How a panto can also be a learning experience

Why a pantomime does not have to be just a pantomime but can also be a learning experienceDick Ottington

Because children tend to understand acting and storytelling intuitively, it is easy to assume that they actually understand what pantomime is and why it is there. But, in fact, what generally happens is that they just accept it.

Now that is ok as far as it goes, but there is a benefit from working with children not only for the sake of performing in a panto, but also to understand the context of what they are doing.

Which is why sometimes it is rather good to put on a panto in which the panto becomes not just a performance, but also a learning experience in relation to a significant element in our cultural history.

If we are going down this route, one of the most obvious places to start is with Dick Whittington which as a story has the benefit of being based on a real person, although not necessarily a real cat.

Thus we have a historical plot and the possibility of examining everything that is inherent within the panto. The tradition, the staging, the scenery, the props, the lighting, the use of the provided music against new songs, or new lyrics, dance, movement, acting… all can then become topics for study.

Of course, each topic is an option – it is possible to present Dick Whittington as a pantomime with the normal rehearsals and production to the parents and no further explanation. Or you can take one or more of the issues inherent within the panto and look more deeply at that.

This then is the way that we have approached the publication of Dick Ottington and his famous cat Tommy, by David Stoll and Michael Hinton.

The package includes:

a Director’s Script, with detailed page-by-page production notes
a Pupils’ Script
a Vocal Score containing thirteen new songs with piano accompaniment, as well as an overture and incidental music
a complete set of high-quality fully orchestrated backing tracks and sound effects.
The Director’s Script also has an extensive introduction to pantomime itself as a topic for study, including the traditions and conventions of this type of theatre.

There are also helpful notes on all aspects of putting on a school production from casting, organising rehearsals, writing new lyrics, making props and sound effects through to involving the audience. The material, therefore, can be used for a term’s study as well as forming the basis of the end of term production.

David Stoll is a well-known composer and songwriter who has also worked extensively with primary school teachers and pupils on creative projects. His SEALSONGS are favourite assembly material, and his book on how to teach composing at KS2 is acknowledged for its helpful notes and suggestions. To go to his website please click here.

Michael Hinton is a teacher, writer and musician with many years’ experience of writing educational materials for schools abroad and in the UK. He works as Music Director with amateur dramatic societies and children’s theatre groups, helping them to stage musicals and pantomimes, and is the composer of hundreds of educational songs.

There are sample pages at Ottington samples.rar

Dick Ottington and his famous cat Tommy is published as a download so that you can receive immediately a copy onto your computer which you can share with colleagues as often as you want. You can also put it on your school learning platform so all staff can access it.

You can obtain Dick Ottington and his famous cat Tommy by going to

The price for the full package is £24.95 plus VAT (the VAT can be reclaimed in most cases by the school).

Dick Ottington and his famous cat Tommy is published by Novello & Co Ltd and distributed by First and Best, part of the Hamilton House group. If you have any enquiries you can call 01536 399 011 or email or write to us at First and Best, Hamilton House, Earlstrees Ct, Earlstrees Rd, Corby, Northants NN17 4HH.

The full range of First and Best books can be seen at

How best to help EAL pupils and students

What is the most effective way of working with pupils who have English as an additional language?

Students who have English as an additional language now form a majority in one in nine schools in the UK; the number has risen by 20% during the last five years.

Many schools estimate that it takes about a half term for the average EAL pupil to gain sufficient working knowledge of English for them to move into the mainstream classroom, while spending time with the intervention teacher each day.

However, although this seems a simple process there are many issues that arise, ranging from the exact legal requirements in terms of dealing with these pupils through to the best approach for induction and admission of these new arrivals.

There are also issues of engaging with the parents, the question of which teaching and learning strategies are the most effective, and the support and encouragement that should be given to more advanced EAL learners.

Indeed, many schools are now asking what a good induction programme looks like. Indeed when it comes to EAL is one approach as good as another?

This matter was highlighted by the publication of the New Arrivals Excellence Programme which was issued in 2007 and represents a summary of best practice in EAL in the country. It includes case studies and does give a clear source of information on what schools can do in relation to EAL students.

This is not to say that there is a single process and approach which every school should follow, but it is often felt that it is helpful for schools to consider a range of approaches when thinking about their EAL students.

From the sort of approach adopted come the appropriate teaching and learning strategies, and indeed the role of the EAL Coordinator who can ensure that the plan that the school has developed is being followed at each turn, and that any gaps in learning and performance between EAL language pupils and students and those who have English as their first language are narrowed and ultimately removed.

These are the issues examined in the new extensive volume The EAL Coordinator’s Manual. The 170 page volume comes in copiable form so that it can shared with any members of staff in the school who work with EAL students.

You can see a full contents list and some sample pages at

Publisher’s reference: T1832EMN ISBN: 978 1 86083 802 6


Photocopiable report in a ring binder, £29.95 plus £3.95 delivery
CD with school-wide rights: £29.95 plus £3.95 delivery
Both the Ring Binder and the CD £36.94 plus £3.95 delivery
Prices include VAT.

You can purchase the report… please quote the order ref: T1832EMN

By post to First and Best, Hamilton House, Earlstrees Ct., Earlstrees Way, Corby, NN17 4HH
By fax to 01536 399 012
On the phone with a school order number at 01536 399 011
By email to
On line with a credit card at

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The new GCSE maths curriculum

The new GCSE curriculum brings many changes to Maths teaching
this September. Our mobile resources for GCSE Maths have been updated
to match the new curriculum, offering support for both you and your
students. We’ve also used your feedback to improve the resources,
making them even more engaging and useful for your students.

Available resources:

– GCSE Maths: Higher Tier

– GCSE Maths: Foundation Tier

See the link below for details:

GCSE Maths for 2016 is also still available.

To pre-order your new GCSE resources for September, simply complete
and return the order form provided, or get in touch on 01223 350555 or
email to find out more.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Jacquie Cox
National Programme Coordinator

Pearson Publishing, Chesterton Mill, French’s Road,
Cambridge CB4 3NP
tel: 01223 350555
fax: 01223 356484

A calculator with hidden benefits

What is the benefit of giving students a department branded calculator?

Today it seems that most young people use the calculator on their mobile phone rather than a calculator that they carry in their pockets.

There are two issues here: one is that the calculators on most phones are rather basic; and the other is that using the phone calculator is an excuse to have the phone switched on.

The alternative is to give one or more groups of students a branded calculator which has the benefit of making a statement that, as a student of this school, you are being treated as an adult and are expected to have a more adult approach to your work.

Such an approach can be initiated with any group at any time. It can be used with sixth formers or it can be used with year 10 students for the start of GCSE maths, or indeed with year 7 students as a statement that maths is about a more serious and adult approach to the subject than at primary school – which can again help to engender a new attitude to studies.

What’s more, parents will see the branded calculator and realise that the school is doing everything to help their son or daughter undertake these new and more advanced courses with contemporary techniques and approaches.

Additionally, given that you can have the school name and phone number on the calculator, then if it is lost there is a fairly good chance that it will be returned to the school.

Image Logo UK Ltd specialises in calculators for school students and has a wide range of different calculators available, all of which can be marked up with any details of the school that you wish.

There is a wide range shown on our website here incorporating not just standard calculators but also calculators built into rulers. Or, if you wish to talk through the different options, please do call us on 0845 758 9536.

Delivery normally takes 15-20 working days from artwork approval, so if you order now we should have the calculators ready for you at the start of the new term for your new intake. But just in case time is tight we do have a wide range of Express items which could be turned around in 5 days (from artwork approval).

If you require any other information or have any questions please do email or call 0845 758 9536.

Nicole Carter

What are the best ways to support children with special needs?

We know you’ve just returned from your holiday, but we also know that you’ll have had some thinking time

We’ve used the summer to think as well, so that when everyone returns to school in August, we’ll be ready and able to deliver the training and consultancy you really need.

Behaviour is always top of the list, whether its low level disruption or challenging and Autism is obviously something every teacher and learning support assistant should be familiar with.

But this year, we’ll also be focusing on areas such as Auditory Processing Difficulties, Working Memory, Attachment Disorder and Mental Health issues – we’ve brilliant trainers to cover these areas.

As you know its always best to have In House training where staff are all trained together and the programme is completely customised. Why not join with other local schools to share cost?

We also have lots of open courses all around the UK which you can check out on our website Book them now for the Early Bird Discount – you can gives us names nearer the time.

I hope you did manage to get a rest.

Kind Regards

Janet Price

Tel: 01524-832-828
Fax: 01524-832-852

New reusable and wipeable notebooks – save paper

Do you use and waste lots of paper in your lessons?

Our new A5 and A4 ruled with reusable whiteboard notebooks are wipeable and reusable (

We also have reusable whiteboard handwriting notebooks that helps students with letter formation.

They are long lasting and they don’t smudge.

Write on with any dry marker, it’s quick and easy to erase your work and you don’t waste paper.

Only £1.99 each, next day delivery or a class pack of 30 reusable whiteboard notebooks for £1.38 ex vat each (£41.40)

Order at

or email purchase orders to

Neil Westwood

Managing Director

Magic Whiteboard Limited

Create a whiteboard from a roll anywhere, in seconds!

tel: 01905 451552


How to get A* in Spanish?

What is the best way to take students from a predicted lower grade up to the achievement of an A* at GCSE?

When we brought out How to get A* in French we were asked if it was also available for Spanish – so now here it is.

As with the French version the author has analysed the writing and the speaking criteria of various exam boards and has come up with a simple and clear summary of these criteria written in a student friendly language. These criteria have been divided into four sections; each section corresponding to a GCSE level while at the end of the booklet students can find a very useful list of recommended idioms and high level expressions.

Additionally the booklet includes the conjugation of the 50 most used Spanish verbs, including the modal verbs, into different tenses.

This is followed by different language structures which the students can use to develop their writing.

The use of this booklet is proven to improve students’ levels not only in writing and speaking, but also in listening and reading.

How to get A* in Spanish? is published as a download so that you can receive immediately a copy onto your computer which you can print out for colleagues and your students as often as you want.

There are sample pages from the book at and you can order it at

The price is £10 plus VAT (the VAT can be reclaimed in most cases by the school).

How to get A* in Spanish? is published by First and Best in Education, part of the Hamilton House group. If you have any enquiries you can call 01536 399 011, or email or write to us at First and Best, Hamilton House, Earlstrees Ct, Earlstrees Rd, Corby, Northants NN17 4HH.

The full range of First and Best books can be seen at
First and Best in Education
Earlstrees Road
NN17 4HH


You can now follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Ofsted CIF: the (best) solution

What is the most effective and time efficient way of meeting Ofsted’s requirements regarding the Common Inspection Framework?

Self-evaluation has always been a problematic affair, ensuring that one’s own valuations can be fully justified as and when Ofsted requires. But with the new Ofsted CIF it doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Even Ofsted has asked heads to provide only “routine” information.

Now there is a simple and sophisticated solution – you can use iAbacus to update or indeed re-create your school self-evaluation and development plan in line with these latest Ofsted requirements.

For we have built a self-evaluation system which is quick, which makes collaboration easy, without leading to long discussions, and which results in statements that can be presented to inspectors with a certainty that they are completely accurate.

And the system is built so that you can start using iAbacus within five minutes of turning it on – which means no manual, no complex logging-in procedure, etc. Just instant access and instant use.

This means you can immediately start to provide your self-evaluation for such topics as the overall effectiveness of the school, the effectiveness of leadership and management, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare, the outcomes and the effectiveness of the school.

Then you can consider your initial judgements and see them in terms of Ofsted’s very latest criteria. You can check that you could defend your judgements to Ofsted in their own terms, and you can ensure that you haven’t overplayed or underplayed your hand.

In no time you have a school improvement plan which takes account of where you are now and how you are going to move forward.

This type of self-evaluation can have a huge impact on your school – especially if several people get involved in the process. For it forces everyone to analyse what is going on and to justify their statements – and that is the most valuable step of all.

It is a process that incorporates evidence from various sources, including other systems and procedures, and allows the compilation of reports for governors/stakeholders and briefings for internal monitoring or evaluation.

iAbacus also includes FREE templates for performance management, school governance, literacy, numeracy, and SMSC.

iAbacus costs just £100 for a one year, one-person licence. Our suggestion is that you try it out yourself and then show it to a couple of colleagues. If they like it too, just call us back for another licence.

You can find out more at

For a free trial please visit
Or if you want to know more call us on 0115 929 3419 or email us at
Daniel O’Brien

Pupils with earworms typically perform better in French

How can we give pupils earworms in order to ensure that the French they learn will be remembered forever?

Before we look at how, it’s probably better to look at what. What is an earworm? And how can they possibly ensure that the French our pupils learn will be remembered forever?

Well the good news is that it is not a parasite or a disease, or any other medical condition for that matter, although scientists do appear to be to blame for inventing the term.

So let us define…

Earworms (revealed by Dr Williamson, a memory expert at Goldsmith’s College in London) is the term scientists commonly use to describe, quite simply, a song that gets stuck in our head. Other phrases used to describe an earworm include stuck-song syndrome, sticky music and cognitive itch.

So again, I ask the question: How can we give pupils earworms in order to ensure that the French they learn will be remembered forever?

Now the answer seems to be fairly obvious – learning French through song. And not just any song but songs that are relevant to the learning agenda and as catchy as they can possibly be.

With this in mind we have developed Chantez Plus Fort! (Book & CDs) which contains 20 easy-to-learn French songs written specifically to help children to learn French.

They are linked to some of the KS2 programmes of study for modern foreign languages, introducing and reinforcing key vocabulary for popular topics, from greetings and days of the week to family and classroom items, whilst honing listening skills and pronunciation.

All 20 songs on CD 1 are sung by French children, and the CD also contains mini-dialogues which can be readily used for listening comprehension. CD 2 contains instrumental tracks for 16 of the original songs so pupils can really put their memory to the test.

The accompanying book contains teachers’ notes, illustrated song sheets, music sheets (including guitar chords), scripts for the mini dialogues, and English translations of all the songs.

You can order the Chantez Plus Fort! resource in any of these ways:

On our website
By phone on 01449 766629
By fax on 01449 767122
By email to
Or By post to Brilliant Publications, Mendlesham Industrial Estate, Norwich Road, Mendlesham, Suffolk, IP14 5ND.

Brilliant Publications,
Mendlesham Industrial Estate,
Norwich Road,
IP14 5ND.


phone: 01449 766629
fax: 01449 767122

Insist on the best products and service from your suppliers.

Established in 1983, the company has been supplying schools in Worcestershire and the West Midlands with all-types of partitioning, suspended ceilings, floor covering, shelving, indoor and outdoor lockers, classroom furniture and changing room equipment. The Redditch Partitions & Storage Co. Ltd., has built an enviable reputation for quality and outstanding service and is dedicated to six key qualities – design, quality, cost, dependability, workmanship and timing.

We will visit your school and give you realistic advice to make sure you get exactly what you are expecting.

We believe you should insist on the best products and service from your suppliers and we take the issues of product quality, integrity and safety in use very seriously. So, we only use reputable manufacturers and we are a SEMA Distributor Group member – the nationwide Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association and has achieved Safe Contractor accreditation.

We want our clients to know that there is a clear distinction between SDG members and the rest of the storage distributor industry. SDG accredited members are investing both financially and with their time to promote and adhere to the best levels of service and quality.

The Redditch Partitions & Storage Co. Ltd. takes the issue of Health & Safety within the business and on our client’s premises very seriously. To reinforce our commitment we have been continuously awarded ‘Accredited Contractor’ status with safecontractor since 2007.

Safecontractor is a leading third party accreditation scheme that assesses the health and safety competency of contractors and service providers, with more than 170 clients and over 18,000 contractor members.

What this means to you, our client:

  • safecontractor accreditation demonstrates health and safety competency. Our own internal systems have been independently audited, but more importantly, our systems and processes, when we are on your premises, have been scrutinised and approved.
  • Taking health and safety issues seriously will help in the overall reduction of risk within a business and on our client’s premises. We are dedicated to raising our own standards for the benefit of our clients.
  • Using a single competency scheme eases our client’s administrative burden of carrying out numerous assessments.

Charter Standards

The safecontractor Charter Standards set down the benchmark against which we, the contractor, are assessed and approved.

Due to the vast variation in contractor work activities, size and nature, the Standards are deliberately non-prescriptive which allows the auditors to use their best judgment and experience as to the specific level of evidence required to demonstrate compliance.

What is covered?

The Standards cover core elements including health and safety policies, risk assessment and first aid, but also include specific requirements relating to the activity for which accreditation is being sought for example, working at height.

How is it covered?

The overall performance and operation of the Audit Team is governed by the Professional Guidance Note (PGN) which outlines the overall aims of the audit process and other non-technical issues including file handling, call handling and customer service. 

The Redditch Partitions & Storage Co. Ltd
Unit 1 Little Forge Road
Park Farm North
B98 7SF          

Telephone:      01527 517055
Contact:          Mr. Luke Egan – Managing Director


Minibuses: What are other schools doing?

The second School Minibus Survey reveals that the way in which schools are paying for and using their minibuses has changed.

The second Benchmark Leasing survey of school minibus use has revealed a considerable change in the way schools are paying for and using their vehicles in recent years.

As might well be expected the survey shows a considerable growth in the number of minibuses being operated by schools, and this growth has been accompanied by a change in the way in which the vehicles are financed.

Whereas in the past the norm was to buy a minibus outright, perhaps with a donation from the PTA to help matters along, leasing is now becoming the norm.

As a result schools are able to ensure that their vehicles do not become increasingly liable to breakdown, but can instead be replaced at regular intervals as one lease ends and a new one is taken out.

In addition schools find that they are covered against any sudden extra costs for repairs and maintenance with everything included in the lease.

The most common number of minibuses per secondary school is now two or three, but for the first time over a quarter of secondary schools report that they have four or more minibuses.

At the same time over 20% of schools now report that they only have leased minibuses in the school fleet – a figure that appears to be rising very rapidly. Likewise the number of schools that are reporting that they will lease their next minibus (rather than buy it) is higher than ever before. Buying second hand is virtually disappearing as an option.

For a free copy of the second School Minibus Survey, which also incorporates details of the current legal responsibility and requirements, please like our Facebook page and email to receive the report.

For more information about Benchmark Leasing you can go to our website, call us on 01753 859944 or email