NEW PLANE OF TEACHING; Education School of the Week THIS Week, Education Reporter BEN TURNER Went to Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College, in Walton, and Discovered Why a Big Brother Diary Room and Throwing Paper Aeroplanes in Class Are Nothing out of the Ordinary

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN TURNER

NOW when I went to school, to throw a paper aeroplane at another pupil right under the teacher's nose was asking for trouble.

A ticking-off, lines and quite possibly a detention - even for goody-two-shoes Turner.

But at Archbishop Beck, this sort of behaviour is actively encouraged.

The school however has not gone soft.

The plane throwing in question is a prime example of how the school has added creativity across the curriculum.

Sneaking in at the back of an English lesson, half of the class are bracing themselves, back turned, awaiting for the rest of their classmates to throw their paper aeroplanes at them.

They will get their revenge and be able to return the favour.

The eye-catching approach is designed to allow students to literally exchange ideas and put across different perspectives, with each aeroplane carrying a pupil's take on a particular topic.

Today, it is Frankenstein and the merits of his monster creation.

"He lost his mum at an early age and doesn't want others to feel the pain and anguish he felt," argues Michael Fitzpatrick, of Walton.

But Stewart Allen, 14, of Fazakerley is not having a bit of it, confidently telling the class: "He's playing God."

One thing for sure is creativity plays an active role at Archbishop Beck.

Since September, all first-year students (Year 7) are taking part in the innovative Open Minds programme.

Rather than send students for regimented, separate lessons, they are grouped together to develop theories and understanding by focusing on individual topics.

Separate disciplines are used to decipher projects.

For example, a look at the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps will see pupils examine the location itself for geography, the cultural relationship between people for history, blogs and podcasts are made for ICT, and in drama, they will step into shoes of those from the period.

Teacher Kevin McCormick, head of drama, said: "They feel the experience."

Ellis Howard, 12, of Walton agrees.

He said: "I like looking at things like this because it makes lessons more exciting and makes you understand things more when you step into their shoes."

More evidence of this creative twist comes in the form of numbered boxes, deliberately resembling those used on Channel 4 game show Deal Or No Deal.

These are used in a host of ways in English lessons.

As on the show, pupils randomly pick the boxes at the start of class.

They may contain props, with students asked to use the objects to describe a character from a story.

Students are also sometimes allowed to pick a box to decide what direction the lesson will take, with the teacher exploring either personalisation, similes or metaphors depending on the box selected.

Advanced skills teacher Emma Griffiths said: "It is interactive learning."

The school is an official Creative Partnership school.

It means it benefits from two creative artists employed by the government's flagship creative learning programme, which brings in outside practitioners to raise student aspiration.

Using the latest tools at the school's disposal is also a very important trait.

The latest IT systems allow students to study and submit work online, handheld digital cameras are available and podcasting and blogs are firmly embedded into the timetable.

Even Big Brother plays a part.

As part of the Open Minds project, pupils will soon be able to visit a diary room and sit on a shiny chair based on the fly-on-the-wall TV show. …