A visit to BETT 2019

Every once in a while we get to do something just a little bit different but VERY exciting. Another of those opportunities came around last Friday when I was invited to take a group of broadcasters to the largest education technology show in Europe, BETT, at the ExCeL centre in London’s docklands.

We had been lucky enough to have been invited to present a live radio show on the NetSupport stand with our very good friend Russell Prue of Anderton Tiger Broadcasting, at the invitation of NetSupport CEO Al Kingsley and what a day we had.

From the very off, excitement levels were at their peak as we travelled by GWR from Chippenham to Paddington, stopping prior to joining the Tube at Paddington for a quick snap with Paddington Bear, of course! I cannot praise the children highly enough, as for many this was a new experience and travelling on London public transport is never easy. However, everyone was so sensible and stayed as a group to ensure that we were safe at all times.

If you have ever been to the ExCeL centre you will know that it is vast and the BETT show is always full of hundreds of the biggest IT companies in the world. Just the place for a wonderful experience and to gather as many freebies and merchandise as possible! Everyone at BETT was so welcoming and gave the children a super time, handing out everything from t-shirts to pens and stress balls.

But our main reason for being at BETT, other than the experience, was to broadcast a live Westwood Radio show from the Netsupport stand. Al Kingsley, their CEO, is a great supporter of our station and generously invited us to attend and present on their radio station. Once again we got the opportunity to work with the brilliant Russell Prue, who guided us through a rehearsal and gave so many top tips that when we went on air at 3pm, the children were brimming with confidence and ideas. It was amazing to see them at work, in the middle of a packed show floor and being watched by, literally,  hundreds of people passing by, all of them so impressed by the professionalism and quality of the children’s presenting. After an outstanding hour’s broadcast I could not have felt more proud of everyone’s confidence, resilience and professionalism. They were all such a credit to our school. I must also thank so many parents and friends who listened in and contributed via text and email too, which made for a fabulous experience.

With just time to pop by a VR stand – I cooed over the Back to the Future DeLorean whilst the children were immersed in virtual reality – before heading back to Paddington and home. Tired, but with so many special memories and experiences from the day, everyone was just brilliant. To everyone who came with me, an enormous thank you and also a special mention to Karen Hobson who gave her day to join me and make sure that everyone stayed so safe and had huge fun. As did we.

Here are some photos of the day and a chance to listen again to the children’s show:

Story Day

As we approach the end of week 2 already (!) there has been so much to celebrate again at our school.

Yesterday the whole school took part in a wonderful story day where each class read and enjoyed their own story and then the entire day’s teaching and learning focused on that book. Sharing stories such as ‘The Wolf that cried boy’ and ‘The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish’, all of the children were so immersed in their learning and our love of reading and literature as a school really showed.

At the end of the day we all came together for an assembly and it was a real joy to see how much the children had learnt from their day in the way that each class presented their stories. Thank you to the staff for their hard work and preparation in making days like these a success and to the children for working so hard. I think we all found out something new about a book we might go and read now…

Happy New Year!

Hello again and welcome back to another year at our school. I do hope that you had a wonderful break after, what was, such a magical and exciting term with so much to celebrate. I had time to reflect on what a special place this is to be, particularly at Christmas time, so thank you all for making it so.

So now we’re off again with renewed invigoration and already we have been so busy with our learning,  finding out about our new exciting topics. Sunflower class are learning all about Arctic explorers, Clover and Lotus Class are finding out about trains and have already produced the most brilliant 3d display on their walls and the topic in Orchid class is Earth as an Island. The IPC (International Primary Curriculum) does allow so much creativity, skills development and engagement that teaching and working with the children makes it incredibly exciting and provides a wealth of learning opportunities, led by the children.

Our broadcasters have already been live on air, with two shows broadcast last week – Word on the Street and our Friday Show. Superbly presented, there is such confidence every time the children step into the studio and they are really making a name for themselves in the way they deliver top quality education radio week on week. I am so proud of them and what they achieve. You can listen to all of our shows on soundcloud.com/westwoodradio or you can listen to our station 24 hours a day by downloading the Android or iOS apps free. Links are on our website radio.westwoodwithiford.org

Please also check out all of our class blogs at westwoodblogs.org where the children are sharing so much of their fabulous learning with the world. You are most welcome to leave them a comment and this will inspire them hugely!

As a school we are also working on a number of diverse projects, with some also being planned for the Spring and Summer terms, including a brilliant social media project using the GoBubble app – we don’t like to sit still for too long! Of course, our Westwood Oral History Project continues to gather pace and you can listen to the interviews we have carried out so far on westwoodheritage.uk

With so much to look forward to, I know that 2019 is going to be another amazing year at our school and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Countdown to Christmas

You can always tell it is a wonderfully busy time of year when I haven’t had the opportunity to keep up with my blogging!

We have had a fantastic festive season so far and with just under two weeks left of this magical term, there is still so much to look forward to with amazing Christmas performances, our school Christingle service, Christmas lunches, parties and Carols around the tree.

Here are the children from Clover and Sunflower Class performing superbly in their dress rehearsal this afternoon…

I must begin  with an enormous thank you to our fantastic Friends of Westwood School who, in the last week alone, have organised two super Christmas events. Our Christmas Fair raised an enormous £1300 and with the perfect start to the festive season, the school was adorned with everything Christmas and plenty of cheer to get us in the mood. The introduction of the Christmas Cafe certainly went down well and the variety of stalls, games and activities around the school made for a wonderful afternoon.  I cannot thank you enough for supporting this event which, once again, had such a lovely community atmosphere and sense of occasion in the run up to Christmas. These funds will go towards making school an even better place to be for every child within our school. Christmas stories at bedtime was a calm and thoroughly enjoyable occasion with so many of our children returning in their pyjamas to listen to stories and enjoy some hot chocolate and biscuits together, kindly donated by Sainsbury’s. It was so lovely to share this event with them and I hope that we continue it again next year as it genuinely is one of the highlights of my year.

We have also been lucky enough to have the Jacolly Puppet theatre perform for us. Their performance of Dogworthy’s Magic Christmas Show had us all enthralled and mesmorised, but full of humour and fun. I always think that this is the perfect way to begin our Christsmas celebrations in school. Thank you to Jac and Holly for a magical afternoon. Also a big thank you to our FoWs for funding this lovely event.

Here are a few photos from a truly special afternoon at the theatre:

So with very little time left of this term,  I do hope that I will see as many of you as possible at our Carols around the Tree assembly on Thursday 20th December at 1.30pm. This will be immediately followed by Tea and Mince Pies with the Head in the meadow to round off a successful and extremely enjoyable term. I do hope that you will be able to join me for a festive chat before we all head off to celebrate with our families and have a well earned rest over Christmas.

Teaching children about social media safely

At the recent Parent Online Safety Meeting I held, I discussed a new app and tool that I was excited to use called GoBubble. Set up for under 13 year olds, this is a brilliantly innovative concept that allows children to learn about the use of social media and digital citizenship in a completely safe environment where all users are uploaded and validated by their school and where all content is moderated by the GoBubble team. This avoids any inappropriate content or contact for our children and allows them to enjoy the use of this app without the worry of anything unkind or unpleasant coming back.

Essentially it is social media for children, with a simple and easy to use interface where classes can get involved in class chat, discussion and learning through posts, or bubbles. Today I had the most wonderful afternoon as, after quickly setting everyone up prior to the lesson, we were able to jump straight in and group chat, just within ourselves, share photos, ideas and generally have a really productive and fun time, but with the underlying message of think before you post. This was something the children took on board right away and we had a super discussion about the potential risks of traditional social media, which requires the user to be 13 or over to create an account.

Within GoBubble we even collaborated internationally with some new friends from schools in the USA and Canada, as the platform seamlessly allows interaction between classes and today we joined the #gratitudechat, sharing what we were all grateful for in our lives, with some lovely responses.

I think the measure of how successful something is often comes from the feedback of the children. Today they were buzzing, excited and keen to try it at home. I will be sending a letter home to explain how this can be achieved outside of school hours soon.

Here are some photos of today’s fun and the children, in their own words, describing what they think of GoBubble.

Blogging with David Mitchell

On a day when blogging has been used so well to inspire and excite our writers (and also the staff), it only seems fitting that I should write a post this evening.

This afternoon we were delighted to welcome back David Mitchell (@deputymitchell, for the Tweeters!), blogging expert and experienced educational consultant, who started us off on our blogging journey 4 years ago. David spent the afternoon working with the children in Lotus and Orchid class to develop their writing using live sentence construction on class blogs, which he then gave immediate feedback to, thus improving and progressing the learning within a very short space of time indeed. What made it even more exciting was that everything that was being written could be seen by the entire world! Although the activity is no longer live, the fantastic evidence of great learning can be seen on lotus.westwoodblogs.org and orchid.westwoodblogs.org.

Our children are prolific bloggers and produce high quality posts each week, but this afternoon was an opportunity to take this even further and with David leading the sessions it made for a fun packed and hugely productive afternoon. Every child was completely engaged and immersed in their writing and the results made us all very proud indeed, as did the children’s superb approach to their learning.

After school it was then the turn of the staff to be inspired by David’s enthusiasm and knowledge as he took us through the process of using CoveritLive to curate a high quality writing session, as well as other tools that we can all take away to enhance our lessons and utilise blogging as a tool for writing. My huge thanks to David for a fabulous afternoon and for setting up the next stage of our blogging journey, which has us all keen to share even more of our learning with the world.

Here are some photos of the afternoon, as well as the children explaining how they have enjoyed the experience and the impact it had on their writing.

Westwood School Recording Stars!

Today was another exceptionally fun and special day as we all joined together to record a special CD of our favourite songs that we sing in assembly through the year.

Once again we welcomed back Jules from 4Part Music Ltd, who recorded our last CD 4 years ago, would you believe? We really enjoyed working with Jules last time and today was another wonderful experience for everyone as the hall was transformed into a recording studio for the day as he set up his fantastic mobile equipment to capture the children in full voice. With such a professional outfit, everyone was VERY excited from the outset and worked hard to sing each song as well as they could, but most importantly, with enthusiasm and enjoyment.

By break time we had already recorded 9 songs, each of them sounding beautiful and a super representation of the children’s love of singing that I get to hear every day. This time, of course, they were captured for everyone to hear, forever…

With a diverse and seasonal playlist that can be enjoyed throughout the year, the children were just brilliant, recording most of the songs successfully on the first take and we even had time to squeeze in a staff song before lunch, watched by an audience of 100 children, all of whom resisted the temptation to giggle. Well done everyone!

Of course, each class recorded their own song too and I am immensely proud of everyone, that at the end of the day we have a CD that we can all enjoy for a very long time and is a lasting memory of this year at our school. My huge thanks to Jules for his professionalism and organisation in making our day such fun and a real experience. Also to our fabulous staff for joining in with the song and adding our little bit of voice to a whole school collaboration. but to the children I must say a massive well done and thank you. Today was a complete privilege for me and another example of why I love my job.

Jules has kindly mixed a sample of some of the songs that you can listen to below. I also caught up with some children to ask them what they enjoyed about the day and you can read Jules’ blog post from his visit to our school HERE, too.

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