At this time of year as the country stops to remember, Poppies are on sale across everywhere we look. Schools join the campaign, selling poppies to their children, parents and staff in support of the British Legion and this worthy cause. I remember the Poppies coming around at school, always by the oldest children. I spent years looking forward to that opportunity when, as a fourth year Junior, it would be my turn to have half an hour out of class to take the collection box round and collect donations in exchange for a poppy and a pin.
Which leads me on to a question that I was asked several years ago by friend and mentor, Peter Hall-Jones who was helping me to think about the curriculum as a whole in my school.
“Who takes the poppies around in your school?”
It’s not a line of challenge that OFSTED or school improvement types are ever likely to include in their proformas; it’s not anything that we’re likely to start including in the SEF but it does tell you a bit about how we use different aspects of school life to give our children opportunities to develop wholistically.
When I asked teachers opinions on Twitter this week (because I was interested but mainly because I wanted to try out the ‘poll’ function), 93% said that it was children in KS2 and 7% replied KS1. That’s no real surprise; often lots of the extra ‘responsibilities’ get handed to Year 6 as they’re considered to be privileges of being in Year 6. They’re also older and so will do a good job.
But as Peter helped me to understand, there’s a missed opportunity if we always default to giving responsibility to our older children as, often, it can provide no real challenge. Taking Poppy selling as an example, this is a relatively simple job for children who typically walk to school themselves, have been on residential trips to foreign countries, can explain fronted adverbial phrases and long division, have performed in front of large audiences and who have at least 6 years of public speaking opportunities at school. Lower down the school however, we have plenty of children in whom we are still trying to develop independence and confidence as well as providing a range of real opportunities for speaking and listening.
And it’s not just the Poppies! We should also look at all these types of additional responsibility across school including the assembly monitors, Digital Leaders, Lunchtime Play Leaders and even the specific roles in classes. By choosing the children who already can, they will do it well; by choosing the children who almost can, we can create more opportunities for learning and personal growth.
So this time I’ve asked the Year 1s to do it. I caught up with a pair on Friday as they returned to the office looking very proud of themselves. They said that they were nervous to start with and that an adult had to help them practise what to say. They also said that they’d got better as they went round the different classes, that occasionally they needed a reminder of what to say but that they were confident by the end. When I asked if they’d enjoyed it, they smiled and nodded enthusiastically, told me they hoped they could do it again and then skipped off down the corridor.
That sounds like learning to me and that’s what we’re here for. Thanks Pete.