Views & Opinion

Small schools and deep dives

Comment by FLORENCE HAYLES, Class 1 Teacher at Pendock Primary School

small numbers, the children also had the opportunity to have their ideas heard and valued, their work critiqued verbally in a relaxed, informal atmosphere and their Higher Order Thinking skills to be challenged through 1:1 questioning. I left the session feeling confident that every child had engaged with the tasks at hand and their learning had developed in a variety of subjects. But on my way home, I found myself querying whether this lesson

would have been valued in a Deep Dive inspection. If you asked the children, they would probably have told you that they did something for Topic in Forest School. They could have told you which Deity they learnt about and how they demonstrated their knowledge. The rest embedded via osmosis; through natural exposure to the concept of habitats, through cooking on a campfire etc. I doubt they would have been able to explain how many subjects we had touched upon, nor precise learning objectives. Does this detract from the fact that they all made progress in the subjects associated with the session though? Would it have been better to give each year group a worksheet on one subject with one learning outcome in order to embed the fact that 'today we did Science?' What are the time commitment implications for this in terms of ensuring we meet all of the foundation subject outcomes across all of the year groups? Just one of the high ranking benefits for cross-curricular learning is, after all, the time-saving element. Having read Ofsted's guidance on Small School Deep Dives, a

Whether you teach in a big school, a small school; independent or state; high school or primary school, we all face different pressures. Let's be honest - we as teachers are guilty of making the job as big as it can be. So keen are we to feel that we have covered all bases, done everything we can possibly do to support each child that we give our time freely. Whether working in a small school or a big school, I am willing to bet that we are all devoting similar hours to the cause. However, one pressure affecting small schools in particular at the

moment is the impact of the Deep Dive. In a rural village School with the capacity for approximately 50 children, our staff were interested to see what guidance we would receive about managing our foundation subjects. With a teaching staff of two plus a head teacher, we were keen to see how this new expectation would work logistically as well as administratively. As a small school, we have thus far survived the pressures of the

National Curriculum/EYSF by offering a cross-curricular learning experience. In order for a Performance Management Meeting to take place this very week, I took whole school (ages 3-11) to Forest School with two fantastic TAs, for example. The Key Stage 2 topic at the moment is the Ancient Egyptians and the EYFS/Key Stage 1 topic is Magical Me. Key Stage 2 read about Horus, and were encouraged to create a trail to suggest that the Falcon Deity had been in our Forest School. Meanwhile, Key Stage 1 looked at local birdlife to their School and made different types of habitats for them. At the end of the session, we made banana splits for the campfire to celebrate our achievements and come together as a community around a fire. The session hit objectives from EYFS to end of Key Stage 2 in History, DT, Food Tech, Science, Understanding The World, Geography and Literacy. I would also argue that it went beyond National Curriculum expectations in terms of learning skills in teamwork, resourcefulness and basic survival/hygiene. Due to the

proposed solution is for us to link up with a local School who can help us to manage subject leadership in order to compartmentalise the children's learning and ensure full coverage in accordance with inspection expectations. In so doing, I would be asking a remote colleague to plan for a group of children they had never even met before, and I am unsure how we would all execute release time to visit each other's settings regularly enough to ensure we are monitoring and tracking the curriculum. Small Schools are a really special feature of the British Education

system. They provide choice for families with children who would be lost in a bigger School. They energise the heart beat within communities which might otherwise lack effervescence. They think creatively in order to establish a setting which can deliver an engaging curriculum that is relevant to the families in attendance of that geographical location (would that aforementioned worksheet approach have worked as well for children who are used to roaming a farm free range every day, I wonder?). In direct response to the Ofsted guidance on Small School Deep

Dives, I think most of us would absolutely agree that imagination and vision are essential for the success of any School. Small Schools are already being creative in their approach to delivering the curriculum, marketing, maintaining local community links, fund raising, and even the basics of timetabling/delegation of workload with fewer members of staff on board (to name a few). They do this while they deliver foundation subjects in unique and original ways with limited spaces and resources. In Education, expectations change like trends and fashions. If

Schools were on a fashion runway this season, larger schools would likely display a few models, wearing a co-ordinating scheme of hats, gloves and scarves. They would work up until the eleventh hour to ensure everything was watertight in their latest collection. The review? "Boxes ticked, well done." Small Schools would rock up with one model wearing at least ten different hats in a variety of different-coloured wool found at the bottom of the Art cupboard. We probably wouldn't have quite made it to finishing the eleventh one, but we would bring it to the table to show that we did our very best to exceed expectations right up until the final hour. "You tried, but be more creative...." they say to the small school. And so one way or another, we will.


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