Diary of a Prep 6 Kid

Back in November Truro High School held a fundraising dinner at the Idle Rocks in St Mawes. A few weeks before this, Sarah Lillicrap, our Director of Marketing, suggested to me that one of the auction lots should be the chance to be Head for the day.

I couldn’t really see it attracting much interest, but I agreed that she could offer it, crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t go embarrassingly unbid for. I should know by now to always trust Sarah’s instincts on these sorts of things.

The lot attracted a number of bids and last Friday, Senna, one of our Prep 6 pupils, became Headmistress for the day. She had a fantastic day. I’m very pleased for her, but this isn’t what made the day so enlightening for me. It was that at some point, I’m not sure when, I decided that if Senna was going to be Headmistress, the logical thing for me to do would be to become a Prep 6 pupil for the day. And so that’s what I did. Wow, how glad am I that I chose to do this! I have to admit at first I thought it was just going to be a bit of stunt, but in the end it turned out to be one of the most illuminating experiences of my first two and a half years at Truro High.

The day started with whole school assembly, led by the Headmaster (yours truly) as usual. However, by the end of assembly I was sitting cross-legged on the floor amongst the Prep girls, Smiggle pencil case clutched in my hand, while Senna handed out certificates to Sixth Form pupils. From assembly we were marched straight into an English lesson with Mrs Simpson. First it was a spelling test (24/25 – very annoying), and then we worked in groups on a choral verse piece, which we later presented to Headmistress Senna. I was impressed with how well and how efficiently Vivian, Ella, Amelie and Rachel worked in my group, and I was pleased that I was just about able to keep up.

At break there was little chance for playing – I had to get changed into my dance kit. Then, looking like Leroy from Fame it was off to Maths. Mrs Carveth had organised an active lesson, where again we worked in groups playing a mathematical form of Whack the Rat in the prep hall. We then returned to the classroom for a puzzle, which focused on multiplying fractions. I’m pleased to report that my partner, India, and I were the first to finish (not that I’m competitive about these sorts of things . . .). I think my main contribution was the sticking and gluing. I’m sure you’ll be able to find our piece proudly displayed somewhere in the Prep School, with our names highlighted in gold lettering (thanks for one of India’s vast array of glittery pens).

From there, we strolled across school for the lesson which I had been dreading but for which everyone else seemed to be waiting, a lesson on lyrical dance with Miss Clare. It was surprising to see so many pupils and staff lingered a minute or two longer than normal outside the large windows of the dance studio. I like to think I held my own. I’m sure there have been better leaps, tighter twirls and more technically-correct floor slides in the history of modern dance, but I felt I managed to impress with my off-beat and charming arrhythmic timing.

After this, there was just time to quickly gobble down fish and chips while Gigi tried to explain to me the properties of the magical suitcase of Newt Scamander – I’m none the wiser I’m afraid. Then we were off to the Piran Theatre for a Speech and Drama lesson with Mr Tutin and Mrs Baxter. It is years since I have played any drama games – it was great fun, and it was particularly pleasing to get one over on Mr Tutin in ‘I love you, but I won’t smile’ (don’t ask).

The rest of my break was filled getting changed (again) and visiting the Chinese New Year activities in the hall, before Senna and I were required for a little bit of filming.

Afternoon lessons started with Cookery with Mrs Van der Lem, where I was honoured to partner our very own Headmistress. It may have been that the wake and shake (yes, I’d been required to do this too), the lyrical dance and the drama games which caused it, but it did seem very hot to me in the cookery classroom. Surprisingly, all the pupils looked as cool as cucumbers. Nevertheless, Senna and I undoubtedly produced the best cupcakes in the class. Ours were both tasty and tasteful (think restrained use of the pink icing and sprinkles), and had there been a competition I’m sure we would have been rightfully crowned champions. Well, they do say two Heads are better than one.

Next, it was prep assembly (yes, there’s still more!), where Zoe in Prep 1 led the Chinese New Year celebrations, teaching us all how to count in Mandarin. This was followed by making origami cats and dogs in house groups. And finally, we (or at least I) trudged wearily back to the classroom so that Miss Ramsey could round off the day and the week.

What a day it was! What did I learn? A lot. I knew what Prep 6 pupils did, but it is different when you actually experience it. I didn’t expect it to be quite so physical. I felt drained at the end of the day. I didn’t expect it to be quite so busy either. The girls fit an awful lot into their day. I also didn’t expect it to be quite so exciting. The variety of content and approaches, the focus on all-round education made it so rewarding.

The experience left me wondering what OFSTED or our colleagues in the state sector would make of such a day, constrained as they are by DfE demands. Could a primary school risk this approach to the curriculum, with the shadow of the looming Keystage 2 SATs darkening their classrooms. I am absolutely convinced that the sort of day I experienced is the sort of day pupils should be having at school. There was lots of collaboration, there was lots of thinking, there was lots of trial and error, and there was lots of challenge. This is what is important; this is what we want for our children; this is what is going to prepare them for the world outside. But most importantly, I had fun. School should be fun. I’d go back to Prep 6 again tomorrow if I could.

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