All posts by Francis Farrell

Dynamic Partnerships

Inspiration and professional messages from Stretford High

You don’t need me to tell you that training as a secondary teacher is a daunting process, so it makes it all the more important that our trainees hear from recently qualified successful practitioners who are making an impact. We’ve enjoyed a strong partnership with Stretford High school since Nick Theodosiou, former RE trainee, completed his placement at the school in 2010. Nick has gone on to become one of our lead CMs and Deputy Head of Humanities.

In September Nick led a training session focussing on all the key professional messages that beginner teachers need to hear. Nick outlined to trainees what they can do through their professional conduct to ensure a successful professional placement.

We were joined by the Head Teacher Mr Haseldine and Professional Mentor, Linda Smith who shared their positive, forward thinking vision for education with us. Mr Haseldine generously shared his professional journey into leadership, exploring the challenges and the joys of teaching. Mr Haseldine underlined why he thinks RE is such an important subject in his school- morale boosting messages to hear at the start of a challenging journey!
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Inclusion and nurture at Accrington Academy

The period after first placement is always a good time to take stock of some of the more complex and challenging aspects of teaching. PGCE RE trainees received a programme of outstanding training from our colleagues at Accrington Academy, led by Professional Mentor and RE Curriculum Mentor, Rebecca Conn- yes, another excellent Edge Hill alumni and an outstanding mentor!

Rebecca was joined by Sue Coates, who graduated from the RE PGCE course in 2009 and specialises in SEN. Sue analysed best practice in SEN using a video of one of her nurture group lessons. We enjoyed a session in the nurture classroom with Michelle Hargreaves who explained the principles of attachment theory and strategies she uses to support nurture pupils both pastorally and academically.

We were up-dated on how to incorporate best literacy and phonics practice into RE through a Sounds Write session led by Jenny Jones and after lunch (always a treat!), Nick Hughes gave us a truly dynamic demonstration of differentiation for the most able through challenging questioning. Rebecca led on reflections, questions and discussion in the plenary. Trainees and tutor left inspired!

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EAL and Inclusion at Manchester Communications Academy

Many thanks to (yes, more Edge Hill Alumni) Nichola Rodden and Alex Reed for their high quality EAL training offered to our RE trainees on 18th March. PGCE training should be an opportunity for trainees to see and experience a wide range of school settings, so we were all highly impressed by the innovative environment and the progressive teaching and learning practice we observed at Manchester Communications Academy.

The highlight of the day was the opportunity to work with some exceptional year seven pupils who had agreed to let us assess them as a part of an EAL assessment exercise. We learnt a lot from them and Alex- needless to say these talented year seven pupils demonstrated brilliant skills!

‘Crime and Punishment’ : Ribblesdale High School Gifted and Talented Study Day

 ‘People should take illegal drugs if they want to’

 ‘Reformation is the most important aim of punishment’

Controversial and contentious statements, not the easiest assertions to evaluate and guaranteed to provoke argument and debate!  In fact, debate, discussion and heated argument was our aim, as twenty year 10 GCSE high flyers and their teacher, CM, Bridget Mashiter from Ribblesdale High school came to spend the day with RE trainees on March 1st at Edge Hill University. Year 10 are exploring religious attitudes to crime and punishment as part of their GCSE studies, so RE trainees created a thought provoking programme of activities to help pupils really explore the issues in depth and to sharpen their evaluation and analysis skills.

The best aspect of a day like this is the opportunity to do something pedagogically risky and challenging, which is what trainees did with their ‘Island’ activity (thanks also to Sue Phillips for inspiration!).

Pupils worked in their thinking groups to use the principles of Islam and Christianity to design a set of laws and ethical guidelines on an imaginary island they had been ship wrecked upon. They then went on to defend and justify their decisions. After lunch, RE trainees went into role for the plenary session, which took the form of ‘Question Time’ debate. Trainees represented various religions and ethical stances defending their views on crime and punishment in the face of some fierce and perceptive questions from our Ribblesdale audience.

Pupils seemed to enjoy the day as this feedback shows:

“The entire experience was fantastic and I really enjoyed it”

“At the beginning of the day you asked us all to write down what we would like to improve on- I wrote religious quotes. At the end of the day I knew many more quotes than I’d learnt in previous lessons”

“I particularly enjoyed the island activity”

“I easily reached my aim for the day by learning arguments from more than one side and the religious views…I have gained vital knowledge on how to answer GCSE questions”

Last and by no means least, it’s gratifying to know the pupils enjoyed what the campus has to offer,

“I am thankful for the dinner because it was so nice and good!”

We like to think we can offer a good experience for body and mind.

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Subject Knowledge Enrichment- exploring faith in Manchester

Experiential learning through visits to faith communities continues to be an integral feature of the course, not least because we hope our trainees will develop their own RE network from the experiences. We are fortunate to have such a rich and culturally diverse resources with so many faith communities in our region.

In December we visited the Manchester Triratna Buddhist centre and were warmly welcomed by Richard, the new education colleague in Clear Vision. We enjoyed some rich philosophical debate and discussion with Richard, exploring Buddhist perspectives on the origins of the universe and whether a first cause is necessary to explain the fact there is a universe in existence. I couldn’t help thinking these debates were reminiscent of the Buddha’s dialogues with the Brahmin sages of his day. Richard summed our lively debate up nicely, “It was a blast!”

From the Buddha’s dharma we switched emphasis to Judaism with a visit to Manchester Jewish museum. If you’ve not been before, it’s well worth a visit, especially because your pupils will be able to handle artefacts in a grade 11 listed Sephardic synagogue. It’s a visual and kinaesthetic treat and will really convey the richness of Jewish culture in a way a text book simply can’t achieve.
We followed up this exploration of Judaism with David Arnold in February who gave us his personal perspective on the joy of living as Jew from the wonderful setting of Stenecourt Schule. David explored complex aspects of the Jewish faith as a way of life, examining scripture, prayer, symbolism and Shabbat. David summed up what Judaism really means to practitioners with this analogy, which I think really captures what religion means to believers of all traditions,

“Just as a book on anatomy can’t convey what a body really is, a text book on Judaism can never capture the meaning of Judaism- it is a way of life”

 

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Behaviour for learning at Stretford High School

PGCE trainees enjoyed high quality behaviour management training courtesy of our colleagues at Stretford High school. As always, we received a very warm welcome from our Stretford colleagues, including Faisal Ahmed and Mez Munshi, recent highly successful PGCE alumni. Stretford’s lead behaviour and attendance professional, Leila, took us through Stretford’s highly successful behaviour policy which underlined just how effective a systematic whole school approach is. Consistency, good use of praise and rewards and careful, proactive monitoring of attendance all emerged as the key ingredients to ensuring behavior for learning. We also gained valuable insights into the use of the school’s staged consequences and restorative justice.

The stars of the session were the three year 11 pupils who joined us to give their perspective on class management. The pupils told us that they valued a fair and consistent approach. We learnt that they knew when a teacher was making the effort with them and shouting wasn’t effective, quite the opposite and likely to back-fire! It was interesting to hear that the pupils expected teachers not to hold grudges- all wise advice from the people who count the most, the learners.

We finished with some helpful advice from Faisal, who is leading on aspects of the school’s pastoral review, developing the role of the form captain. Once again we came away from Stretford High inspired with the knowledge that good systems work and have impact on pupil achievement.

Seeking enlightenment at the Triratna centre!

Year 2 trainees enjoyed an enlightening visit to the beautiful Triratna Buddhist centre (22.11.12) gaining the insider’s perspective on what it really means to live as a Buddhist in 2012. Our speaker, Munisha,(Clear Vision) offered us a very warm welcome and a much appreciated brew, before telling us the story of the Manchester Buddhist centre. We then experienced the peace of the main shrine room, which demonstrated how calm surroundings produce more peaceful states of mind. After a fascinating Q/A session we were left with a deeper understanding of key Buddhist values, especially right livelihood and the importance of spiritual friendship. As always Munisha made the perfect host, thoughtful,open and generous in her responses to trainee questions. Everyone said how much they enjoyed the session and we only wished we’d had more time for more questions! I’m sure that the visit will result in future RE school trips when our year 2 trainees become RE teachers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and am already looking forward to the PGCE visit in December. After enjoying such good company this morning, it seems appropriate to finish with some words of the Buddha:

“The company of the wise is joyful, like reunion with one’s family.Therefore, live among the wise, who are understanding, patient, responsible, and noble. Keep their company like the moon moving among the stars” [Dhammapada, 15: 207-208]

Experiencing Dharma in Bradford

On Friday 28th September, PGCE trainees braved the long hike up the M62 and over the Pennines to enjoy a memorable day meeting faith representatives of the dharmic traditions in Bradford. Our first visit was to the highly impressive Shree Laxmi Narayan Mandir on Leeds road where our faith tutor, Seema, provided us with a brilliant, lucid overview of what she considered the five main principles of Hindu dharma. Seema has a real gift in making very complex ideas down to earth and accessible. We all felt this was the perfect refresher of our subject knowledge. We were also able to enjoy prashad and to participate in the morning service led by the priest. Hearing the hymns and witnessing the fire blessing made this a very special experience for all of us.

Next stop was Bombay stores shopping for artefacts and then on to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha. We were greeted enthusiastically by our Sikh faith tutors,a husband and wife team, who led us through to the prayer hall. We enjoyed a peaceful moment of quiet meditation before our tutors explained the significance of the Guru Granth Sahib to us and the meaning of Sikh Dharma in their lives. I was particularly impressed by the teaching of Guru Nanak to always ‘retain your humanity’, a beautiful teaching explained by our faith tutor. Seeing the kirpan and ther khanda and hearing the readings of the Granth Sahib and the kirtan were real high points of the visit. Trainees were also treated to some authentic Sikh musicianship and we learnt about the role of music in the tradition.

RE Postgraduates are now equipped with stories to tell and some excellent photographs to use in their RE teaching.

PGCE trainees visit Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

The RE PGCE group enjoyed a fantastic tour of Liverpool’s impressive Anglican Cathedral, courtesy of the Cathedral’s specialist education team. The tour was led by Helen Roberts, a former Head of Music, so the ideal tour guide with a great understanding of the needs of new teachers. As in previous visits Helen provided a very detailed and interesting overview of the Cathedral’s fascinating history and its special role in the local community.

We explored the religious symbolism of the Cathedral, but most importantly the outreach work in the local community, ecumenical links with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities of Merseyside. We also learnt about the work of the Archbishop and his commitment to social justice in the recent Hillsborough enquiry. Trainees went away better equipped to teach Christianity with that all important understanding of its role in the lives of the local community.

Enjoy the pictures!