It has been a joy to see their interest and delight

The impact of the first year of Open Futures at Clifton Infants School, Wakefield

Clifton Infants School is a small school on the outskirts of Wakefield. When the Headteacher, Jane Birkett, heard about Open Futures she recognised that the programme was likely to support her in further developing the skills-based curriculum that she and her staff were already promoting. A year on, she is delighted by what has been achieved and, in reviewing the progress with her staff, came to the following conclusions.

There has been tremendous progress in growit with all classes being involved in some way with growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, including broad beans, lettuces, potatoes, leeks, peas, spring onions, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, redcurrants, rhubarb and raspberries. Most have now been harvested and used in cooking and eating. Many of the children have said that they have tried things which before they would have turned their noses up at, such as radishes, onions and garlic.

Staff describe how highly motivated the children are; it has been a joy to see their interest and delight as they prepared the beds, planted seeds and watched them grow, then picked and used their fruit and vegetables in a variety of recipes. Children have had experience of maintaining the garden through activities such as watering, composting and pest control by using eggshells. As a result of the Morrisons Let’s Grow voucher scheme, the school purchased a water butt, mini greenhouse and cold frame. Every day, pupils from each class take their fruit and paper towel waste to add to the compost bin.

The growing activities, which have gone on all year, have had a huge impact on pupils’ awareness of where their food comes from, and how fruit and vegetables can contribute to a healthy diet. During the inspection, the Ofsted inspector was surprised at their knowledge of the ingredients in the Greek salad which they had made, and why it was good for them! Year 2 have also gained some economic awareness by selling extra produce to parents for the school fund.

Foundation Stage staff are now keen to get involved. Two raised beds have been ordered for them, and winter crops for autumn planting will arrive shortly.

This has been another area of great progress. The smells from the cooking have permeated around all areas of school! All classes have been involved with some food preparation over the course of the year, and in using the excellent resources in the cookit kit. The Old Nursery unit now has fully equipped kitchen. Crops from the garden have been harvested and used in cooking such things as garlic bread, Greek salad and broad bean pâté. They have also made banana bread and carrot muffins.

Children have developed their cutting, chopping and combining skills and learnt a great deal about healthy eating. It has been wonderful to see children trying things which they have prepared themselves, and enjoying them. Foundation Stage recently made a fruit salad with a wide variety of exotic fruit. All the children had a go at peeling and chopping which really benefited the development of their fine motor skills, and then they all tried the salad, and without exception, enjoyed it and asked for more!

The Healthy Schools task group planned a Healthy Eating day during the year, with the purpose of encouraging parents and children to make healthy choices for their lunchboxes, in line with Government standards for school dinners. Local supermarkets supported the venture by providing ingredients, a smoothie maker and staff to come into school to make wraps with the children. Every child made their own lunchbox and filled it with nutritious food, and then we met for a grand indoor picnic. At the end of the day the children took home suggested menus for healthy lunchbox items. Children’s awareness about the importance of healthy food has been considerably increased through their experiences in this area, once again commended in our Ofsted report.

There are now seven films uploaded onto the Open Futures filmit website, all produced by the children and some edited by them as well. All teaching staff received training on this strand and are beginning to see opportunities to capture children’s experiences. Some classes are watching their edited films as part of their Literacy lessons, such as the visit they made to a local place of worship.

Most classes are doing weekly P4C sessions and children are becoming used to the techniques and procedures. Staff have noticed that children who might otherwise be reticent to participate in class discussions, will take an active part in P4C sessions. Various stimuli have been used including photographs and artefacts, and children’s global awareness has been raised though the themes that have been chosen.

The Primary Framework has lent itself to much more drama and role play activities within Literacy and this has engaged and encouraged high levels of participation by both boys and girls. This year we have seen a big increase in boys’ attainment in Speaking and Listening and the results in CLLD in the Foundation Stage profile were the highest for the last four years. We are convinced that this is due to the SEALs work, Circle Time activities and to askit, as well as the change in themes to more exciting topics such as Dinosaurs, Space and Africa.

Year Two plans
As we progress into our second year of Open Futures, we are all convinced that the decision to be an Open Futures school was the right one. This year we are revising our curriculum themes to more interactive and exciting topics which include much more outdoor learning.

The Open Futures strands of cookit, growit and filmit are to be incorporated into these plans. For example, classes will sign up to a list of annual tasks for the growit area, and also for related cookit activities. These activities will be filmed or photographed as a record. A covered shelter is shortly to be fitted in the growing area so that groups/classes can work in all weathers.

Training is to be rolled out to more members of staff so that all age groups can participate in all strands. There is a mentoring programme in place for trained staff to support others in delivering the various aspects of the programme.

Foundation Stage are having some raised beds built in their outdoor area so that they can plant and grow their own vegetables and fruit. A food composting unit is to be used to compost all food waste from our school kitchens, and the residue used on our gardens.

We have a number of parents who are already helping with the project, and we are aiming to encourage more to become involved, by promoting Open Futures in our newsletters, on our website and by holding an information session.