This is a continuation of our case study from St Philip Evans R.C. Primary School in South Wales - read part one here. The Giglets literacy resource enables schools to dramatically increase the number of texts available for classroom and home access - all within a simple and cost-effective budget that is agreed in advance. Providing a growing library of hundreds of texts in English and in about 30 other languages means that the school's library is always kept fresh.
Rusul Alrubail is a literacy guru, TEDx speaker, writer, student voice advocate and social justice activist. Her tireless efforts in education are fuelled, in part, by her experiences as an Iraqi refugee. Now settled in Toronto, Rusul recently took the time to tell us more about her work and insights.
All schools are stretched. We know this, but as a brand-new school with only 120 students, our budget is extremely tight - especially when we factor in recruiting experienced staff. At Aureus School in Didcot, through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) specialism we are not only trying to teach our students how to be more creative. We, as staff, must do this as well in trying to make the budget work.
‘Being at the forefront of educational innovation' and 'never standing still' are two phrases that describe my faculty and school well. After we moved from Requires Improvement to Outstanding after our 2015 Ofsted inspection, the very next day our headteacher began to use the phrase “beyond outstanding”.
Sorry for starting this article straight into a brag (I am more humble by nature, I promise), but when I was a teacher and ICT coordinator, my school won a number of awards for our use of technology embedded throughout the curriculum. As a larger-than-average Primary school in South East London – a typical inner-city set up – people were surprised by how much we achieved on a very tight budget. I am frugal by nature, and that fed through into my teaching and tech acquisition too.
In Estyn’s 2013 inspection report, there were 355 pupils at St Philip Evans R.C. Primary School. The school is in an English-speaking part of South Wales. About 40% of pupils learn English as an additional language, and speak other languages at home. About a quarter of pupils are entitled to receive free school meals. The school identifies 17% of pupils as having additional learning needs, nearly all of whom have moderate learning difficulties. No pupil has a statement of special educational needs.
Of all the stories in the news at the moment, plastic pollution is one of the most shocking. However, the most shocking things about it has nothing to do with the visuals that we are bombarded with daily via the media. The most shocking thing about plastic pollution is that it is a problem, created by adults, that will affect our children so much more than it affects us.
Remember when you were in school and you were given weekly lists of words, with little or no relevance to your lessons or your life, and made to commit them to memory? How about those little primers that focus on mundane activities with a set of vocabulary words artificially embedded into the storyline? Well, chances are those same wordlists and primers are still being handed out today. Nothing has changed for decades.
Pulling apart education and trying to fix it can be a totally overwhelming thought. Teachers are already notoriously thinly-stretched, and getting students the results they need to succeed later in life at university and in the workplace can seem like the only thing to focus on. However, if we take a moment to breathe and think if there are better ways of doing things, we might just come across ideas that could help students to succeed later in life and may in fact help their grades along the way.
Every teacher surely thinks of Robin Williams’ character, John Keating, in Dead Poets’ Society, who said, “There’s a time for daring, and a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for”, who then dreams of standing up on the desk and generally being truly inspirational in an effortless, lesson-plan-thrown-out-the-window kind of way (or is it just me?). That sort of maverick behaviour is perhaps possible when it’s the last few weeks of the summer term, or when the government inspection has just finished and nobody is looking to observe anything beyond the speed limit on the driveway out of school. But surely the rest of the time is ‘a time for caution’, right?