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Meet Graeme Wilson, Wincanton Primary's New Head Teacher

Friday 9 July 2010, 16:23
By John Baxter

Graeme Wilson, Wincanton Primary School HeadteacherGraeme Wilson has now been in his post as Head of Wincanton Primary for two terms so he is well settled in. This is Graeme's second headship. Previously he was headteacher at St Nicholas, Henstridge where he had what he describes as four very happy years turning around a school which had got into difficulties. Before that he had been Deputy Head at Manor Court school in Chard for five years and in his first teaching posts developed skills in IT and Maths to add to his Reading University Education degree where his special subject, surprisingly, was Music, his instruments - the piano and the flute.

A New Broom and a Fresh Coat of Paint

Graeme comes across as someone who is young, experienced, self-confident, approachable and extremely enthusiastic about what he does. He knows just what he wants for the school and since arriving here has been working hard both to get to know all the pupils and staff and to put in place a considerable revision of the curriculum and how it is to be delivered. What is more he does this built on the success he had in his previous school. The results of him coming here are already visible in that he has had much of the school redecorated and re-carpeted for he feels the ambience can have a significant effect on how students and staff feel about themselves and the place where they work. This is still a work in progress and he is hoping to get help from parents. He is planning on having Saturday 17th July as an Open Day for painting the school – all help will be gratefully received.

The Whiteboard Revolution

Youngsters 'n' their technology, eh?Another visible result of his time here has been his purchase and introduction of interactive whiteboards into not only every class-room, but every teaching area. He took me into a classroom where I was able both to see one being enthusiastically used by the class teacher and be shown its potential. These really are awesome teaching tools and I could see they will completely revolutionise teaching. As they become taken for granted class-room practice for all age groups - from primary schools to universities - will be changed - for ever.

Basically they replace the old chalk and talk blackboard with a large glowing screen operated by touch and by "writing" on it with electronic "pens". What is more each board is attached to a laptop with internet access, so making the phenomenal power of Google available to be projected on the screen. Already Google provides us with instant access to books, texts, images, audio and video resources, in short it gives us the greatest access to knowledge human beings have ever had. Now it can be brought into the class-room and in the hands of a skilled and imaginative teacher should be an endlessly interesting and compelling aid to learning.

Planning a New Approach to the Curriculum

For some time now what should be taught and how it should be taught has been rather tightly prescribed - often by central government – with mixed results. Graeme feels strongly that particularly in the primary school, learning should not be subject based with periods for Maths, English, History and Science, but experience and theme based, linking learning to ensure continuity and relevance with pupils being faced with topics they can relate to and explore. By doing so they can be set questions to investigate and tasks to perform which result in them exploring and exercising skills in handling numbers and computing, language and self expression, examining the past and changes over time, as well as the use of experimentation, observation, measurement and exploration.
 
The Use of Topical Themes: Shelters

He described to me how this could be done by taking as a starting point Shelters as a focus for work over a four or five week period. Starting with asking the question, "Who uses shelters?" they will explore the history of shelters from the simplest homes of hunter-gatherers to contemporary housing. They will explore the maths and science involved in building shelters, they will plan and build their own simple shelters and write a booklet about survival skills and an invitation to their parents to come and see their shelters, etc etc. The teaching and experience developed this way he says should naturally be built upon the interests and experiences of each pupil and the tasks they are set should be related to the skills level of each child. He describes this approach as "practical, inspirational and investigative."

Daunting? Not for Graeme who says that this is the way he is used to working and he believes this is the way children naturally learn and this is how to keep them interested and inspired. He also said that he has the staff completely behind him and enthusiastic to set about implementing this approach next term.

The School, Cuts and the Future

Wincanton Primary has 239 pupils taught by 11 teachers and 17 Learning Support Assistants in 9 classes, backed up by 2 Office Staff, 3 Cleaners and 4 Dinner Superviors.

This adds up to a considerable educational establishment. I asked him how these tough times and the coming round of cuts is likely to affect the school? The proposed new National Curriculum planned by the Labour Government he says has been scrapped and schools await the announcement of a new National Curriculum in the Autumn. Graeme does not think this should affect what he has already planned to do.

With threats of 25% cuts to be imposed over four years the road ahead looks tough and those whiteboards were put in place just in time. Already the County Council has made redundant a number of services to schools such as many of its special curriculum advisers and schools will be expected to stand alone more. This will make it even harder for schools to meet the already demanding needs they are facing together with the new government's expectations.

I asked Graeme about the Conservative plans for "Opting out and going for Academy Status or Free School Status." He said the governors could see nothing there of advantage for Wincanton Primary. As for the Liberal Democrat plans for a "Pupil Premium" to give extra support to schools which had an identifiable number of pupils with low attainment on entry - but who were not actual "special needs" pupils, he had not heard anything yet.

Against these rather depressing thoughts he was able to tell me the School Fete had raised £1,953. Top takers were the Bouncy Castle, the Bucking Bronco and the Raffle – which sold out of tickets. PA Parents and supporters of the school had done a fine job. It looks as if in the lean years ahead groups like these will become increasingly important as parents come to realise that they cannot leave everything to the staff and local authority if they are to have a good school.

Lastly Graeme told me about the planned production of Grease. Previewed to dramatic effect at the School Fete, this will be on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th July at 6.30 pm in the Community Church. The staff and children are working extremely hard to make it a success. Line learning, costumes, props and publicity are all being worked on with what promises to be a fantastic production and a great way to end the school year.

For more about Wincanton Primary see the school website www.wincanton.ik.org

John Baxter




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