his-master-voiceHeadmaster’s Voice

I am fascinated in how and what children learn.

Twenty five years ago I was living and teaching in Hungary.  The ‘iron curtain’ had recently collapsed, the Russian language was no longer compulsory in Hungarian schools; Europe was awash with ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’.  This new era of openness did not however stretch to the History dept at the secondary school I was teaching at.  Here, students were not encouraged to ask ‘why’ certain events happened, they were told dates, they were told what happened and they were told to learn them.

Today pupils will still need to learn ‘facts’: from times tables to spelling patterns, from historical dates to Scientific formulas.  How we teach and learn varies from subject to subject and from pupil to pupil.  In the last two days I’ve been monitoring the varied approaches we take at Stoneygate from Reception to Y10.  I’ve witnessed so many different style of teaching and learning from text books to tablets, from ‘chalk and talk’ to pupil-led learning.  This week we have had pupils experiencing medieval history at Warwick castle and a pupil-led dissection of a sheep’s lung!

Kinaesthetic learning at Warwick….


Pupils finding imaginative ways to remember facts linked to physical processes and volcanic activity in Geography.

This week I’ve surprised pupils (and staff alike) by appearing in their rooms, Ipad in hand, to record the various ways we teach and the various ways pupils learn…apologies for the filming quality!

As a school we are currently looking at ways to improve mental arithmetic.  The Government is keen to follow methodology currently being used in South East Asia.  Learning times tables is important, but so too is the ability to use that information.  If an eight year old knows 12 x 3 = 36, can they work out… ‘if one mini-bus holds 12 pupils, how many mini-buses are needed to transport 40 pupils?’

Knowledge counts for very little if one cannot apply it.

This year we have already introduced Ninja Maths to boost mental arithmetic with our older pupils; post half term we will be introducing ‘Rockstar Tables’ for pupils in Years 2-6.  This is an exciting way to learn tables.

This week is dyslexia awareness week. For some pupils remembering and retaining these so called ‘facts’ is a challenge in itself. Tom Cruise had to develop his own method of remembering lines.  There is an obvious correlation between resilience and dyslexics- sometimes they have no option but to find other, more imaginative ways to learn and remember.  Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Mohammed Ali, Stephen Spielberg and Albert Einstein all showed great resilience and endeavour.  They were all dyslexic.

I have two reminders:

Please don’t forget to join Mr Ashwin on Tuesday afternoons in the hall (2.30pm) for the Stoneygate Community choir.  No auditions required…if you enjoy singing Abba classics in the car, then this is for you!

Could parents/pupils remember to support our Year 10 enterprise initiative by bringing in jars (& lids) which will then be sterilised before being used to produce the most delicious Christmas chutneys!

Stars of the Week:

In Year 2, Ketanndu was star of the week for a super Harvest acrostic poem.

In Year 1, Charlotte was the star of the week for her excellent general knowledge in Science and History lessons.

In Reception, Arjun was awarded star of the week for his outstanding listening.

Enjoy the weekend,


Mr J F Dobson