I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
I was so busy staring out at the view from the staff room yesterday, I quite forgot to take a picture for my blog. Perched at the top of the Forest of Dean, the school really does have a forest view and well beyond into Wales, with the Sugarloaf Mountain in Abergavenny, Hay Bluff and the Black Mountains visible in the distance and the Forest of Dean spread out below. Quite magnificent.
I had a great day telling stories to the whole school yesterday. Forest View are at the start of a week of raising the profile of reading with Cinderford Library which, astonishingly, is facing possible closure.
I cannot repeat enough that reading for pleasure is the key to advancement in education. Literacy, as taught in schools today, is what we used to call grammar. Real education comes with the confidence to read, research and find things out on one’s own. Literacy does not prepare you for this. It may help you correct the spelling in a book but it won’t help you understand what the book is saying. Only sustained reading of fun, exciting and engaging stories and non-fiction books will ever increase reading ability, which automatically follows on into raised writing skills. You can’t improve your writing if you never see it being done! And what is there to write about if children have no experience of the world? Reading brings the world to their imaginations.
Forest View seem to understand this and are busy promoting reading throughout the school. I’m looking forward to meeting up again at Cinderford Library on Saturday to present prizes to Children who have excelled this week. See you then!
Watermore is unusually keen on reading and it shows. The children were wonderfully bright and inquisitive and self-reliant. I think that is the one thing that real reading gives to a child, a deep understanding of things and how to research and find out for themselves. I know every school does reading, but it’s not enough. A passion for books and reading is evident the moment you walk into a school and begin talking to the children. (jumps off soap box!)
I have to share with you the work of Jake, Matthew, Henry and Jack who have designed the most wonderful Top trumps and cartoon series called the World of Steve, Steve being an eraser with what looks like a helmet, but is in fact part of the box the eraser came in. It’s a great idea, which the boys have tried to market to Panini sticker amongst others. These lads will go far!
I was asked to draw a WWII Spitfire. I don’t think I did too Badly. I’ll do a proper one on Drawing School soon.
Thanks again everyone and good luck with your merger.
I have been perplexed by the recent threat to public libraries. The arguments on both sides are complex in the internet age. I’ve finally clarified my thoughts which I’m now happy to share in the text below and the accompanying video. Feel free to embed the video on your site – instructions here.
Support your Local Library – The Pillar of Civilisation
I don’t get this country sometimes. As an island nation in a cruel, new, worldwide economic environment, we are in peril.
Our future relies on the imagination of our people. The future will be dominated by the intelligent and the imaginative. That is where profits will come from.
So what do we do in a time of short term political stress? Obvious… go for the short-term easy option – as always. Let’s cut the libraries.
Great Britain became great for many reasons, but I would hazard to suggest that universal education was the main reason.
The real driving power of the industrial revolution was the autodidact, the man who wanted to better himself and move up. How did he do this? He went to the library or the worker’s reading rooms and taught himself. That is the British way – that is the British genius that has kept us “punching above our weight” all these years.
Andrew Carnegie, the richest man that ever lived, understood this. He was that self-made man. He knew what it took to make it in this world, and far from pulling the ladder up behind him as our politicians propose now, he bestowed thousands of libraries to provide a place of learning for those who would follow him in self-reliance, determination and all the other qualities needed in The Big Society.
So now, at what is probably our hour of greatest need, what do we do? We start closing down public libraries!
I admit, there are so many good accounting reasons to do this. You can massage the figures anyway you like, but leadership is not about accounting. A great leader listens to his advisers and makes brave, visionary decisions. Any leader who follows the obvious advice of accountant is just a manager – not a leader.
My mind has been in turmoil over the issue of public libraries in the current economic situation. The internet has changed everything. It is cheaper to ask library users to order their books from Amazon and keep them, rather than pay for a library and its staff.
But a library is so much more that a pile of books or bricks. At its best it is the heart of the community and the centre of life-long learning. With the rapid pace of change, life-long learning is something we will all have to get used to, and the Library is the perfect place to go for the information that we need.
People of my generation are obsessed with books and paper. Kids really couldn’t care what form their information comes in. They have no loyalty to paper or books. If they weren’t told to read books because they are a “good thing”, they wouldn’t.
I find that scary – I make my living selling books. I know I and all authors have a very scary but exciting ride ahead. The times they are a’changing.
Forget books. They are not the point – it is what is in the books that counts. All that information needs filtering, storing and organising, and that’s where libraries and librarians come in.
Libraries have changed a lot since I was a kid and I think they have a long way to go yet. In fact, I think the role of the public library will always keep changing. But a public library’s core business is knowledge and information.
Maybe those in power want to keep us in ignorance? I don’t believe that’s so. I tend to go for the cock-up theory of politics. Keeping us in ignorance will lead to a “Fourth World” future. Post-industrial, bankrupt and only fit to make cheap plastic goods or decontaminate the waste of the rest of the world.
Our future lies in motivated, educated citizens and the library should be at the heart of their lives. Teaching them the stuff they need to know to keep this country at the forefront of the information revolution.
Librarians may well be stereotyped as quiet, tea-drinking cat-lovers who will go meekly when presented a P45, but in reality they are the guardians of our knowledge, our history and everything that has got us to where we are and where we shall go.
Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so our vision of the future is only possible because we stand on the shoulders of those that have come before. Their legacy is kept and guarded by libraries and librarians.
Librarians are priceless and so is the service they provide and so are the buildings they work in.
We need to have a discussion about their future and our future, but there is no point having that discussion if the buildings and the people who know how to handle information have gone.
At the moment, the Library is there for children who need to read books, They need to read lots of them repeatedly. Wonder why literacy levels are falling? Literacy is not about school records or results. Literacy comes from reading lots of books. It takes a lot of practice to get good at reading. Reading books may be seen as entertainment, but if a book is not entertaining why would a child want to read it? Literacy comes from reading entertaining books. Fact. Get over it!
Oh! And let’s not forget the home schoolers and the sick. And story time and toddler’s groups and craft sessions. Libraries are as much a part of our children’s education as schools are. In some case maybe more. The library is where you go when school’s out or it doesn’t teach what you need to know.
And what of older people once they have switched the telly off? There’s not a lot on the box for them. The Library is there not only to borrow books from, but it’s a meeting place and source of information.
The library is often where older people discover and use the internet. How confused are you by your computer? Can you imagine being eighty and trying to get to grips with one on your own? Libraries provide computers that work and don’t need to be fiddled with all the time.
And the computers are there for everyone else too. Information at your fingertips in the information age, with Librarians there to help you find what you want. Yes, computers are cheap and easy to get hold of now, but they are no easier to maintain. How many people have a computer sitting in their front room, unused because it won’t start up and no one knows what to do with it? Millions probably.
And what of all those people out working all day? The ones who earn the money to pay the council tax, who complain about the expense of the libraries?
Well, maybe we need to re-examine opening hours. Maybe we need to examine what those people want and need from libraries.
Maybe more evening book groups, special interest groups, more adult education.
Maybe this is where the Big Society comes in, local lectures on any subject under the sun, passing on information, making connections in the community, building new groups and businesses, the library as the human/person/body/real-life meeting place of the faceless, FaceBook generation.
I know that libraries are going to go through massive change in the next few years. I’ve met one or two young librarians who are champing at the bit, with visions of entirely digital libraries, free of the weight of paper and dusty shelves.
There is an amazing future ahead for public libraries, at the heart of our communities and at the heart of the life-long learning and self -improvement we will have to invest in for the sake of the country’s future.
But if you take away the very pillars of civilisation don’t besurprised if everything comes crashing down on you!
Take libraries away and they will never come back and soon the dark shadow of a post industrial wasteland will descend upon this once great nation.
We can rise again and lead the world into the next historic revolution, but not without our libraries..
Now I’ve caught up with myself and have a nice plan worked out for my next Olympia story and have recorded and edited the next three videos, I can tell you about my visit to South Kilworth School in Leicestershire last Thursday.
It’s a lovely, old Victorian red brick village school in lovely countryside, not far from the M1 and Lutterworth. I had a wonderful day there visiting the whole school, which only ads up to about 70 something children – but growing by the day – particularly yrs 3 and 4 for some reason. A demographic shift or something I presume.
We did drawing and storytelling and questions and answers all day long. I was shown some drawing by one boy – sorry I forget his name – who had been o my website. They were brilliant drawings too. It’s amazing when I see work done by children who’ve been on my Drawing School. I have this weird moment when I think, “Did I do that?” then I realise it’s a version of my drawing and it’s fascinating to se how each child adds their own style and interpretation. I often learn some thing back.
Thanks for a brilliant day everyone – I hope we met again some day.
I had a great day at Orchid Vale Primary school in Swindon, yesterday. (Once I’d got there, that is! the Traffic round Gloucester was horrendous and then my Sat Nav couldn’t find the school, which is new and and in a new housing district in Swindon. It knew where the school was, but not how to get there. I found a helpful postie who put me right in the end. The hazards of School Visits!)
I worked with KS2 developing Viking Vik stories. In the end we came up with four plots that I was really quite pleased with. It will be interesting to se what comes from them.Ideas and plotting are one thing. actually doing the writing is another! But you don’t need me to tell you that – I should be writing the next Olympia story right now!
Thanks for a great day, everyone, and good luck with OFSTEd when they eventually swoop!
I’m sure that Mark Harper, the MP for the Forest of Dean Constituency must be struggling with his conscience at the moment, as he appears to be working against everything he promised those who sent him to Westminster. As he wrestles with the choice of personal advancement or service to his constituents, I’d like to offer here a prayer that may help calm his mind. His constituents may wish to repeat this prayer aloud themselves to help Mark influence the Coalition and Parliament towards a sensible decision for the future of the Forest of Dean free, from private interests.
At this time of deep peril for the constituency that has chosen you to to be their representative in Parliament, may your God guide you down the paths of truth and righteousness and help you in your work to protect the realm and commonwealth and in particular the great and ancient Forest of Dean that is both the beating heart of your constituency and the crowning Jewel of England.
I’ve only recently begun to understand banking, or rather the concept of Fractional Reserve Banking.
If I put say, ten pounds into a bank, I assume that I have assets of ten pounds. But this is not the case. The Bank now has assets of ten pounds. On the strength of my ten pounds the bank is now able to lend, not just my money, but invisible money that it invents that is backed by my money. It can lend maybe a hundred pounds on the strength of having my ten pounds in their vault. They can then collect interest on a hundred pounds and pay me, if I’m lucky, interest on my ten pounds as thanks.
Get it? If I tried to do that I’d be arrested for fraud.
This proves that money is not real and is only a concept. When Fractional Reserve Banking is working and everyone believes it is for real, it is fantastic. This is how roads and hospitals get built.
When it goes wrong and bankers get too creative and start selling stuff that has absolutely no fractional reserve wealth, like subprime mortgages, then everything goes wrong.
That’s when we, through our Government, knowing that we can’t allow the banks to fail, get stuck with the bill to bail them out. Then we have to find the money that should have been in the banks vaults all along as their reserve, but somehow wasn’t.
Are you with me still? Banking is all smoke and mirrors. It is designed to confuse you. As long as everything seems to be okay and the guys who are on hefty commissions tell you that it’s a great deal, it all seems fine.
So now the Government has to find cash to pay the bankers for the mess they got into. “A ha!” they say. “Let’s sell off a bit of land! The Forest of Dean doesn’t do much. We can get rid of that!”
So who do you think will buy the Forest of Dean? Why, the Bankers of course! They are the only ones with any money – because we’ve just given them every last penny we had to make sure they don’t crash!
So, for the privilege of saving the bankers skins we now have to give up our birthright, so the banks can rape the Forest of Dean of its assets, history and culture and make even more money, in the process using the forest as a fractional reserve to lend against.
At the moment I’m writing a series about ancient Olympia. When I visited the site of the ancient Olympic Games eighteen months ago, I became aware of just how proud the Greeks are of their heritage and culture. We package ours up into visitor centres and ask you not to touch or go too close to the objects. We sell our history. The Greeks live with it.
But what really amazed me was how the ancient town of Olympia based it’s whole economy on sport. Sport was the raison d’être of the town and surrounding area. Every four years, everyone would agree to stop wars and go home for four months, to allow athletes to travel to Olympia in peace!
You can choose to base your economy on whatever you like. Sea shells worked just fine before gold, which worked just fine before subprime mortgages. You can also choose to decide that something as precious as the Forest of Dean is not a basic asset to be sold. It is part of our heritage, a haven for wildlife and biodiversity.
Government is not there to support the banking system. It ultimately has a higher role, to serve and protect the country and it’s people. By selling the country off to the banks, piece by piece without a fight, I would suggest that Government is close to treason.
If the Government needs cash for their banker friends, I suggest they sell off the the banks, as we already own them by having already bought them out. If banks are such a good thing, I’m sure they can dream up some more imaginary money to buy back what they’ve already bedazzled out of us.
Meantime, hands off the Forest of Dean!
Besing shortsighted, I realised that the time had come to try varifocals. Well – they were horrid. I really couldn’t see the point. To go from pretty perfect sight to a thin strip of distance vision and a narrow gap of nearer vision gave me an idea of what it must me like living with tunnel vision. Also, as I moved my head from side to side, my world moved up and down as if I was on a ship during a storm.
I tried to get used to them I thought if I wore them all the time my brain would compensate, but I think I use my eyes too much. I don’t think most people actually look at things. Not all day long, like I do.
So Now I have new, stronger lenses and I seem to view the world from a different perspective. I’ve noticed that if I reach out for some things I either bump into them or they are not there. My perception of the world is quite different to how it was before.
I have found that that is true of life in general. Change your point of view or focus and what seemed to be really important before suddenly becomes quite irrelevant. We humans are apt to keep going without getting new lenses or even thinking about getting a sight test. This goes for our thought processes as well as our eyes.
Last week I visited three schools in and around Tiverton in Devon. What was interesting about them was that they had come together as a Federation.
Wilcombe, in Tiverton, was the lead school, looking for partners to join them. As I understand it, a speed-dating event was organised and Sampford Peverill and Hemyock liked the idea and they decided to get hitched.
They are some thirteen miles apart, but much further apart in their catchment areas. Wilcombe is a town school in the middle of a large estate, Sampford Peverill is a victorian, village church school with masses of portacabin classsrooms in the yard and Hemyock is a largish, eighties-ish village school.
They share an Executive Head, who does all the business and finds the money, while his centralised office team buy in bulk and spread costs of payroll and administration.
Each school then has a Head of Learning, whose role is like head teachers of old – the education and pastoral care of the children, without the constant nagging and pressure from the education authorities above them that most heads have to put up with today.
The schools are all linked up with videoconference equipment. Everyone seems really enthusiastic about the situation. In fact, I’d say there is a real buzz in these three school. There is a palpable feeling of care and a new found passion for teaching rather than meeting targets.
Teaching staff and expertise can be shared across the three schools allowing teachers to expand their specialities. Everyone said how great it was to have others to share knowledge and experience with.
These schools are setting a brilliant example to others. As far as education cuts are concerned, they’ve done it already and are way ahead of the pack.
I know other schools are fearful of the future and really quite scared of the idea of federation, but from my experience last week, I’d say go for it. This has to be the future of primary schools in this country as support is pulled away from above.
Small schools must be finding it harder and harder to keep up. With federation, they could cut costs, broaden their children’s (and teachers) horizons and broaden what they can offer too.
Thanks for a great couple of days and best of luck with the future of this exciting project.