Knowle West Media Centre meets Sarah Barfield and Anne Peachey at The School of Christ the King

Written by Roz on 11 Jan, 07
Focus on city challenges World-class connectivity

Sarah Barfield and Anne Peachey
School of Christ the King
9 November 2006

I went to the School of Christ the King where I met with Sarah Barfield, learning mentor and Anne Peachey, head teacher. Sarah and myself began to discuss the digital challenge and Anne Peachey joined us soon after our discussion began. I explained the Connecting Bristol bid, and the purpose of my meeting with them. Sarah and Anne told me that there have been various projects and work using new media across the school and with parents’ groups. They told me that they are running a parents’ group to encourage parents to cross the barrier into school in order to boost communication.

Anne and Sarah told me that IT related issues have come up in relation to adult learning. They explained that there were issues to do with access for many families and that there were also issues for parents who want to support their children to use new media, but who don’t know how to use it themselves.

Anne and Sarah said that the Knowle West Issues forum was one space that the parents’ group was very interested in and in which they were keen to engage. They told me that someone is coming into the school from KWMC to introduce the parents’ group to using it. They said that numbers of parents attending the parents group ranged from 2 – 16, but that given the interest in the issues forum they anticipated a good turn out to the introductory sessions.

Sarah and Anne then talked about the relationship between new media and staff at the school. They said that one major issues was time, because staff don’t have enough time for training in new media.

However, they have done lots of projects with KWMC. For example, Amanda did a whole class digital photography project. This project was quite a new thing for them to do and was quite experimental. They said that as teachers, because of time restraints, they don’t always get the chance to do anything like that. They highlighted how such projects are good for staff because often staff don’t realise what is possible with new media. They added that, for the children, these projects have really developed children’s confidence and has been useful in enhancing their learning. They told me that KWMC had led these projects to some extent because they have the skills, ideas and know what is possible. The projects have involved some work that has been with just one or two children at a time and Anne and Sarah said that this has been great because those children have got such a lot from it. However, they added that whole class involvement in projects has been equally positive.

Anne and Sarah articulated how it is often the case that some children, who may be limited in terms of the extent to which they can express themselves academically, can express themselves through new media. We talked about the way in which the use of photography creates a level playing field for expression because of the common or shared understandings there are of photographic images. Anne and Sarah underlined how new media is similarly located in the realm of popular culture, and therefore something that young people are more likely to be confident about using to express themselves, as it is familiar.

Sarah and Anne then talked about how the projects with KWMC have led the children to look at things in new ways. They said that primary children are often spoon fed, and not necessarily expected to think things through for themselves, whereas during project work with KWMC, and when using cameras and new media creatively, they do have to think things through for themselves. In this way Anne and Sarah highlighted how such work leads very young people to extend their understanding of the world and to develop and make explicit their own unique sense of the world. Anne and Sarah then talked about the Planet Earth programme that has been on TV recently. They said that it was good for the children to be able to think about how we look at the world and to experience looking at the world in different ways. They also underlined the significance of the project work for the pupils in terms of them developing their skills in representing the world to others, and how their project experience could be the starting point for them developing and utilising these skills, perhaps in vocational ways, in their adult lives. They implied that the experience of using new media at primary school, to represent their own perspective of the world to others, makes it feasible for the pupils to consider themselves using new media to similar ends in the future.

Another valuable outcome from project work has been that children have met people from other walks of life, who the children can identify with, and who are in some ways role models. Sarah and Anne explained the significance of this as being about how it extends the children’s sense of what is possible in life, thereby raising their aspirations and expectations and developing their ambitions.

Another positive aspect of the project work with KWMC has been how it highlights to children that you don’t have to write to be successful.

Anne and Sarah also told me about a film project with KWMC that has involved work in Wales. They said that this has been a tremendously good project for working with parents and pupils and that many parents learnt skills through it. In addition, this work introduced many parents to KWMC who are consequently now aware of it as an accessible resource.

Sarah and Anne underlined the use value of digital cameras and said that it would be great if the children could use and practice using digital cameras in their leisure time.

Anne and Sarah also emphasised how the work with KWMC has been successful because it has been about doing creative things rather than being focussed on software or hardware.

Sarah and Anne told me that the pupils at The School of Christ the King use email within school and have email partners. They also told me that two teachers, Simon Gent and Alison Meacham, are particularly keen to use photography and new media in school. Simon has worked with students using new media, for example, to deconstruct images. Sarah told me how Simon had used new media so that the children could swap around the features of Van Gough from one of his self portraits to another. Through this exercise the children realised that his eye, for example, was the same proportion to the rest of his face in different self portraits. The children thereby made discoveries about how proportion works in paintings. Work such as this has promoted the uses of new media in the school.

We talked about potential future work and Anne and Sarah agreed that they were open to suggestions from KWMC. They said that they thought the expertise at KWMC was such that the school is open to finding out more from KWMC and planning more projects on the basis of, and informed by, KWMC’s expertise.

They then told me about some of the outcomes from project work, and how one boy who is now an ex-pupil has won a photography award. They said that there is so much creative talent in the school that it is great to be able to facilitate opportunities for this talent to come out. They said that it was important however to retain a balance between this and delivery that ensure they reach curriculum targets.

Anne and Sarah then said that the language of new media, such as websites, has grown around the school and that staff are now becoming more inclined to use new media and are overcoming their fear of equipment like interactive white boards. There is, amongst the staff, a growing interest and vocabulary regarding new media.

Anne and Sarah then talked about work with film and highlighted how it is a non-threatening way to involve parents in activities with pupils as it is learning that is accessible and fun. It is practical learning but is also relevant to leisure, rather than just being vocational.

Sarah and Anne also commented on how such activities as those facilitated through KWMC are ones which pupils are likely to remember when they are older, and how this is real lifelong learning as it will be with them for life, unlike lessons, which may become forgotten in amongst all the other lessons that they attend. Also, in terms of lifelong learning Anne and Sarah talked about how some parents might feel unskilled, and how involvement in activities like the film project can address that feeling and can facilitate opportunities fro parents to have another ‘string to their bow’.

Sarah and Anne commented on how such work as that facilitated by KWMC is a learning experience for all involved but is also enjoyable. They said that there isn’t enough in our lives that is enjoyable and so having a process and activities that are enjoyable and which work is important and rare. Anne and Sarah then listed the significant factors about the process:

o Learning
o Enjoyable
o Level playing field
o Parent’s involvement
o Staff sharing expertise

They then expanded on this last point, saying that skills sharing happens quite naturally at their school, as older members of staff have loads of experience and younger staff have loads of enthusiasm and new ideas, especially regarding the potential uses of new media. This sense of exchange makes it comfortable for staff to say what it is they don’t know in order to find out more from those who do.

Sarah and Anne then told me a bit more about a project that Amanda from KWMC has facilitated. They told me that they had a trip to the Royal West of England College gallery and that pupils selected paintings and made their own digital pieces from the images, which were exhibited. Whilst on exhibition one of the pupil’s images was sold. The money from this sale was used to buy a book to use as a resource, which was of the earth from the air. Anne highlighted how through this process one project rolled into another and became part of a longer process. The pupils were blown away by the pictures of the earth from the air, and it is a useful resource in terms of showing what it is that photography can do.

Anne and Sarah talked about the instant nature of digital photography and how this is a useful aspect of it.

Sarah and Anne also talked about the pupils taking photos as part of the project outlined previously and how they needed to plan specific pictures and think about it and focus on it, in the alien environment of Park Street. They talked about the usefulness of the work in introducing pupils to other bits of Bristol, as, for many pupils Bedminster is ‘town’.

They said that pupils go on tours of Bristol every year and that it would be great if they could take photos on those trips to be able to collect and exhibit the children’s views of Bristol. They added that things that work well are things that are well planned and structured.

They said that projects that fit into the art curriculum are useful, as they mean that you are able to spend time in ways that relate to the things that there are pressures to do, as well as being fun and having the impact that a project has.

Anne and Sarah added that one of the great things about working with KWMC is that pupils and parents are able to sustain their engagement beyond project activities, through other activities that are facilitated at KWMC, such as Drop Media sessions. They said that such out of school provisions are very important and that the stuff that happens in school can act to introduce pupils and parents to the wider set of opportunities available at KWMC.

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