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Spider stops inspection

"We pulled reception children out of class to look at a spider's web with rain water on it during an inspection," said Ronan Dunne, deputy headteacher at St Gregory's Catholic primary school in Liverpool.

"That got a comment in the Ofsted report. It was clear the inspectors liked it and they should, because it is what education is about."

St Gregory's, which is in a deprived area, is one of an increasing number of schools rewriting their curriculum to cater for pupils - rather than following national edicts.

But many teachers across the country are not sure how to move from subjects to broader learning based on topics - a recent call for help on the TES online forum prompted more than 100 requests for Mr Dunne's topic-based plans.

Mr Dunne said: "The greatest strength of education is when teachers get together and share ideas. The point of a topic-based curriculum is moulding it to your own context.

"We started with topic webs. You get a big piece of paper, write World War II in the middle and then every learning opportunity: history, literacy, art, design... Obviously there is music - such as Vera Lynn singing 'We'll meet again'. It doesn't work with everything, so you don't stretch it.

"When you have 11-year-old boys saying, 'We'll meet again', you know you're doing something right."

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