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“the Inspire2Learn centre does exactly what it says on the tin: it inspired us to learn”

Maybe I am getting lazy using quotes from the teachers and children who use the centre as post titles but my excuse is that they reflect the feedback we get from the events.

IMG_1279We had our first Y5 Aspiration Fair a week or so ago attended by 250 pupils from 6 of our primary schools. By the time we have completed the next four planned we will have had close to 2000 pupils through the door.

But what is it?

Anyone who has read this blog recently will know that most of our events are underpinned by the belief that we need to raise children’s aspirations for what their futures could be like after they leave school; or what is the point in being there? We also know from a fair bit of research (the ASPIRES stuff is probably the most accessible) that throwing money at 14-19 is probably missing the boat by a fair margin (though should not be ignored!). My own experience as a primary school teacher tells me that by about Y5 children are already deciding what they definitely aren’t going to be based on very little information. So one of our big aims here is to ensure that any activity has an underlying theme of employability skills and opening eyes to possibilities.

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Based on our thinking from the last paragraph it was inevitable that our Aspiration Fairs would be created. We targeted the key sectors where employment possibilities will be greatest (data from TVU) in the next ten years: Logistics, Engineering, Digital Tech and Construction. To ensure that schools had few barriers to attending we have created a range of dates and even paid for their bus travel via Routes to Employment who have worked really closely with us to make this a success. They even ran one of the sessions so that the children had a flavour of thinking about their own career. It is a taster of something that they are offering into primary schools over the next year.

Two hours broken into 20 minute intense ‘workshops’ led by real people from a range of roles in each sector proved to be very effective. Becky from ItchyRobot certainly inspired a whole table of girls that I spoke to, especially one who hadn’t realised that studying art was a desirable part of web design. PD Ports brought a huge ‘tractor’ (not a Massey-Ferguson) with Harry and Jim which created the basis of conversations around the IMG_1284importance of Teesport and moving goods around. Andrew and his apprentice from Jacobs and Connor from Cleveland Bridge showed different aspects of engineering and Dave from GoAhead brought loads of hands on activities based on VEX and Crumble. Construction had great role models in Sharon and Jess representing NAWIC and the wide range of roles that the word ‘construction’ obscures. It was breathless for the presenters and a real dose of groundhog day but the feedback from the schools was even better than we had aimed for.

IMG_1287Several teachers have told me that the conversations about different careers have continually resurfaced in the ensuing couple of weeks, especially in relation to work they are doing in the classroom. This interests me particularly because of a conversation I had recently with a secondary school leader. She told me that the school was working hard to ensure that all teaching was at least good. No argument there. But it was the rational that interested me. She said that many children don’t engage in lessons and often truant because the teaching isn’t good enough. I don’t agree.

At school a lot of my lessons were very ropey, some bordered on abuse by the teachers but I didn’t EVER truant, fail to turn up or stop working. I wasn’t the hardest working child in the school but I always did what I need to do to get to the next stage. Why? In built resilience? Huge determination to succeed? A family who would tan my hide if I didn’t behave? Nope (well, a bit of the last one to be fair…). I worked because I knew that I had to if I wanted to do the next step. I had no career plan at all and no help to get one but what I did know was that points make prizes and that if I did what I needed to, despite the quality of teaching, I would have options to play with for a good job. There was always an end goal in sight.

Many of the children in the Tees Valley do not have that outlook. They hear about unemployment and may be surrounded by it at home. School has become a meaningless run of tests and exams with no relevance outside of its four walls. They aren’t my words, they are what I am told by TEACHERS, lots of them at all key stages (except EYFS where the whole child is still a key principle).

By engaging with the wider world, seeing the relevance of what they are learning (don’t get me started on KS2 Reading and SPAG though!) with a reason to pass the exams they will see a future for themselves. And that is why we run our events in the way that we do, creative, rigorous, all age and authentic through interaction with a range of local companies.

There are still places left on some of the dates if you didn’t know about this and wanted to come (24th May, 17th June, 4th July and 8th July) because unfortunately some schools still regard this sort of things as getting in the way of learning what a subjunctive is…

 

“What did we do so right to go there?”

IMG_1159I have changed the name of this post following feedback from a teacher in one of the participating schools. She wasn’t at I2L during the day but was waiting for children when they arrived back in school. Her words: ‘I have never seen those children so buzzing about anything‘. The title is a quote from one of the children who had taken part. Every teacher knows the value of motivation for effective learning and the feedback I have had from all the schools has been the same. Of course every lesson can’t  be ‘build a space hotel’ but using events and activities like these to develop children’s wider skills (the ones they will need in everyday life and their future work careers – see posts passim) is continually proving to have a knock on effect in EVERY lesson. At least for a while….but that is why we put so many events on, usually at no cost to schools, so that schools can pick and choose which fit in with their own timetables across the year. Having a centre to do this is proving more invaluable all the time because it gives focus and direction to the activity. I was asked by one of the teachers yesterday if I could create a concept and come and do something in school. My answer of course was yes, I do it all the time, but I also wanted to highlight the value of it not being in school, something she agreed with. She related the interchange between a group of girls who felt that they had now learned ‘buffet etiquette’ (pronounced buff-Et) because they had been in the queue with some of the work ambassadors.

It is always a balance in teaching, and working with such a large number of schools now across the Tees Valley is confirming my initial belief that focussing lots of the centre’s efforts on developing wider skills for students is vital for their overall achievement and future life chances. Enough wittering…..

The final presentations:

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52 children from four schools  employed in developing ideas for a new Space Hotel. How do you create a cafe in micro-gravity? What games might you play when you have difficulty staying in one place? These are not questions that phase our young designers and engineers at Inspire2Learn. Three of the schools were even video linking back to the rest of their class in school to ask them for designers, marketeers and film makers to help create and sell their hotel idea. Another, St Benedicts ran their communication through Padlet. Innovative and effective! No pressure and a fun day? Not really. The idea of the scrapheap challenges is to engage the children in the employability skills and experiences that it is very hard to replicate in school. The ones that we have built our framework around for schools to use to check if they are addressing these.

We also have 8 volunteers in the building today from engineering, science and employment backgrounds, engaging the children in conversation about how they are managing their work, what problems need to be solved and how they will achieve their aim. And their aim is?

To create a short presentation to camera detailing what they have achieved during the day and why. Sadly this could not be a live video web feed as the web monkeys who supply our broadband seem to have blocked all the services we routinely used last time (FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts). It would have been nice to have been told that things had changed without us having to actually try using it to find it doesn’t. Maybe I should check next time that the internet is working the same as it has done previously, the light switches work, the taps give out water…

I posted pictures as the work progressed. Many of our volunteers also left to visit the schools taking part and engage the students working in their classrooms. This was found to be a hugely beneficial aspect from both the team at the centre and the children back in school.

Can I also just ask? Why weren’t your students taking part? Oh, it clashed with something else, no problem, there are three more scrapheap challenges this side of the Summer so let me know when you want to come. Oh and if you are in ‘the world of work’ and would like to drop by for even an hour (but half a day would be even better!) drop me a line.

Lull before the Storm

Many people think that we shut down the Centre during the school holidays but nothing could be further from the truth. It is our opportunity to improve the environment and services for customers and develop our program of events and projects for the coming year while it is a bit quiter.This Summer we have been busier than ever.

IMG_6011Our refurbishment plans are well underway but will sadly drag on into September; if we ran a school the way that some businesses seem to work then we would be sacked within weeks;

‘Oh sorry Mrs Scoggins but your child won’t achieve basic literacy and numeracy levels for three weeks longer than we told you last week when you enrolled him; supplier let us down…”

However, that is but a minor irritation.The real task has been setting up of the work that we do on a day to day basis. Yes we have the best conference centre in the area…and we are improving it further….but the work that we do for the schools that fund us or use us is set to expand immensely.

As previous posts reveal, a lot of the events and projects that we run from here have become increasingly concerned with the purpose of education. Our belief is that qualifications are important, show me a school that is not taking that seriously, but we aim to support the wider aim of education. Namely we are developing students awareness of what careers they could have, how they could enter those careers and how to develop their skills and become effective lifelong learners. Last year we began that mission in earnest with strategies like: STEM days where students of different ages came to experience hands on workshops with real people from real industries; Challenge Days where students had to work on time limited challenges in their own classrooms, organising their workload, team roles and so on; and connecting schools with industry and business on request to fit with curriculum needs.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 12.24.16These were hugely successful, we had over 3000 children involved in one way or another and the feedback from teachers has been outstanding. But all I see when I look at ‘3000 children involved’ is ‘what about the others?’ Being a proactive sort of bloke I am aiming to change that dramatically this year. My Summer has been filled with meetings and planning sessions to enable me to put in front of local schools a detailed menu of events (usually free), projects (usually free) and link ups with local industry outreach so that employability skills become high on every educator’s agenda. Last week saw the news that Ernst and Young, a huge company and attractive destination for a career, are not bothering to even look at the qualifications of people who apply to work there. They will be judged on their CV, application letter and in house aptitude tests. In the last week alone there have been several articles suggesting that the ‘academic route’ based on exam performance leads to a false belief that a degree gives a great chance of highly paid career. Two reports, one from the CIPD and the other from the EDGE Foundation, both suggest that this is simply not the case and that university leavers are simply too numerous in terms of the highly paid jobs market.

And yet we hear constantly that there is a huge skills gap, especially in the more technical jobs that current students could be aiming to fill. Big problem, so what is little old Inspire2Learn going to do?

Well it has become abundantly clear to me by addressing this problem over the last 12 months that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who all agree that this is a problem and that we need to do something about it. The problem as I see it is that there is one group doing something in one place, somebody doing a bit of something in another, a company offering Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 12.26.11outreach in a different place and so on. There is NO cohesion. My many meetings have been an attempt to pull some of those strands together so that schools can get a clear idea of what is out there and industry have a simple way of making sure that their offers to schools of placements, site visits, outreach work and so actually gets heard by the right people. I’d be astonished to find a school who doesn’t have any eye on preparing their students for their future beyond a set of test certificates but it strikes me that each school is replicating the work that others have done when it could easily be laid on a plate for them to choose from. That is my task.
We also need to be mindful of the industries and businesses who get involved with outreach work. Most are very happy to do so. They see it as giving something back, helping prepare their potential future employees and many have also told me it is good for their staff morale and ethos too. By collating all the wonderful opportunities into one place we can potentially also avoid the situation where one school gets ‘all the good stuff’ because they maybe have someone with more time to spend on organising it, or whatever.

There is also another side to this too. I have spent much of the Summer reading and analysing many of the reports and IMG_6004studies that have been written in recent years pertaining to what ’employability skills’ look like. By conducting a cross study analysis several skills, experiences and attitudes are emerging as key themes. These define what a school leaver would ideally be like to prepare them for the world of work at the age of say sixteen. The image on the right shows my work in progress. I must admit, I would be hard pressed to say that I excel in all of those areas myself, but they are the aspiration and different statements are more heavily weighted to differentpotential employment. But as a teacher it immediately makes me think:

‘If that is what they need to be like at 16, what do we need to do at 15, 14, 11, 9, 5? Where does it start and how does it progress?’

Schools take the same approach to any subject that they want students to achieve at. They look at the outcome and they plan a program of study to achieve it. And before I get shot down by the ‘we don’t have time, OfSTED won’t judge us on it’ I would like to point out that many of the statements that have emerged are actually already part of the wider curriculum, often in several subjects. Many of the more work specific ones ‘able to conduct a formal conversation on a telephone’ are rarely taught in any school that I know of but feature highly in some of the projects that we will be running from the centre (Junior Engineer Project for example where students have to phone a company to negotiate for materials – the company has offered to make somebody available as part of their outreach offer’). These projects and events are usually one off days, or run over a half term for a specific group of students, they are not massively time consuming and the overall benefits for motivation and engagement are huge. Under the new OfSTED framework inspectors will also be very attentive to what schools are delivering in terms of the wider curriculum and how schools are making their provision fit the local needs of our students. Last time I looked unemployment seemed to be a pretty high priority locally…

One off days are great, but they are one offs, hardly conducive to developing skills. But imagine a world:

Every year from Reception onwards little Billy takes part in a time limited, team based challenge for one day, three times a year, his work is published on the internet. As he gets older he is involved in a range of events such as a one off event working with an engineer building bridges (Connor Lishmann from Cleveland Bridge does some fantastic work with our students), maybe in Y5 he does the Fiver Challenge (supported locally by Young Enterprise) and maybe in Y6 potentially a site visit to SSI Steel. In Y7 he is part of a team in the Mindstorms Lego League Challenge, presenting his ideas to a large audience. In Y8 maybe a guided visit around Teesport; each year he gets involved in another event or two, building up his awareness of possible careers, his understanding of appropriate behaviours in professional contexts and his skill set through lots of pertinent activities.

DSC_0501This raises his realistic aspirations to a career in an area that interests him, creating the motivation that might just get a bit more homework or revision done because there is a bigger picture now more clear for him. All of these events and projects ensure that he is getting to meet people who actually do that job, maybe people who were just like him when they were his age.

Our full offer for schools (and any business that would love to get involved) will be posted soon on the Events page on this site. Redcar and Cleveland schools get first refusal and pretty much everything for no charge on most of the offer because they fund this centre. Previously only teachers from other Local Authorities have used the centre for courses and events but we want to now extend that offer to students as well where space allows. We live in the Tees Valley and political boundaries should not be a barrier to creating a better region for all of us to live and work in, especially in light of the  impending creation of a ‘combined authority’.

If you are a school or a business in the area and want to join in with this then please contact me: astogdale@lea.rac.sch.uk

Sermon over!

The Challenge is now LIVE!

So what are you waiting for? Email Andrew now for your project pack:Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 21.29.41

astogdale@lea.rac.sch.uk

  • Pupils of ANY age can enter, how adults support the challenge is the key factor
  • More than one team per school/class/group can enter
  • Work needs to be ready for exposition on 29th June at I2L
  • The Challenge is open to any school, anywhere, who wishes to take part
  • Support and guidance is available from the ‘shall we do this?’ stage to the final ‘stall’ setup, just contact Andrew
  • Creates an authentic, motivating learning experience to foster ‘effective practitioner’ skills (e.g., planning, reflection, taking feedback, finding evidence, communicating ideas etc)
  • Builds on what teacher experience and research tells us are effective ways of developing children’s skills
  • THIS PROJECT IS ABSOLUTELY FREE

The pack includes lots more detail about how important certain skills and attitudes are to being a successful pupil and then, more importantly, successful in life. The project is designed to simulate a real working challenge that happens on a daily basis in the ‘world of work’. It gives an opportunity for teachers and children to develop the sort of skills that are constantly reported in the media and identified byScreen Shot 2015-04-16 at 21.28.23 the business community (such as the First Steps CBI report) as being essential but often lacking in young people leaving education and beginning a career. The more often, and earlier, that we include a focus on these sort of skills the better we are preparing our pupils for the rest of their lives….or am I being simplistic? I can imagine the number of CVs that the average recruitment officer must get in local companies. How many will have GCSEs, A Levels, a degree….more and more people are going to university…so how do you make yourself stand out when you get that interview or work trial? Show that you don’t just pass tests but can be creative and work independently? I  will get off my soapbox now. Schools are under such pressure from the context in which they work; a context where scores on the doors reflecting passing of tests, is the main focus. In my experience most schools don’t simply subscribe to this simplistic view of children as test fodder but also seek to give them wider experiences and prepare them to be citizens. Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.46.15This project is an ideal focus for that aspect of their education and builds on the successful Challenge Day model (see the tab above). It is also an attempt to raise the profile of what ‘business’ wants from schools beyond what OfSTED demand as they will have a greater impact on a child’s life in the long term than what grade HMI comes up with. Schools know that literacy and numeracy (and increasingly digital literacy) are vitally important, more than any political pronouncement from any politician on any side, my belief is that developing these skills should be and could be given equal importance. By doing so they actually develop those experiences and skills that make them more motivated, knowledgeable about what their lives could be like and independent in developing their own learning.

Want to know what the finished product might look like? Then click HERE to see the original inspiration for the event and HERE for the most recent event in KZ.

Raising Ambition

Having paid some attention in the last few weeks to the 2012 CBI report outlining their view of the way that Education is THE crucial factor in improving the economic well being of this country in the long term, I am now more convinced than ever that the focus Inspire2Learn is applying to many of our activities is essential. The report outlines lots of different issues that the business world feel need to be addressed by the education system and by and large they fit with our experiences working in our schools. Take the primary years as an example. The report suggests that primary schools essentially widen the gap between the most disadvantaged and the rest. For this area I can address that concern directly. Our primary schools are VERY focussed on ensuring that this gap does not widen, in fact they ensure it narrows. OfSTED judgements and results in formal tests back this up, we are one of the most improved areas in the country in this respect. So that aside, what else does the report suggest? It explicitly states that qualifications are often not the main problem that employers are concerned about. A lack of the skills that are not ‘tested’ and not specifically ‘taught’ is what holds many of their potential employees back. These skills are defined in the table taken from the report: Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 11.47.01 Educationalists will immediately recognise echoes of various PSHE schemes and ideas like Claxton’s 4R’s in their choice of vocabulary and focus. They also add that in their view it is ESSENTIAL to ensure regular contact between schools and business to raise awareness of opportunities and also provide excellent role models. Interestingly the report suggests that this should begin: “in the primary phase – at a time when aspirations and attitudes are being shaped …… There is a strong case for doing a great deal more at this stage to broaden pupils’ horizons” (p.42)

Now let’s get back on track…. IMG_4916STEM day 3 was busier than ever. Mixing students from Freebrough Academy (Yr10) and Normanby Primary Academy (Yr5) we had a fabulous day of hands on activities ranging from building bridges to creating physical databases. Unlike previous events we began the day as one large group in the auditorium where the manic John Kilcoyne did his best to set off the fire alarm with every chemical explosion he could muster. It set the tone for the day as the children were then full of enthusiasm for everything else we threw at them. Have you ever wondered what is in toothpaste? How do they test if it is effective? Ask any of the students who worked with Ann Bunting from Middlebrough College and they will tell you about the chemicals involved and much you should bother paying for your next tube! Mike Roberts worked his expertise with groups to programme a mobile phone remotely using an Arduino. It was fascinating to see Mike working through the code as some of the students chipped in ‘you’ve missed a bracket off’ when it was time for fault finding. Liam Weatherill from the Engineering Development Trust had a really innovative approach to the use of databases that didn’t use a computer once. From sorting verbal information to rearranging a gazillion buttons, the children really engaged with his hands on approach to how a database actually works.

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A STEM day wouldn’t be complete without Connor Lishman from Cleveland Bridge. He wanted to improve his workshop from the previous event by extending the spa of the bridges that had to be built, supplying a wider range of materials but using a charging system (poker chips) for what the children could use. It worked really well and it was brilliant to watch the collaborative planning and execution of the work actually achieve the purpose it was set for. Gareth Attwood was a star! Drafted in at the last minute to hold the fort in a structure building session (think marshmallows and spaghetti) he really engaged the students with what a good structure might look like and how to bring it together. He sad to me at the end of the day, ‘I isn’t just the activity, it is about the questioning, the engagement and communication skills that make them successful’. I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks have to go once more to STEMnet who use their fabulous ambassadors to make the day possible. We aim to run an expanded program of events next year and also offer some free training for anybody who wishes to come and run these type of workshops. We do appreciate that not everybody is comfortable to be in that ‘teacher’ role and we want to support anybody who wishes to give something back to their local community in this way. All in all, really inspiring. Children talking about it for days afterwards and a comment from one staff member at Normanby “that was an amazing day, it is the sort of thing that our kids needs to give them a reason to do well at school”.

Let me remind any reader who has made it this far to the comments referred to earlier in this post from the CBI. Engaging our youngest learners sets the tome for how they progress. Give an eight year old an hour making bridges with an actual engineer and that sort of experience is potentially life changing. They aren’t too cool for school at that age! Although the days are very successful, and will continue, we also want to build a more regular contact programme in association with partners like EDT and STEMnet to better give students a context for their learning, for doing well at school, for developing those life skills (made explicit). If you would like to be involved please let us know. As a starter for ten we will be announcing a project that any school can get involved with FOR FREE beginning after Easter. It will involve students of all ages working as an after school club, an informal lunchtime group or even a whole class, it doesn’t matter, the work will be focussed on developing those employability skills and showing that development.

Building from the bottom up

IMG_0076We like to think that we are pretty quick off the mark at Inspire2Learn and within hours of the DfE announcing the list of providers for the 2016 Reception class baseline assessments, Pauline had managed to arrange for all but one of them to come and speak to an invited audience of schools about what they could offer. Even the provider who was unable to attend sent along lots of information, a presentation and copious apologies. A packed auditorium representing every school in Middlesbrough, nearly all of the schools in Redcar and Cleveland and a handful from Stockton and Darlington were given the opportunity to engage with each of the providers to ensure an informed decision as o what they would use.

It reflects one of the main aims of I2L, to ensure that local schools get the best CPD and information available nationally…at a local venue, for very little cost. It is not an exaggeration to say that schools are increasingly turning to I2L not only for the events that we offer but also to organise events on their behalf for a specific need. We are owned and run by the local schools so our objectives are your objectives. If you are planning on an event that involves several schools please let us know and we will help. Not only do we have a fabulous team in the office who will help ensure that all delegates and speakers are kept informed of what they need to know but we also have an enormous car park, free wifi and once the coffee has been drunk we will wash the cups!!!

Defining the future

IMG_2254What an exciting time it is to be part of Inspire2learn. Our refurbishment is now nearly complete for the year, new furniture, new infrastructure and all new computer systems which means that we really do live up to the often heard comment form clients ‘This is the best business centre in the area’. We are proud of that and will continue to ensure that whatever your needs, a large corporate conference or a small interview room, the experience that you have here will be second to none. Just this week we enjoyed hosting the local Enterprise Team’s Business Forum where around 30 local SME companies gained valuable information that will help them make the best of local opportunities to sustain and grow their businesses. What was pleasing for us was the feedback we got from them about our centre. In fact several asked for further information with a view to using the centre themselves in the near future. Our only regret was the comment ‘We didn’t know such an amazing centre existed on our doorstep’. Well they do now!

We have also updated lots of information on this website so please have a look at the new facilities that we have created, there is something to suit everyone. We have also posted some examples of the sort of work that we do with schools under the ‘What is I2L’ tab. Go and have a nosey.

IMG_1747The response from local businesses for our next school ‘STEM’ day has been wonderful as ever. As many of you may know, the reason that the centre exists is to support schools in giving their children the best start in life. From high quality Early Years support to working alongside the Redcar and Cleveland Careers and Routes into Employment Team we address the issue of ‘what is education for’ in a range of ways. Yes we support the teaching of the curriculum through courses and collaborative events but we also recognise what our young people will need when they leave education and enter the world of work. Often called the ‘soft skills’ we recognise that independence, creativity, resilience and simply turning up on time are what employers will need over and above the certificates of literacy et al. Our STEM days are one of the strategies that we use. Designed to give students the opportunity to do hands on workshops with ‘real world’ people: engineers, coders, electricians, scientists…. whatever really, it doesn’t matter. We want children to see what opportunities are on our doorstep, engage with the people who already do those things and begin to think about their own futures. It is not a hard sell for any particular industry but what is clear from the huge amount of work that we do in schools is that most children have no idea of what possibilities they have for their future careers, and especially on their doorstep. Drive north up the A19 in rush hour any morning. It is often slow traffic but it is moving. Glance over at the southbound carriageway – which could best be described as a temporary car park. There are loads of opportunities both now and being developed through the growing technology on Teesside but how many children know what the possibilities are?

Our next STEM day is on 9th March and has students from two of our local schools working with 8 local STEM ambassadors. If anybody reading this is passionate about the work that they do and would like to give up a day of their time to inspire and enthuse children about it, then please get in touch. Although we have focussed on STEM so far we are planning on extending this to other businesses and industries later in the year so if YOU are interested then please let us know.

Back to the Future

Welcome back after your festive break everyone, I hope it has refreshed your enthusiasm ready for the year ahead. And what an exciting year ahead! Just looking at the diary for the next few weeks reveals a huge range of different ways in which our work and centre is supporting you, either as schools or businesses.

IMG_2078The centre itself has been using the quiet Christmas period to refurbish several of the rooms and offer new opportunities. The new flooring in the auditorium for example opens up the possibility for fitness activities, for which we have had several enquiries from providers, to safely take place on an evening. If you run evening classes that might like to take advantage of the space, please let us know and come in for a chat.

We also have a very busy training schedule being finalised. Due to the amount of work that we do actually in schools, hands on, we limit consultant led courses at the centre to just a couple a week. That means demand is oftenNew_Pasture_Lane_Y5_Y6_02 high so please book early if you want to attend any. Details of courses will appear in the Events section of this site over the next few days as well as via flyers and emails into schools. As ever, we have some particularly exciting lined up in the near future. We are delighted to invite Tim Rylands back here in February. He will be two leading distinctly different days. On the 4th February he will lead a hands on, creative day using digital tools (all tools will be available at the centre) where teachers are the students. It will examine how you structure creative, collaborative activities in a classroom through active participation. This date has limited places so be warned that it will fill up quickly, this is not the usual Tim Rylands day! The 5th February however IS the more usual maelstrom of innovative ideas, web tools (almost always free), fabulous classroom ideas and perceptive critique of the teaching and learning process. Many people in the region have benefitted from working with Tim and he is continually asked to come back. That says a lot. If you have only briefly seen him speak before you need to be here on that date! This event will also include a small exhibitors area for a handful of companies that work regularly with our schools.

The week after that is the next Challenge Day (see tabs above for previous dates) which has an ever expanding number of schools taking part. Without fail the feedback has been positive, comments tend to focus on the words ‘stimulating, engaging, creative, collaborative’. It is FREE to take part in and you don’t need any specialist equipment, please let us know if you would like to be part of it – age is not an issue!

And finally for this post….I am often asked to speak at events, or in schools, all over the world about the use of mobile devices and how that impacts on effective learning and teaching. It may sound a glamorous jet set lifestyle but the reality is sadly quite different. Although hands on, close support has been shown time and again to be the most effective way to develop, one off events are often the only way that schools can get hold of trainers. I have been concerned about this for some time. The schools local to us can usually get us in their diary within a couple of weeks, certainly a half term, for anything from 1:1 staff support, working with the students or even whole school training. Their CPD very much includes a capital ‘C’. So I have been looking at ways that I am able to combine the best of both worlds. Today was the first attempt at that.

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Fellow ADE Lewis Hall recently took up a post as an ICT manager/trainer within the ADVETI schools in the United Arab Emirates. Although he is very knowledgeable and experienced in using iPads devices in various settings himself, we hatched a plan to include me in a training day for staff who were pretty new to iPads. We felt that Skyping me in would offer staff a different perspective to just his. It was also a golden opportunity to demonstrate how Showbie works so beautifully as a way of connecting teachers and learners through materials and feedback. It meant an early start for me but nothing compared to travelling 5000 miles! After exploring the ‘learner as producer’ model that teachers find so immediately effective to develop their practice around we introduced Showbie. I can quite honestly say that Showbie usually elicits really impressive comments from staff but to run a session half way across the world with immediate handing out of work and feedback had a huge impact. Lewis emailed not long ago to thank me for the session and also included this paragraph:

At lunch time more than 3 of the staff came to see me and said that they just can’t get their head around that someone 6000miles away shared content with them, in this way it was much more powerful, it made them think that students can access outside the classroom (we know that but they don’t always ‘get it’).

I can honestly say that the experience was similar from my end…and I use it all the time!

We are going to continue support sessions on a regular basis as there are different campus’ developing the use of iPads and Lewis felt that being able to include that different aspect, a different viewpoint, helped to open the debate amongst the teachers about what would work best for them. There are several other schools around the globe already talking to me about this type of support (often in collaboration with an actual visit at some point) so if this interests you, please get in contact.

 

 

STEM 2: Return of the STEM

IMG_1734What a hectic day Friday was! With Year 5 children from Skelton Primary and Year 10s from Redcar Academy we ran the second of our four STEM days this Academic year, The intention, as ever, is to give children the opportunity to work with ‘real life’ people in hands-on workshops. The children get to see possible career roles for them that they maybe never thought existed or which they thought were ‘not for the likes of us’. Which is nonsense.

We had three workshops:

Mike showed the innovative GoCycle which was designed and built by a former F1 designer. Mike had been involved in creating some of the electrical systems on the bike and he showed such faith in the quality of the bike that he rode it the eight miles to the centre! Alongside that, he showed how flexibly an Arduino can be used for a range of programming functions. I was about to take a picture of what the group was up to when Mike asked me to put down my iPad and allow him to measure my height using atmospheric pressure……..obviously! It was fab to see some of the Year 5 girls take the opportunity at breaktime to ask Mike further questions about some of the things that they had seen.

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Connor works for Cleveland Bridge as an apprentice and inevitably his workshop examined effective ways of making bridges (out of paper). The students really identified with Connor as he wasn’t much older than them. He also made the point that after gaining 17 GCSEs (through hard work) he thought very carefully about his next step, took a BTEC in engineering and then was accepted on an apprenticeship with Cleveland Bridge. He will continue on to a degree and a masters as part of his ongoing training, backed by his company. It was a powerful message particularly for the Year 10s. In many ways it embodies one of the key reasons why the days exist; to ensure that students have an awareness of what is available to them so they can make informed decisions. To help with this Alison and Maria from Routes to Employment also attended the day and interviewed the children while they were working to gain insights into how the service can be even more effective. It is this sort of joined up working that we hope will have an impact on school leavers over the next few years. We have to start somewhere!

The third session was led by Hafsah who is an engineering apprentice with Jacobs. The students were genuinely shocked that the glamorous young lady they were working with an engineer (she clearly wasn’t wearing a hard hat!). More than that, she spoke confidently and enthusiastically about some issues in engineering which then set the context for building effective tower structures out of marshmallows and spaghetti. She broke all stereotypes! I visited her workshop in the first part of the day and as she began to speak there was an uneasy silence in the room as the Year 10s and the Year 5s occupied opposite sides of the room and clearly didn’t want to answer questions either through embarrassment or nerves. I returned half an hour later after checking round the other workshops to find that they were all in mixed age groups and were absorbed in the task set them. This wasn’t just a fun activity, tenuously related to engineering, there were plans on the desks and listening in to conversations revealed that they were using some of the vocabulary that Hafsah had introduced.

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Teachers from both schools commented on how the mix of ages had actually been a real asset to the day, it is something that we are going to actively promote on future dates (March 9th is now fully booked with 80 students but there are spaces still available on 12th June).

These days are proving a real success and the conversations that have continued on from them between schools and STEMnet have been particularly rewarding with the possibility of STEM ambassadors regularly going into schools being more common.

We are thoroughly looking forward to the next event!

Making the Grade

IMG_3407One of the fabulous things about working here at Inspire2Learn is the range of people that you get to meet at such a diverse range of events. The Children’s University graduation is a great example of this as the couple of hundred children who passed through our doors for their graduation ceremonies brought along an entourage of proud parents, carers, grandmas, grandads and so on. We are used to having the children here for various events from time and time, and we work with them in their classrooms ALL the time, but it is always fabulous to see their wider family coming along to support them in their learning. The graduation took place over two nights and rewarded children for their participation in out of school, extra curricula activities. The hours that each child puts into their various clubs are totted up and result in various levels of award. Many of the children take part in different clubs on different days and the most highly ‘decorated’ of them had achieved over 700 hours of extra curricula activity. That is almost two hours a day for a whole year. IMG_3416The graduation ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate those achievements as well as inspiring others to take part. There are Children’s Universities all around the country (around the world in fact now) and the number of clubs and societies that are accredited, registered for their ‘hours’ to count, is growing day by day. Anybody can be accredited, they simply need to register themselves with their local Children’s University and undergo a short assessment interview.

As you can see from the pictures, the children had a really special experience, one that showed them that resilience and stickability results in achieving things they probably never thought possible. There were definitely some nervous giggles as the size of the audience, the enormity of the situation and the fact that their hats kept falling off kept them very much on their toes. It is really clear from the event that lots of children and families really value the recognition that the Children’s University gives them and in a world where motivation and aspiration are often in short supply we will continue to support a strategy that makes a difference.