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Was That Music? – and Why Summer Term Is Best for P4C Training

This week, a musical (perhaps) stimulus, and then some reasons for your school to move away from the tradition of having professional development in the autumn term and do it in the summer term instead.
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On a return visit to Beech Green Primary, Quedgeley, there happened to be a piano in the room. I said, “I’m just going to play something on the piano”. Here’s a similar something I filmed later.
The children sat very seriously at first, but of course laughter broke out before I had finished. At the end, I asked, “Was that a piece of music?”
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You can use the video, but if you can use a piano live so much the better – this would make a fantastic stimulus for an assembly. Ideas around planning, pattern, rhythm, skill, what is normal in music, it being pleasant to hear may arise; some children may take the position that anything intended to be music is music.
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This is an example of the general technique of using a “grey example” as a stimulus – does it count as an x or not? I deliberately looked as if I was taking it seriously, and there are patterns of sorts within the sounds so that it’s not as obvious as it might be.
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3 Reasons to Have Your Professional Development in the Summer Term
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Most schools in the UK focus their professional development, especially from outside presenters such as me, on the start of the year in September. Here are three reasons why the summer term is better.
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1. At the start of the academic year, people’s minds are elsewhere
Half people’s mind is mourning the end of the holidays, half stressing over preparation for the New Year. I have run enough INSETs that I could make people enthusiastic the day after an RI Ofsted visit, but at the start of the year, implementation of new ideas has to vie against getting to know a new class, and all the other changes that a new academic year brings. Much better for staff to have a chance to do new things with a class that they already know, so that they can hit the ground running with confidence with their new class in the autumn.
2. INSET doesn’t have to mean INSET days.
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Seeing is sometimes believing, so watching me work with their class, or a colleague’s class, provides a powerful proof that the methods of P4C work in practice. I can work with a series of classes during the day, showing my working as I go along, and then explain the deeper principles in a twilight session after school. I know that sometimes twilights get a bad name, because staff are tired after a long day in the classroom. But the sessions I run are very high-energy, with a lot of fun woven into the learning. I had people still buzzing at 6.30 p.m. at St Ivichall on a residency earlier this year!
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3. If you opt for a residency, it’s cheaper
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The peak INSET days in September are always £1250+VAT. In the summer term, you have more, midweek days to choose from, which are £1000+VAT each; and if you opt for a six-week residency, with three face-to-face days alternating with “homework” of suggested enquiries for staff to experiment with with their own classes, it’s £2499+VAT for the whole package – 1/3 off the peak price, with added support thrown in. All training includes a the Philosophy Circles Primary Curriculum Pack and copies of the Philosophy Circles and Thinkers’ Games minibooks for all staff.
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Karen Ferguson, headteacher from Stivichall where I did a residency last year, said, “I agree that the residency approach is the way to go.  We got so much out of it and our first round of lesson drop ins indicate that each and every member of staff who participated in the training has gained enough confidence to give it a really good go.  The impact is already visible and with continued focus, I am sure it will build further”
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These comments were gathered by the school from staff:
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1)     What was your biggest worry before Jason’s Philosopher-in-Residence programme started?
Staff said no experience of it and worried about what to expect
Sensitivity of topics being covered
How to pitch it at Early Years and KS1 staff concerned
How to fit it into the curriculum ‘another thing we have to do!’
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2)     How did the residency go?
Good – lots of time to practice and examples from expert, both with children and in staff training
Good to try a little bit (introduced firstly by school staff) before residency helped staff have a taste of P4C before the main training started
Great to see expert in practice with various children
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3)     What did you like most about the residency?
Lots of ideas – practical experience within the training sessions
Teaching others (when in groups and had to do a min lesson) helped it stick
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4)     What would be three other benefits of?
Residency gives opportunity to learn, apply and then revisit which helps it to begin to be embedded in practice through giving all staff the very best chance to develop confidence
It gives you chance to get to know the school and in particular the children
School staff have the chance to develop a relationship with the philosopher
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5)     Would you recommend a philosopher-in-residence programme to other schools? If so, why?
All staff said yes, that they felt it had enabled children a chance to develop reasoning skills
It gave children opportunity to develop confidence in speaking and listening and particularly in sharing ideas and debating
As above, a residency enables you as trainer to adapt the messages to what you have seen, heard and know about the staff and children at the school.
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What to do next
Please email or (even better, as one phone call is worth a dozen emails) ring me on 07843 555355 to discuss possibilities.
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Best wishes,
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Jason

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