"Stefan completely revolutionised my teaching of writing - not an understatement!"
Sarah, Deputy Head & Literacy Leader, Leeds

"I believe I have seen a genuine correlation between children involved in the ARTiculate workshops and target children making Age Related Expectation (ARE)...Every child benefited with progress, clearly evident in their school books."
Simon, Y4 Teacher, Leeds

"Very inspirational and creative - lots of new ideas to improve writing and unlock children's imaginations."
Nadia, Year 4 teacher

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Jambo! Visit to Brookhouse School, Kenya

Me (left) and the Doctor (right) in the fantastic grounds of Brookhouse School (no, it's not the Disney castle...)

Our second week on our Kenya trip and an opportunity to visit the Karen campus of the Brookhouse School, Nairobi. And quite an experience it was too!

A private school, Brookhouse is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in the country and it is hard to deny that the campus is stunning: a small farm with ostriches, secretary birds and guinea fowl, life size sculptures of safari animals in the playground, the library with the 'learning tree' that is also a staircase (and also the pride and joy of Jonathan, the school's librarian) and a computer lab that is decked out like a space station. These are facilities that most schools in Kenya - and, for that matter, the UK - can only dream of.

While this material investment may be out of reach for many schools, the schools commitment to creative learning is not.

Meeting the deputy headteacher and curriculum leader Andrew Kimwele and teacher Susan Bantu, it was interesting to hear the school's approach to creative, cross-curricular learning. In language learning, the school prioritises independence, creativity, collaboration and application of language skills in the primary phase. This, the school claims, has a significant impact on the later stages of children's education.

 Some standout ideas include holding writing and art competitions where children collaborate to create a unique artwork and creative writing pieces, publishing children's work in printed books, encouraging children to write for pleasure and using drama as a key feature of their literacy work.

But, OK, I will hold my hands up - the resources and materials available to this prestigious school is not an appropriate source of comparrison for UK education. Developing these approaches does require significant investments of money and time. But it is hard to deny that these practices are the key to developing confident, creative and flexible learners. As Brookhouse School reaps the benefits in Kenya, it is hard not to think that a focus on authentic writing experiences could have a significant impact on schools in the UK too.

Perhaps the key difference is not simply the resources available, but the freedom the teachers are given to experiment in an environment free from government inspectors, league tables and a hostile environment of surveillance, performance management and teaching to the test.

Jambo! Visiting the School of Education at Kenyatta University, Nairobi

The Doctor (that's my wife: no regeneration powers or Tardis but two hearts) and I both love to travel and this year has been a lucky one: a trip to Kenya in June to follow our visit to South Africa earlier in the year. Whenever we are away for 'workation', we always like to meet up with colleagues who work in education. It is a great opportunity to get insights into the perspectives, practices and challenges of educational practitioners around the world.  

In Nairobi, I met with two leading staff from Kenyatta University: Professor Kisulu Kombo (Dean of the School of Education) and Dr Peter Mugo Gathara (Head of Department of Educational Foundations). It was a warm welcome and involved many cups of Kenyan tea, a visit to Dr Peter's house and sampling milk from Dr Peter's cows while we were there. Asante sana! 

At Kenyatta University Nairobi: Dr Peter Mugo Gathara, Head of Department of Educational Foundations (left), me (centre), and Professor Kisulu Kombo, Dean of the School of Education (right)
During our meeting, we discussed teacher training in Kenya as well as educational reform. Following the global trend for intensive educational reform, Kenya is currently in the process of overhauling their National Curriculum. Read more about it here.

The key change affecting early education sees the existing 8 year primary stage split into a two years pre-primary and six year primary education. The reforms also state a new focus on pedagogy, personalised learning and inclusion with teachers expected to deliver a higher quality of education.

Sounds promising.

But this drastic reform programme clearly faces challenges. Resources in Kenyan state education are limited and a huge discrepancy remains between the quality of state education in different areas of the country. What might be practical in urban Nairobi may be harder to implement in isolated, rural regions.

Crucially, there is also a sense that primary education lacks status in the Kenyan system and, by consequence, so do its teachers. With the new reforms demanding professional excellence from educators, it is hard to see how this can be fulfilled when class sizes are large, professional training is limited and an unhealthy attachment to standardised assessment remains.

It will be interesting to see whether this ambitious programme can fulfil its ambitions. 

Friday, 1 June 2018

ARTiculate newsletter: June 2018

Hello teachers!

Happy half term to you all. You’re nearly over the line! As you roll into that post-SATs-practising-sports-day-empty-out-your-trays time of year, there is no better time to experiment.

With that in mind, take your class for a magical browse in Ross MacKenzie’s brilliant The Nowhere Emporium, a place of secrets and wonders. Ideal for free-flowing creative writing for all of Key Stage 2 and the perfect starting point for some exciting art and drama.

Scroll down for details on how to use The Nowhere Emporium with your class.

Harris Burdick: the case file
Last month, as part of a CPD course for primary leaders, I lead a workshop on creative writing that explored Chris Van Allsburg’s intriguing picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. After discovering a mysterious letter by Chris Van Allsburg, teachers were asked to write part of a story linked to the Harris Burdick illustrations.

Their writing has been passed onto the relevant authorities and has been added to the case file of the disappearance of Harris Burdick which can be viewed below.

Where is Harris Burdick? Who has the illustrations now? What really did happen in Prague? And who is the man with the dachshund? Can you follow the paper-trail and uncover the real mystery of Harris Burdick?

Click on the picture below to find out...

If the video didn't load you can access it at: https://youtu.be/h_XE7yXcdQw

Staff really enjoyed this training and if you would like to book this or similar CPD for your school, please contact me at articulateeducation@gmail.com. Info on training courses I offer can be found at www.articulateeducation.co.uk/p/teacher-training

A book for your shelf: The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie
When Daniel Holmes hides from the local bully in the doorway of a newly appeared shop, he has no idea that he has stepped over a magical threshold. The Nowhere Emporium is the invention of magician Lucien Silver: part shop, part theme park, a place where wonders - amazing sights and experiences - appear at the stroke of a magician’s pen. Fascinated by the wonders of the Emporium, Daniel begins to discover his own magical potential and the places his imagination can take him to. But as Daniel quickly discovers, the world of magic can be a dangerous place.

This resource can be purchased from my e-shop on TES online (click here to access).
You can get it for free by joining my mailing list. Email articulateeducation@gmail.com with the word 'subscribe' as the email subject. 

Resource summary
•    Explore a real set of treasures at a local museum…
•    Engage in lateral thinking and consider where imaginative ideas come from…
•    Experiment with dance and music to interpret the wonders of The Nowhere Emporium…
•    Write your own book of wonders…
•    Design and build a snow-globe…

Ideas for other books and films ideal for creative literacy can be found in my e-shop, click here to visit my website.

How can I get Stefan to work with my school?
When schools approach me, these are usually the things they need to know. Click on what your school needs to visit my website and find out more.

#1 We need someone to show us how to inspire a class or year group about literacy and writing.
#2 We want a creative challenge for a high-flying group of children.
#3 We need a boost for a group of children who struggle with writing.
#4 We'd love someone to offer regular creative classes at our school.
#5 Our staff want training on how to plan better literacy topics.
#6 It is none of those things, but we’d like you to...

Why not drop me an email at articulateeducation@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy the last half term!