Martin Ransley describes how he organised a series of enrichment work-related activity days at Highbury Fields School.

For some time I’d wanted to organise a series of activities over two days that would excite and engage students after their national and school exams; to offer something different that would stretch and challenge our most able pupils.

The plan was to run a series of two-day enrichment, work-related activities for Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 at the same time. We even managed to engage some of our Year 11s who had just left the school.

As the Aim Higher coordinator, with a special interest in G&T and also the work-related coordinator, I wanted to combine the two areas to provide enjoyable, challenging and engaging activities, and also to provide a model for colleagues to use in future.

I began with a call to our local education business partnership, which provided the initial ideas for the Year 8 and 9 activities.

Organisation on the day

I had to devolve responsibility, brief staff and inform students about what was happening and where they should be for the activities. It was agreed that year managers would take responsibility for meeting and showing facilitators to rooms, while other staff would be in the classrooms to support the facilitator and monitor students. I would be contacted about any problems on the day. I met the year managers to brief them on their year groups’ activities. Next, I went into year assemblies to let students know what would be happening, tell them what to wear and to whet their appetites.

On the actual days, I kicked off with Year 8 as they were doing the Construction Challenge – this was the most ‘risky’ activity in my estimation and I wanted to be with it. However, as the students disappeared off to allocated classrooms and activities, a quiet descended upon the school – my mobile was silent and no one was running up to me asking where they should be or what they should be doing. All the students were engaged – they were having fun and enjoying themselves.

Recording achievement

To keep a record of the students’ achievements, I selected a group of Year 10s, whose aim was to produce a newspaper and DVD of all the enrichment events. They had to have a newspaper available to give out as students left school at the end of the second day and a DVD ready to show at end-of-term assemblies.

Some students worked as journalists on a newspaper, responding to breaking stories; some worked as TV journalists, filming stories. They had professional help and guidance from two journalists courtesy of the Daily Telegraph. The students met their deadline and even used newspaper techniques such as ‘Free inside today: Origami Insert’. Spare copies were given away to passers-by or tucked under car windscreen wipers. A fine example of entrepreneurial spirit.

Evaluation

Students

Evaluation forms for all the activities were completed by the students at the end of the second day. I asked whether there was anything else they would have liked to have done – students replied that they wanted to do activities that they had not had the opportunity to try. I had expected them to suggest something that was not on offer, but they didn’t. My objectives had been to engage, excite, stretch and challenge pupils – their behaviour had been exemplary throughout and quality work had been produced.

Staff

Staff feedback was very positive and the headteacher stated publicly that it had transformed the school, with students happily engaged in activities that they enjoyed and senior management corridors empty of recalcitrant students. Another member of staff told me that, for the first time in a long while, he got up in the morning and looked forward to coming to work.

Activities

Early in January I had a meeting with Diana James from Islington Education Business Partnership and Kerry Baker from the Construction Industry Training Board. Kerry suggested allowing students to redesign and decorate a classroom. The headteacher immediately suggested classrooms suitable for a ‘makeover’. This was the starting point for the enrichment activities.

Year 7: Piracy and paper

Here, it is worthwhile talking about failure. I had wanted them to create and make a cosmetic product with thoughts of bringing it to the market place. I tried to find a company that could provide five facilitators to teach five tutor groups. I tried several large and small cosmetic companies all to no avail. And yes, they would have been paid to do it.

Instead, and by no means second best, I asked the University of the Arts to do a body adornment project with the students. All five tutor groups were doing something different over the two days. One tutor group designed body adornments for camouflage and survival within the urban environment. This included marketing strategies, designing adverts, writing a press release, as well as making other parts of the costume for arms and legs. The aim for the G&T students was to develop alternative marketing strategies for their designs. Among the other activities were origami workshops: practical origami, fun origami and modular origami for display. The models were really colourful and beautiful to behold. The challenge of creating more complex mathematical shapes from the initial modular designs stretched the more able students.

Another group were engaged in ‘Piracy’, ably led by John Senior from Otherwise. The project examined in practical and theoretical ways the economic, social and strategic basis for the encouragement and practice of piracy past and present. The project also offered an insight into the socio-ethnography of the pirate as entrepreneur, creative artist and just plain baddy. Parrot optional! It was explained that modern insurance and the financial wealth of London was based on the existence of historic piracy – and to a certain extent still is.

Pupils worked in groups to build their own fleet of ships. They then made a giant map, a paper sea upon which representatives from each pirate group could draw their own island with all the things they thought they would need. Rules of engagement were then worked out and individual codes that all pirates had to obey (eg ‘honour among thieves’). Then they played chasing other boats and collecting wealth. The very smart groups didn’t just have swimming pools and hairdressers on the island they had forests and long beaches. When a ship turned a ‘chance’ card, which said ‘mast broken – find a new one’, they had to sail to another island and negotiate buying a mast rather than just taking it. In other words the natural excitement of playing pirates was used to show students how wealth was created upon the back of exploration and early sea power, how trading developed into working economies and, while all this was happening, how Lloyds of London was established and thereon the modern highly-lucrative insurance trading that is at the heart of London finance.

The work fitted nicely into KS3 Financial Capability through Personal Financial Education. Two of the girls in different teams made a lot of money for their group because they understood the marketplace that was presented and grew around them:

  • what money is and how it is exchanged
  • financial records and information (each team had to keep a  log of all their transactions).

Year 8: Grand designs

One group were engaged in the Construction Challenge: painting, carpentry, electrics, plumbing, tiling, wallpapering, textiles, food, bricklaying and even bridge building. The tangible outcomes for the pupils and the school were that two classrooms were decorated; 10 classrooms had coat hooks for students (the Every Child Matters document); as well as a beautiful textile installation was installed in one of the school’s larger spaces; and the food group produced sustaining, healthy and nutritious meals and snacks for 150 students and staff within three hours (think Healthy Schools).

In one of the classrooms being decorated, G&T students replaced maths posters by painting an assortment of different equations and formulas on the walls to assist the less able students.

All this was done on a carousel, with the day divided into three 90-minute chunks. This ensured that students sampled as many of the activities as possible.

Year 9: HE experience

I organised an HE progression day for Year 9 students: workshops led by student ambassadors from London universities, offering sample subjects that students could take up in five or six years’ time.

The objective for the G&T students was to investigate and research courses of interest on the UCAS website and their resulting careers.
The less able and disaffected were catered for by Jak Beula, Black Enterprise award winner in 2005, and his company Nubian Jak, who through a series of innovative games endeavoured to rekindle the students’ interest in education.

Years 9 and 10: ‘Murder most foul’

The EBP suggested a company that provided crime scene investigation (CSI) workshops to schools. Here the students had a real problem to solve. ‘Murders’ were committed within the school grounds and, after several forensic lessons, the students worked in teams, analysing evidence, using authentic CSI equipment, in order to identify the culprit. Once again, able students were pushed because when they gave presentations at the end of the day they could only argue using evidence gathered during the day, not speculate about it.

The second day for Year 10 was a business dynamics workshop, where they looked at the skills required for the workplace though a range of challenging tasks.

Year 11: Art project

As we approached ‘D-day’, community liaison officer Christine Lemmon from the Apollo Group contacted me to ask if any of our students would be interested in painting a mural on hoardings surrounding an extension to Highbury Swimming Pool. The only year group who were not doing anything was Year 11 but they had just finished their exams and technically had left. I rang all those who had done Art GCSE and invited them in for a meeting with Christine, who then tested some ideas on them, after which they agreed to meet on site to look at how their ideas could become reality.

The enrichment days resulted in the involvement of  all five year groups in WRL and enterprise activities!

Martin Ransley is a careers, Aim Higher & WRL coordinator (AST). He has taught for 25 years.