Pupils decide what to study

29th June 2007 at 01:00
YEAR 2 pupils at a school in landlocked Bath have been building boats, not because they have been told to but because they are fascinated by the sea.

Twerton infants is pioneering a new approach to afternoons - called explore time.

A TES survey published this month suggested that most primary schools preferred a theme-based approach rather than traditional subject teaching.

Twerton infants goes further, by giving children control of which themes they want to pursue.

"We want to give the children the opportunity to follow their interests,"

said Paul Mattausch Burrows, the headteacher. "When young children get going on something they really enjoy, they're unstoppable."

Mr Mattausch Burrows said that most afternoons were devoted to explore time, when themes emerged through discussion. He gave the example of a sequence of lessons - on science, maths, geography, design and technology and art - that began with a children's author talking about a book on Cornwall that she had written.

The pupils were very interested in the sea, despite Bath being some distance from the coast. This led to a discussion about water and rain.

They started to measure rainfall using gauges, learning about evaporation and which parts of England receive the most rain.

The children went on to design and build boats, and learnt about floating and sinking.

"We have a national curriculum checklist which we use to look back on our classes and make sure that everything is covered," said Mr Mattausch Burrows. "A lot of thought goes into the lessons - before and after.

"A lot of it may seem to be ordinary stuff but the difference comes in the way the teachers interact with children, becoming facilitators rather than directors. They can steer the lessons but they must stick to what the children are interested in and excited by.

"In the mornings, we teach numeracy and literacy in a very straightforward way. They won't discover the phonics code in the playground."

And the pupils still have PE and IT in the afternoons, he explained.

"Teachers and parents enjoy explore time, as well as the children," Mr Mattausch Burrows said. "However, if there is too much to catch up on at the end of the year, we may have to reconsider."

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