I’ve run lots of simple ‘theme’ days and what I call ‘in-class’ offtimetable events (where just my class have gone offtimetable for a day or 2).
I’ve now progresed to running whole school events (or half school events, eg. just the upper school), where we mix classes and year groups, and the children pick their own activities.
So, here (in no particular order !) are my thoughts on things to bear in mind when you are planning a larger offtimetable event.
It will require more than one person to make it a real success
However excited and motivated you are you will need the support of your senior management team. Just take time to explain the benefits outlined on this site and they will be right behind you.
What time of year are you going to run your event?
Summer term is good because you can utilise outside spaces. Autumn term is also great as you can get to know new children more quickly.
What area of the curriculum do you want to focus on ?
Or do you want a cross curriculuar theme?
•World event – the olympics
How long do you want the courses to last?
I would recommend for a first atempt keep all the same timings e.g all one day or two days etc. This makes it easier to organise at first. However if you are using easyPLAN the pain is taken out of the process so even half days are possible!
How many people do you have to run courses?
This is great opportuntity to engage all your stakeholders. We have had governers and parents running courses as well as ‘buying in’ experts in certain areas of the curriculum. If you use easyPLAN you can change the sizes of the groups to reflect the experience of the course leader. For instance TA’s could have 12 pupils while teachers have 20. I have found that I have always had smaller groups than any normal class size for your school as I’ve encouraged people who would not normally think of themselves as ‘teachers’ to join in.
Do you want children to work with different children in the school?
I think this is the key to a really succesful event. Mixing the children for a week can extend the gifted and talented whilst offering support to the less able too. New friendships are formed and a really sense of community achieved.
What space will be available?
Obviously classrooms . . . . but don’t be limited. Can you schedule courses to use of outside space ? Off site trips are of course possible too. Don’t make my mistake of utilising the hall, but then having to tidy up each day for use at lunchtime!
What’s your Budget?
Depending on the kind of event you are planning this can vary hugely. Can you do all you need from your current stock and resourses or will you need to buy in things?
I have sent letters home to parents outlining any resources they might be able to help with and this has always been useful. E.g. when designing and making a school garden we had plently of donations of cuttings and expertise followed it (and it didn’t cost a penny in plants!)
In this current climate what about a week around recycling ? Have you got a scrapbox centre near you these can be invauable
Editors Note: See also www.childrensscrapstore.co.uk
How much time have you got?
I would recommend starting the process at least a half term before the event. Get the staff together either at a staff meeting or if you are lucky enough an INSET day. Introduce the focus for the week. I then get the staff into small teams to brain storm ( thought shower!) ideas. Collect these and weed out the duplicates, (although I found in all the years I’ve run events that even if courses are similar they attract different children and their seems to be space for all ideas).
Then you need to think about all the above questions and start planning!
The basic information you will need from each course leader before you start to plan the event in full is
•Course leader’s name
•Location (where they will run the course)
•How long is their course
•How many children they can facilate
•What resourses they require
•Which days will they be running their course.
Setting up the event
We have tried circulating options slips around the school for courses, but what a mess you face when you get them back. It’s not too bad as you do the first pass, trying to give each child their first choice. But, not each child will get their first choice, because popular courses fill up quickly. So you try to keep a note of who didn’t get their first choice so that they get priority second time around. But then when you go round again, they might not get their second choice because they are not free on the correct day. And the whole problem gets more and more complicated.
You could try the ‘get everyone in the school hall’ approach on each day. Course Leaders stand around the edge holding up a sign ‘advertising’ their course, and turning pupils away as courses fill up. This might work for say, an event with say 100 participants, but I do not fancy attempting this at our school.
We have always used easyPLAN. I get plenty of time to think about what courses to run and build the information up gradually on easyPLAN when I get it. The children really do love chosing their own courses, and they get their own personalised timetable slips. I get to review and ‘fine-tune’ the course selections (eg. splitting up incompatible pupils), and add pupils who havent chosen to the less popular courses to fill them up.
We then print off the registers for all our classes, and registers for the course leaders. The admin office also get their own report listing the location of every child for every day of the event. We know what is happening well in advance and we are in full control.
Next Step: Planning & Organising