This Week 22nd November 2018

We are reaching the final stages of our technical acquisition for the school – that’s everything from computers to flat screens to phones. I’m glad to say that with a little bit of bargaining and arm twisting, it looks like we’ve managed to get pretty much everything on our shopping list including a school radio station and some drones!

I observed a Year 7 geography lesson this week. One of the key points I picked up was literacy and vocabulary challenge that can face new Year 7 students. It’s not ‘next to’ or ‘below’, it’s to the west of or to the south of. The specialised vocabulary and associated understanding can be daunting for new Year 7 students, especially when you multiply that across 10 subjects. There is a recent article in Schools Week from the Florence Pope School in Macclesfield all about the transition challenge. Most schools focus on and get the pastoral transition right but the literacy transition can also prevent a smooth crossing from Year 6 to Year 7. For example you need background knowledge to fully understand: ‘As the desert sun climbs overhead, the kangaroo rat burrows deep in the sand’ (Willingham/Lemov).

I did the Six Word Story challenge with my Year 7 creative writing class this week. It focuses on the power of words. Hemmingway famously responded to the challenge with ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. My class voted our winner to be ‘Coffin lid closes, she’s still alive!’. We will assess the level of literacy of our new students at Katherine Warington very early in Year 7 so we can offer extra support and stretch where needed.

I went to the Reach Free School in Rickmansworth this week. They have just moved in to their newly built school now they have full year groups and opened a Sixth Form. It was fascinating listening to some of the staff who had been there through the entire journey. I took a lot away from the visit. Reach have had a successful Ofsted and a strong first set of GCSE results and I thank the senior team for their time.

Tony Smith