Outdoors Wars

There are times when no words are needed.

Away Days and Memories

I am currently on a residential visit with our year six pupils at Peak Venture, near Barnsley.  There was a howling wind as I ventured outside early this morning for my usual walk.  I was met with all manner of weather and it would be fair to say it was a wee bit chilly. I even managed to appreciate some rather stinging sleet!

I was thinking about the things I have seen the children achieve during the first two days of our visit.  I have seen the quieter more reserved children show great courage when climbing to a great height and admired their determination to push themselves to their limit.  It has been a privilege to see the children tackle things they have never done before and it has been clear to me that their resilience and determination has grown.

The greatest part of watching children learning is when you see them having fun and they are sharing experience and knowledge with their peers.  This particular group have been very good at being positive and encouraging their friends when things are tough.

I particularly enjoyed watching them during the activities this morning.

A tale of Two Coppers

Anyone who works in teaching knows that this job has, like others, high points and low points.  This is why I believe it is essential to have something that you do that is outside the job, a hobby or pass time that ensures you have some time to recharge your battery and have some down time from the working day.  I enjoy walking my dog and I have developed a keen interest in photography, with a focus on night photography. I know there is a pun in there somewhere!

Night photography involves going out after dark and taking pictures of landscapes, buildings or, anything really I suppose.  I have driven around to various villages, industrial sites, coastal towns and enjoyed taking pictures in relative peace and quiet.  If the mood should take you my flickr account is here.  I can accept that my skills are average at best and the subject matter may not interest you but I enjoy it so I guess all is well.

My recent experience visiting the town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire gave me cause to reflect on contrasting experiences when dealing with the police.  On occasion, as it is night and you are out and about. you come across officers of the law now and then.  I have also met a couple of security guards and we have chatted about my pictures and how night photography works.  These folk seem happy to chat as it is usually quiet.

During a trip to Sheffield I had a police officer pull up his car near me and I explained that I was taking pictures and he said he stopped so he would not ruin the shot.  A friendly chap and he was on his way after exchanging pleasantries. I suppose he wasn’t that interested as I am not a criminal.  The event passed as a mere footnote to an otherwise pleasant evening.  I will now contrast this with my experience of driving towards the “Making It” building in Mansfield and being unsure whether I needed to go right or left to get back to a more main road.  A car comes up behind me and I decide on turning left, only to find I am going to need to turn around as it is a dead end.

I go to the top of the road to reverse and find a car has stopped in the middle of the road, thus blocking my only means of exit and a man in a police uniform has got out.  A second person gets out of the passenger side and they approach my window.  The car they were driving was older, a corsa I think and unmarked.  I wind my window down and the first officer asks, “what was wi ya driving back there?” I responded that I wasn’t aware there was a problem and he then goes on about me moving to the left on a junction.  I need to be clear about being stopped at this point.  I have no issue with a police officer questioning me about what I am doing but I have serious issues with rude, aggressive people.  This is what he was.  His WPC colleague then joins him and asks why were you driving slowly?  I explain I am a keen photographer.  We then get what do you photograph? That’s unusual and so on.  I point over my shoulder to the camera on the back seat and offer them the opportunity to check it.  They took no notice and just carried on with their rude and hostile attitude.

It was clear the driver of the “Police car” didn’t like the way I turned left.  There was no fixed penalty, there was no advice given, no warning, nothing at all.  I wasn’t even asked my name or to produce documents.In short, they had discovered I was an amateur photographer and they could have just moved on, having exercised some common courtesy toward a law abiding citizen.  There were, quite possibly two of the rudest and verbally aggressive people I have ever met in any context, who were also wearing Nottinghamshire police uniforms.  I will not be travelling to Mansfield with my camera again.  Their conduct was appalling.

It made me reflect on my day job as a headteacher and about the work we do with young children in EYFS about “People who help us” this area usually involves a visit by fire service and police officers.  I may have to add a caveat to this area of the curriculum and tell the children, not in Mansfield!

To be clear, I support the work of the police and I know they have a difficult job, indeed I have friends and relatives who are serving officers.  I know the conduct of the two officers I have mentioned is hopefully the exception rather than the rule but it is disappointing to experience such rude, confrontational and aggressive behaviour.  The officer just leaving his car in the middle of the road, essentially trapped me in the cul-de-sac.  This would have been very intimidating to any driver as this vehicle was unmarked.  Perhaps next time these officers will identify themselves using their warrant card and exercise some common courtesy.  I somehow doubt that this will be the case.

Reflections and Projections

The Christmas  Holiday is now gone and we find ourselves digesting the last Rennie and looking forward to what is coming next and looking back over the holiday period and first term.  There is much to discuss in between reciting our times tables ready for another test.  It’s my favourite part of the holiday when we find out what surprises are in store, in terms of the next “new” idea.  I did enjoy the Minister refusing to answer the question regarding 12 x11.  Enough of this though, I want to reflect on the holidays and the near future.  This may prove to  mildly interest the reader and be cathartic for me.

We were really pleased to see our results published and in terms of progress from key stage one to the end of key stage two we are in the top 50 schools in the Country.  In the whole of the East Midlands we are the top performing school in terms of progress.  We see this is as just reward for the effort our children and staff put in.  Our parents support us in all that we do and this has meant our school is enjoying it’s longest period of sustained success.  Seven years of strong performance is further evidence of the commitment of everyone to ensuring our children are well prepared for their next stage of their education.

For us the next stage is to work towards being a multi-academy trust.  We are seeking to work with like-minded schools that are in a strong position and keen to share expertise for the good of all of our children.  This will be an exciting time for all of us as we look forward to developing new partnerships and further strengthening our curriculum.  If you want to talk to us please contact me at school for an informal discussion.

It’s a busy term and our year six pupils go to Kingswood Peak Venture in February.  This is a great visit as you see the children gain so much in terms of confidence and resilience.  It is a big part of our work outside the classroom and is a key strength in our curriculum.

Our double decker bus will be complete this half term as we turn it into a teaching space.  This will be a place where our children work on all areas of the curriculum, with a particular focus on blogging to a global audience.  We are excited about this part of our term as lots of hard work has already taken place to prepare the bus for the children.  Watch this space for news.

It promises to be a very challenging part of our year but we are well-placed to make sure we continue to provide our children with a primary school education that is world class.  As always, we are committed to our school mission to “Be The Best You Can Be”

The only thing left to ask is, “Who is coming with me?”



Vimy Ridge, Arras and Farming….

It has been a very hectic couple of days in France for us. We have visited Vimy Ridge yesterday along with a trip to Arras, including a fantastic trip to Wellington Quarry.

We went into the trenches at Vimy Ridge and noticed all of the craters and scars on the landscape. It is a beautiful area now with over 12000 Maple trees planted. These were planted to remember all of the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the first war.

We learned about the battle tactics that the Canadian army used to defeat the Germans at Vimy. The children wore their school uniform for their photograph at the Vimy Memorial site and we chatted to a Canadian man who was working at the memorial sire for four months. He was very friendly and explained to us why he was proud to do some time there to remember the sacrifice of his fellow countrymen.

We visited the town of Arras and were shown around the caves under the Town Hall. This was very interesting and the children found out lots of information about Arras and how it has changed over many years.

We went underground into Wellington Quarry and we were able to see where over 20,000 British soldiers hid, whilst they prepared to attack the German lines by coming up out of the ground. We saw lots of evidence of how soldiers lived in there and we talked about what it would have been like to be there and get ready to fight. We thought about the bravery of our soldiers and how many lost their lives.

Today we visited Le Touquet, where we walked around the market and some of us ate some spring roles. Some of us spent some euros and the staff may have bought some secret cake for later for themselves?

We followed the visit to Le Touquet with a trip to a farm that produces cheese and raises cattle. The children showed how their French is improving and the farmer commented on how well they understood the language. This was very pleasing because when we visit the places we go to, the people always speak in French to immerse the children in the language. A top effort.

We now plan to visit the beach tonight and then it’s off to bed and packing for the trip home. Check back here for more pictures and news later.



Camera Disaster

Mrs Mercer damaged my camera battery pack by not listening to advice.  This is a simple truth, although she protests her innocence, her guilt, and I mean guilt is clear.  Luckily she did show some remorse and, fortunately, she used a table leg to fashion  a screwdriver that meant I was able to sort it out.  I was close to tears but I am now recovered from, what was, a traumatic event.

We have seen some serious rainfall in the past day but the sun has come out too and we have had some very interesting visits.  We played games in the woods last night and the children had a great time playing a game called capture the flag.  We then walked back to the accommodation and then Charlie reported he lost his wallet.  An instructor went to look the following morning and I walked around looking for it.  I was convinced I was about to find myself fifty euros but it was not to be.  Charlie then was seen using his wallet at the sweet factory to purchase some goods.  He confessed he had found the wallet ages ago.   There was a joyless expression on my face.

The visit to the boulangerie was great fun but I did not consume any croissants or pain au chocolat because Miss Bird was worried that I was consuming lots of bread.  She may be right so I exercised some caution in this case.  Luckily I felt compelled to buy some chocolate buttons and boiled sweets from the sweet factory visit.

There was a tricky moment when one child was sick in the sweet factory so I pitched in to sort the cleaning.  I have only just spotted a small amount of sick on my knee, however I still feel I have come through relatively unscathed.  My room has been sabotaged but I don’t mind because revenge will be sweet.

The behaviour of the children has been impeccable and I am really proud of them.  Speaking of behaviour the waiter from the crepe restaurant will be looking forward to us dropping in.  He passed me a crepe on a plate last year and when I held it he did not let go for a few seconds and I noticed he was holding the plate with a napkin.  It was red hot and I seem to recall I could smell burning flesh.

Please come and check my blog later to see the photographs.

Social Media in school…A great tool or a menace?

As we start the new term we are already updating our twitter feed regularly to share the magic moments in the early part of the year.  We have many parents that follow us and enjoy being able to keep up to speed with events.  There is little doubt that staff and parents find twitter a valuable tool.

We decided to investigate the power versus the danger of social media over one weekend.  The task was simple enough; I was going to post a picture of an image that urges caution with the words in it that state, ” Don’t be mean behind a screen.”

I posted the image on Facebook and urged my friends to share the post to see how far it would get and how many times it would be shared.  I then posted the image on twitter and did the same thing.  It was retweeted thirty times and over 1,500 people viewed the image in 2 days.

The Facebook post was even more fascinating as the post was shared over 30 times by people on my friend list.  The interesting part is that Facebook showed me the post has been shared 102 times at the time of writing.  It is strange to think that 70 people shared my post that I do not know!  In other words, my post is out there and I have no control now over who sees it or who shares it.  This is a stark warning to us all.

If you publish it be prepared for it to go across the country and world in minutes.  At the time of writing my post was shared in Alabama, USA, Utah, USA, Australia,  Salou, Spain, Corfu, Tenerife.  In the UK it went to Durham, Ashfield, London, Stockton, Cornwall, Nottingham, Halifax, Ushaw Moor, Durham, Ollerton, Manchester and the list goes on.  Who knows where the 70 people who reposted it sent it?

I guessed the post would be shared because of the nature of it but I was very surprised at how fast it travelled.  This all happened in only two full days and the speed at which it travelled was surprising.

I am always careful about what I post on-line and this has made me realise the need for further caution.  If you post something or make a statement make sure you would be happy to have it painted on the front of your house or on a t-shirt you are wearing.  If you would not be happy with doing that, don’t post it.

There is some confusion about expressing an opinion and the differences between that and publishing that opinion.  If you post it on Facebook and your privacy settings are open; you are proclaiming your post to the world because it is not a private opinion.  This may not be criminal but, in terms of a civil issue you can find yourself being accused of making slanderous or defamatory comments.  This is particularly important if what you print, is factually not correct.

When such things are posted and a friend writes a comment to spur you on such as, ” You tell them mate” or ” Go girl.” They would do well to add as a footnote “Face the consequences.”

If you want to raise an issue with an individual contact them in person to have your issue resolved.  If you have a complaint, in the case of schools or organisations; ask for their complaints procedure.  This will help everyone in the longer term.

Finally, if you are angry, put your keyboard and phone away until you cool off.  The saying ” Act in haste and repent at leisure” is entirely appropriate.

Communicating online is going to continue to grow and can be so powerful in sharing good news.  For those of a certain age her is a quote from a long-since discontinued drama series; Hill Street Blues

“Let’s be careful out there.”