in an area serving many troubled children and adults, yet together they have transformed it into a place of joy where every child and adult’s potential can flourish. I really mean this – it is not said glibly and every visitor to this school will back me up.
At the very beginning they had to work for ages to create calm, within which happiness could flourish. They used my ecosystemic model (see Quality Circle Time in the Primary classroom by Jenny Mosley) and eventually, through training, consistency and love they embedded it in its entirety. What the head, Linda Kingdon, and deputy, Ian Read, will say is that the Golden Rules gave everyone in the school and the outer community, a shared vision. The practical imperatives, ie, three listening systems, golden time, a whole school lunchtime policy and therapeutic circles of support gave the school such an emotionally safe framework (see Jean Gross’ comment) and ethos, which meant that finally everyone could relax and be themselves. The minute this happened, the old flight and fight reflexes stopped sending out their flames of emotional poison and the children and adults could start to hope, explore and take on the best ideas in education whilst maintaining a sense of perspective and shared laughter. The school abounds with uproarious loud laughter, constant chuckles and shy smiles, rituals, celebrations, jokes, dressing up, singing, looking at funny films of themselves – it is a place where eccentricity can abound!.
Last week Meg and I arrived at Watercliffe to gather up a group of children from different classes selected by Emma Rhodes (the teacher and guardian angel of their new venture into our move to get every primary school to adopt an older people’s home through weekly circle times). The day we arrived was SATs day. Tension abounds, the children pale and some are very disturbed. The teachers are drawn and tight jawed…….I have seen it for many years …… but suddenly my heart snapped. What is the government doing to schools by putting them through this terrible pressure? This golden school’s team members are finally, after years of hard work, feeling happy and relaxed, able to let go of some of the impact of the daily traumas, able to feel safe enough to find their true selves – loving, funny, kind and supportive to their peers – but are now under the cosh. Having just met the 55% floor target of 55% of pupils attaining Level 4+ in English and Maths, a new figure 60% has just been plucked out of the ether and retrospectively held over them like a guillotine. NOWHERE in this league table demand is there any provision or acknowledgement of how many of these children have moved from being frightened, wild, needy, hurt and angry to being 100% calmer and happier so that any adult and child can wander around the school and the playground feeling valued and respected. The whole school community will now be judged on an arbitrary test – and if they don’t reach this thin, politically driven ice splinter of a number they will be judged, publicly humiliated and put under threat of being subject to strangers coming in to ‘support’ management. Teachers, TAs, learning mentors, play leaders, midday supervisors and admin staff who stay in challenging schools like this, drop all their ego and pull together – they are not in it for the money. They are in it for love. Ask them to jump another 60% higher mountain – they will try their hardest – but if they fail they will be devastated and lose morale, energy and sparkle because they feel they have let each other and the pupils down. They will need each other to heal through talking and laugher – not a spectre of the government intervening by naming, shaming and blaming.
The path we are on is madness. It is a form of torture. It is DRACONIAN. I wrote in another blog about a head teacher who was on a course with me, in the middle of an important experience when after receiving a phone call telling her to jump as Ofsted had decided to come in that day, was found white and shaking. We must acknowledge that some schools are not the same as others THAT ONE 60% HAT DOES NOT FIT ALL!! We need ‘value added’ brought back, creativity honoured, happiness and love measured – not tests. ENOUGH. We need to unite as one voice – a society is only as strong as its weakest members. Please join our campaign and pledge to create change, voice our hurt through action. We will be setting up a campaign site but in the short term please feel free to email your support, even if its just a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am going up to Findhorn next week (Findhorn Foundation) with the deputy of Watercliffe, Ian, and his family, to present a day on humour in schools. First on the stage, for two days (May 28th & 29th) though is the real guru and champion of laughter – Patch Adams. Yes, the same Patch Adams in that old film you might have seen where, as a young doctor, he was played by Robin Williams. He is still young (in his 60s!!), vibrant and joyful, and inspiring people to want to bring humour into their work and home lives. If you have got half term off come and join us (give Findhorn link). I am going up with my daughter Meg and friend and colleague Zara. Ian (the deputy head) and I are presenting my QCT model with film clips of ‘evidence’ of how it’s key features work – these will run throughout the day sparkling and glinting with the fun they share. The film clips have been created by MASH, an incredible young film company headed up by Zoe and Paul. Their commitment and life work is, through film, to build people’s identity and sense of community and humanity. They are utterly brilliant. Sheffield LA is so lucky to have them at its heart, documenting and illuminating the core of what it means to be human (www.mashproduction.tv)
For an excellent book on intergenerational circle times, see Building Bridges at Key Stage 2 by Penny Vine available on our website
Intergenerational Circle Time – Building Bridges at Key Stage 2 By Penny Vine
For training on intergenerational work (also Quality Circle Time, Better Behaviour, Positive Lunchtimes) please contact Jenny Mosley’s offices on 01225 767157 or email email@example.com