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House of Commons Small School Seminar June 10th 2008|
House of Commons Small School Seminar June 10th 2008
Thank you for inviting us here today to the House of Commons.
Having had both experiences we have really come to value how much small schools have to offer and the many advantages of small scale.
Armathwaite School is a Community First school and at present we have 44 children aged between 4 and 8. Our numbers are rising and future numbers reflect this trend. DEFRA predicted that more people will relocate from urban areas and choose to live in villages and this is definitely the case at Armathwaite. At present over 50% of our pupils are from families who have relocated.
We take our role in our community very seriously and we value our place within it. We are a community school in more than just name. We have a
Our Ofsted inspection identified us as an outstanding school in all areas, providing excellent value for money. We are convinced that the many advantages of being a small school have been instrumental in achieving this success. And we would like to share some of these advantages with you.
The creative way we have remodelled our workforce has turned what could be perceived as disadvantage into a powerful advantage.
Pupils, parents and staff all know each other really well and we work in partnership with each other.
As well as our team of teaching staff we have a much valued team of 4 part time support assistants, a team of 6 regular unpaid community volunteers and many parent helpers.
Because we are all confident teachers of our subject areas we have been able to focus on deepening our understanding of the process of learning ? how individual children learn rather than what they will learn. This precision is having a significant impact on standards. Ofsted reported our standards to be well above average and pupils? achievement to be outstanding. We believe we have the evidence to demonstrate that standards and achievement are even higher now as a result of our ever deepening understanding of how to teach and progress these transportable skills for independent life long learning.
Our school is a very busy place. It is the centre for learning and communication for people of all ages within our community.
Sharing and communicating the thinking behind our way of working has really engaged the support of parents, community and business. Our size has been instrumental in the creation a strong and pro active team around each child.
It is these human relationships that make small schools successful and that play a major part in developing that vitally important ?sense of belonging? to a community that cares and to a school of which we are all immensely proud.
There is a strong sense of family in small schools like ours. We represent a natural progression from the home.
Small scale allows time to invest in relationships.
Within schools like ours each child?s individuality is valued and respected. Every child has a voice. Every child plays a part in the decision making. Every child is an ambassador for our school in sports events and performances. No child slips through the net or becomes quietly invisible. Our progress tracking is about individuals and not numbers and percentages. We are all one team and we support and learn from each other.
We are pleased that we have never fitted any given curriculum model. We have always had to be creative and make adaptations.
Initially children sample a range of sandwiches, wraps and rolls produced at the factory. They evaluate them giving scores for appearance, smell, taste and texture. Overall scores are totalled and graphs produced, which are shared with Phillip, MD of the factory.
Children also carry out bread evaluations and spread discrimination tests, having lots of fun learning about these two vital sandwich components.
So with this background knowledge we are ready to visit the factory to see sandwich production first hand. Because of our size we are able to give all 20 of our Year 2 and 3 children this quality learning experience. The factory wouldn’t be able to spend time with or accommodate any larger group.
Phillip gives us a guided tour, starting in the boardroom, explaining how orders are placed. He talks about consumer preferences, discussing the graphs we sent him when we evaluated the factory’s sandwiches and highlighting the importance of identifying a target group when designing a sandwich.
We see how production lines operate; learning how jobs are allocated and each line is produced by a team. Staff enjoy talking to children and answering their questions.
The factory visit gives our children quality first hand experience of sandwich production which they take back to school and apply to their own sandwich designs and planning their own production lines, each running a line of 4 to 6 of their own sandwiches.
They are able to identify their own design criteria based on their learning about healthy eating, target groups and sandwich production.
Production lines are planned and detailed shopping lists made, requiring the application of literacy and numeracy skills. They are able to apply learning from the factory visit, considering food groups and careful measurement of ingredients.
On the day of production all ingredients have to be calculated and prepared. Working out how many slices of cucumber for 4 lines of each child’s sandwich is fabulous purposeful maths problem solving which the children thoroughly enjoy.
Phillip comes to school on the day of production, providing wraps, rolls and breads, packaging, hats and feet covers for hygiene. His job is quality control and he takes it very seriously!
The production lines run and the sandwiches are packed and labelled, using labels created by the children in literacy applying persuasive language skills.
As well we give time each week for children to develop their own projects in child initiated independent learning time which is a fantastic time each week when children have complete ownership of their learning, they develop projects that they choose and they take their learning onto much higher levels.
Our school is held in high esteem by its community. It is a valuable community resource. People from all backgrounds interact on different levels and provide a model of life long learning and positive citizenship for our pupils. Our smallness of scale makes this easier to manage.