Tag Archives: Outreach

Classics for everyone

Independent schools are constantly under scrutiny to demonstrate their ‘public benefit’ to maintain their charitable status. While my school is proud of what it already does, there has been more and more pressure to prove the impact that the school is making and to ensure that every contribution is measurable and quantifiable. This is starting to obscure the worthy motivations that schools have to improve the educational landscape of this country.

I want my school to do more to benefit the local community, but I have been left scratching my head about how to make a start. How do I make links to local state schools? What can we offer them and what do they actually need? How do I involve already busy staff in new outreach initiatives?

A real turning-point came when attending a GDST ‘Outreach Hub Day’ where representatives from a number of GDST schools came together to share what they have been doing. I quickly realised that there was not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to outreach and ultimately the motivation should be raising aspirations and providing opportunities, not having data to include in a yearly audit.

As I sat on the train back to London with another assistant head and we were chatting about how I could take outreach forward in my school, she gave me the best advice: ‘just go with what you know’ and so I did.

A number of years ago, I was involved in teaching Latin at a local state primary school. Every week, I would teach Latin from ‘Minimus’ the excellent primary Latin course.  Why could I not set up a similar partnership between my current school and a local primary school?

I have been following closely the work of the ‘Classics in Communities’ project which is currently undertaking an educational research study on the impact of learning Latin in primary school on children’s cognitive development.  Their initial data shows how Latin can help to develop literacy skills and has a positive impact on children’s development of critical skills and global awareness.  I was also aware that in the Key Stage 2 Languages curriculum policy, for the first time, Latin can be chosen for study by pupils aged 6-11 in place of a modern language.

Armed with this knowledge, I thought that primary schools would jump at the chance of secondary Latin teachers coming into their school and working pro bono. I was wrong. I sent out about 20 e-mails to the Heads of local primary schools and I only received one reply. Yet, one was a start and now I am teaching Latin to a Year 5 class.

I am part of a thriving Classics department which still has the capacity to share further its expertise of Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation. In September, the government published its green paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’ specifically saying that independent schools should,  ‘support teaching in minority subjects which state schools struggle to make viable, such as further maths, coding, languages such as Mandarin and Russian, and Classics’.

We want to share our love of Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation and we work in the independent sector because it allows us to do this daily. However, we want every child to be able to access a Classical education, no matter their background. We are distraught by news of Classics departments closing down because of lack of funding or exam boards discontinuing Classical Civilisation qualifications.  Independent schools are willing and able to support the teaching of Classics, but we just need help to identify the needs and opportunities of state schools. We want to keep Classics alive and accessible to all. We want to make an impact.

PS If you want to support the teaching of  Classical-subject qualifications in all secondary schools, join the new campaign ‘Advocating Classics Education’ on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1403604912993457/

STREAM and my new role

What was I doing at school, up a ladder and hanging bunting at 8am in the cold on a Saturday?

In September, I started a new role as Director of Co-Curricular Studies and Outreach at Streatham and Clapham High School. I have spent the first half of term finding my feet, not only coping with my new responsibilities, but also dealing with an ISI inspection. I thought that I would start a blog to reflect upon my experiences, but in the words of Robert Burns, ‘the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley’.

This half of term has kicked off with STREAM, the largest children’s book festival in South London, which has been run by my school for the last three years. It is an amazing event with packed-out venues around the school hosting sessions and talks by a range of illustrators, poets and authors. I jumped at the chance to get involved, even if it meant hanging metres of bunting.

It is perhaps fortuitous that STREAM  coincides with my new blog as in many ways it exemplifies what my new role is all about.

Co-curricular Studies

I think STREAM highlights what is so important about ‘co-curricular’ activities. As a book festival, it is closely allied to the curriculum subject of English, but it offered so much more. Young people were able to engage academically with a whole range of subjects supporting and extending what they do in the classroom and completely free of examination-pressure. We learnt about the weird and wonderful world of beetles in MG Leonard’s energetic explanation of why she chose a beetle as the hero of her debut novel ‘Beetle Boy’. Marcia Williams, the author of ‘Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare’ treated us to an impromptu production of ‘The Tempest’ and the sheer joy of the whole audience split into three sections to recite the speeches of the witches of ‘Macbeth’. STREAM also delivered important advice and skills for life. There was career advice as authors explained their route to success, such as Rob Biddulph demonstrating how far he had come from his schoolboy drawings of comics to prize-winning illustrations. Our sixth-form helpers demonstrated leadership  skills in looking after high-profile speakers and confidently introducing them to huge audiences. It would be too difficult to express the full impact of STREAM on those who attended, but even these small examples serve to demonstrate what significance c0-curricular activities can have.

Outreach

The other aspect of my new role is ‘outreach’ which can broadly be seen as making connections between my school and the local, national and international communities of which it is a part. STREAM is very much a community event and even its name reflects the local area of Streatham. It is free and open to everyone. It was a joy to see so many people come and enjoy our facilities and gain access to the likes of Malorie Blackman, the former Children’s Laureate. Books play a very important part in helping us to think about ourselves as global citizens.  I’m sure there wasn’t one person who did not reflect upon the plight of refugees today as Judith Kerr spoke about her own flight from Nazi Germany described in her novel, ‘When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit’. STREAM helps my school feel rooted in the community and helps others to see that we are part of the community too.

I am already looking forward to next year’s STREAM Book Festival and cannot wait to see the exciting line-up. The festival achieves so much in only one day. If my role as Director of Co-curricular Studies and Outreach requires me to be up a ladder in the cold on a Saturday morning to enable excellent events like STREAM to happen, then I cannot think of anything more worthwhile.