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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Don't let the Grinch Steal Christmas

I haven't blogged for quite a while and when I reflected upon why it was for two main reasons.

The first reason is due to assessments. The end of a term brings with it the inevitable search for proof of progress, so Christmas or not the last couple of weeks have been peppered with a range of reading, writing and maths assessments. What strikes me the most every time I do assessments is actually how accurate my 'teacher assessment' is. However, I have to have some evidence upon which to base my teacher assessment besides my knowledge of the children and finely honed gut instinct.

The second reason for my long absence from blogging is a much more joyful and rewarding reason and that is the Christmas Nativity. This years Nativity was called 'Little Angel Gets Her Wings' and it has been an absolute pleasure to be part of. The pleasure I have got far outweighs the hard work that went into it. The preparations began with identifying the play, this was then tweaked by the head of  KS1 who ensured that every child in KS1 had a part, from F2 through to year 2. This for our school represents 92 children! After the play had been altered all of the staff got together with the children, we explained the story and parts and then asked them what they would like to do. Now obviously year 2 are expected to take the main speaking roles. year 1 do the non speaking acting  parts and F2 take the dancing parts. All of the children sing all of the songs.

The fact that the children get to choose the parts under some guidance really warms my heart as that means that the 'good readers' are not necessarily the ones that got the most lines. In fact our school ethos is that if the child is willing to have a go no matter what ability they will be supported to achieve that goal. Once  the parts had been chosen we then informed the parents of the costume requirements for their child. Again we are very lucky because on the whole our parents provide wonderful costumes and the staff always step in to sort out costumes which for a variety of reasons do not appear. Next followed two weeks of almost daily rehearsals in the school hall alongside lots of singing practice in classrooms. Having previously taught in KS2 I have been truly amazed at the behaviour of some of the youngest pupils, which was on the whole excellent. They rehearsed, sang, waited, acted, danced, waited ..... with very little complaint.

By the time the performances came along the whole play was like a well oiled machine, well as much as it can be with 92 four to seven year olds! We had four performances in all. A full dress rehearsal for KS2, one afternoon and one evening performance for parents and a final morning performance for grandparents. The best audience response came from the Grandparents who oohed and aahed in all of the right places and clapped and cheered at the end. I have throughly enjoyed the whole experience and gained no end of pleasure watching previously shy and quiet pupils blossom into confident little performers. I laughed until my sides ached at some of the antics of the children both on and off stage and cried many a quiet tear. I mean who could fail to be touched by the sight of a host of both male and female angels with wings of every shape and size, shepherds with tea towels on their heads, dancing pigs, cows and chickens,  talking doves and donkeys, Mary and Joseph arm in arm and finally Little Angel getting her wings. Truly magical!

My thoughts on all of this are that it is possible to not let the Grinch  (Ofsted) Steal Christmas and in fact not only is it possible it is I think essential that we do not let Christmas be taken away by this ever increasing madness of striving for levels. Yes I am aware only to well that 1 pupil not doing as expected can lead to at the very least a 'light touch' Ofsted. However, I would argue that that one pupil may in fact gain more confidence and self esteem from the joy of being part of a Christmas play which could result in better test results but you know what maybe that one pupil may not get better Sats results from taking part in a play but will gain so much more. My own very personal view is that Primary School is about laying the foundations stones for learning, instilling a thirst for knowledge, building character, teaching team work, building memories, but perhaps most of all making learning and school fun. After all when they look back on their time in primary school what do you think they will remember? Sats? or trips out, the school disco, visiting theatre groups, singing, performing in plays etc. I know what I think. What about you?