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Mick Waters

Mick Waters is the former QCA director of curriculum and the star of our Mick Waters Drops In series where he talks to staff and pupils about their learning and contributes to lessons, by drawing on his years of experience.

Here, he talks to Teachers TV about his series and the questions they pose which can help governors in their own schools.


"Some governors have specific responsibility on the curriculum committee but good schools know that the curriculum is in everything we do. It's found in assembly and dining; from using the library to the school garden to the link via ICT to a partner school overseas...and including planned lessons.

They don't see the curriculum as a set of lessons and all the add-ons as extras.The curriculum for the school is the entire planned learning experience and includes the national curriculum as part of it. Good schools make the national curriculum work for them, rather than becoming a slave to it.

Across the country, teachers are providing amazing learning for youngsters. They need governors to prompt their thinking. So questions like "how do we create space for play?" or "shall we fund educational visits or classroom assistants?" or "how are parents involved in options choices?" are all vital learning questions. An awareness of what other schools are doing, and why, is also vital.

Teachers TV provides an endless source of opportunity for governors to consider how other schools do things, offering insights and new perspectives to improve outcomes in learning.

I've been lucky enough to visit three schools as part of the "Mick Waters Drops In" series. In one video, two pupils show us round their school, introduce key staff and point out the parts of their school that are important to them. What would learners in our own school choose to show a visitor?

Looking at the way staff at The City School in Sheffield endlessly go the extra mile for the children will raise questions about the way learning happens in all sorts of contexts. F, from visits, to charitable work, to drama clubs, performances and sports events, the youngsters are supported by staff who are continually thinking about ways to open doors to learning.

At South Brent Primary School in Devon, the Head talks about encouraging "a rage to learn" through a curriculum that speaks to children about the excitement of learning new things. The school’s efforts in providing for the emotional and social wellbeing of children shine through the curriculum. Do our children have the same opportunities?

At Trinity Primary School in Wolverhampton, the pupils engage in learning through simulations of real events. So creative are the staff, that children take the experiences to new levels and develop "basic skills".

In all of these schools there is a rigorous approach to instructional teaching but this is cleverly balanced so that learners see a purpose and value in trying to do well in aspects of learning that initially might be obscure or testing. They trust their teachers to work with them and apply all the new learning to real contexts. How far does our school balance the formal with the children’s world?

In the three schools we see primary and secondary examples of the importance of play, adventure, relationships, pupil responsibility, creativity, hard work and fun. Watch all three; the other age phase is just as fascinating and will raise questions for the governors about transition in learning:

  • What happens next?
  • What happened before?
  • How do we build on that?
  • Are they well prepared for what comes later?
  • Do they repeat things?
  • How do we demand a better quality?
  • Don’t our own children do well?

When we teach young people, we are teaching young linguists, artists, geographers and designers. They need to dance, experiment, cook and grow things. They will become bridge builders, plumbers, nurses and air traffic controllers. It is not long until the children in our schools will be standing for council, married, employed or defending the country. We will need negotiators, thinkers, carers and inventors.

As governors we are helping to shape learning that will prepare young people for the future. At the same time we need to give them the very best present: a childhood to discover and enjoy.”

15 mins Tollgate Primary
Part of the series School Improvement
Transforming an east London school from bleak to beautiful

15 mins Fundraising Consultancy
Part of the series Secondary Management
Tips from the teacher behind a successful fundraising campaign