Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Could Learn from Class's Project; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Minister Could Learn from Class's Project; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: David Banks

EXACTLY what "Noddy" Gove, the Education Secretary, would make of the extraordinary achievement of staff and pupils at our tiny local primary school, I couldn't begin to guess.

After all, the children at Ford's somewhat feudally named Hugh Joicey Church of England First School haven't topped the nation in his cherished SATs test results, nor produced the county's greatest number of Oxbridge students, nor even scooped the Duke of Edinburgh's bronze award for match-free fire starting.

Actually, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if head teacher Sally Wood's young charges had achieved any or all of the above, but that is not my point.

What the 25 eight and nine-year-olds in Mary Barber's Beech class did was to defeat dozens of other schools from all over Northumberland in creating, designing, producing and marketing a product on a commercial scale.

They did it by turning their classroom into a factory for three days: encouraged and led by student teacher Kerrie Lindsay - yes, like the kids, Kerrie is still on her own learning curve - the youngsters went into mass production of Flodden Biscuits, designed to sell at tourist venues during this year's 500-year commemoration of Godzone's famous battle.

"We collapsed the curriculum," Kerrie told me (that's education-speak for abandoning all those formal lessons Mr Gove prefers: Three Rs, Glorious Empire, Beating the Kaiser and so on).

"And for three days the children called the shots."

They elected an executive board to assist "manager" Kerrie, agreed to let the head teacher play the Alan Sugar tough guy role and when the going got tough, turned for help to Mrs Barber.

Everything else they did themselves - baking and decorating the product, masterminding the marketing, advertising, distribution - not realising for one moment that clever Kerrie was actually teaching them rudimentary mathematics, English, geography, history and home economics, as well as how to settle disputes and the art of co-operation.

Educationalists call this form of "off-curriculum" education "The Mantle of the Expert", in which children are encouraged to assume the expert roles, increasing their engagement and, thus, their confidence. …

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