Lancaster Small School, Big Ideas Event at Caton CPS

| March 13, 2013 | 10 Comments 

The first in a series of Small School, Big Ideas Events, this time at Caton Community Primary School, near Lancaster, with David Mitchell, Dughall McCormick and Stephen Heppell (via digital wizardry, from Australia). What a great day.

Any small school faces a few challenges, but there are some wonderful advantages, at the same time. Having a large age range, within one class sometimes, means you need some creative, inventive, constantly adaptable, teachers. So, it was a true joy to work alongside some remarkable, adaptable and “up for it” colleagues today. Well done, and thank you, all.

Dave Mitchell described the background to this event, and where the idea came from:

Small schools do things differently… Why? Because they have to! After being at CatonCPS with only 44 pupils for a month now, it became apparent (very quickly) that things were done differently. With only 2 classes, teachers at CatonCPS have either EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 or Year 3, 4, 5 and 6. Delivering a curriculum to a class of 7 to 11 year olds knowing that children are in your class for 4 years demands an open mind. What we are doing at CatonCPS is special. We know that but who else knows that?

This got me thinking, who knows what these small schools all over the UK or even the world are doing?

Small School – BIG Ideas is a growing movement of small schools not necessarily small in number but small in voice who are wanting to connect to other schools to learn, share and collaborate for the benefit of their schools community.

Today marks the beginning of the Small School – BIG Ideas network.

We started with a joyous session with all of the children from Years 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, from Caton CPS. A grand total of 29 children. And, what a lovely bunch.

Then an afternoon with the staff, and visiting colleagues, to focus on Small School, Big Ideas.

A great, (and decidedly less digital than we intended because of tech problems, so ended up being by an amplified mobile phone call – there’s the joy of being adaptable as teachers!) chat with Stephen Heppell (@stephenheppell) who, gracefully, stayed up to gone 1 in the morning in Australia. Stephen motivated us by sharing many of the special advantages of working in a small school. Breaking down big schools in to mini schools within those schools, means that teachers not only know that a child’s dog has died, but, also that the child had a dog in the first place. Thanks Stephen, for sharing your wise words, in your pyjamas!

Why have an audience if you’re not going to use them?

David Mitchell (@deputymitchell) shared a lot of the remarkable things that social writing achieves with children of many ages and abilities : The POWER of audience and how going global through blogging changed the lives of his learners! David took us through the blogging journey that led to well documented rise in attainment from 9% Level 5 writing to 60% Level 5 writing in just 12 months.

We heard from the children and saw, first hand, the impact of going global through blogging, and more.

Dave shared how his children discovered the power of tagging posts effectively. Look up any of these phrases: Brilliant sentences, non chronological reports Year 6,  y6 blog, VCOP year 6, Howler monkey information and what you might find as one of the first results is one of Dave’s classes blog posts!

Dughall McCormick (@dughall) explored The power of Social Media

Dughall talked about making connections, and strength in numbers. The web, the cloud, and the internet, enable small schools, to interact, share ideas, and build upon successes and challenges.

Social media, and things like the 100 word challenge, “Can be a bit lovey”, says Dughall, but connections, and shared, critical audiences, are of great value.

Dugall acknowledged how Learning Platforms are often thought of as a difficult concept, but shared some of the positive benefits of things like forums, for head teachers, where they can ask questions, and share difficulties, and seek answers to problems, such as purchasing issues. By gathering together, small schools can share the benefits of bulk purchasing.

A forum means that informal chats, on such aspects as Special Needs Criteria, can resolve some issues for colleagues, in a wide range of schools, across the country and beyond.

Twitter, and Facebook, are the two social media platforms which are prominent already in many schools’ consciousness. But not all. Twitter, having a finite number of characters, makes communication succinct.

Individually, we can share banal, useful, but potentially, dangerous. We have to pick through a lot of straw to find the shining pins. Serendipity can occur, and often does, on a social, or professional level. Schools, school governors, librarians, children, and others, can build a community where questions, answers, suggestions and ideas, whiz and whirl at speed.

Dughall got us thinking that the problems that can occur are not because Twitter, and Facebook, are the problem. People using any method of communicating, badly, are the problem. The potential to make fools of ourselves, or worse, are sped up in this digital age. But, the power to learn is also extended. Powerful stuff.

Category: 1) Events and Training days

Comments (10)

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  1. Andy Gaunt says:

    Thanks for this afternoon, inspiring as expected, I’d forgotten about tag galaxy and panoramas. Dk. Many other great ideas brilliant

  2. WOW… What a day. I have learned so much, from being engrossed deep in learning whilst we explored writing under the influence of Sir Tim together with Year 2 – Year 6 to listening to some sensational presentations during the afternoon. I want to that bot YOU and Sarah for coming and generously sharing your time, knowledge and experience with us at Caton.

    I’m off to explore the link now 🙂


  3. Was a pleasure to have you at our school Tim. It was a great way of sharing what technology has to offer teaching and learning and to network with like minded practitioners.

  4. John Sutton says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to our little corner of the Lune Valley, my daughter certainly loved your lesson! The amplified phonecall from Australia was a great piece of improv that demonstrated that you can’t always rely on the tech, but great teachers will always find a way around.

  5. Jonathan Nichols says:

    A brillaint afternoon, thanks for all the ideas. Looking forward to working with you in a couple of weeks.

  6. Tim says:

    Thanks Jonathan
    Thanks for making the journey and we’re glad you found some useful things
    We too are looking forward to working with you all in a couple of weeks

  7. Tim says:

    We REALLY did enjoy our trip, and technology is not the answer (although it does raise many questions 😀 )
    We look forward to finding out what happens next
    Tim and Sarah

  8. Tim says:

    Thank you Shabs
    You have a right to be very proud of you children, colleagues and school
    Thank you for a great day

  9. Tim says:

    Well, Sir David, thank YOU for you vision to organise today
    We are now really looking forward to the next events in this series of Small School(s) Big Ideas events
    Scaling this event – but keeping the valuable assets of SMALL is an exciting challenge
    Go For It!

  10. Tim says:

    Thanks Andy
    We look forward to finding out about what you try out of any new things you discovered

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