Embedding a life-long love of science through a high-quality resource

A science lesson in action

Executive head teacher Malcolm Drakes explains how a science resource has changed the way that the subject is being taught across Broadford Primary School…   “Pupils at Broadford Primary School wake up excited at the prospect of the school day ahead. We work to give the 568 children in our care a rich educational experience with challenges and the highest quality teaching.   “We want our pupils to develop a lifelong love of learning. This informs every aspect of our work and has won us recognition from outside bodies. This year we were chosen as the Times Educational Supplement Primary School of the Year and we also won the coveted Overall School of the Year 2017.     “Here was a set of simple but effective resources that would let us deliver high end lessons with a WOW factor”     “It is hard to believe that back in March 2012 Broadford Primary School was in Special Measures. The Senior Leadership Team decided that a systematic and sustained focus on continuous professional development (CPD) was key to improvement.   “Within two years the school was transformed.  An emphasis on planning, resourcing and training meant that teachers were more confident and competent when teaching core subjects.   Creating awe and wonder in science lessons   “A fine example of this was the teaching of science. Very few primary teachers have a background or qualification in science. This is a pity because science, taught well, provides some of the most exciting and dramatic moments in a classroom.   “We wanted to thrill them with exciting experiments and activities so that even the youngest of our pupils could experience the ‘awe and wonder’ of science. It was a tall order.  It was essential to equip teachers with the necessary subject knowledge and to find the money for resources so that they could conduct high quality experiments.   “There was no local training we could tap into and we were disappointed to find that many of the science schemes we could buy in would require the teachers to interpret the ideas, resource the lessons and develop their own subject knowledge.   “This was going to place too heavy a workload on our teachers and would make it very difficult for us to differentiate teaching so that we could provide high end challenges for our more able learners.    “We came across Empiribox and were immediately impressed. Here was a set of simple but effective resources that would let us deliver high end lessons with a WOW factor.   “Each month all year groups study the same topic featuring hands-on investigative activity guaranteed to engage pupils of all abilities create a school-wide buzz of excitement and promote collaborative working and best practice amongst staff.   “Empiribox was developed by Dan Sullivan, an experienced secondary head of science. It gives us twelve themed monthly packages of inspiring lesson plans covering chemistry, biology and physics and assessment tools designed to measure, track and record pupil development. Everything is mapped to the KS 1 & 2 National Curriculum schemes of work.  It is a great time saver for our staff and means we don’t have the stress and anxiety of planning the annual science curriculum.   “When you are delivering science sessions you need equipment but we don’t have the necessary space to store science resources when they are not in use so we were delighted to discover that Empiribox would deliver a trolley load of specialist equipment for every year group and collect it when the classes had finished that topic.   “This is such a brilliant idea: it keeps down our capital costs, makes best use of our limited storage space and provides all the kit needed for exciting hands-on activities designed to enthral pupils of all abilities.”    “The training provided by Empiribox is a key benefit for us. We estimated that the cost of training 25 teachers for three days would typically total upwards of £10,000 alone, so the Empiribox package represents an affordable solution for our school and the CPD they provide is free.   “The company provides a termly CPD training programme delivered by science graduates which boosts the confidence of our teachers and makes sure lessons go with a bang – sometimes literally!   “Empiribox was rolled out across the whole of KS1 and KS2 from February 2015. Each month all year groups study the same topic. They enjoy practical investigations suitable for the whole ability range and we even find staff talking about the topics and working together so there is a school-wide buzz of excitement.   “They have access to online resources to support planning and to enable them to answer questions from curious pupils and Georgina Barron, our AHT for Curriculum, regularly observes the lessons and then helps teachers to develop the quality of their teaching    “We have been working with Mead Primary School, one of our partner schools in the federation. The teachers can work together on training, planning and evaluation so pupils at both schools get access to the same high quality teaching. It also means that science teaching in the federation is not just the responsibility of one member of staff so we can ensure consistency even if staff leave or are absent long-term.   “Teachers are building their skills and subject knowledge. Tej Lander, a Year 4 teacher, told me, ‘Empiribox has really helped me to develop my scientific knowledge. My confidence with the vocabulary and how to address misconceptions has really improved with the training.’   “His pupils are very appreciative too. Paige said, ‘The teacher demonstrations have been amazing. When my Mr Lander blew the top of the paint can off it was incredible. It makes the learning so much fun.’    “When we asked the staff, 90% agreed strongly that their scientific knowledge had improved while 100% said they were more confident at planning and delivering experiments with their classes.   “Working with Empiribox has significantly helped to raise

Being a Primary Deputy Head, This Much I Know…

Laura Knight When I was 11 years old I knew that I wanted to be a primary school teacher. It wasn’t just the influence of having parents as teachers (they didn’t put me off!) I just knew that I liked doing pretty much everything. I loved learning and I loved the day-to-day variety of being busy doing different things at school. It’s this sense of being into ‘everything’ that has seen me progress from class teaching into my current role as a Deputy Headteacher. Being a Deputy Head is an ‘everything’ job. Teaching commitments aside, not that this is in any way a small part, the sheer range of tasks that a Deputy may be required to perform means that the role is a very unique one indeed. Spinning Plates The job title signposts that on some occasions, when the Headteacher is out, you have to do all of the things they do. And then some. I have worked with a number of Heads who say that the Deputy Head role is harder than their own. Whether this is accurate or not, it is certainly true that as a Deputy you have your fingers in a great many pies. First and foremost most Deputies teach! Teaching children and the reward you gain from watching them learn is central to why we do what we do. It’s what stands teaching apart from so many other run of the mill jobs. I no longer have a whole class teaching commitment. Instead I continue to interact with the children through cover, intervention groups and mentoring. Now the highlight of my day can follow a tentative knock on my office door, when a small person brings me their best work to celebrate. I know that when you are a Deputy, balancing fuller teaching responsibilities alongside your leadership role can be a demanding and challenging task. Maintaining high quality planning, preparation and marking whilst ensuring you fulfil other strategic and supporting roles as well as the day to day business of helping to lead the school can require skill, organisation and a persistent drive. In many schools it can be the Deputy Head who is on the ground, involved in developing effective practice, focussed on improving teaching and learning. As such, much of a Deputy’s time can be taken up with coaching, support and discussion. Working with staff can be as rewarding – and frustrating! – as working with the children. After the children the school’s greatest resource is the teaching staff and the relationship you develop with them is fundamental to the success and happiness of the school. I know that a crucial part of a Deputy, or any Senior Leader’s role, is nurturing the staff, training them and facilitating development opportunities and trusting people to do a great job. Taking the time to reflect upon and appreciate the positive impact you make as a Deputy is important whether that be with the progress children or other teachers make. “Have you got a minute?” ….And the answer, although sometimes I dearly wish to say ‘no, sorry’, is always ‘yes, of course.’ As a Deputy you find yourself in the middle of everything, the go-between, bridging the ‘gap’ between the teaching staff and the Head. This can be quite an interesting place to be to say the least. At times, in any school, hard questions have to be asked and you can find yourself having challenging conversations. Finding the best way to deliver a difficult message takes diplomacy and sensitivity, the more constructive you can be the better. Remembering to temper tough issues by reinforcing the positive and using praise can make the difference when trying to support others. Sometimes this can make you popular and sometimes, well, not so! You have to resolve yourself to the idea that you cannot always get everything right for all people but I know that you always need to have an open door, a box of tissues and a listening ear. I once worked with a Head who explained to me the 80:20 rule. In schools this translates to the way in which you spend 80% of your time focussed on 20% of children, staff or parents. For example I spend 80% of my time supporting 20% of our teachers, specifically the NQTs. Sometimes it means that I don’t always get to see all staff regularly and out of the classroom this can be quite isolating. Popping into classes, getting into the staffroom and being a presence around school or the playground can be important to ensure that you are accessible and approachable for all. The one person you can probably spend more time working with and have a far greater understanding of than anyone else in the building is the Headteacher. Now I have worked with many, many Heads in my career and they have all had their special foibles, talents and quirks. The reciprocal relationship between Head and Deputy is a distinctive partnership in any school. With a great Head you can learn what can make a really great school and be cultivated into a great senior leader yourself. The place of a Deputy Head to support and challenge the Head can also be an exceptional position to be in. And whilst you can be the buffer for the staff to share their worries with, it’s important that you and the Head are there to back each other up too. Relieving tension by having the occasional moan can be supportive, as can be finding things to laugh about. As a Deputy I know that from listening to woes, to answering questions, to sharing jokes and relaying tricky messages being a good communicator really helps. To do or not to do? Like many teachers I love a good to-do list – I have long handwritten ones, colour coded ones with deadlines on my iPad, collections of scribbled Post-it notes and even a bedside notebook or two. In truth, at my school, my Girl Scout preparedness and slightly OCD organisation is a cause for

Worry in school on the rise over pupil mental health

Concern for pupils’ mental health has risen by 13% among school leaders over the past year, according to findings released today by The Key, the organisation providing leadership and management support to schools. Eight in 10 (80%) headteachers and other school leaders surveyed by The Key this year are worried about their pupils’ mental health, an increase on two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed in 2015. For the second year running, mental health has topped the list of pupil health and safeguarding concerns for school leaders across both primary and secondary schools and all English regions – it came ahead of issues including bullying, obesity and domestic violence. This increase in concern among school leaders correlates with a recent Department for Education (DfE) research finding that young people’s health and wellbeing was worse in 2014 than in 2005; girls in particular recorded higher levels of psychological distress. Speaking about The Key’s findings, Fergal Roche, CEO, said: “Pupil mental health is a significant and growing concern, and one that transcends school stage and location. Schools take their duty of care seriously but need the right resources to best support their pupils. It’s encouraging that the government has committed funding with the aim to transform support for children and young people’s mental health by 2020, and I hope that schools will both have a say in how this is used and see the impact.” The Key’s latest findings also highlight changes in school leader concern about other pupil health and safeguarding issues. Over the past year, worry about the effects of domestic violence on pupils has increased by 11% – up from nearly six in 10 (58%) school leaders expressing concern about this in 2015 to almost seven in 10 (69%)  in 2016.  While a smaller proportion of school leaders in 2016 appear to be worried about bullying among their pupils (33% this year, down from 38% in 2015), concern about obesity has seen a rise of 5% over the same period – up from 36% to 41%. The findings also show slight increases in the proportion of school leaders worried about sexting, drugs and radicalisation for their pupils, as well as gangs and youth violence. In primary schools, the issues concerning school leaders after mental health (79%) are domestic violence (73%) and child poverty (61%). In secondary settings, it is concern about the effects of sexting (62%) and cyberbullying (60%) on pupils that is most prevalent among school leaders, after mental health (82%).   Awareness of a need to safeguard pupils in their use of technology is reflected in the changes to government statutory safeguarding guidance which came into effect earlier this week (5th September). From the start of the autumn term, all schools will be expected to ensure appropriate internet filters and monitoring systems are in place to protect pupils from potentially harmful or inappropriate content, and should have a clear policy on the use of mobile technology. Fergal Roche, CEO of The Key, continues: “This year’s survey findings about pupil health and safeguarding concerns illustrate the challenging and complex task befalling schools when it comes to protecting their pupils from harm. As society changes and technology evolves, schools are constantly having to adapt and ensure they are equipped with the skills and understanding to meet new demands.” To support school leaders with some of the issues highlighted by its survey, The Key has made a number of resources on pupil health and wellbeing available at: www.thekeysupport.com/pupil-wellbeing-2016 For a visual summary of The Key’s survey findings, go to www.thekeysupport.com/pupil-wellbeing-2016