IN the final weeks of term, 11-year-olds at Holy Trinity junior, Guildford, are being gripped by a new project - recreating the Great Exhibition of 1851 in their hall.
All 93 Year 6 pupils are becoming either inventors, explorers, biologists or missionaries in their investigation of 11 countries of the former British empire. The launch last week involved a pep talk from the three Year 6 teachers and deputy head - all dressed in Victorian costume - who explained the four roles.
Helen Pronger, Year 6 teacher and literacy co-ordinator, will be leading the Victorian "explorers", who will learn about different terrains and climates.
She said: "We had about three meetings to plan it, including the initial chat. The children will be bringing a lot of their own ideas to it, rather than us providing them with things, so it does not need a lot of resources.
The costumes were borrowed from the children's theatre."
The school's topic-based approach has been praised by inspectors. It was one of 32 schools included in the Ofsted report The curriculum in successful primary schools.
Richard Rowe, Holy Trinity's head, said: "This type of creativity does not just happen. You have to work really hard at it. But it is so much more rewarding for children."
His unconventional approach goes back to his interview - a mix-up over dates meant he turned up for it straight from teaching pottery, dressed in jeans and a jumper. He was also the first non-Anglican head of a Surrey CofE school.
Instantly finding himself at odds with the school's formal atmosphere, one weekend he went through the classrooms ripping up the rules that had been posted on the walls.
He then introduced an ethos of respect, a topic-based curriculum, working hard and having fun. Today, only one of the old rules remains: no shouting.
Children address teachers by their first names and two days a term are spent on "fuzzy" activities - such as robot wars or making pizzas.
It has obviously paid off, as in English, maths and science more than half of children reach the higher level 5 by the end of Year 6.
Mr Rowe said: "As an inexperienced head I felt this school was movable - now I feel any school is movable."