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How Primary Rocks Live inspires teachers

Primary school teachers gather in Manchester to share their ideas, gain inspiration and have some fun

primary child

Primary school teachers gather in Manchester to share their ideas, gain inspiration and have some fun

The Primary Rocks Live conference is an event which, in just four years, has become a "must" for many primary teachers, who are attracted by real teaching tips, the chance to meet Twitter friends and the famed ice-cream.

This year 250 primary teachers packed into Medlock Primary, Manchester, to learn about topics as diverse as how to build empathy among children, making primary science relevant and using music to improve reading.


Quick read: Meet the teacher who is making reading rock

Tes award winner: The Preston primary school that bought pupils a house 

Quick read: Primary Rocks Live: 5 lessons we learned 


Here are some of the best bits:

Teaching can be tricky – but it can be brilliant

Graham Andre, a teacher at Lanesend Primary, Isle of Wight, who has championed gender-neutral classrooms since taking part in the BBC Two No More Boys and Girls documentary, opened the conference, rocking a blue and green shell suit.

He has been a teacher for just seven years and was pondering whether, at 47, he could keep up the pace. “This time last year, I hated my job,” Mr Andre said. “I wanted to leave teaching.”

He explained that working weekends and evenings had become too much.

But he has now turned a corner through talking about his struggle, cutting back on out-of-hours work and remembering why he went into the job.

“It is a hard job, but it can also be a brilliant job... sometimes I’ll pop into school and there’ll be a little note. I had one from Tiffany once: ‘You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had – but you haven’t done much for me’. It’s the honesty of kids that’s brilliant, isn’t it?"

Bring your own interests into the classroom

Self-confessed geek Adam Parkhouse, deputy head of Cantley Primary, near Norwich, loves gaming.

He told teachers how he’d brought the principles of gaming into the school, with children being rewarded as they moved up in their writing with a "healing potion" (juice), "the elixir of life" (hot chocolate), getting "teleportation spells" (being able to write in another part of the school) and earning gold pens. 

"Marking books has become fun," he said. "I can see the children levelling up." 

Don’t sacrifice the subject to an overarching 'topic'

Clare Sealy, head of St Matthias Primary, in East London, spoke to a packed classroom about the importance of genuine curriculum links – linking themes through year groups and not just across topics.

“My pet hate is when people on Twitter say they are doing a topic on volcanoes, so can someone recommend a good book for literacy with volcanoes in it?

"There may be a great book, but maybe not – so are you going to choose a less good book just because it has volcanoes in? I don’t think it justifies choosing a less good book.”

 

The conference has 24 workshops – something which is part of its appeal to teachers who have travelled across the country to be here.

“Typical CPD is going on a course about one specific thing all day,” Rachel Walker, Year 5 teacher at Sneinton CE Primary in Nottingham, said. “This covers lots of different things. It’s inspiring to hear different ideas and challenge my thinking as a teacher.”

Simon Kidwell, head of Hartford Manor Primary in Cheshire, liked the positivity and added: “We are increasingly seeing teaching through a secondary lens. Primary Rocks gives us an identity as primary teachers.”

And Claire Crawford, deputy head of Little Heaton CE Primary, Manchester, added: “The best bit is the chance to see a range of speakers, the atmosphere of people coming together – and the ice-cream.”

The #PrimaryRocks Twitter chat, which takes place on Monday evenings, was set up in 2014 by Gaz Needle, head of St Joseph’s RC Junior, Infant and Nursery in Oldham, and Rob Smith, curator of resources site the Literacy Shed. 

“Tickets for Primary Rocks Live this year sold out in less than two minutes,” Mr Needle said. ”And we hadn’t even released who the speakers were.

"People just want to come together as a community. The job is stressful. I hope Primary Rocks Live alleviates that stress and reminds us of the joys of the job.”

Or, as teacher Mike Watson put it: 

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