“In all honesty it started as an added extra to our curriculum and was known only as growit-cookit. Now, after three years, Open Futures is an integral part of the learning of all pupils. It is the driver for progressing pupils’ skill development from early years to the end of Key Stage 2” – Richard Yelland, Headteacher
St John the Baptist School in Findon is a small, village school, which currently has about 140 pupils.
During the first year, with the support of officers and trainers from the RHS and Focus on Food, pupils in Reception, Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 developed a kitchen garden and began cooking and preparing food as part of an extra activity each week. The following year Richard and the entire staff team agreed an ambitious plan to establish Open Futures across the whole school. filmit had joined growit and cookit, enhancing them both, and teachers prepared for training in P4C enquiry skills through the askit strand, which took place at the end of Year 2.
“We linked the Open Futures skills into the topic cycle, for example using different crops and recipes to teach about different religions and cultures.”
During the third year the plan was kept under close review, but initial findings soon indicated that the impact on children’s learning and motivation was not as significant as during the previous year.
“One of the problems was insufficient TA support. We have an excellent colleague, who is very experienced in supporting growing and cooking activities. She was really stretched in attempting to work with all classes. We were not prepared to offer pupils a diluted experience of Open Futures.”
The revised plan for Year 3 was equally ambitious. Open Futures is now an intensive part of Key Stage 1 and lower Key Stage 2; skill training is linked to all topics and themes from Reception to the end of Year 3.
“Pupils in Key Stage 2 are no longer receiving direct skill training; they are now actively involved in applying the skills acquired in Key Stage 1 by working together to develop and maintain the school’s physical environment.”
Each class in Key Stage 2 is responsible for part of the school’s grounds, including a wildlife area, the pond and the entrance garden. As part of the curriculum pupils make decisions about the use and development of their area (askit). They plant flowers, shrubs, herbs and soft fruits (growit). Where appropriate they cook or prepare produce for the table (cookit). Activities are recorded on a digital camera for pupils’ personal use to assess their learning or to share with others (filmit).
An assessment of the new cross-school skills progression strategy will take place in an end of the year review. In the meantime Richard is confident that:
“Generic practical and cognitive skills developed by pupils through Open Futures in Key Stage 1 can be successfully applied and embedded across all subjects and learning experiences in Key Stage 2.”