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Nine-day wonders that shook the staff

Early July was a time of feverish activity at Beavers community primary school. For nine days, staff and pupils from reception to year six were embroiled in what the headteacher, Christine Paskin, described as a "creative bonanza".

They were given time to experiment on agreed topic work - producing magazines, painting murals, making a film, or taking part in drama and dance classes.

"When I looked at our curriculum I felt there was a preoccupation with having to do this or that and I felt the creative arts were suffering.

"We felt the 20 per cent 'free' time was there and that it was just a question of having the courage to go for it. We had underspent our budget and asked our governors to back our decision to spend between Pounds 3,000 and Pounds 4,000 buying in professional support for our scheme."

As a result the 210-pupil school in Hounslow, Middlesex, had been "liberated" from the framework of the national curriculum for a while and its staff had explored other areas of study.

She said: "I believe the framework is very good. But I have been a headteacher for a long time and it gave me the confidence to say we could take nine days and use them differently - though the work they do is still linked to the national curriculum.

"I have a lot of very good young teachers on my staff who have only experienced working under the national curriculum and I desperately wanted them to have this opportunity because otherwise they can get tunnel vision, always trying to link the work they do to geography, or literacy, or numeracy".

At the end of the nine-day experiment, the school will be assessing what had been gained from the experience, said Mrs Paskin.

"In the meantime I have told the staff 'if you are having fun - blame me!'"

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