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Thinking Skills: Child Philosophers

Documentaries about school improvement and topical issues. Philosophy for Children, or P4C, is a method of teaching and learning that focuses on developing thinking skills within a group or 'community of enquiry'. Often taking an unusual theme as a focus, P4C aims to help children to think for themselves and benefit from the thinking of others. We visit Kingsbrook School where P4C was taken on as part of the Northamptonshire Raising Standards project and the English department schemes of work have been rewritten to include opportunities for P4C. In this programme, Karen Lamb introduces her Year 9 class to Romeo and Juliet using a P4C approach. We watch as she lets the community of enquiry choose the best topic for discussion. Professor Robert Fisher, the Director of Brunel University's Centre for Research in Teaching Thinking, discusses the ways in which P4C approaches can enhance the learning experience.

Building Sights

Inspiring stories about school projects that make a difference. Can you solve the problem of lack of teaching space without the help of LEA funding? Lanlivery Primary School in Cornwall did just that. They raised the funds themselves, helping to build a new classroom for their reception and Key Stage 1 pupils. They have become an inspiration to other schools up and down the country. The headteacher of the school and its chair of governors were determined to have a new classroom to improve conditions for the pupils. This meant taking a calculated risk, working extremely hard and getting the whole community to help. Now they are the proud owners of an environmentally-friendly classroom that was voted winner of the RICS 2004 Award for Sustainability.

The Head's Story

In the summer of 2002 Geoff Fisher, head teacher of St. Andrew's CofE Primary School, became a key spokesman for the village of Soham, as it came to terms with the disappearance and murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, two year 6 pupils at his school. In this exclusive and revealing interview, Fisher recalls the series of tragic events which put him and his school on the front pages of the world's press and gives a revealing insight into how one ordinary head tried to rebuild a shocked and devastated school community. One of the most traumatic issues he had to face was confronting the girls' parents, in the knowledge that a teaching assistant he had appointed had almost certainly been involved in the crime, "I can remember thinking that would be one of the most difficult things I would ever have to do."

A Lesson From The Best

The 2004 Secondary School Teacher of the Year, Philip Beadle, is a highly creative teacher of English and Drama. Late to teaching, Philip draws inspiration from his former life working in a bank by day and singing in a rock band by night, and connects with pupils by using visual, audio and kinetic stimulus material in unique ways. We observe two lessons where the climate for learning is infectious. In the first, a class of Year 9 boys is at risk of underachievement. Philip invents an entertaining lesson format called 'argument tennis', in which we see the pupils engage in debate about the motives behind Macbeth's behaviour. In the second lesson Philip teaches GCSE poetry, using a combination of visual and audio material to engage the class's emotions and serve as the stimulus for their own poetry. Philip's results are exceptional, in the past three years his pupils have averaged 98% A-Cs, despite the school only recently having emerged from special measures.

Transforming Textiles

Inspiring stories about school projects that make a difference. Stella O'Toole has succeeded in turning textiles into one of the most popular subjects at Heywood Community School by bringing to it energy, enthusiasm and a bag of rags from a local factory. Stella was employed by the school with the challenge to revive textile teaching. A challenge that was made all the greater when her classroom burnt down. Undaunted, Stella succeeded in restoring the classroom and broadening the appeal of her subject to include boys as well as girls. Stella succeeded because of an infectious fervour and by demonstrating that textiles doesn't mean making hankies or socks but producing hats and bags in graffiti designs. With a budget of just £400 for materials, she was able to build up an extensive stock of fancy cloth by getting offcuts from local firms.

Dinner Granny

Inspiring stories about school projects that make a difference. When school cook Pat Kendall started working at special school New Siblands, she was delighted to learn the school wanted her to serve traditional, organic food. The school buys all of its produce locally, but Pat plans to turn the caretaker's former flower garden into a market garden, with a little help from Thornbury Horticultural Society. Not only will the garden supply the kitchen's school dinners, but pupils will also be able to learn about plant growth to complement their lessons. Pat often adapts the school menu to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. For Victorian Day, New Siblands pupils enjoyed a bowl of gruel for their lunch! South Gloucestershire Council wants all school cooks to use more organic produce and less junk food, and Pat's enthusiasm illustrates how this can be achieved on a limited budget.

Drumming Up Success

Inspiring stories about school projects that make a difference. Steve Dawson has transformed his school's music department and restored pride in the school through playing drums. Following its damning Ofsted report, Dawson was sent to Newcastle-under-Lyme Community High School. Using his observations of how engaging drum beating could be, he raised enough money for every class member to have their own West African djhemba. It has become obvious that playing the drum boosts pupils' self-esteem, and being part of a band teaches them to respect others. Participation in the band has led to less behavioural problems and exclusions. This programme shows how Steve's enthusiasm and drive transformed the music department and had positive effects throughout the school.

Access the Curriculum

The 'Special Schools' series explores developments in special schools for those who work in them and those engaged within the issues, including special needs into mainstream education. This programme is a sensitive observation of two primary school pupils with special educational needs accessing the curriculum. Little Stanmore Primary School encourages participation through song with their lively 'Romeo and Juliet' project and Woodlands Special School explores a sense of time with the theme of 'Toys from the Past' in their history lesson. These two North-West London schools will soon be co-locating and Nick Peacey, a specialist in inclusion and curriculum development strategies for pupils with special educational needs, discusses how they have planned the delivery and evaluation of lessons.

Inclusive Classroom

State of the art technology facilities benefit pupils from Crosshill Secondary Special School, Blackburn, where pupils have produced a video based on Macbeth. They develop key skills through this project, editing and selecting soundtracks for their film, which they plan to publish on DVD. Crosshill was the first special school in the country to achieve technology college status and attracts the wider community, offering entry level courses to local high schools in media, business studies and art GCSE. The programme also follows pupils Jack and Steven to their local mainstream school for team sports as part of the wider Crosshill vision of inclusion, which sees many such transitions between schools. The principles and practice of the inclusive classroom are examined in a lively discussion with key staff, chaired by Professor Mel Ainscow from Manchester University, who acts as a mentor to the staff.

Be Yourself

Behaviour Management guru John Bayley works with teachers to help them to improve their technique. Bayley's wealth of practical knowledge on teaching methods and over a decade of behaviour management experience, helps him to provide unique insight and support to teachers. In this programme, Bayley visits Pimlico School in Westminster, observing an English teacher in action. He records the lesson on video, later giving feedback in a one-to-one workshop aimed at developing and improving individual teaching methods. Bayley advises that a friendlier, more personal teaching style would benefit this teacher's delivery. Bayley demonstrates how avoiding confrontation and engaging pupils on a personal level can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
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