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chers And Experts

Innovative Practices From Tea

FREE - Issue 4 Innovate My School Innovation and Inspiration

ipods and apps at essa academy Twinterview with

New Schools Network classroom management: consequences Staff and social media: A Head teacher'S PERSPECTIVE The Free Education Magazine For Teachers


contents Innovation Update


Twinterview with New Schools Network


iPods and apps at ESSA Academy


Preparing pupils for Oxbridge interviews


Staff and social media: 16 A head teacher’s perspective


Welcome to the latest edition of the Innovate My School Magazine, and to more exclusive educational inspiration from teachers and experts across the country. This issue includes our first ever “twinterview” an interview in which responses are limited to a maximum of 140 characters. New Schools Network founder Rachel Wolf is in the hotseat, answering our questions about the Government’s flagship free schools programme.


From new schools we turn to a renewed school: ICT director Abdul Chohan describes how iPods and apps helped to transform his failing comprehensive into a thriving academy.

Learning basic programming 26 and engineering

Of course, new technology comes with perils as well as promise. Dave Forshaw gives us a sobering head teacher’s perspective on the pitfalls of social networking, and explains how schools can help their staff avoid potentially career-ending misjudgments.

The basics of good classroom management, part three: Consequences

Cutting-edge catering at Plymstock School Read other articles on the Innovate My School website, such as:

• Learning with word clouds • 3 ways to make your school funds grow • 107 favourite iPad apps for learning Director - Michael Forshaw Editor – Tim Miles Advertising – Angela Gallagher Graphic Designer – Alison Kelly Asst. Graphic Designer – Emma Kelly

If you would like to advertise in this magazine, please email, phone 0845 034 6690 or visit


Dr Ingrid Wassenaar provides a thorough guide to preparing pupils for Oxbridge interviews, and the indomitable Ed Whittaker returns with the penultimate part of his course in classroom management, featuring a handy four-step scale of response to misbehaviour. Teaching computer programming in schools is a hot topic, so don’t miss Sahbi Benzid’s timely case study on giving pupils a taste for engineering and software development. Finally, Julia Crookston explains how an ambitious catering redevelopment served to feed the minds and bodies of staff and students at Plymstock School. All that, plus our latest special offers and Innovation Update. Please keep your comments, questions and suggestions coming to magazine@innovatemyschool. com.We love hearing from you.

Tim Miles Editor, Innovate My School Magazine 3

innovation update

The Numerator Concerto Legend has it that as Pythagoras was strolling past a smithy, he realised that the clink of hammer on iron varied in pitch according to the weight of the anvil.

Pupils then learn to add and subtract fractions by completing worksheets in which they draw notes on sheet music, ensuring that there’s always the correct number of beats per bar.

This inspired him to investigate the relationship between the pitch of a vibrating piece of string and its length. He discovered that when the length of the string is halved, its pitch increases by an octave.

The approach has proved successful at Hoover Elementary School in San Francisco, where a group of pupils taught with Academic Music scored 50 per cent higher in a fractions test than those taught with the school’s standard approach to maths. Interestingly, low-performing pupils who took the Academic Music course improved significantly more than lowperforming pupils who were taught with the school’s standard maths course.

Since then, all sorts of links - practical and romantic - have been drawn between music and mathematics. The latest comes from San Francisco State University, which has released a study suggesting that musical notation can be used to help young children learn fractions. “Academic Music” is a course for Year 4 pupils devised by Susan Courey of San Francisco State University and music teacher Endre Balogh. Inspired by the Kodály Method - in which children learn the time values of musical notes by associating them with gestures, songs and nicknames - Academic Music teaches children to connect notes to their respective fraction sizes in a four-beat bar of music. Thus, a crotchet would be equivalent to 1/4, a quaver to 1/8, and so on. 4

Courey’s study was recently published in the journal Educational Studies in Mathematics. She plans also to publish curriculum material that will enable primary school teachers (including those without knowledge of musical notation) to use Academic Music in their maths lessons.

trust in nature A lack of contact with nature is detrimental to children’s education, according to a study commissioned by the National Trust. Referring to research by the psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, the report suggests that outdoor lessons help pupils to develop superior concentration, self-discipline, reasoning and observational skills. It also indicates that children with a greater experience of nature do better in reading, writing, maths and science. Factor in the health benefits of outdoor pursuits - not forgetting the important role nature has played in shaping our country’s history and character - and it seems sound advice that children should take the occasional break from technology, and make for the peace and solace of the open countryside.

Young writers contest approaches conclusion BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition - in which children up to the age of thirteen write and submit fictional stories of up to 500 words - has reached its final stage. 50 finalists have been chosen from over 74,000 entrants. Shortlisted entries include Al Cappuccino, by ten-year-old Kai Shorrock, and a thought-provoking piece of science fiction by Ben Fisher, aged thirteen. The pick of the bunch may be Lysander’s Violin. Written by thirteen-year-old Alex Marquez, it is perhaps the most vivid eulogy to musical beauty since the final performance in Andreï Makine’s A Life’s Music. The winner in each age group will receive Chris Evans’ height in books, and 500 books for his school library.

News written by: Tim Miles, Innovate My School 5


Twinterview with... Rachel Wolf, founder of the

NEw SChools Network Twenty-four free schools opened their doors last year, and over sixty have been approved by the Government to open from September 2012 onwards. In this Twitter-style interview, Rachel Wolf, founder and director of the New Schools Network, answers our questions about the nature of free schools and how her network supports their creation. Responses are limited to a maximum of 140 characters.



Hi Rachel. Could you start by telling us what inspired you to set up the New Schools Network? Too many parents and pupils aren't getting a chance. Free Schools can provide that chance - I wanted to support their creation.

Too many parents and pupils aren’t getting a chance. Free Schools can provide that chance What support does the New Schools Network provide for free schools? We take groups from the point of saying “Yes I'm interested in this” to having a plan that works - educationally and operationally. How many schools are the NSN currently working with? We worked with over 300 who just applied to set up schools.

Building a team with enough expertise to deliver a great school. Do free schools follow the national curriculum? No. They need a “broad, balanced” curriculum but can innovate beyond the NC - for example using international curricula. Free schools tend to polarise opinion. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about them? They give all parents - not just the rich - the choice of a good school. Finally, what is the most important piece of advice you would give to anyone interested in starting a free school? Come talk to us!

Want to read more articles like this? Don’t miss out, read them for free at

What is a free school? Are there different types of free school? A free school is a state school which responds to the demands of parents. Setting one up requires a detailed, high quality plan and a petition from local parents. What, in your experience, is the biggest challenge faced by those wanting to set up new free schools?

Twinterview with: Rachel Wolf, Founder, New Schools Network


IPODS and APPS at Essa Academy In December 2008, Hayward School - our school - was at the point of being closed down. Poor attendance and years of underachievement had cemented a culture of low expectations. Failure was often seen as inevitable. In each of the previous four years, the proportion of students getting five A*-C grades including maths and English at GCSE was below 30%.








IPODS and APPS at Essa Academy Students lacked aspiration and staff lacked inspiration. Our use of technology was ineffective and expensive: there was no network connecting the school’s three main sites; printers and printing costs consumed a large portion of the budget; and students were equipped with pricey planners which they hardly used. When Hayward was replaced by Essa Academy in January 2009, our newly assembled management team had no illusions about the challenge we faced. To succeed where its predecessor had failed, our new school would need a bold new vision and some daring initiatives - and fast. Central to that new vision was providing students with better access to information, so that they could learn not only in the classroom, but also during breaks, on the bus and at home. As the academy’s ICT director, my job was to find ways of making this possible. From the start, I was cautious. Technology had been more of a hindrance than a help at Hayward. We needed to introduce devices and practices that would benefit our students, not to waste money on gimmicky gadgets. Having investigated social networking and blogging, I began to research the iPod Touch and Apple App Store. Their potential was clear, but without testing them in the school, we could not know whether they would work in practice. We therefore decided to run a pilot scheme. Twenty students, aged between

eleven and sixteen, of mixed abilities and with a range of first languages, were each given an iPod Touch. The results were positive. Yes, the students downloaded games. But they also accessed subject-related podcasts and found innovative educational uses for the devices. Take Anna, a Polish student involved in the pilot. Previously, we had removed her from science lessons to teach her the English required to understand them. Unfortunately, this meant that when she returned to science, she was some way behind the other students.

Her science grades rose to Bs and above, and her grasp of English also improved. After receiving her iPod, however, Anna actually asked to remain in science classes. Using Wikipedia in Polish, she was able to look up whatever topic was being discussed and read about its principles. Her science grades rose to Bs and above, and her grasp of English also improved. Cases such as Anna’s convinced Essa’s principal, Showk Badat, to take a gamble and implement a “one iPod Touch per student” policy. In September 2009, every student and member of staff was provided with an iPod Touch, and 130 Wi-Fi points were created around the school to ensure connectivity.


IPODS and APPS at Essa Academy The iPods integrated as seamlessly with the school’s ethos as they did with its network. Within days, teachers and students were using them in all sorts of of creative ways. In English lessons, students were researching novels using their iPods, and teachers used the Shakespearean Insults app as a fun way to familiarise students with the barbed language of the Bard. The Elements application brought the periodic table to life in science classes, displaying rotating high-definition pictures of the elements and providing detailed information about their chemical makeup. For many students at Essa, English is a second language - a fact that may well have contributed to our predecessor school’s poor English GCSE results. Using dictionary and thesaurus applications on their iPods, these students were able to look up unfamiliar words and phrases without disrupting lessons. It wasn’t just students who benefited from the devices. Staff used their iPods to take registers, make notes and view students’ contact details, learning requirements and target grades. Teachers could also send meeting requests to parents and students via their iPods, and the response was much better than it had been to letters and phone calls. Naturally, some teachers took to their new technology more readily than others, but we found that students often introduced staff to new and useful applications. This helped the less tech-savvy teachers while giving the students a sense of achievement.


The Apple App Store yielded several popular revision resources. The GCSEPod application enables students to view exam papers on their iPods and to download relevant podcasts. In school, there were over 900 such downloads during our 2010 GCSE exam period. Another app, eClicker, also enabled students to revise and answer questions on their devices. Emailing work to teachers from iPods has proved very popular - and the ability to do so negates even the most classic excuses for not handing in homework: a dog would have rather more difficulty digesting an iPod than a piece of paper! At our predecessor school, it often took a child’s discipline issue just to get his parents to come in. When we launched our new learning vision and told parents about the iPod touch, we were astonished to find that for a year group of 200 students, almost 600 parents turned up. At last, it seemed that the families and the school were working together for the children and their education.

52% of our GCSE students... achieved five A*-C grades including maths and English, a big improvement on the 37% from the year before

Hayward School became Essa Academy in January 2009. In our 2009 GCSEs, 67% of students achieved five or more A*-C Innovatemyschool

grades, a nine percentage point increase over the previous year. In September 2009, we introduced the one iPod Touch per student programme. In 2010, 99% of our students taking GCSEs achieved five or more A*-Cs.

Article written by: Abdul Chohan, Director, Essa Academy

Perhaps most encouragingly, 52% of our GCSE students that year achieved five A*-C grades including maths and English, a big improvement on the 37% from the year before, and vastly better than the sub-30% scores the school had been obtaining previously. Essa Academy’s most recent Ofsted report reflected the scale and pace of the school’s improvement, stating that “The academy has raised attainment rapidly from below average to broadly average for the key indicator of five A* to C grades including English and mathematics”. Of course, iPods are just one part of the new learning vision we created when Hayward School became Essa Academy, and they are certainly not the sole cause of the school’s rapid improvement. Nevertheless, we believe that their introduction was a significant catalyst in successfully transforming the school’s results and enhancing the education of all our students.


preparing pupils for oxbridge interviews

Preparing pupils for Oxbridge interviews The interview is the final part of the application process for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It can also be the most daunting. For many candidates it is their first public interview. The grandeur of the college buildings can breathe life into tales of dusty old dons bamboozling interviewees with brain-boggling conundrums. But though challenging, Oxbridge interviews need not be overwhelming. In this article, Dr Ingrid Wassenaar, a former fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, where she was director of studies in modern languages, explains how teachers can best prepare Oxford and Cambridge applicants for their interviews. What to expect Contrary to popular belief, Oxbridge interviewers are not out to trip candidates up.They simply want to have a conversation with them. Above all, they are looking for teachability. For most subjects, the interview structure is very similar. Each candidate is generally given two interviews: a subject interview with up to three college fellows, and a college interview with the senior tutor of the college. (Candidates may have to go to a different college for an interview if there is no fellow in their subject at their chosen college.) The interviews last about 20 minutes.They begin with a few general questions about why the candidate chose the subject or college, then develop into a deeper discussion

of ideas.The interviewer will probably ask questions based on subject aptitude tests taken by the applicant and marked essays submitted with the application. During the interview, candidates may be given a short passage to read (and answer questions about) or a few problems to solve. Finally, they will be asked about their personal statement and invited to talk about their activities and experiences outside school, and what they have learnt from them. How to prepare Encourage candidates to read about and around their subject. The universities’ subject websites often contain recommended reading lists. If possible, make time to hold discussions with applicants about the books they’re reading. Interviewees should be ready to talk in detail about an area of their subject which interests them but which they did not study at school. Additionally, they should have a basic knowledge of the interviewers’ areas of research.


preparing pupils for oxbridge interviews Perhaps the best way to help candidates prepare is with mock interviews. Ask senior leaders and members of staff who attended Oxford or Cambridge to participate. Encourage parents who attended or are otherwise connected to either university to visit the school and talk to applicants. If resources permit, hold special Oxbridge classes to help candidates practise essay writing. On the day Candidates should dress formally and arrive in plenty of time: the colleges can be tricky to navigate. It is a good idea to locate a lavatory before the interview.Taking a pen and notepad into the interview room can help to steady nerves. Interview technique Candidates should shake hands with interviewers firmly, look them in the eye and remember their names. Outer clothing such as a coat or jacket should be removed before sitting down. Interviewees should not crack jokes to break the ice: this should be left to the interviewers. Conversational language is fine in general, but a formal tone should be used when appropriate. It is important that candidates listen to the questions carefully and take time to breathe before responding. Answers should be precise: loosely phrased responses will be challenged by interviewers. It is best to make two or three brief, strong points per question. Opinions should always be supported by concrete examples. Using phrases such as “That’s interesting, it makes me think about X” can help candidates buy time and regain control.They should 14

avoid basing an answer on shaky territory and instead try to steer the discussion to a betterunderstood subject. It is better to ask for a question to be repeated or clarified than to respond without having understood it. If an interviewer challenges an answer, it does not necessarily mean that it was wrong. Candidates should avoid becoming defensive: admitting ignorance of something is fine, though if possible it is good to refer to a better-understood topic. Finally, candidates should come prepared with at least one clear, thoughtful question about the subject or college for the interviewers. They are, after all, hoping to spend three years (and plenty of money) at this institution: they are entitled - and indeed expected - to ask questions.

Dr Ingrid Wassenaar advises students on entry to Oxford and Cambridge. She can be contacted at Further information and advice by Dr Wassenaar about Oxbridge applications is available via The Key Article written by: Dr Ingrid Wassenaar


What would you

ask The Key? How should I go about setting the school budget?

Is it safe to use old tyres in playgrounds?

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What questions might Ofsted ask the headteacher and SLT?

Answers to these and over 2,600 more questions at The Key is a support service for school leaders. We answer your questions on any aspect of school leadership and management. Join over 14,000 other school leaders already using The Key to save time, solve problems and get up-to-date answers. You can also download sample policies, documents and bestpractice case studies.

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STAFF and social media

Staff and social media

A Head teacher'S PERSPECTIVE In today’s teaching world, we are all expected to be “digital natives” and to use all the tools available to enhance teaching and learning. We look to use all sorts of devices to help us communicate, to make life simpler, to be more efficient. We don’t use diaries any more but link our calendar of meetings to our phones or to Outlook. We don’t really need to talk to each other because email, Facebook and Twitter obviate the need for oral communication. We are starting to live in worlds that are hermetically sealed, as our work and social activities become increasingly electronic. 16


staff and social media There’s nothing startlingly new in the above paragraph; but with all these new technologies come serious implications for safeguarding. Alarmingly, some teachers are blithely unaware of, or choose to ignore, situations that could cause untold damage to their careers.

new freedom of expression with little accountability. Facebook and Twitter can take some time to remove posts and delete fake accounts; email addresses have to be changed regularly. And by then the damage is done.

As a head teacher, I have faced situations where parents and pupils have reported wide-open staff Facebook accounts, and where teachers have been talking to pupils on Facebook and inviting them on as friends. I have had to suspend staff for inappropriate text messages concerning their meeting socially with sixth formers.

The head teacher is the moral guardian of the school.

Some teachers are blithely unaware of, or choose to ignore, situations that could cause untold damage to their careers.

I have no desire to become the internet police (nor does any head teacher I know). But it seems to me that teachers often use the above communication systems without proper care and attention. Some lack the necessary IT skills to secure their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Some don’t understand the ramifications of what they communicate, or fail to realise who can see everything they do online. More worryingly, some continue to be careless despite warnings and reprimands.

Indeed, social media gives head teachers all sorts of headaches: Facebook pages set up by pupils in order to denigrate and abuse; false Twitter accounts - purportedly belonging to members of staff but actually set up and controlled by pupils - posting criticism of other members of staff at the school; parents discovering staff members’ personal email accounts and bombarding them with abuse about the school’s staff and leadership.

So, what can we do? First, every school should have a clear internet policy for staff that outlines what is and isn’t permitted. Heads and leadership teams should regularly talk to all the staff about internet communication and give examples of the dangers. There should be categorical statements of what is and isn’t acceptable on Facebook and Twitter, and all staff should be shown by qualified and experienced practitioners how to make their accounts as secure as possible.

The list is endless. The anonymity of electronic communication provides a

Nothing should be left to chance. The policy should include: the school’s policy


Staff and social media on communication between staff, students and parents; clear guidelines and stepby-step instructions on online security; a clear statement on acceptable subjects of electronic conversation; a description of the pitfalls of social networking; and a clear link to the school’s code of conduct.

Article written by: Dave Forshaw, Head Teacher, Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School

I recommend that at the start of each year, time be set aside to discuss the issue of social media with all staff The head teacher is the moral guardian of the school. He sets and monitors the parameters under which the school exists. I recommend that at the start of each year, time be set aside to discuss the issue of social media with all staff. Because technology changes rapidly, a working group should be established to review the school’s policy and to implement and communicate the latest safety issues to staff. This group should also, formally and informally, monitor staff use of social networking, for their safety and the school’s.

It is not just pupils who need internet safety. It is not just pupils who need internet safety. No-one should doubt the serious consequences of misusing social media. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. 18

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The basics of classroom management:


When I used to provide sessions on classroom management to our regular cohorts of trainee teachers, one thing I noted was how poorly they prepared themselves to deal with misbehaviour. Though they all planned their lesson content - their starter activity, plenary and so on - virtually none had a plan for how he would respond to bad behaviour. Yet misbehaviour in lessons is almost certain. If you enter a classroom without a clear idea of how to respond to it, you will have to make things up on the spot. This is generally not a good idea. For one thing, a punishment contrived and applied on the spur of the moment can be as much of an inconvenience to you as to the miscreant. “Right, you can spend your lunchtime with me!” Oh dear, that’s your well-earned lunch break spent in a classroom with a warm sandwich and sulky teenager. 20

Moreover, the lack of a clear plan can lead to uncertainty and inconsistency. Having a predetermined set of consequences enables you to calmly, assertively and consistently deal with misbehaviour. It is a great stress-reliever.

Misbehaviour in lessons is almost certain. If you enter a classroom without a clear idea of how to respond to it, you will have to make things up on the spot Before we look at what those consequences should be, here are some key points about applying them. Pupils should learn the ABC rule. Actions Bring Consequences. Good behaviour should be encouraged with praise or rewards. Bad behaviour should be discouraged with the threat of punishment. Innovatemyschool

Consequence should be proportionate. Overreacting to minor rule-breaking causes resentment and creates a negative atmosphere in your lessons. Consequences should be known by the class in advance. A pupil who knows the penalty for breaking a rule but chooses to break it anyway has little ground for complaint, whereas you will seem unfair if you appear to be making up consequences on the spot. Ensure that the class knows the penalties for misbehaviour before you apply them, and keep them clearly displayed in the classroom. Always start with the least intrusive intervention possible. If this works, you’ve dealt with the problem with minimum disruption to the lesson. If not, you can always move up to the next level.

see what happens. Then you’ll be forced to lose credibility - or your job. Be consistent. This is perhaps the most important factor in any consequence system. For most pupils, the certainty of a consequence is more of a deterrent than its severity. An inconsistently applied punishment is a weak punishment. Some pupils may feel it’s worth pushing the boundaries if the consequences are uncertain. Moreover, if you apply different consequences to the same behaviour, pupils will see you as unfair and disorganised: a child who is given detention for an offence which was punished with a verbal warning in a previous lesson will feel aggrieved and you will appear unjust. On a deeper level, children do not like uncertainty: it makes them feel insecure and unsafe. Applying punishments fairly, reasonably and consistently will help them feel secure.

Consequences must not be humiliating or degrading. There is no surer way to alienate a pupil than by humiliating him in front of his peers. Gain pupils’ respect by applying reasonable and fair punishments. Avoid “whole class” punishments. Tempting as it may be to detain a whole class because a borrowed pencil is missing, don’t do it: it will alienate the innocent majority. Do not threaten a punishment that you are unable to carry out. Doing so seriously undermines your credibility. “Throw another bit of paper out of that window and I’ll throw you after it!” Say this, and it’s quite likely that another bit of paper will go out of the window, just to


THE BASICS OF GOOD CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT Give warnings before significant punishments. One frequent result of there being no clear scale of consequences is that the teacher verbally admonishes a pupil several times, then snaps and gives a detention. The pupil, with some justification, feels aggrieved at what he sees as an unreasonable reaction. This can result in argument or confrontation. Had the teacher warned the pupil that his continued misbehaviour would lead to detention (rather than simply admonishing him for it), the misbehaviour might have stopped sooner. This brings us to the consequences themselves. What options are open to teachers? If you are lucky enough to work in a school which has a clear, written behaviour policy, follow it. Many schools, however, tend to leave day-to-day discipline issues in the hands of teachers. So, you’ve followed all the advice in my previous articles and established a temperate classroom climate in which misbehaviour is minimal. How should you respond when it does occur? Here’s my suggestion >

Article written by: Ed Whittaker, Teacher and Managing Director of Schools Data Services


WARNINGS Step 1: Verbal Admonition - Make it clear to whom you are speaking, state clearly what he is doing wrong, and say what he needs to do to put it right: “David, you’re not listening to me. I need you to turn round and face me. Thank you.” Step 2: Verbal Warning - If the misbehaviour continues, give a verbal warning and state what the next level of consequence will be: “David, this is the second time I have had to speak to you about turning round. If I have to speak to you again you will have to come and sit here.” Step 3: Final Warning - Take the action warned of in Step 2 (in our example this would mean moving David to a seat near the front, but it could be something like writing the pupil’s name on the board or in your mark book). Clearly state the next level of consequence will be if the misbehaviour continues.


& CONSEQUENCES Step 4: Apply the Consequence - If the pupil continues to misbehave, apply the punishment you warned him of in Step 3. This could be spending break with the teacher, a phone call or letter to the pupil’s parents, or even detention after school. Parent contact is a particularly powerful tool, but whichever option is chosen, the most important factor in its effectiveness is certainty of delivery: if you say you’re going to do something, you must do it. This suggested scale of response is not intended for dealing with extreme misbehaviour such as violence, threats of violence, swearing at the teacher, open defiance or repeated lesson disruption. In such cases, the pupil should be removed from the classroom as soon as possible (this is simply to enable the lesson to proceed: further action should follow). Every school should have a clear system for dealing

with extreme misbehaviour as part of its published behaviour policy. Another problem is the failure of pupils to comply with punishments: for example, a pupil is told to come back at lunchtime but chooses not to. It is my firm belief that it is not up to the class teacher to pursue this further. Defiance of the detention system is defiance of the head teacher’s authority and should be dealt with accordingly. Inexperienced teachers can find it difficult to know where to draw the line between mischief and serious misbehaviour. Some tolerate levels of bad language or insolence that go beyond what more experienced teachers would consider acceptable. My advice is simply this: if it feels wrong or makes you feel uncomfortable, then it is wrong; do not tolerate it.


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Programming and Engineering

Learning basic programming and engineering







with Lego Robotics Four years ago, Stanborough School started its LEGO Robotics Club. Our goal was to introduce pupils to the principles of robotics and computing, and to give them an enthusiasm for engineering. The club offers an initial six-week course in which pupils learn to design, build and program standard robots from instructions provided with the LEGO Mindstorms kit. They then move on to build and program machines of their own design. To build a robot, pupils first construct a basic flat fourwheeled platform, following the instructions in a user guide. This acts as a chassis for the NXT brick - the mind of the robot. Next, pupils are given access to a large range of parts - including sensors for sound, touch and colour - which they attach to their robot to enable it to perform desired functions, such as stopping when it has reached a wall or firing a ball. When adding these components to robots of their own design, pupils realise the importance of careful planning: they need to ensure the motors and wiring can be connected to the NXT. Having fitted their robot together, the pupils program its behaviour on a computer, using the LEGO Mindstorms software. They tell it how far to move and how to respond to various kinds of sensory input. This is a great 26


way to introduce children to the logical structures of computer programming, such as if statements and while loops. It also demonstrates to them the importance of another key aspect of computing: testing! When their program is finished, the pupils upload it to their robot (via its USB port or using Bluetooth). Then, all that’s left to do is put the robot in position, set it running, and watch it go. This is the most exciting and rewarding part of the process for the pupils, mirroring the anticipation of a successfully functioning piece of software. Of course, things don’t always go to plan, but debugging (another essential aspect of software development) is generally approached with enthusiasm: pupils are eager to discover what went wrong with their robot and fix it. Stanborough School has become a leader in the field of LEGO robotics in the local area. We run classes for local primary schools and a summer school for gifted and talented pupils. We recently entered the FIRST LEGO League’s National LEGO Robotics

Tournament, having built a strong reputation at the regional finals, in which we won various awards. Since the club began, the school has invested in additional equipment, including more Mindstorm kits, our own laptop, a digital camera, video camera and secure cupboard. Our ambition is to encourage older club members to become mentors to our cohorts of new pupils, and for teams of robot-building pupils to include positions such as lead programmer, junior programmer and robot engineer. As well as giving pupils something to aspire to, this would introduce them to the teamwork and roles involved in real-life software development.

Article written by: Sahbi Benzid, Stanborough School


Healthy food is at the heart of everything we do. As the most innovative caterer servicing the education sector across England, our goal at Innovate is to transform existing canteens into desirable dining environments where students are encouraged to eat delicious healthy food. Our bespoke solutions are designed to suit different budgets, ranging from small tweaks to total transformations. If you would like to find out more, discuss your requirements in an informal manner, with absolutely no commitment, or arrange a visit to one of our facilities, please contact our Sales Manager, Lisa Hamilton on 07850 603 906; email or call our Business Support Centre on 0845 494 0005. There is also loads of info on our website: including testimonials and case studies. TOWARDS HEALTHY EATING

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Cutting-edge catering at Plymstock School

Plymstock School is a specialist sports college with nearly 1700 pupils. Last year, the school celebrated its centenary, and we were delighted that a major project was completed in time for the celebrations: the state-ofthe-art Galley CafĂŠ.

could be used for dance or PE classes. The lack of space meant we were able to offer a measly two meal choices. Unsurprisingly, pupils preferred to spend lunchtimes in the grounds or in their form rooms.

Previously, the school had used a general hall for catering. This arrangement was far from ideal. Tables and chairs had to be taken out of storage at break times and then removed again afterwards so that the hall

I was immediately impressed with what I saw: a spacious room with modern facilities, full of students enjoying lunch. Quite a contrast to what we had at our school.

We wanted to develop first-rate catering facilities that our pupils would enjoy using throughout the day. In search of inspiration, I visited a nearby school whose catering facilities had recently been redeveloped by Innovate Services.


CUTTING EDGE CATERING We decided to enlist Innovate Services to manage our own renovation campaign: a £500,000 project involving the transformation of a run-down gymnasium into a state-of-the-art café. One of the best things about the redevelopment was that our student council was involved throughout, helping to design the layout of the new facility and to choose the menus. It was great to see our pupils think of innovative and exciting ideas, and it gave them a real sense of achievement to see those ideas implemented as part of the project. Today, there are few signs of the Galley Café’s past life as a gymnasium. Its interior is bright and colourful. A second-storey mezzanine has been built, doubling the amount of room available and enabling more pupils to use the café during peak times. Separate from the main ground floor space is a soft-seated room used for student council gatherings and staff meetings, and by anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet. Wi-Fi points ensure that internet access is available throughout the café, and it has proved a popular place for our pupils to revise during exam periods.

Our staff also enjoy the range of food and the facilities, often eating lunch with pupils. The Galley is also used for after-school activities, and events such as parents evenings. We have even started opening 30

for breakfast, with the result that some students actually arrive at school early in order to chat with friends over tea and toast! Our staff also enjoy the range of food and the facilities, often eating lunch with pupils.

Before the redevelopment, we had makeshift catering facilities that pupils and staff couldn’t wait to leave. Before the redevelopment, we had makeshift catering facilities that pupils and staff couldn’t wait to leave. Now we have a sociable hub that the whole school takes pride in. The feedback we’ve received from pupils has been very positive, and the Galley Café now takes between £1,200 and £1,300 a day. Perhaps most importantly, we believe that the café’s pleasant environment and balanced menus help to create a positive attitude among our pupils and our staff.

Want to read more articles like this? Don’t miss out, read them for free at Article written by: Julia Crookston, Business Manager of Plymstock School



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Innovate My School: May 2012  

Issue 4 of the Innovate My School magazine, bringing the latest in educational innovation and inspiration to teachers across the UK.

Innovate My School: May 2012  

Issue 4 of the Innovate My School magazine, bringing the latest in educational innovation and inspiration to teachers across the UK.