Philately will get you everywhere, says Essex junior school head Shirley Scammell
Last November, Janet Duke junior school came out of serious weaknesses and was deemed to be a good school. Ofsted praised us for good teaching, and pupils' attitudes, behaviour and personal development.
I'm starting my second year. After my predecessor retired, staff had been working hard to improve things, but there was still much to do. We looked at behaviour management. I believe in positive reinforcement - and that wasn't working within the school. I like children to feel valued, I like to see a school full of people who have mutual respect.
We rewrote behaviour and anti-bullying policies, and involved the parents and the school community as much as we could. At the same time, I looked at what we were teaching. We developed a "map" to make sure we were thoroughly cross-curricular, to check, for example, that units in history matched what was being done in art.
In September, we introduced after-school clubs; previously there hadn't been much on offer. We can't fit everything into the curriculum time, and one way we can give the children these experiences is to provide them after school and at lunchtimes. Most of the staff signed up for a club and in the last autumn term we had 13 clubs running. In the spring term we had 17, and this summer term we've 15, including choir, athletics, reading, homework, and French. We have a very successful stamp club, and we've had the British Philatelic Society in to talk to the children about stamp collecting. We also have nature and wildlife, netball, recorders, and gardening clubs.
The parents are keen for these to continue. In a survey at the end of my first term, parents said they would like to see more extracurricular activities. I had run clubs at my previous school, so I was keen to start them here because I've seen the benefits. They've greatly improved relationships between the teachers and the children.
And it gives the children access to all sorts of activities they might not have had otherwise. How many children would get interested in gardening or country dancing of their own volition?
So it's giving them the opportunity to develop as whole people. I'm keen that we should be developing the whole child, not just the academic side.
If we don't give children the opportunities to find out what they're good at, where their talents lie and what they enjoy doing, we're not really preparing them for society in the future.
Shirley Scammell is head at Janet Duke junior school, Basildon, Essex. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org