enrichment – excellence – enjoyment
“It has been a really memorable experience for me being in an academy. It has been
challenging but it has also been really enjoyable. I now realise that if I push myself
I can be successful in everything I do and reach a brilliant standard.”
At Crofton we continually strive to find ways to allow pupils to develop their full potential; we believe that a successful school recognises and provides opportunities for the widest range of talents and abilities of its pupils.
As a result we have developed an ambitious and exciting initiative: a number of academies have been set up to provide pupils with the opportunity to spend extra time working in an area in which they demonstrate high levels of aptitude. The academies (art, language, music, performing arts and sport) provide the opportunity for a stimulating, enriching and challenging learning experience for the most gifted and talented pupils. Pupils work in small peer groups led by a teacher who shares their enthusiasm.
Academy pupils spend up to two hours each week following a bespoke high challenge programme of study where they are introduced to a wider range of materials, techniques, concepts and references than is usual for their age. Teacher expectations are high, and pupils respond very positively to the opportunities provided demonstrating great enthusiasm and commitment. The level of achievement by pupils is outstanding and is considerably above that expected for their age.
Selection for the Academies
The academies are part of our Gifted and Talented (G&T) enrichment programme. Gifted and Talented is a national initiative to provide the most able pupils with a curriculum that extends and enriches their learning. National guidelines recommend that 5% of pupils from each year group are identified for G&T provision. In Crofton Junior School this translates into approximately ten pupils from each year group in each academy. G&T is by its very nature relative and competitive. Our G&T pupils may be very different in ability from pupils in other schools, and a pupil’s abilities relative to those of other pupils in the year group may also change over time. This means that when a pupil is selected for an academy it is for that school year only and does not mean that the pupil will stay in the academy throughout their time at Crofton. If pupils were given a place for their four years in the juniors, it could mean that if their abilities dip relative to others then places for higher achieving pupils would be blocked.
Initially a shortlist of pupils that are demonstrating high levels of ability in the relevant academy area is drawn up. The academy teacher then runs trials where the shortlisted pupils are asked to complete a range of tasks. Due to the competitive nature of Gifted and Talented, pupils’ scores are ranked. A final ranking is then calculated and the top 5% are offered a place in the academy. Membership of an academy is entirely voluntary.
If a pupil’s name is included on an academy shortlist, an e-mail will be sent home to inform parents. It is important at this point to stress to pupils that inclusion on a shortlist does not mean that they will be offered a place in the relevant academy. Once the trials have been completed a second e-mail will be sent to parents to inform them if their child has or has not been successful in gaining a place in the academy.
Pupils in the Art Academy use a wider range of materials and techniques, including a vector drawing programme, to create art works that are often on a very large scale. Their references frequently include contemporary artists and those artists who are highly regarded in the art world but less well known in junior schools. In addition to extending pupils knowledge and practice of art there is an emphasis on developing independence, organisational skills and the ability to critically evaluate their own work and that of their peers.
Recent projects have included:
Cakes & Ice Cream
Medium: Paper Pulp Paintings
Pupils used pulped up paper and acrylic paint on wooden boards to create paintings based on the work of American west coast pop artist Wayne Thiebaud.
Medium: Relief Sculptures
Pupils considered the idea of beauty in its many forms before creating their own large scale relief- sculpture from thick sheets of polystyrene and modroc. Sculptures included a giant serpent brooch, a flying duck with pinny and pearl necklace and a chameleon on a person’s hand.
“Music Academy has been a really special part of my life this year. I have had the opportunity to learn so many new skills such as writing my own songs, creating catchy rhythms and even singing in Latin. One of the things I am most proud of is composing our own piece of music which was about a journey to freedom; it was extremely challenging at first but I have learnt that if you try and try and try again you WILL succeed!”
Music Academy provides the opportunity for pupils to deepen their appreciation of music and refine their musicianship through a broad range of activities. Each session aims to develop a better sense of pulse, pitch, melody and coordination through activities such as singing, rhythm games, playing within a group, performing and composing. As well as more familiar musical styles, pupils also explore forms and genres of music which extend their musical horizons.
WWII sound track - inspired by Gustav Holst's Mars (The Bringer of War), pupils have borrowed his musical techniques to create a composition which will be used in conjunction with WWII images for a spectacular and moving performance to commemorate 70 years since the close of the war.
Spirituals - pupils have traced the journey from African drumming to songs of slavery in the cotton fields and finally to the emergence of spirituals and even the blues. Activities so far have included drumming sessions, playing call and response songs and composing melodies to work song lyrics.
“Being in the Performing Arts Academy has been brilliant and amazing; I can really say it was life changing! I have learnt lots of new things such as using body language to express emotions and it has given me so much more confidence. There have been many challenges such as the Year 3 workshop where we planned what to teach and actually taught the Year 3s ourselves - it was really fun and we did it successfully by working together as a team.”
There are two strands to the Performing Arts Academy - dance and drama. Pupils are initially introduced to the main components of each strand. In dance these are balance, coordination, musicality, flexibility and strength; and in drama they learn and practise methods to support improvisation, characterization, mime and physical theatre. Creativity and personal exploration are at the centre of the performing arts sessions. In addition to refining their techniques, pupils also study the work of a wide range of choreographers and learn how to adapt and incorporate them in to their own work as they move toward a final performance.
Recent projects have included:
Best of British – pupils explored a range of symbols associated with Britain including the Union Jack, the Queen’s Guards and the London Underground and used them as a starting point to create their own dances and drama pieces.
Alice in Wonderland - pupils chose excerpts from Alice in Wonderland such as falling down the rabbit hole, the mad hatter’s tea party and a speech between Alice and the Cheshire Cat as starting points for their work in physical theatre.
Around the World – as a starting point pupils studied traditional and folk dances associated with a particular country, for example drumming from West Africa, Morris dancing from England and the Tarantella scarf dances from Italy. Pupils then created their own dances inspired by what they had learned and using the vocabulary of the ‘world dance’.
“It has been a real privilege being in Sports Academy because you just never knew what sort of fun challenge was about to hit you! The standard of work has been very high and I have learned not only lots of new skills but also how to apply them at a high level in both independent and group activities. I feel that my confidence improves at every session but the area that has improved the most is in my agility. It has been has been an unforgettable experience.”
Pupils have an hour of intensive activity in the Sports Academy each week. The main emphasis in the sessions is on improving performance in a variety of basic skills such as throwing, catching, striking and tracking a ball, alongside developing strength, speed, agility, balance, kinaesthetic awareness and co-ordination, so that skills can be performed consistently with control and ease. Pupils will work as individuals, in pairs or in small groups and will gain a good understanding of how to improve their own performance as well as taking part in some competitive tasks. In addition, pupils take part creative and fun mini games, often devised by the pupils.
The stimulus for Song Searching was The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes
I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:
Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Coming about its own business
Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.
The lyrics for Song Searching were written in a joint venture with Music Academy.
The lyrics and music describe how it feels to write creatively, striving to capture your ideas on paper.
The first section compares starting to write with entering a forest of thoughts or ideas. At this point the ideas are like shadows, indistinct, flowing in and out of your mind. It is evening and the forest is lit by the moon.
The second section compares the process of choosing and capturing ideas with a chase through the forest, where interwoven trails of words and ideas swirl around your head like leaves. The weather becomes unsettled, teasing you and making the search harder. Some ideas burst like bubbles before you capture them. The feeling of being totally absorbed in your thoughts is likened to being lost in a parallel, black and white world, where time seems to have stopped.
The third section describes emerging from the forest with your ideas formed. Having been lost in thought, you snap back from concentrating so hard that you are oblivious to all around you, to suddenly realising that you are still writing or typing in the same place, and that you have lost track of time. Morning sunlight and colours return. You feel at peace back in the real world.
Finally we close with an afterthought: is the creative writing process ever complete? The writing continues to evolve in your mind; you may continue to want to add or change parts, or even create two different versions.
My mind is a cloud covered sky,
The forest of thought draws me in to find,
Trails of ideas through statuesque trees,
Time stops, unlock my mind.
The mystical moon lures me in,
Her gaze is ever on me,
Ideas seeping in, fleeing out,
Like shadows creep onto me, over me, into me,
Shadows creep onto me, over me, into me.
Time stopped, ideas creep up, creep in,
Time stopped, unlock my mind, my mind,
I run, I run, can’t get away,
I leave your world behind, behind.
Ideas are like bubbles, silently forming,
In a world of black and white,
I reach for them, reach, but they just keep bursting,
Swept away from sight.
Darkness creeping, wind is teasing,
Leaves swirl around my head, my head,
Flying around me, a blur of words,
On interweaving trails I’m led, I’m led.
Trails of ideas beckon to me,
Overlapping, old and new,
One idea sparks another,
I’m heading back to you.
Clouds peeling off the sky,
Sunlight glistens, my mind unwinds,
Colours emerge from misty murkiness
My thoughts crystallise.
At peace now back in your world,
Ideas printed on my mind,
Light falls, silence calls,
Back in your time...
The forest left behind...
Ideas have been refined...
All is now aligned...
My song is signed...
There’s always more to find...
How do you see me? Who am I really?
The pupils explored how characters are presented in literature through their own or another’s voice (The Clown Punk Simon Armitage, Not Waving But DrowningStevie Smith, Ozymandias Percy Bysshe Shelley, Civil Lies Benjamin Zephaniah, A Lady of Letters from Talking Heads Alan Bennett). They considered the way in which we make judgements about others – right or wrong - based on their appearance and how they behave.
The pupils then invented characters that travel on the same train each day. They described them from the viewpoint of other passengers and also wrote internal monologues. Short extracts from their work were then used as the basis for a performance.
(Character 1, dressed in jeans and a hoodie, ambles onto the station platform, stage right, alone except for busker playing on far left)
Narrator: Character 1
Standing quite still,
Foot taps slow,
Hood pulled down low,
Waiting again at the station.
Slumped, like a basset hound’s ears, he stands awaiting the clattering, deafening, rushing tube. His twig-like fingers constantly tap away on a mobile as if it is a repetitive routine that hangs about him like an annoying fly. His dark, greasy hair hugs his stumpy neck as if blanketing a sleepy child.
(First character freezes as narrator finishes. As each new character enters in turn, others freeze, waiting for the train, whilst description is read.)
It appears as if a professional make-up artist has fitted the perfect wig on top of her head. It hovers uncertainly above her boulder-like shoulders, a neatly cut fringe perching just on top of her bushy eyebrows. Many rings clutter around her bulging fingers, bulging as if they would pop if another ring tried to join them. Her beady eyes stare out upon the world like those of a vulture transfixed on its prey.
He slowly strides in his tight jeans, his long legs swinging forward like pendulums. Loosely, his head is hung down between his low, broad shoulders. His young face is vacant but clear - blank; it seems as if he keeps his thoughts locked tightly in his head, rendering his face almost obsolete.
“Mum said, “Let’s go to a show! It’ll take your mind off not having a job.” As if that would help! When I was little, Mum and I counted the stations on the way to meet Dad. I remember running into his arms on this very platform- just there! Now I travel on the train alone, without that wreath of comfort. Dad’s not the same anymore. Now it’s like I’m just not his problem.”
He occasionally brushes imaginary dirt from the shoulder of his long black suit which stretches from head to toe. I’ve noticed that on the tube he looks statuesque, sitting up straight as if his life depended on it, with arms tightly folded as if to take up as little space as possible. Or is he just trying to stay as far away from other people as he can?
Character 5 (busker)
( stops playing guitar and moves onto platform)
He lisps whilst muttering to himself endlessly. Small scars scatter across his unkempt face, fear in every one. His brow is furrowed in concentration and his thin mouth droops like a washing line. Tight shoulders and a shrewd, pointy nose make him seem private and sly.
“Only company I keep now is Scabbers, my rat. Lives in my pocket he does. Could have made better friends in life, I could. Of course, life can only get better: some music agent will unearth my true talent. Soon be a professional guitarist, I will. Don’t approve of buskers who just settle for what they've got."
(vocal(vocal sound effects of train doors opening, passengers enter train and sit/stand)
“My glamorous hair slithers down my straight back like a snake. That scruffy guitar player needs a good wash! Well, at least I won’t be having his stinking paws on my grand furniture!”
She struts on to the train: click- clack, click-clack as if it were a catwalk, elbows out. As she reaches a seat, she neatly sits herself down and crosses her legs as if she were carefully arranging ornaments on a shelf or flowers in a vase.
(Character 6 enters the train and sits.)
(Character 7 strides onto the train and sits.)
Flickering, the lights reflect off his jet black jacket. Purposefully, he steps into the bullet shaped tube, as relaxed as a lion. Noticing people looking at him, he follows their gaze and, realising they are looking at his vivid green tie, looks pleased with the attention he has attracted.
Dreamily, she twirls her long, golden curls around her dainty finger. Nibbling on a cereal bar, she bites off miniscule amounts, and then strangely, stores them in her cheeks, resembling a hamster. Eventually, she pauses, her expansive eyes flicker delicately, and she swallows.
You assume that he has a well paid job from his classy suit. His lips are sunken so far that you might think he doesn’t have any in his pale face with its set expression, like a mannequin, you could say.
“When I was young, I was like a missile, achieved everything and now-
I have whatever I want,
I’m lucky to be who I am,
I give gifts to those less fortunate,
Whenever I can.”
(vocal sound effect of train doors shutting, standing passengers sway in unison with movement of train, vocal sound effect of train doors opening, passengers leave, busker plays and Character 9 puts money in guitar case, all leave station, put up hoods / umbrellas as raining, all exit stage except character 10)
Her daubed expression suggests she is trapped in a separate world. Her posture is regal, proud like that of a dressage horse and many diamond rings wind themselves perfectly around her slim fingers. Her thin dress cascades down towards her petite ankles.
(rummages in her pocket for keys, unlocks door, steps inside, unclips hair and shakes it free, slips off heels, puts on music, exits with spring in her step)
Arriving at home,
Digging out keys,
Opening the door,
Outside no more,
No longer just a face at the station.