Imagine a world in which OfSTED, SATs/GCSEs/etc, Levels, RAISE Online, APP and the National Curriculum didn't exist.
How would you teach?
This last week, I had a glimpse into that world. With a SIAMS and an OfSTED inspection occurring just a week apart before half term, I knew neither would turn up. Half of years 5 and 6 were on a residential trip and those from each year group that didn't go were combined to a group that is normally referred to as "those that were left behind". When I found out I'd be in charge of this week with this group, I was determined to shed this phrase and make it a week to remember. Their faces and comments told me that they wouldn't forget it for a while, but it was also the best week I'd had since I began teaching two years ago.
The task: to make and sell bread for profit to go to local charities.
The task was introduced to the children as a mixture of The Great British Bake Off and The Apprentice, with a video from Lord Sugar who set their task. The children sorted themselves into teams of 12, decided upon a company name and a project manager. From then on, the week went as so:
Monday - Learn to make bread and bake 6 flavours. Choose 4 to sell and order ingredients.
Tuesday - Create a business plan, sort out pricing, publicity, choose charities, collect ingredients and sort.
Wednesday - Make bread rolls and sell them.
Thursday - Analyse Wednesday's sales, alter business plan, make bread rolls and sell them.
Friday - Create presentations to show the children on residential trip what they did.
During the week, never once did I tell children we were learning "maths" or "literacy".
The only teaching input children received during the week was on Monday morning when I modelled bread making techniques and on the Tuesday morning when a parent came and spoke about setting up a business. And yet children used so many different skills in many "curriculum" areas but they didn't realise this because they were learning and using "real life" skills in real life.
Many members of staff and parents commented on the week and they all used the same word: buzz. They all said the children were buzzing, or that there was a buzz in the group and about the learning. The bread was judged to be sensational and children were baking bread at home voluntarily to perfect their technique.
One of my favourite moments of the week was on the Thursday when a parent came in to help. She asked one of the boys where the recipe was and he confidently told her:
"We don't need a recipe, we know what we're doing!"
Another memorable moment was on Thursday afternoon when children were selling bread for the second day. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw the quietest girl in my class yelling repeatedly across the playground, "Come and get your bread rolls!" Like I said previously, children used many skills that our government want children to learn during the week. However it was the improvement I saw in other areas that made it my favourite week in teaching so far.
Independence, confidence, communication, empathy, enterprise - if every child leaves my class with these, I'll be happy.
Before the week began, I decided a test on the success of the week would be how long it took children to mention the residential trip or any of their absent classmates. Monday and Tuesday passed without mention of them. On Wednesday, one girl pondered, "I wonder what they're doing at F********e (name of residential location)". And that was all.
The week consisted of hardly any planning and no "marking", all I had to do was pop to Lidl to buy the ingredients for Monday - talk about Lazy Teaching! The children ordered their ingredients from Sainsbury's and their faces lit up when the delivery van pulled into school the next day. They were tripping over each other's heels to take the bags to the "bakeries" (a.k.a classrooms!). It cost the school £30 for the week, for the tasting day, and it cost me around £5 winners' treat: doughnuts because they were now "doughy nutters"!
Stats: 4 days, 24 children, 3 ovens, 400 dough balls, 800 bread rolls, £170 raised, lots of BUZZ!
I long to see the day when weeks like this are not seen as "rebelling" against the norm but instead are occurring in every school, every week, fully supported by all the powers-that-be.
How would you teach?
(I have published another post with photos and more information about the week, including recipes and video links. You can view it here.)