School trips – worth the hassle?


With the arrival of the “creative curriculum” and the idea that teachers need to hook children in to their learning, engage them in their learning and inspire them to want to learn, the school trip is fast becoming the holy grail.

Pros –

  • real life experiences ensure that children learn key skills
  • getting out of the classroom inspires children
  • getting out of the classroom inspires teachers
  • children can write with real understanding of a subject
  • children rarely forget a trip they have been on

Cons –

  • cost
  • paperwork

These negative aspects do need serious consideration when planning a trip, but they should not be a reason to give up on the idea of taking children out of school for educational visits.


Together with my colleague Mairi, we created a vibrant KS1 curriculum which features plenty of enrichment opportunities for learning outside of the classroom.  Part of our ethos is that we both like a challenge and we both like to plan a trip at least once a term if not more frequently.  Our headteacher told us we needed to reduce the costs so we now have an understanding relationship with a local public bus company.  They have decided it is better for them to know when we are heading out as opposed to finding 75 of us waiting at the bus stop!  The first time that this happened our learning was all related to tree types, leaves and signs of spring.  If you ask the children, they ONLY remember the fact a double decker bus was sent to collect us, however their writing and science work tells a different story.

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Do You Wonder?

I have a confession to make.  I am a BBC-oholic.  I think that they have produced, and continue to produce, many resources that help make teaching more engaging.  Their resources for primary schools are used widely but with changes to the curriculum over recent years they have been chasing concrete information from teachers so that they can continue to create content that could be used in the classroom.  They ask teachers to help them with this and give us the grand title of “BBC Learning Consultant”.  Our job is simple, to give feedback on current projects as well as to share changes to the curriculum and our profession in good time for the BBC to act upon.  This is not an easy task, many is the time we have sat around saying unhelpful things like “well, some teachers might use that as their topic,” and “the resources need to be open ended and easily link to other things.”  Super helpful, obviously!

In 2009 I was involved in a project which introduced me to the BBC Learning in the North team, I’m proud to be a small part of this team now and love it when the email pings in asking for involvement with a new project.  I try to share the projects around school with teachers who may have more experience than me in that area of learning.  The opportunity to be part of a professional discussion relating to content that may be available in the future via the BBC is too good to miss out on.  I find that the opportunity to pose in their swanky Salford Quays office is also too good to miss out on!


Posing with a pillar.

Something that always seems to come out of every meeting is the fact that teachers want open ended resources that they can use in any way they want.  Prescriptive lesson plans are out, and in needs to come content that can be used across the curriculum, creatively, and in whatever way the teachers see fit.  We have been giving this message for a while, and as they say, good things come to those who wait.


Click the above photos to go to the iWonder home page.

In the words of Chris Sizemore, executive editor, “BBC iWonder provides thought-provoking answers to the questions sparked in your everyday life”.  A very simple quote to describe what is quickly becoming a vast resource for teachers and children to access.  It was launched with a WW1 slant and now has content linking to many areas of the curriculum with much more content in the pipeline.  I took a couple of Year 6 children to an initial meeting about the iWonder concept where they created their own guide and were filmed working on it as well as discussing how they had chosen the content for it.  Creating your own guides is a concept that would be useful for schools, this potentially could be a feature in the future but there are no promises from the BBC on this.  The guides are available online, across all platforms, and open up many opportunities for learning.  I particularly love that each audio part of the guide comes with a pdf transcript which is great to support your visual learners as well as your auditory ones.  They can be used to encourage the children to generate their own questions as well as to involve them in making discoveries more frequently.  Something that we, as educators, know is an important facet of learning.  Ownership.

Take a look for yourself, and you will see that the possibilities to enhance the learning of the children in your class are phenomenal.  The best thing about it for me is that there are no prescriptive lesson plans.  Simply, do with it what you wish for your learners.  Let them wonder.

Further links to check out:

The first time I was ever invited to join a BBC discussion resulted in these films being made.  The brief was to create films that would help the children to have a sense of place, specifically in the North.  My love of sculpture must have come across well and the decision to create these films was made.  The Blackpool one features children from our school.

Painting with light

Painting with light

You will need:
A torch or 2
A dark den
A camera with a long exposure facility

This activity which I love, love, love (during a science week) drew an awful lot of attention from both staff and children. If you click on the photo it will take you to Euxton CE Primary’s webpage dedicated to this activity. The heart was drawn with 2 torches. We also managed to work out how to write words by photographing individual letters and consequently. these were made into signs for the classroom doors. A wonderful way of encouraging collaboration with the children. The photographer had to direct the torch wielder in order to produce a specific image. The role they had to take on changed depending on what they had decided to do before they went into the dark den. The language of direction was used extensively and the children began to delete images from the camera independently.

If you have a go, please tweet me some photos of the pictures you make with your children.


Here is a photo sent from taken by one of his AS photography students at Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio.  It shows what a versatile idea this is.  I was using it as a way of working collaboratively, but I expect Colin’s pupil has been learning all about the photography skills needed to produce an image like this.

Colin's photo

Thank you Colin for letting me share this.

Hour of Code

My first ever reblog so I’m not entirely sure how it works but I love seeing ks1 staff get involved in code in an appropriate way. I’m following this blog as part of my own learning journey now. Adele.

Catalyst for Learning

Well it would seem that I have missed out February’s post, however a busy month has left me with lots to talk about.

Firstly, what a treat to have had the half term break. I’m sure most teachers would agree that it had been a tiring start to the new year and a nice long sleep was just what was needed. During the holiday, I spent time analysing my class’ most recent phonics screening check scores (as talked about at #TMBETT14) and they had once again made progress. By continuing to use an alien theme and link to @classdojo, the children are as enthused as ever about beating their last score and making progress.

A risk assessment visit to the Deep and a parking ticket later, I found myself at the #EICE conference in Manchester. As the tag line had been ‘Education Innovation’, it seemed a good place…

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Using Twitter as a tool to create book reviews.

I find Twitter to be an amazing source of views, photos, news reports and celebrity snippets as well as a wonderful source of supportive CPD.  TeachMeets are arranged, talked about and promoted.  Ofsted advice is given by people who really understand what it is like to receive that phone call.  Classroom photographs, role play areas and working walls are shared as standard.  #planningpanic is a hashtag that dominates my timeline on a Sunday night.

Occasionally, I have wondered whether using Twitter as a teaching tool would be effective.  Currently I use it as a way of communicating with parents about the daily life in school, something I have found to be particularly beneficial to those parents who work and can’t always see through the classroom window at 3.30pm.

Last week I found myself in a planning session with a teacher.  Prior to the teacher arriving I had been checking Twitter and noticed that author of “Yeti and the Bird”, Nadia Shireen, was participating in a primary schools workshop in London.  I like her updates as they are a mix of humour, parenting and reading.  When the teacher arrived and said she was teaching a literacy unit on “authors and letters” I have to admit that Twitter wasn’t on my mind.  As the coaching session continued and the teacher talked about creating book reviews, I suddenly saw how Twitter could be used and be effective.  Not just technology for technology sake, but actually be a fantastic tool for learning with a real life purpose.  Short tweet reviews of a book would be an ideal way of getting the children writing in phase 1 of the literacy unit.

  • Using only 140 characters would help the children to consider and manipulate the language that they use in their review.
  • The language of ‘characters’ would make the teaching of punctuation more explicit.
  • The children could tweet a real author who would hopefully reply, what a fabulous way to engage them.
  • Giving the children a template with 140 boxes in would give them more awareness of why sentence structure is important.

I created this template (disclaimer – the photo is appalling, my target is to ensure the photo in my next blog post is an improvement) which can be found at

Awful photo, must try harder!

Awful photo, must try harder!

I then took to Twitter and tweeted @NadiaShireen, the author we had decided to tweet.  She replied and the planning was complete!

I can’t wait to see the tweets and replies on the working wall next time I visit this school.  Follow the hashtag #tweetreview on Twitter to track the progress if you wish.