Teachers must protect pupils' right to enjoy outdoor learning, drama, music and dance in the curriculum

One celebrated primary head makes a clarion call for schools to find the space ‘to be daring and create their own individuality'

Colin Harris

News article image

It's the summer term, and up and down the country dedicated teachers are organising countless trips to support their children's learning.

At our school, these excursions supplement the numerous visitors, authors and theatre groups who we bring into school to enrich the curriculum as often as we can in the rest of the year. Add to this visits to outdoor centres, theme days, book events, fundraising and dressing up days, and what do you get?

What we get is a school identity that is strong within our site, but also in the wider local education community.

It is work such as this that can make schools special; that can make them about with fun, love of learning and smiling faces.

And yet it seems we are slowly eradicating these elements from the curriculum, and have an accountability system that doesn't really recognise these elements as clearly as it should.

This problem is exacerbated by constant change in the curriculum, the political desire to force ever more content into this already over-full pot, budget constraints and the necessity for us all to concentrate on limited areas to achieve the expected "results".

In short, the future really does look bleak.

'An army of robotic children'

How long before we all have literacy and numeracy days all week? How much longer can we see off the urge to become the exam factories that those in power seem to want us to be?

And, in the process, what will become of the creative arts, drama, music, dance and anything else not deemed "important"? They will be pushed to one side, becoming forgotten in an education system devoid of any creative spark.

Across the country’s 20,000 primaries, we will see the production of an army of robotic children.

We have to fight this. At our school we have created an "outdoor classroom" which provides PPA time for all of our 420 children. It might sound trivial but it is anything but: once a week we allow time and budget to facilitate a different kind of learning. It is a magical two hours in which children have a learning experience that is protected from external pressures. Although we have a curriculum, it is one that we have tailored to our children, to the strengths of our school: it is not devised by individuals and institutions unfamiliar and indifferent to the needs of our learners.

For the past 15 years we have created and nurtured a haven within the timetable that celebrates the individual, that allows all children to measure their own success and that facilitates creativity, problem solving, self-awareness and nurturing of the individual learner.

Children need space to develop. With tighter budgets and a zillion other pressures making claims on our time and resources, we need to fight for this time and space so our children can develop organically.

It is imperative we celebrate our schools' individuality, their uniqueness, and we celebrate when our pupils can enjoy off-curriculum opportunities that will change their lives.

We also need to allow and encourage schools to be daring and create their own individuality. Lest we ever forget: our children get just one chance at this education lark.

Colin Harris is headteacher of Warren Park Primary School in Havant, Hampshire 

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook


Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.

Latest stories