Our Academy Blog

Developing 'Young Interpreters'

posted 6 Mar 2018, 11:30 by Craig Nicholson

Our school population has become increasingly diverse and exciting over the last few years with children arriving from many different countries and from many different cultures and as the author Jacqueline Woodson says, “Diversity is about all of us, and about having us having to figure out how to walk through this world together”

We currently categorise our children from other countries and with other languages in three ways as international new arrivals (INA), English as an additional language (EAL) where they have been exposed to the English language in their home country and as completely new to English (N2E) never heard it or seen it and never have been in a school/education setting. Each of these groups also has their own unique needs in addition to those created by the language barrier.

The staff and children in the school have had to learn to be adept at meeting this newer, wider variety of need and ‘walking through it together’.

We have had to develop and introduce new assessment procedures so we can institute the right level of support and intervention for each child at a personal level. Within two weeks of arrival in school a child will have been put through a suite of assessments including phonics checks, writing, reading and maths. These will determine the pathway for the child through our school system. They will have been placed in supportive groups, immersed in the English language, supported through the school ‘system’ of experiencing playtime and the dining hall, been attached to a ‘friendship’ group and most recently supported by a young interpreter.

In our early days of supporting children with language barriers we would rely heavily on technology and things like google translator (which we still do). We would also often and wherever possible ‘buy in’ support from an adult (where we could find one) who spoke the child’s home language. However, with the increasing pressures on budgets and also a growing understanding of the challenges of non-native speakers and the wider collection of nationalities moving into the school we realised that this may not be the best solution. And therefore started to research alternatives.

As a school we had also been outward facing and seekers of support and research and development. We attended a conference in Sheffield about their approach to EAL, we attended an EAL conference in Middlesbrough and became involved in groups such as Making Middlesbrough a reading town which had an EAL element to it due to the increasing need in the town.

Around this time we also became aware of a scheme called the Young Interpreters Scheme developed and run by Hampshire County Council. This involves training children to act as mentors for their peers who are learning English as an additional language.

Details of the scheme can be found here:


The scheme recognises that pupils at any age within the school community can support other learners to feel settled, safe and valued. The interpreters undergo specific training for their role. The support they offer is invaluable and in our school they have often assisted communication with parents as well as with children, offering reassurance for everyone.

Whilst we have bought into the scheme from Hampshire LA delivered via Moodle which is an exclusive and interactive virtual platform with advice and materials provided we have also begun to develop some of our own ‘in school’ approaches which work for our own very diverse population. In the following photographs you can see some of our groups at work on their training and running groups with their friend’ 

As outlined by the Hampshire LA the Young Interpreters Scheme is available to both bilingual and monolingual learners and is powerful in developing empathy amongst English speakers towards some of the challenges and difficulties that pupils new to English may be facing.

The scheme can be used in a variety of settings where there are a number of children who speak the same language or there are isolated languages spoken. The young interpreters learn a variety of skills which enables them to help new arrivals settle in. They learn to clarify, explain and ‘interpret’ the wide range of school activities, systems and procedures to new entrants.

Young interpreters do not replace the need for professional adult interpreters but can provided a ‘safety net’ of reassurance for the young people in the school setting and also an initial communication link to reassure parents. The young interpreters are trained and guided by a designated member of the school staff who ensures safeguarding procedures are followed.

The children are very proud to be ‘chosen’ to be part of the scheme and very quickly gain confidence both in the school setting and being able to communicate at a variety of levels. We have seen children arrive at the school without a word of English and never having been in school very quickly make friends, learn key words and before we know it having the confidence to stand up and act in the school play at the end of term.

To see the children begin to smile and communicate in a combination of their home language and English is a real pleasure. The make a really valuable contribution to the school, to their fellow pupils and to parents. They have quickly become a fantastic resource within the school environment and teachers are happy to utilise their skills in the support of teaching and learning.

Utilising the Young Interpreter Scheme and further adapting it to meet our unique school clientele and requirements has seen significant impact. EAL/N2E children and parents arriving at the school have confidence in the needs of their children being met, understand the school requirements and expectations well (and they can be constantly reiterated) and are able to communicate effectively to support their child’s education. The EAL/N2E children quickly settle, feel safe and calm, learn English quickly due to the immersive approach, make strong friendships and gain confidence.

The children have also been able to rework some of the school generated information and translate into other languages and also support development of some other information leaflets. We would deem our Young Interpreters a substantial success and look forward to the continuation and further development of the programme.

As you can see from the attached photographs the children are happy supporting and developing practice for themselves and others and play a full and valuable part in school life.

Mr Hall - Phase 2 lead/Vulnerable Learner Champion (March 2018)

Using iPads in Science

posted 6 Mar 2018, 11:08 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 6 Mar 2018, 11:09 ]

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs. 

With STEM as a focus, the above quote is something that is ever present in the mind of teachers at North Ormesby and some subjects have been at the forefront of receiving the tech upgrade as an aid to teach them (particularly maths) but here you will see how the use of iPads in Science is crossing curricular boundaries and making previously distant concepts much more accessible and engaging. 

National curriculum objectives for Science present primary school children with a range of abstract topics, many of which mean very little to them in the present day. Much like History (where the scientific discoveries they study most often apply) the subject frequently gets lost on the way to the children, because talking about something someone who lived a very long time ago discovered gets the response: so what? And, how does that apply to me? They need to feel it; to witness it; and to discover it for themselves before they can begin to understand what it means.


The basics

By basics, we’re looking at using technology to present what would ordinarily go into books in order to provide an alternative. Explain Everything is a great one to start with as the icons to the side of the screen are self explanatory and therefore easy for children to navigate. In the example below is a very basic display of researched information which has been backed up with images. To extend understanding, children can access a record function to verbally explain their interpretation of what they have found out. When complete, the document can be exported as a video file which plays the voice recording; or as an image.

Other apps we deem to be necessities are Book Creator and Keynote. Book creator is a useful tool much in the same way Word is on a laptop and Keynote is a presentation app which holds its own against PowerPoint. Ways both have been utilised in Science are: to record observations during experiments; to make predictions and to conduct write-ups. Both apps make it easy to add photographs which give the students a chance to record their own work and take more ownership for what they produce. 

We have also produced some beautifully presented fact files on both apps for scientists who are relevant to our topics at the time as well as using Morfobooth to bring the profile to life; we have even ‘hot seated’ Albert Einstein!


Charts and tables

Popplet is another easy-to-use app which offers an alternative to drawing out tables/charts in books which, more often that not, are indistinguishable from student to student. Below is an example from when classification was our focus and the task was to design a resource to show younger students – which is where the images are key.


Life cycle of an animal or plant? Animate it!

This is a wonderful app and really easy to use. Students make each stage physically happen by drawing it out and piecing each stage together like a mini movie. It is recommended to keep the subject simple (unless you want to incorporate an art lesson) so this can be done with plants or animals. Below is a screenshot of each stage put into Book Creator to document the actual activity to go into workbooks. Although not entirely necessary, it consolidated learning at the time and served as a visual recap.


Other great tools for animation are iMovie and Clips. These have been used to produce stop motion animations (on the subject of light and manipulating shadows) that were acted out with clay characters then filmed. Later, voice over information was added by students to explain the findings of their experiments.


AR and VR

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are very much becoming a reality within education and can bring to life formerly inaccessible realms such as: space, dinosaurs and a range of wonderful habitats. More information on how we use VR in school can be found here http://www.northormesbyacademy.org/blog-2/howweusevrintheclassroom


AR circuits is an exciting app for use during the units on electricity. In school it was used to theorise and plan before actual electrical equipment was brought out. There are also elements of coding with this app, if the circuit doesn’t work – why? If a problem is encountered then students essentially ‘debug’ by changing the set up until the circuit works.

Pre and end of unit assessment

Tests with a twist! Apps for this include the competitive and interactive Kahoot! and Socrative, which provides great analysis of results. Bought schemes of work often come with an end of unit test to ensure that success criteria have been met: why not turn these into a fun competition? This isn’t necessarily always against other children which can cause issues and this is where the start of unit assessment comes in handy. As a progress measure, we’re missing a vital trick if we don’t assess at the start of a new unit as well as the end. This way children have something to aim for if they keep a record of previous scores and they can actually see the progress they have made.


The suggestions in this blog are purely to support – not replace physical experiments. In some cases the apps used go hand in hand with the physical side of Science and in turn make the write-up more fun! This is also a powerful move in terms of AFL as the editing process is more accessible on an iPad thus leaving presentation in books at a higher standard so that children take more pride in their work in their Science books – as they do in their Writing books. Added to this is the fact that you are offering children more chances to become more ICT competent in an increasingly tech-based world and making distant concepts more accessible to a generation who only look to the future rather than spend any time wondering how and why things came to be.

Mrs Lyndsey Frost - Y5 teacher (March 2018) 

How we use VR in the classroom

posted 26 Feb 2018, 07:17 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 26 Feb 2018, 07:36 ]

When people hear about virtual reality (VR), their minds are generally flooded with images of headset-wearing gamers, scenes from futuristic movies or TV shows and certainly the phrase, ‘Bet it costs a fortune!’.

But VR can and in fact is, changing everything!

For the education sector in particular, using VR to finally connect both learners and teachers in a novel and meaningful way is now a very real possibility.

What is VR?

‘Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated scenario that simulates a realistic experience. The immersive environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience grounded in reality or sci-fi. Augmented reality systems may also be considered a form of VR that layers virtual information over a live camera feed into a headset, or through a smartphone or tablet device.’ (Wiki)

In other words, VR gives users the opportunity to go anyway they want, see anything they want and in some cases, experience the impossible!

What uses does it currently have?

There are many uses of VR which range from academic research through to engineering, design, business, the arts and entertainment.

In the military for instance, VR is used extensively for training purposes. This is particularly useful for training soldiers for combat situations or other dangerous settings where they have to learn how to react in an appropriate manner.

In healthcare, VR is often used as a diagnostic tool in that it enables doctors to arrive at a diagnosis in conjunction with other methods such as MRI scans. This removes the need for invasive procedures or surgery.

Virtual reality simulations enable us to do pretty much whatever we like but without the risk of death or serious injury. We can re-enact a particular scenario or view things either at microscopic level or in places it would be fairly impossible to get to. VR is proving to be a safer and less costly option for many industries, compared to traditional training methods.

In many ways, the possibilities for the use of VR are endless.

What about education?

I’ll labour this point once more; the possibilities are endless!

For our school it was all about experience, imagination and that ‘WOW’ factor.

Consider teaching young children a concept as abstract as space. No field trips for this one!

But through the use of VR, pupils can learn about the solar system and how it works by physically engagement with the objects within. They can move planets, see around stars and track the progress of a comet.

What about dinosaurs? Imagine walking around a park side-by-side with a T-Rex, á la Jurassic Park, without having to leave the classroom or be exposed to any dangers or risks.

And what about history - the World Wars for instance? Imagine experiencing what life on the streets of London was really like during the Blitz or how claustrophobic it actually was when squeezed into an Anderson shelter with 6 or 7 other family members and friends.

For us, it was about bringing experiences to the children and opening up a whole new dimension of content with which they could use to develop their knowledge, understanding and imagination.

How was it used?

Initially, it was about the ‘WOW’ factor. And not just for the children!

A new year 1 child who was apprehensive about coming to school because of his attachment to mum. One morning, he was coaxed into going under the sea to watch a migration of bioluminescent jellyfish sweep across his head. The next day he drew pictures of jellyfish in his book and couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of getting the chance to experience it all again. His apprehension or defiance to come in to school was of very little or no problem at all thereafter.

A group year 3 children with behavioural concerns. Their achievement for having a ‘safe and happy’ week in school was to spend the last 45 minutes of the week on an environment or experience of their choice. Some of them wanted to be Spider-Man, some wanted a rollercoaster and others just enjoyed walking around a paradise island or trying to ‘walk the plank’ from the top of a skyscraper.

And the year 6 girl who just wanted to spend time looking around the bed of the sea, watching how creatures interact with their habitat and get a real feel for what life down there is really like. The biggest win of course was that temporary blockade of all the negative things currently whirling around her life, like the gut-wrenching worry of going into care.

Once familiar with how the device/software works, you quickly start see how impactful VR could be for all pupils in the classroom and for learning. Our first thought was creative writing.

In phase 3, the children were studying about Antarctica as part of a whole school focus on ‘habitats’. After the production of non-chronological reports, we decided to write a narrative thriller all about surviving the continent’s treacherous conditions.

We began by letting the children explore some of the wonderful VR content on YouTube using iPads and/or some VR headsets and iPods. One of the videos shows exactly what it is like to be atop a vessel approaching the Antarctic.

The sounds, the colours, the terrain. Again; not one for a field trip, this one. This was perfect for the opening of our story. Other 360 videos showed exactly what it was like on land, interacting with a sea lion and listening to the loud squawks of an albatross.

The children’s first thoughts of the research bases were that they reminded them of ‘colourful Lego caterpillars’, but again, this was perfect for their narrative ideas and the ‘build up’ of their plot.

For the ‘meat’ of their story, we used a full week to ensure every children spent time using the HTC Vive inside a puzzle-based environment named ‘Storm’. Their task, in groups of 6, was to work out the correct order of steps required to survive in the bitterness of an Antarctic-type storm.

Each pupil had 15 minutes and they needed to work as a team and write down each step or puzzle solved to aid their survival. They also noted down their ideas: their thoughts; their feelings; what they could see; what they could hear. All perfect for the atmosphere, tension and suspense we wanted them to use in their writing.

Only one group managed to complete the task successfully, so early the following week, we showed the correct sequence of events and they got the opportunity to tighten up their notes and ideas. Getting to safe shelter, with warmth, and calling for help was the ideal way to wrap the story up.

You can see some samples of the children’s work here.

This half term we’re studying the oceans and seas, in particular life in the abyssopelagic zone and deeper. To help write explanation texts, the children have been spending their break and lunchtimes on the sea bed, in the ‘Midnight Zone’.

Armed with just a torch, they can walk around and explore the habitat set inside the remains of a fallen blue whale and observe as an angler fish uses its bioluminescent lure to catch its prey. It makes it a lot easier to write about a process when you’ve experienced it in action for yourself.

So how can I get started?

Start small. A set of 6-10 iPods or similar and the same number of headsets like these ones, all dependent on budget, of course.

Search the App or Play store for content by adding ‘VR’ or ‘360’ to your searching text. You’ll have to pay for the better apps; personally, I think much of the free content on offer from the likes of YouTube is of greater quality and will suit you and the children better in the classroom. Again, use ‘VR’ or ‘360’ when searching and ensure your devices have VR capabilities (easy to Google this if you aren’t sure).

If you’re interested in the higher end tech, the HTC Vive is probably the best of its kind and the set-up we went for. However, it isn’t cheap. You’ll get the Vive for just over £500 now but it is useless without a PC that has the power and capability of running its high-end graphics. The cheapest you’ll pick one of these up for is around £800/£900. You’ll find some options here.

In terms of content for the Vive; ‘Viveport’ works exactly the same as the App or Play store, with plenty of freebies to get you going and even more that you can pay for.

‘The Blu’ is amazing! A couple of minutes stood on a ship wreck watching life at sea before standing face-to-face with a 60-foot Blue Whale! ‘The Lab’ is another free addition where the user can experience VR in many forms of its glory, from archery and slingshotting to taking a closer closer look at the anatomy of the human body.

If it’s experiences and environments you’re interested in, the paid version of ‘The Blu’ won’t let you down, whilst ‘Perfect’ and ‘Nature Treks’ are definitely worth looking at, as well as the aforementioned ‘Storm’.

Craig Nicholson - Acting Principal (Feb 2018)

Teaching at NOPA - a student's view

posted 6 Mar 2017, 04:46 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 6 Mar 2017, 05:00 ]

 Starting a new placement is, I suppose, a bit like your first day at school. Will the children like me? When will I ever be able to navigate my own way through these classrooms? How on earth am I ever going to photocopy anything on that new printer let alone solve the intricate problem of a paper jam?!

Learning Environments

was clear from my first day at NOPA that this wasn't a ‘normal’ run of the mill school. I was amazed as I was guided through the rainforest, narrowly avoiding the canoe, watching the monkeys swing on vines above my head and marvelling at the beautiful waterfall. Next I was transported back in time to a quaint, wealthy Victorian sitting room complete with a fireplace and plates laid out for afternoon tea. These were the immersive learning environments. Their purpose is to bring experiences into the classroom for the children to interact with first hand. These learning environments are not precious, inaccessible and something that children should just look at. Teachers actively encourage children to explore. Rarely will you be walking through Year 2 and not see a child quietly working away in the canoe or a Year 3 child working by lamp light in the Victorian mine.

As a student this type of immersion in the learning environment was very new to me and threw up a mass of questions and- admittedly- scepticism. Won't it distract the children? Will behaviour be affected? What's the point? I can only say that it doesn't. Really. I was amazed as well but I think the uniqueness of the learning environment combined with the philosophy and ethos of the school just means that it works in this particular setting. What I would say is that you definitely have to see it for yourself and pictures don't do it justice.

Alternative Seating

Another aspect of NOPA school life that was very different was the concept of alternative seating. I understand that this is some teacher’s nightmare. I realised this as I divulged my delight to some fellow student teachers and have been met with horror when I eagerly tell them tales of children lounging on beanbags, using stand up desks and essentially sitting wherever they like. Something which really sold the idea of alternative seating to me was the schools idea of putting yourself as a child in the classroom- would I want to work if I was sat in this classroom? The answer hit me when I realised I did 90% of my feedback, planning and university work laid on my sofa or lounging on a beanbag. This is further reinforced by Hattie’s (2011) concept “The overall message is: teaching is successful if teachers see learning through the eyes of pupils” (p.429). This key message really is at the heart of the ethos of NOPA.

Challenges of teaching at NOPA

Teaching at NOPA has sometimes been a challenge. Adapting to the vast amount of technology that is integrated and woven into daily life at the school was initially a challenge. Luckily, NOPA is an Apple RTC and therefore provides regular training on how to successfully implement technology and iPads throughout the curriculum and in a variety of relevant ways (assessment, feedback and the curriculum).

Advice for future university students at NOPA

The most crucial piece of advice is to completely immerse yourselves within the opportunities and learning environment that NOPA provides for you as a student teacher and therefore a learner. According to Dunne (2002) “Teachers need to be provided with the learning opportunities they are expected to provide students.” (p. 69). This is what NOPA provides for student teachers- a safe and supported environment in which there are an abundance of learning opportunities for the student teacher that then trickle down into the classroom thus benefitting the children.

Wonderfully Weird and Wacky

There are plenty more wonderful and weird things that go on within NOPA- the storytelling caravan, our class bunnies, innovative technology, a wonderful staff team (for the first time ever I haven't heard the dreaded “why are you going into teaching? Don’t do it” spiel) and the final thing is just a ‘vibe’. Something which I can't quite put my finger on but it's contagious- teachers, teaching assistants and children all have it. It's the lovely feeling of welcome, new ideas and a great working/learning environment embedded within NOPA.



Dunne, K. A. (2002). Teachers as learners: Elements of effective professional development. In How to find and support tomorrow's teachers (pp. 67-77). Amherst, MA: National Evaluation Systems, Inc. 

Ewald Terhart (2011) Has John Hattie really found the holy grail of research on teaching? An extended review of Visible Learning, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43:3, 425-438

Sophie Turton (3rd Year YSJ student) - 06/03/17

The Impact of 'Slow Writing' as a Scaffold in English

posted 25 Feb 2017, 01:34 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 25 Feb 2017, 01:36 ]

‘Every artist was first an amateur.’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson). 

This statement is very true of the writing process and the journey on which every young writer finds themselves. 

Many may look upon the concept of 'Slow Writing' as stifling the creativity of writers. I would however contest this and state that ‘creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.’ Through the use of 'Slow Writing' prompts, pupils are able to use their ideas by slowing down the process of writing in order to convey their message. When the pressure of thinking of what to include in a sentence is removed, the ability to be more creative is increased. 

Providing constraints can actually promote creativity. The use of 'Slow Writing' allows the writer to slow down and consider their craft. They are able to focus upon how they wish to convey a message, not just what the message will be. Thoughts can be organised and more structured when they are scaffolded effectively. It is essential to note that 'Slow Writing' should not be relied upon by children; therefore should not be used in each and every lesson. As with any scaffold or support, there should be a plan to reduce and remove the scaffold over time, leaving behind a more confident and competent pupil.

David Didau asked the question, ‘What do you need to know to write well?’ This is a question all teachers ask themselves when attempting to equip children with the tools to become independent writers. Some key principles for the process of writing are: having an awareness of impact, understanding the structure of a text and a sound and secure knowledge of grammar.

When I first heard about 'Slow Writing' I was immediately sceptical. I am a year six teacher, very much focused upon raising attainment and ensuring there is a plethora of evidence in my writing books. Therefore, how can I ask the children to 'slow' down?! However, as with any idea, I was happy to read around the subject matter and discover more.

Using it as a scaffold, I carefully selected exactly what I wanted the children to achieve from their piece of writing. It provided a clear and concise structure from which to work and base writing on. The statements used were intrinsically linked to the unit-specific success criteria, therefore ensuring that the pupils had focus for purpose. 

The question on any teachers lips would surely be, 'But is this independent?' Well, no, not exactly. This is a scaffold, a teaching method and technique. This is not something that would be used in every lesson, it is not something that would create a degree of 'independence'. It is designed to quite literally 'slow down' the process of writing, in order for children to think through very carefully what they need to achieve from individual sentences. I have actively encouraged the children in my class to add extra sentences where they deem necessary and change the order of the slow writing prompts should they find that it works better in their written text. This has then created an added element of freedom and choice.

Writing should create choice, but without models and initial scaffolds many children remain unexposed to the choices that are right at their fingertips - or pen tips! Higher ability children have been guided by the prompts but often choose not to use them. I have made it clear that again, this comes down to choice. If they are truly capable and competent writers, they will be open to a wide variety of writing styles and opportunities. Those less able, require more guidance. This is but another technique to assist the writing process and is very much about quality over quantity.

I have enjoyed great success since trialling this technique. This has been particularly true for my middle ability children, particularly the boys whom as we know, stereotypically underperform girls. (See below for some selected examples.) They appear to like the methodical task of writing in this way. It has provided a 'comfort blanket' and a rationale behind their writing. As I have intrinsically linked it to the success criteria and the expected age appropriate grammar criteria, I am discovering that their knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling has increased. Expectations of the paragraph(s) have used technical vocabulary linked to our grammar lessons. This has also assisted children when answering questions linked to the grammar paper.

Take the example below: the prompts themselves have been edited so that the child in question understands what a 'subordinating conjunction' is, by using the acronym 'A WHITE BUS'. This is based upon child-friendly language, showing a concept many find difficult. This highlights how the child has transferred knowledge gained in a grammar lesson in to their writing. The 'Slow Writing' prompts have acted in this instance as a guide to remind children of their age related expectations. 

'Slow Writing' provides a focus and a structure to writing. I have also found it very beneficial to upskill children’s understanding of grammatical concepts. For example, when writing a sentence which must include a subordinating conjunction, they need to ensure that they are confident and secure in their knowledge of subordinating conjunctions. I have found this has enabled children to transfer knowledge from discrete grammar lessons, in to their independent writing sessions. The process itself ensures that the learning of the lesson is completely explicit. The Literacy Shed have also written a blog advocating the use of 'Slow Writing' for teaching children the technical concepts of sentence structure.

This piece of work was produced using 'Slow Writing' prompts. This child later chose the same piece of work to explain how the feedback she had been given had been helpful to her progress; she recorded her thoughts on a post-it note in her book.

Equally, this displays pupil’s feelings about the 'Slow Writing' prompts and their use. 


All examples have been taken from my own Year Six class, although other classes across school have also trialled the approach. For more information about ‘Slow Writing’ please visit ‘Tim’s Teaching Tools' here.

Stacey Campbell (English/KS2 leader) - 25th February 2017

Technology in Education – Sharing Practice Across Primary & Secondary

posted 16 Feb 2017, 05:05 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 05:07 ]

On Thursday 26th January 2017, a group of twelve year 7 secondary students and staff from Hillsview Academy visited North Ormesby to learn about the wide range of technology and devices we use to aid learning. Our team of Y5/6 ‘Digital Ambassadors’ demonstrated how we use technology across the curriculum with a view to possibly emulate back at Hillsview. 

On the day, the ambassadors introduced the tech that was being displayed on their table. They then handed the tech over to the Hillsview students, in pairs, so that they could get ‘hands on’. As they got to grips with the tech, the digital ambassadors explained how it would benefit in the field of education. After 15 or so minutes at each ‘station’, the students would rotate around.

There was a range of technology on show, including products such as: Osmo; Ollie; Dot and Dash; Makey-Makey and apps/software related to both augmented and virtual reality, and coding. There were opportunities to see how we use collaborative tools like Seesaw and Google Classroom, as well as ideas on how to use apps like Minecraft to inspire writing.


Approximately half-way through their visit, the Hillsview students were divided into two groups, one of which was taken on a tour of the school while the other group continued learning about the technology.

One of the North Ormesby digital ambassadors involved in this event quoted, ”I enjoyed it because we got feedback on our work and we were questioned on what we do'.

Our secondary neighbours had their say too – one young man said, “The event was amazing, I would like to go back again.” While another added, “It was class! I can’t believe how much the primary students know about technology.” One young man said, “I definitely want my brothers and sisters to go to that primary school!”

There was also some super feedback from the Hillsview staff: “I have never seen pupils so confident and engaged with the technology. The way they were able to explain to others was so valuable. The trip was a pleasure to take part in and the students and I learnt so much about how technology can be used.”

Hillsview have now gone on to appoint their own team of ‘Digital Ambassadors’ after displaying attitudes to learning that were impeccable and asking questions and being enthused about how technology can be used in lessons. The collaboration was hugely successful and we are looking forward to working together more in the future and improving our partnership between the two academies. 

Rebecca Mewse & Amy Doughton - Year 6 students (2017)

The North Ormesby Academy Reading Rabbits

posted 30 Jan 2017, 02:43 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 30 Jan 2017, 07:14 ]

When it comes to pet ownership, there are a number of proven health benefits for people; from physical, mental and emotional improvements, to enhancing social skills and decreasing a person's risk of heart attack.

There are wonderful organisations out there like PAT Dogs that train dogs and people to take their pets into hospitals, nursing homes and schools to provide some of the joy and health benefits pets bring.

As well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol, pet owners suffer fewer minor ailments such as colds. Dogs can also act as "early warning" to detect an approaching epileptic seizure or sniff out disease. Medical Detection Dogs is an amazing organisation that trains dogs to help people with life-threatening medical conditions such as diabetes. They are currently being trained to detect cancer. Dogs are used because their sense of smell is around 10,000 times more acute than ours.

Pets can also teach those with learning difficulties or autism to engage and interact with the outside world. There are numerous case studies of children who, before getting a pet, had been locked inside their own little world, uncommunicative and cut off. After forming a bond with their pet, parents find that almost by miracle their child emerges into the outside world; they engage and show levels of emotion not previously experienced. That is the miracle of pet ownership.

So what of pets in school?

Pets have been found to enrich the classroom experience. Observing and caring for an animal instills a sense of responsibility and respect for life. A pet brings increased sensitivity and awareness of the feelings and needs of others - both animals and humans.
Studies show that the presence of animals tends to lessen tension in the classroom. Caring for pets in the classroom is one way of improving school attendance and teaching children about responsibility.

Health & Education

It’s official! Studies show that children from families with pets are better equipped to fight off infection than children from non-pet households, showing significantly higher levels of immune system performance. When school attendance records were compared side by side, researchers discovered that children with pets averaged more days at school every year than their pet-free counterparts.


The study also showed that children turn to pets for emotional well-being, with 40% of children choosing pet companionship when feeling down. Children were also found to seek out their pets when feeling tired, upset, scared or lonely, and children said they enjoy doing homework and learning with pets nearby.

Pets Build Self Esteem

Helping to take care of a pet gives a child a sense of pride and accomplishment, especially if the animal is able to return the affection. Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D. (research psychologist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles) says, “The child who cares for a pet knows that what he does matters, and so he’ll want to do more of it. The more successfully he feeds, walks, or emotionally bonds with the pet, the more confident he’ll feel.” In fact, studies conducted by the Waltham Centre have shown that children with pets have higher levels of self-esteem than those without pets.

Pets Teach Responsibility

Even a small child can begin to learn to care for the needs of another living being. Whether helping to empty a cup of dry kibble into the rabbit’s bowl, or filling the hamster’s water bottle, it’s never too early to start teaching children proper animal care. Studies show caring for pets aids in improving school attendance and teaching children about responsibility.

Pets become friends

Nobody enjoys being treated roughly. Children soon learn that if they want to be liked and trusted by the family cat, they’ll need to treat her carefully and kindly. This sort of training benefits all children, but is especially important to small boys who don’t often get the chance in our society to practise nurturing skills as girls do.

Reading Dogs

Dogs are being used increasingly in schools to help improve children’s literacy. 
It is an unusual idea but researchers think they have proved a link between stress and poor learning habits. The purpose of reading dogs is to lessen stress in the classroom and increase their ability to learn. It is being overseen by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and includes schemes organised by several canine charities: Pets As Therapy, Caring Canines, Dogs Helping Kids, Building Understanding Of Dogs and Reading Education Assistance Dogs. All use trained dogs in schools across Britain.

The idea has proved so popular that Pets As Therapy, which operates a scheme called 'Read2Dogs', now has 200 schools on its waiting list. The premise is simple: instead of reading aloud to a teacher or classmates, a child reads to a dog. The dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds as long as they don’t bark, bite, jump, growl or do anything frightening. Some sit beside the child’s chair, others even sit on a child’s knee. What matters is that the dog, unlike a human listener, is a completely uncritical audience. This relaxes the child and helps build confidence.

Our Reading Rabbits


The waiting list for a dog is long - we couldn't wait, so decided to explore the idea of other animals. It was then that we heard of two little rabbits looking to be 'rehomed' and adopted. Thus arrived Toffee and Truffle (as the children named them). The appropriate risk assessments are in place and they reside in the classroom during the day and go home to a teacher's house for weekends and holidays. They have a big outside run when the weather is nice.

During their classroom time they sit next to the children and offer them an outlet to read to or emotionally bond with. They have places to climb, hiding places to go and relax in when they want to be alone and a litter tray which they've been trained to use. All the children take their turn in caring for them and they've been settled with us now for almost a year. 

So what impact have the rabbits had within the classroom?

The children are best placed to answer that; here's what they've said...

"The rabbits have made the classroom a calmer and more relaxed place to learn."

"I enjoy the sense of responsibility it gives me by looking after the rabbits."

"I know they can't speak human but I still like to read to them."

"The rabbits have big ears so that makes them good listeners."

We simply couldn't imagine now life without our very special Reading Rabbits!


Chris Hall (Y3 teacher) - 30th January 2017

Why do we need to work in partnership and what does it mean?

posted 30 Jan 2017, 01:50 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 30 Jan 2017, 02:32 ]

Schools cannot stand alone and expect to be successful. Schools by their very nature have to work in partnership with a variety of people and external groups, the local, national and international communities. They are the central hub of any area and must reach out to parents, families, governors, local community members and many agencies.
From September 2007 schools had a duty to promote community cohesion under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

Community cohesion suggests a society/group/community with a common vision and a sense of belonging in which the diversity of people's backgrounds and circumstances are appreciated, valued and celebrated; where similar life opportunities are available to all and strong and positive relationships exist and are developed. 

Community cohesion in schools was reported on and inspected under the three following headings:

Teaching, learning and curriculum

helping children and young people to learn to understand others, to value diversity whilst also promoting shared values, to promote awareness of human rights and to apply and defend them, and to develop the skills of participation and responsible action.

Equity and excellence

to ensure equal opportunities for all to succeed at the highest level possible, striving to remove barriers to access and participation in learning and wider activities and working to eliminate variations in outcomes for different groups.

Engagement and extended services

to provide reasonable means for children, young people, their friends and families to interact with people from different backgrounds and build positive relations, including: links with different schools and communities; the provision of extended services; and opportunities for pupils, families and the wider community to take part in activities and receive services which build positive interaction and achievement for all groups.

 In 2011 however, the explicit duty on Ofsted to report on schools’ contribution to community cohesion was removed, although community cohesion remained within the scope of inspection. This meant that some schools reduced the emphasis on community and partnership working and switched their focus to other areas of the curriculum.

Subsequently the rise in gang crime, hate related crime and terrorism meant that yet again the need for further promotion of community cohesion was needed.

From November 2014 schools were expected to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Then in July 2015 schools became subject to a duty under section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This duty is known as the Prevent duty.


So what does this mean for schools and why partnership working?

In order to meet their duty, schools need help and support. They need contributions from different individuals and different communities, each holding and sharing different ambitions, aspirations, beliefs and life experiences, all working together to demonstrate the richness of neighbourhood, town, country and world.


How do we do this at NOPA?

We embrace the idea of community cohesion. We want to raise the aspirations, hopes and dreams of our pupils. We want them to develop tolerance and understanding, have strong fundamental British values, access a wide variety of experiences, develop strong and positive relationships , build mutual civility, be well informed, respect diversity and give something back.


We believe strongly in 'youth social action' - defined as practical action in the service of others to create positive change’ which  covers a range of activities such as fundraising, supporting charities, supporting other people, and campaigning for causes. We do this through working closely with the Step up to Serve campaign to encourage participation with social action.

We use the curriculum to deliver understanding and tolerance of religious beliefs visiting the local Churches, Mosque, Hindu Temple, Synagogue and Gurdwara.

We participate in the Show Racism the Red Card campaign reinforcing the tolerance and acceptance agenda.

We encourage children to support international charities and initiatives such as World Wildlife Day, International Literacy Day and Water Aid. 


We use our curriculum to offer depth and breadth of experience, wherever possible immersing the children in an environment which reflects the subject matter being taught. For example studying a habitat the classroom is transformed into a rain forest and studying Ancient Egypt the classroom becomes the tomb of Tutankhamen.

We partner with the local art gallery MIMA and The Museums Service locally and nationally to enrich and support curriculum delivery. Bringing into the school Authors, Illustrators, Theatre Groups, Musicians and Dancers also supplements the curriculum and addresses any experience deficit.

We work closely and engage with local services such as the Police, PCSOs, Street Wardens, Fire Brigade, Dentists, School Nurse and Opticians participating in their campaigns and competitions and gaining an understanding of their work through workshops and assemblies.



We promote the world of work and have many great partnerships with local and national industries and companies including Dow Chemicals, Visualsoft, Spearhead International, Raw Digital, Campus North, Perspective, Marvellous Me and Iris Connect, to name but a few. 

By connecting with these organisations we are able to be at the cutting edge of some major developments to support education, give children opportunities to visit work places and see for themselves what the world of work expects and what opportunities could be open to them.

Most recently our engagement with local 'tech' industries has been driven by our knowledge that many jobs in the local area are going unfilled due to a skills deficit not yet being fully delivered on by colleges and universities. If we can foster an interest in technology at an early age then this may influence our pupils choice of educational and work pathway. It has also influenced our decision to apply and be awarded the ICT Mark and to become an Apple Regional Training Centre so we offer our own contribution to improving the delivery of technology skills by training teachers in the local area.


We work with other schools, teaching alliances, academy trusts, colleges and universities to enrich experiences and promote ambition. We believe we demonstrate the commitment to lifelong learning by encouraging staff to keep studying, supporting work placements for students and volunteers, lecturing at universities, supporting and challenging other schools, publishing supporting materials and website for teachers and writing and publishing professional blogs.


We encourage the children to be involved in fundraising for a variety of charities locally, nationally and internationally developing their social action and the idea of giving something back. We aim to do this in a fun way encouraging pupil voice to drive the ideas and implementation.

At NOPA we believe we have developed a collaborative culture, members of the school community work together effectively and are guided by a common purpose. All members of the community—teachers, governors, pupils, families and partner agencies share a common vision of what the school should be like and work together to fulfil that aim. We believe we are stronger together and cannot work in isolation.

The stronger the partnerships the stronger the school!

A huge thank you to all who work with us to deliver experiences, support, challenge, aspiration, dreams, tolerance, respect, diversity and values we couldn't do it alone.

Chris Kemp-Hall (Principal) - 30th January 2017


How we’re supporting Teachers in STEM

posted 26 Jan 2017, 00:14 by Craig Nicholson

We wanted to hold a STEM Teach Meet so that educators and industry could get together and discuss how we can help close the digital skills gap in the region, so we did just that last Monday at Campus North. With a talk from Alison Shaw from the UTC bringing to light some hard-hitting facts about STEM in the region, it’s clear that we all need to be working together to ensure that young people with the relevant skills will be able to take advantage of the 60k jobs in science and tech over the next 10 years!

We also had Christine Kemp-Hall and Craig Nicholson from North Ormesby Primary Academy along to chat about how they’ve taken their school from Requires Improvement to Outstanding in just 2 years, as well as how they incorporate digital skills throughout the curriculum. In their most recent OFSTED report, it was recognised that, “the academy’s use of information and communication technology is exceptional and permeates all of its work. It is used effectively to help improve teaching, communicate with parents and extend pupils’ opportunities to learn at home.” They shared some pearls of wisdom too, as well as resources and ideas via Tim’s Teaching Tools, an online bank of resources available for anyone to access.

Christine and Craig from North Ormesby Primary Academy

And, of course we had some wine and nibbles too to keep us going throughout the night…

So, following the success of last week’s, we’re taking the next one on the road to North Ormesby in a bid to build a community of likeminded people with one simple aim; by teachers and industry sharing anything from problems and ideas, to pearls of wisdom and pitfalls, we’ll build an invaluable learning network that we can all tap in to and benefit from. In doing so, schools and industry will develop stronger relationships, and children will become more exposed to the many different types of jobs and careers available in STEM in the region.
Why Tech for Life?

If you’re not entirely sure about who we are or what we’re doing, you can read all about the launch of Tech for Life here. Through various events and activities we put on, we became more and more aware of the disparities in schools teaching coding and digital skills, so that’s why we put together industry-led CPD sessions for teachers in coding and electronics. We want to support our local teachers, so that they can become more confident in teaching computing, as well as integrating tech throughout all of their lessons.

From a family of teachers, and having dabbled in teaching myself a couple of years ago, I for one know that teachers don’t need anyone else pointing the finger of blame and telling them what they should and should not be doing. That’s why we want to be available to provide this support network, so that instead, teachers can feel empowered and confident in integrating STEM in their own, creative way and open up a world of opportunities for their students.

As Campus North’s education initiative, we feel we’re in a good position to facilitate these STEM Teach Meets. Campus North is the place to be to spark conversations and connections in the tech community. We’re home to around 15 different tech meetups each month, and much like meetups, we see teach meets as the perfect opportunity for teachers to meet like-minded people, whether they’re teachers of STEM, interested in integrating more STEM throughout their lessons, or indeed industry professionals who work in STEM fields.

You can read this and a little more here: https://medium.com/@TechforLifeUK/how-were-supporting-teachers-in-stem-88ba9324acef#.4d4ytw6jd

A Fantastic Piece of Work by North Ormesby Primary Academy

posted 26 Jan 2017, 00:08 by Craig Nicholson   [ updated 26 Jan 2017, 00:09 ]

'Congratulations to the children at North Ormesby Primary Academy! Last week, we were delighted to hear that Year 5 and 6 children had been inspired by our best-selling title When I Coloured in the World by Ahmadreza Ahmadi. They had shared their amazing art display on Twitter so we got in touch to find out more about it.'

Craig Nicholson (Vice Principal) tells us more:

We came across the book back in October, through social media, and posted a link to it on our Twitter account – we were so fond of the extract we read that we ordered a copy for school.

North Ormesby Primary Academy
The Y5/6 children had been learning about photography; how to use their iPads to take effective photographs in and around the school grounds. We talked about stance, angles, distance, resolution etc., and the children went around school and took some stunning shots of nature.

As the building work we were having done to the school was coming to a close, we knew we needed some ‘art’ for the new walls in our new meeting room – we decided to set the Y5/6 children a challenge; through some project-based learning using the book, they were to create some artwork to go on the walls.

We ran the project over the course of a day, starting by sharing, reading and analysing the poem. The children noticed there was a lot of repetition in the poem, in terms of its style and also that there was consistent evidence of synonyms. We took the opportunity to learn more about this, picking out the synonyms and coming up with our own antonyms. This led us to talk at length about the moral of the poem and really philosophical discussions were had!

After break, the children picked their favourite page/colour, and the gauntlet was laid out to them! They spent up until lunchtime going around school, using their knowledge of photography to capture stunning images that incorporated their chosen page/colour.

After lunch, the children spent the time editing three of their best images using the ‘colour-splash’ technique, enhancing their chosen colour to coincide with their text.

The final images were uploaded to our drive and we chose 10 to add the text to and print on A1 foam board to be displayed on the walls.

Chris (principal) and I loved the book the minute we got hold of it, and we chatted about all the incredible teaching and learning that could be done with it!

When we knew we needed artwork for the walls, it just made sense! The children loved learning about photography and this was a great way to master their skills, analyse poetry and just enjoy learning based on a fantastic book.

We couldn’t be happier with the end product and we’d really like to thank Ahmadreza for the inspiration!” Craig Nicholson (Vice Principal)

You can see this blog on the 'Tiny Owl' website here: http://tinyowl.co.uk/a-fantastic-piece-of-work-by-north-ormesby-primary-academy/ 

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