Sunday, 6 November 2016

Young firestarters

Learning to strike a match
On Thursday night we had a Woodcraft campfire in Highbury Park in Birmingham.  There will be many bonfires being lit across the UK and youth groups getting involved, but for woodcraft, the campfire holds a special place, and the involvement of all its members.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Surviving war

George Rice in 2003
Strange in a world of uncertainty, war and conflict, to look back 100 years to the Battle of the Somme, halfway through 'the war to end all wars'. Since 1914 British soldiers have never not been involved in a conflict or war.

Personally I have only met one World War One Veteran, and was lucky to be involved in interviewing him 12 years ago.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Making play inclusive

Parks for Play half term playscheme starts today
With the total number of places for holiday childcare continuing to fall, prices for childcare continuing to rise, what has become of the government's attempts to make childcare more available and affordable?  And what of our most vulnerable children facing social exclusion because of their individual needs, often disability, or their families in desperate need of support, particularly during holidays?

In Birmingham at least, Parks for Play continues to address some of this need, running fully inclusive after-school playcare and playschemes during holidays.  However this appears to be the only only service of it's kind across the UK, despite the government recognising that families without good access to childcare are less able to remain in work.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Internationalism pre & post-Brexit

It took me a while to work out what the Woodcraft Folk movement was all about - it's really one of those things you've got to try and maybe, like me, you'll want to find out more.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Playwell, play for all

Playing in York Road, summer 2014
When 'playing out' was first talked about in Birmingham it was no surprise pioneers in inclusive play 'Parks for play' supported the initiative.  They sent teams of playworkers to streets to ensure inclusive play for all.

Through groups like Playwell, they continue their commitment to inclusive play, offering summer holiday play sessions running from 1st to 12th August at Uffculme school. These play sessions prioritize access for new children with any additional needs/ disabilities that live locally ( kings Heath/ Moseley) to ensure that ALL children can enjoy play opportunities on the doorstep in their community.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

20mph at Queensbridge School

Enjoying the 20mph sign quiz -
Where's that sign?
With the advent of our new 20 mph limits, what has changed in terms of road safety in Kings Heath and Moseley?  Coming back to the wonderful Queensbridge Summer Fete, I had the opportunity to ask people about 20s plenty for us and whether or not they've noticed any difference to road safety.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Play out in Kings Heath

Swan Corner Community Group and Woodcraft Folk South Birmingham want children to be able to play freely outside their own front door.  That's why we're really excited about Playing out, and why we're playing out Wheelers Lane for a third year running, on 7th July 5:30 to 9pm.

Active Parks have helped organising with Birmingham City Council and will bring archery, tennis, badminton, basketball, skittles, giant snakes and ladders, skipping ropes and more.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Gaps in our history

Every now and then I notice a gap in my bookshelf - Volume 5 of Winston Churchill's epic, 'The Second World War'.

One volume of a barely read series on my bookshelf is not there, and sadly that bothers me.  His entire series on 'World War One' isn't there at all.  There are a few other gaps which only a Bodleian sized Library could fill, and that's before you touch on archives and primary sources of 'history'.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

European matters

Enjoying Macaron in Rouen
 in the marketplace where
 Joan d'Arc burned
Today we visited Rouen - a city whose heroine, Joan of Arc, was decisive in setting Euro-sceptic British sentiment for centuries after French victory in the Hundred Years war.  The referendum could be another historical moment marking isolationist Britian's waining political influence in the World, brought on our own heads

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Curating diversity

Another deposit for Paganel Archives

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was...Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. The Catcher in the Rye
How can museums attract diverse audiences and what, if anything, can schools learn from the experience of museums?

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Citizen and Subject

Postcard from the turn of the last century
Last week, reluctantly the Queen has been dragged into 'Brexit'.  While the nature of her entry into the debate was unexpected, the lack of debate on her changing role in Europe and Britain is surprising.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Punished by rewards

Image thanks Maxxl
Alfie Kohn's 'Unconditional Parenting' was something of a Eureka moment for our parenting. While our firstborn responded well to rewards, parenting advice inherited, absorbed and internalised, just didn't work for number two. And so we came across Alfie Kohn, who in a funny kind of way confirmed a lot of what we thought, but weren't brave enough to do.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Linguistics 2.0

I came across this plaque as I wondered over to Westmere House - a relatively quiet corner of Edgbaston Campus. My memory of COBUILD is of the people I knew who worked there, endlessly scanning and transcribing books, magazines, newspapers, all for the greater good of the English language.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Technology is the answer

Paganel School Council construct a teacher
It's easy to get lost in a good solution, and loose track of the question: to get all wrapped up in something really cool, to realise it's not actually doing what you want. If technology is the answer, then what's the question?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Pacifism in the 21st century

Is Jeremy Corbyn too much of a 'pacifist' to lead our army to wars?  Or could the problem be there just aren't enough pacifists in charge?

I much admired John Hull's social activism, but was less sure on his stand against the use of drones in warfare. But now I come to admire his foresight too, wondering just where use of drones is going - separating out human decisions from military actions.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Making important things happen

Perhaps strategy is something I should have started my #29daysofwriting with, but maybe I felt that might restrict how I wrote - is that really a strength and/or weakness of strategies?

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Purse Strings

Food - the essential building bricks of a school
Finances and budgetary control were a mystery to me before yesterday's training, but the most important learning for me was about transpency.  The inextricable link between Power and Knowledge came to mind, as I pondered my own complete lack of knowledge about my own institutions finances, or how they operated.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

The reflection room

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Snow White, 1937
The problem we were discussing was enterprise.  Our students are enterprising, but do they know it? How do we help them reflect on their learning, their 'enterprise'?

It's a problem for staff and students, both in recognition and understanding of their 'enterprising endeavour', and, perhaps more importantly, on reflection.

How are our students reflecting, and do we, as staff, lead, promote, demonstrate reflective practice?

Friday, 12 February 2016

Celebrating intellectual bravery

The other Darwin
Today is Darwin day, so let's celebrate!
Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end! Zoomania

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Under the bed

Under my bed
I've been reading about the history of Woodcraft folk from Mary Davis's 'Fashioning a New World'.  It's been a great read and also fascinating from an archivists perspective, as apparently there is next to no 'secondary' material about the movement, and much of the primary sources are dotted all over the country - Mary complains her work would be easier 'if individual members who seem to have stacks of important documents under their beds would [make the material publicly available].

Interesting to consider what there is to 'uncover' under a bed particularly, perhaps, for children.  For children's lives exhibition  it identified the importance of 'under the bed' as one of the few 'private' spaces a child might have.  The 'present day' part of the exhibition worked with young people to re-create a teenagers bedroom, including boxes under the bed.  Birmingham children's hospital provides boxes for 'toys and special things'.

'Toys and special things' are what you might expect to find under a bed, and much can be learned from toys and special things of children, both to find out about them, and as a starting point for stories and other work developing from children presenting a little about themselves. For Paganel Archive project launch event we encouraged children to bring in something for our archive, among other activities.  We carefully managed around 300 items, all with deposit slips completed by the children - to include a description of the item presented in very different ways in each class.  The exhibition was a fascinating insight into the lives of the children, with many toys and special things, and now preserved digitally in our archives.  Each item documented by the owner - a perfect snapshot of the school.

And what's there under my bed I hear you ask?  An old DVD player, a book I'll never finish (Tom Paine, Rights of Man - my red under the bed), a tape of my old band from Uni, and a Ventolin inhaler!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Conversation in road improvement

Accidents on Swan Corner in past 10 yrs
Swan Corner roundabout is an accident blackspot, with about 20 reported accidents in the past ten years, causing many more 'serious' and 'slight' injuries - it's also right outside Swanshurst School, and next to my house.

Consultation on road changes can be challenging - Who should be involved? How important is their perspective?  Swan Corner Community Group grew from the first (failed) consultation for roundabout improvements in 2013-14.  How likely could the views of a school (parents and children), a pub (both the owner and customers), road users and local residents be properly taken into consideration to make our roads safer?

It appears Garry Dalton, Hall Green District Engineer, has succeeded in gaining approval for plans - improvements based on the previous plan from two years earlier - to make road improvements for 'Safer routes to school'.

So what's been different from last time?  Here's some of the differences
  • 20mph campaign, raising awareness of our dangerous roads.  Swan Corner Community Group (SCCG) have also successfully campaigned for Brook Lane to be included in Kings Heath 20mph zone, being implemented as I write.
  • SCCG initiated work with Swanshurst School to develop conversations between residents and  Swanshurst school on issues important to both, in particular Travel to Swanshurst.
  • SCCG ran it's own transparent online survey to contribute to Garry's paper form, open for all to see online - Plan for Safer route to Swanshurst and results from responses,
  • We also organised a public meeting to solely discuss the road improvements, and was a main agenda item on many more SCCG meetings
The road improvements haven't happened yet, and its only a hunch, but I can't help feeling open transparent conversations between residents, the Council, the school and other interested people could be making the difference between plans going forwards or backward.

Part of #29daysofwriting -

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dead cat in the classroom

A Rode dead cat
I first came across 'dead cats' on the end of a microphone.  And then following the last recession we started to hear about a 'dead cat bounce' - a lot more catchy than the double-dip recessions of the seventies.  Now dead cats are back with us thanks to David Cameron & Boris Johnson's 'Dead Cat Strategy':
"The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout 'Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!'; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief." (Boris Johnson talking about his friend Lynton Crosby)
So is there a similar phenomena in the classroom?  It'd be nice to think there is, if only to make good use of a currently popular simile.

In Birmingham we have our 'dead horse' or 'trojan hoax' - although some insist the original letter was not a hoax, following four separate enquiries into 21 schools no evidence that anyone caught up in the 'Trojan horse row' has acted illegally. In fact, there's not much evidence of anything. The Kerslake report instigated following 'Operation Trojan Horse' led ultimately to Sir Albert Bore, Council leader, forced to resign and the Council itself under threat of being broken up.

But that's in education, or politics, and not in the classroom.  Here's my 'dead cat':
'An attempt by a student to distract the teacher by encouraging the teacher to talk at length on a different topic.'
When I was at school, there was a period of time when this was something of an artform.  First you needed to know your teacher's weakspots - a penchant for rock climbing, or baroque music.  And then you had to use an opportunity to ask a question to introduce the subject, flatter the teacher and encourage them to talk.  It's only since then I realise the teachers were probably complicit in the 'dead cat strategy'   I hope dead cats (and not horses) are still being thrown at teachers.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Learning from Chinese New Year

NY day in Shanghai - tourists line up to take photos of...
tourists - my blonde children
There are, I guess, plenty of learning opportunities around the festivities I'd like to share - and any you have, please add.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Making time for discovery

It'll always be that moment when there's no time to stop - you have three kids and a tight schedule of pick-ups, drop downs, and taxiing, and there in the bush outside the classroom is a ladybird.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Untold stories of wounded WW1 soldiers

Fundraising in the First World War: 
when charity began at home
Untold Stories - a clever pun on words - untold, both as in the value of the stories 'cannot be measured or expressed in words', and that wounded soldiers stories from World War 1 are generally not told.  Untold stories is a project run by People's Heritage Cooperative to explore these stories.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Valuing leadership at Elfins

'Youth isn't wasted on the young' goes the motto of Woodcraft folk, but sometimes it does feel like we waste a lot of time at Elfins (the 7 to 10 yr old group of Woodcraft) before we can do anything.

Although we spend a lot of time 'learning' at Woodcraft Folk, it isn't 'school' and we have to take a very different approach.  The children will have spent many hours in a regimented, safe, learning environment at school before they arrive at Woodcraft Folk.  They are likely to be tired, but also looking forward to meeting and playing with friends.  As adult leaders we have an agenda: we want 'learning' to happen, but it has to be led by the children themselves, and as we all know, leadership can be a very political thing.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The personal touch: The Sellywood Bugle story

Sellywood Bugle first edition online, September 2001
Initially the obvious purpose of a newsletter is to share news, but does a newsletter serve any other purpose?

Today is the first day of #29daysofwriting, and being the first of the month, I've been putting together our work newsletter - with authors once again asking, 'is this OK or too personal'?

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Lollipop to be axed in Birmingham?

Protest for more crossings in Birmingham 1973
Thanks to the Warwickshire Photographic Collection
Birmingham Archives & Heritage: WK/B11/5199 (110/2415)
After a campaign last year to save lollipop patrols, their viability is again being put into question following the budget consultation 2016.  The campaign last year rightly held that every child should be able to walk or cycle to school safely, and that it was the Council's responsibility to ensure this. The irony is, as well as the devestating effect of child injuries, cutting half a million pounds on lollipop patrols will end up costing Birmingham Council far more.