It has been a wet, cold but brilliant first week of my tour. I started off in Scunthorpe, one of the most socially deprived areas in the UK. I went to visit two primary schools, Henderson Avenue and Frodingham Infants to see first hand Jenny Fox Eades’ Celebrating Strengths program in action. Having a fairly good theoretical knowledge of the program, I was amazed to see just how well it had been embedded into these schools. In the past I have debated with teachers whether primary aged kids would be able to comprehend the language and concepts that make up the program. In the past some teachers have said to me they felt that Year 5s may struggle with it. Well that was blown out of the water as I witnessed Year 1 and 2 children describing each other as persistent, or courageous and speaking confidently about their own strengths. At Frodingham in particular the program was front and centre of what they did right from the first day of Nursery (UKs equivalent of Kindergarten). If this program can work in Scunthorpe, then I believe it has the potential to work anywhere. If I had been teleported into the school, with no idea of its location, I would not have thought I was in an area with one of the highest levels of crime and unemployment in the country. Any primary teacher interested in a strengths based approach in schools should get in contact with Cath Lloyd (Henderson Ave) or Judith Gray (Frodingham Infants).
Another area of social deprivation is Gateshead in the country’s north-east. Here Bede Community Primary School run a “Creative Curriculum” which Headteacher Nick Anderson wrote in order to make the curriculum as relevant as possible to the students under his charge.
Today I had the privilege of meeting and listening to Sir Ken Robinson. As well as listening to an inspirational talk, I was able to chat with him for a few minutes. I put to him my belief that; an education system based on children being able to identify, explore and enhance their passions and strengths (regardless of academia) would help address the depression epidemic that the World Health Organisation is predicting will be the biggest threat to the health of our current Year 7s by the time they are 30 years old. Sir Ken agreed with me… “Absolutely, without question.” The writers of the Australian national curriculum must ensure that there is room to move within its framework so as to meet the needs of this century not the past two! And if they don’t listen to a Knight then who will they listen to?
Tomorrow I will return to the school I graduated from in 1995. I have been invited to present an assembly to the current Year 11s on how to find and use their strengths. I’ll also use the opportunity to personally thank one of the teachers who had the biggest influence on me during my time at school.
Next week I’m off to the prestigious Wellington College to see their acclaimed wellbeing curriculum, as well as meeting Jenny Fox Eades and seeing her work with a school in London and I’m going to a school that is run like a town… I’ll tell you more next week !