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@PrioryGeography ‘s Curriculum Planning Day: Post 1–Who we are and where we are going?

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On Saturday I was accompanied to Arundel’s wetland centre by Jo Debens and Sam Atkins for the annual Priory Geography away day.  Normally held in the week, this year we had to give up a Saturday.  The great thing is, none of us minded.  I’m hoping to get a few posts up in the coming week about the day.  The aim is to communicate why giving teachers the time and space to reflect, evaluate and plan results in better outcomes and happier staff.

The rumour on the street is that teachers shouldn’t expect recognition nor praise for hard work.  I find that an alien idea.  I am well known for pushing the team hard, however, recognition and reward are part of the success story.  Part of the reward on Saturday was a pint at the Black Rabbit, a lovely West Sussex pub by the River Arun.

I’ll talk about the excellent hosting by the WWT at Arundel in a future post.

One of my favourite films is Cool Runnings.  One of the best exchanges between two of the main characters is this:

Sanka: Let me tell you something rasta, I didn't come up here to forget who I am and where I come from.
Derice: Neither did I, I'm just trying to be the best I can be.
Sanka: So am I, and the best I can be is Jamaican. Look, Derice...I've known you since Julie Jeffreys asked to see your ding-a-ling and I'm telling you as a friend if we look Jamaican, walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and IS Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican.
In a profession that faces constant political change, it’s important to reflect on where we came from, where we are and where we want to go.  In order to facilitate this (I am not a role play fan) we each brought along three objects that represented where we wanted Priory Geography to be in two years.  The result was a lively conversation that left me genuinely inspired; chuffed that I work with such great people and a little goose bumpy.  Here is the essence of hat we talked about.

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Sam Atkins:

GPS: Sam felt proud of the new direction in which the team has gone in this year and felt that we owe it to the students to keep up with changes in technology.  Most of all, the device represents getting outdoors, something which is at the very heart of geography.

Compass: This represented the blend between the old, traditional approaches; the knowledge that we feel is fundamental to developing a good geographical understanding and new technologies.  Sam used a phrase that I loved and am going to quote everywhere: ‘Just because it doesn’t have batteries in it, doesn’t mean it’s not technology.’  The compass also represented the way that the team should help our students to navigate life and to go beyond pure geographical knowledge.

Blackberry: Apart from assuring us that he is upgrading this soon, Sam felt that the device summed us up as a department.  It represents sharing and collaboration while we keep in touch with other departments as well as the national picture.  Sam felt that we should continue to see mobile technology as ‘an opportunity not an obstacle’ and that devices will enable better geographical enquiry to take place.

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Jo Debens

Phone: A rather better device (apart from the pink cover).  The image on it represents the Guerrilla Geography / Naughty Learning aspect of our work that has been so successful over the last few years.  We are also a high tech department and one that gets outdoors as much as possible.

T-Shirt: Jo felt proud of the Priory Geography ‘brand’ and felt proud to be a member of the department.  One thing that we all shared was that we always look forward to work time and lessons and working together.  that’s got to be worth keeping!

Russian Dolls: As well as representing the department’s success with Microsoft’s Partners in Learning, this represents the way in which the department in multi-layered – just like the Transformers, there’s more than meets the eye and we are active in driving and hooking into whole school opportunities.  This is something that she felt we should continue to develop.

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My own:

Lego People: These figured represent our playful nature that encompasses the hearty banter experienced in our work place and the playful way we try to approach our work.  They also portray our adaptable and flexible nature.  Lego People are able to be rebuilt, interchange and stand in for each other.

Guerrilla Geography Badge: This links to the Priory Geography branding as well as our developing connections with local business, attractions, education establishments and artists.  I hope that we can continue to develop these connections and add new ones.

Camera DSLR Remote: Again, this links to technology but, more importantly, creativity (they are not the same thing).  We are also developing a ‘hands off’ approach which encourages independence and collaboration in our young people.  With creativity, comes risk.  When you play around with camera settings on a DSLR, photos start to get worse before the get better than those taken using the Auto settings.  We are a department that isn’t shy of being creative, of taking pedagogic risk….

I hope that gives you a flavour of how the day started.  It really is an activity that is worth doing.  Although it doesn’t include every aspect of the team’s work, it gave us a useful insight for revisiting our vision video.  But that’s a whole other post….


  1. As always, some interesting and thought-provoking content here...
    Continuous team building and support is important, as well as the knowledge that failure is an option... Looking forward to seeing where you go next :)


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