Diary of a Headteacher: Time for enrichment?

Written by: Tom Donohoe | Published:
Enrichment: Two pupils from Anton Junior School (Image: Supplied)

Despite government accountability and pressure focusing on academic outcomes above all else, Tom Donohoe is adamant that a breadth of curriculum provision must be maintained...

I was recently chatting to Lucy, the daughter of a friend of mine, who is in year 6 at a well regarded primary school. I asked her whether the school had any themed weeks – as I was aware that in days gone by they did a spectacular arts week. She looked puzzled and then replied: “Just SATs Testing Week!”

It broke my heart! The thing I love most about being headteacher at Anton Junior is our absolute and total commitment to our mantra of “Educating the Whole Child”. This is something that we will never compromise on – one of our “non-negotiables” – and we only recruit staff who totally sign up to our moral philosophy of primary education.

Without doubt two of my favourite weeks of the school year so far have been our themed weeks focusing on art and the Olympics. We have devoted a whole week to the celebration of the 2016 Rio Games and the children have loved every minute of “Olympic Week”.

What the children particularly enjoyed was learning about inspirational stories from previous Olympic Games and there were a few that stood out for our pupils – Jesse Owens winning four gold medals in the hostile atmosphere of the Berlin Games in 1936 and the support he received from his German rival Lutz Long; Dorando Pietri’s incredible efforts in the 1908 Marathon in London where he suffered the effects of thirst and extreme fatigue and collapsed several times in the last few hundred metres; the moving story of Eric Liddell on whose life the academy award-winning film Chariots of Fire was based; and bringing us more up-to-date the true story from 2012 of Sarah Attar and her fight for equality for female athletes from Saudi Arabia – the response she got from the crowd in the stadium particularly moved our children.

If you would like to do a similar themed week or even a day, we have produced a week-long plan of activities for each key stage 2 year group and this is freely available on our school website in the PE planning section (email jodieawilliams@googlemail.com for the password).

Art Week is always a highlight at Anton because I am lucky enough to have a superb subject leader who has amazing ideas for activities and who works incredibly hard to support her colleagues across the school. Each year we have an overarching theme (“Under the Sea” this year) and each teacher takes an activity that lasts half a day, by the end of which the children have all produced an end product of which they are proud. Our eight classes then move round the school over four days and they enjoy spending half a day with each teacher in the school.

The activities that they take part in cover a huge range of skills in art. One teacher always does a batik activity producing some high-quality results, another does clay creatures and we fire these twice in our kiln and while inevitably there are one or two “casualties” they always look beautiful on display. Water colours are always included, some collage work, often a form of printing and this year the large painted pebbles were superb.

Following Art Week we spend time mounting four pieces of work from each child as these are then displayed in our annual Art Exhibition. The work is displayed on 32 display boards (made by our caretaker) in the school hall and it stays up for three days so that parents can come in at their leisure and view the work. It is always an impressive display.

I hope we are typical of other primary schools out there in ensuring genuine breadth of curriculum provision, giving children happy memories of their time at primary school and I hope that the “Lucys” of this world are few and far between. Have a fantastic summer! 

  • Tom Donohoe is the headteacher of Anton Junior School in Hampshire.

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