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Taking a leaf out primary book

For Glenys Evans, head of Claypool primary in Bolton, a balanced curriculum is the key to raising standards and keeping her staff happy.

Her strategy seems to be paying off. The school was praised by the Office for Standards in Education for its creative approach in 2002. It is a model of how a school can adapt the national curriculum.

The school's 210 pupils aged four to 10 take part in a range of activities from running small enterprises to organising parties.

Instead of just acting in the school play, pupils were put in charge of the lighting, ran the box office and designed promotional leaflets. They even checked that health and safety requirements were being met.

For the school party, they calculated how much jelly would be needed, how much it cost and where it could be stored.

For the past year at the start of each school day reception-class children have been able to visit a mood tree.

A child who is feeling happy chooses a yellow leaf. An angry or frustrated child puts up a red leaf. The pupils can then discuss these feelings with a teacher.

Mrs Evans said as a result the pupils were developing a greater understanding of their emotions. She added: "Pupils are becoming more able to deal with their anxieties, feelings or anger."

Mrs Evans says the school gives high priority to the subjects children enjoy such as sport and creative arts.

Learning packages with different subject elements are used to break up the rigidity of the national curriculum requirements.

"I have never felt in a strait-jacket, not even when the literacy and numeracy strategies were introduced. We didn't let go of the old things. We incorporated them into the new."

The school, whose key stage 2 results are in the top 5 per cent nationwide, guarantees that all 11-year-olds without special needs will reach at least level 4.

"It is not only good for children but also for the adults that teach them.

They come into work with smiles on their faces and leave on a high because they believe in what they are doing.

"I would tell other schools to go for it. Don't lose sight of the gains we have made in the past few years but we cannot go much further without putting the excitement back into the curriculum.

"We try to break down the school walls and let the world in. If the national curriculum is used exactly as it is set out children never have the opportunity to develop other skills they need in life."

The chief inspector's annual report is available at www.ofsted.gov.uk

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