Thursday, 5 March 2015

A red herring or two for your curriculum!

St Peter's School Church of England Primary School, on Barn Lane, Budleigh Salterton

As an ex-teacher in retirement I’ve tended to keep my distance from the increasingly complex world of education. I was never really bright enough to grapple with all that stuff about targets, key stages and so on.

Early on in my teaching career I was told by a much revered schoolmaster that red herrings and ‘frees’ – i.e. free periods – were the two most important things in education.

Along with those I’d obviously add that we should be teaching children consideration for others, kindness, common sense, curiosity and open-mindedness and general politeness. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.

Happy children from St Peter's School learn about stuff in the Museum 

So I was impressed the other day while walking past St Peter’s C of E Primary School to be stopped by some of the children on the other side of the fence. “Could you get our ball back please?” I turned the corner and there was the ball which they’d managed to kick over the roof. I threw it back to them, walked on and a few seconds later heard a shout: “Thank you kindly, Sir!”

Lots to take in at the Priscilla Carter Room, including all those things from millions of years ago 

Maybe that’s why I was happy to accept an invitation from St Peter’s School Headteacher Steve Hitchcock to take part in a Community Consultation on Wednesday 25 February. Two other volunteers from Fairlynch Museum attended along with representatives from Budleigh Cricket Club, Budleigh in Bloom, the local Patients’ Association, East Devon District Council, Clinton Devon Estates, Budfas and Budleigh Library. 

Plenty of old fossils to think about for visiting schoolchildren

Quite a spread of people, all ready to come up with ideas for involving their particular group with the school – even a local dentist – Maurice Sims, who was keen to make sure that children knew why they should look after their teeth. 


Deckchair design by Phoebe

Steve Hitchcock is enthusiastic about the idea of creating a curriculum unique to his school – “passionate about having something at St Peter’s that wouldn’t be replicated anywhere else,” as he told us. Words like “fun”, “engaging” and “transformational” cropped up in the vision that he described. “A happy child will learn more,” he believes. He’s clearly rebelling against what he called “the sausage machine” of education.

It all sounds a bit revolutionary, especially in Budleigh. Is there even a hint of UDI there?


 Pupil Ieuan designed this one

I reckon that quirky little Fairlynch – independent museum run by idealistic volunteers that it is – will be more than ready to help Steve Hitchcock achieve his vision.

This deckchair design was Charlie's work

We loved his school’s involvement with our World War I deckchair project - the finished products look good as you can see from the pictures - and St Peter’s pupils obviously enjoyed visiting the Museum. 

Roger Conant (1592-1679), an East Budleigh man, was one of the founders of Salem, Massachusetts. His dramatic statue, facing Salem Common, was dedicated in 1913

2017 will mark the bicentenary of the birth of Vice Admiral George William Preedy. He captained HMS Agamemnon which took part in the first successful laying of a transatlantic telegraph cable. No portrait of him seems to exist, but this stained glass window in All Saints Church, East Budleigh, commemorates his achievement. He retired to Budleigh Salterton, where he died in 1894. You can read more about him here

You may have noticed that I’ve been versifying some of the objects that I’ve found curious or interesting at Fairlynch. Limericks are an easy and fun exercise. 

Could this be something that the children would enjoy tackling?


The composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012) was brought up in Budleigh Salterton. He is shown here, right, with his family 

Learning about the eventful lives of our local historical figures or even people from Budleigh’s recent past would add that unique touch to the curriculum that Steve Hitchcock is looking for: Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Roger Conant,  Joyce Dennys, Admiral Preedy…  so many interesting Budleigh characters that I’ve blogged about.

George Murray Levick (1876-1956) retired to live outside Budleigh having had an eventful career as a medical naval officer. He was the zoologist and doctor on Scott's last expedition to Antarctica, served in both world wars and was the founder of the British Schools Exploring Society

In recent years the Museum has staged exhibitions about them. The life and achievements of former Budleigh resident Murray Levick were the main focus of the 2011 and 2012 displays which coincided with the centenary of Captain Scott’s ‘Terra Nova’ Antarctic expedition.   

The following year saw the exhibition ‘Sea, Salt and Sponges’ which marked the bicentenary of the birth of the surgeon, geologist and marine sponge expert Henry John Carter FRS (1813-95).

Above is the Budleigh Salterton Venture Art Club's version of the famous painting 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' by Sir John Everett Millais PRA, due to go on show at Fairlynch Museum  

Sir Walter Ralegh is currently in my thoughts as we prepare for our forthcoming exhibition at the Museum about the life of this great Devonian. Here’s a storyline that could have come from the great G.A. Henty himself.

Researching Ralegh’s early life I was reminded that as a teenager, perhaps even as young as 14, he spent four years in France fighting for the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion. Could that explain why 71 years after Ralegh’s death East Budleigh found itself with a French Huguenot refugee as its vicar?

Daniel Caunières, appointed by the Bishop of Exeter on 24 May 1689, remained in his post at All Saints Church for 12 years before moving to another parish in North Devon. Could the young Walter have met the Caunières family during his time in France?   What might he have told them about his East Devon village? What promises of help if they were ever persecuted for their Protestant faith might he have given the family? 

All fantasy perhaps, but no less intriguing for that in the mind of an East Devon pupil.       

Then there’s art. Fairlynch started off as Budleigh Salterton Arts Centre and Museum. The title suggests that the founders certainly didn’t want the place to be purely a repository of dead objects. 

Sketching or painting beautiful fossils like this Myophorella in the Museum's collection could help children to identify the different types as well as being a creative process. Perhaps the nice people from the Jurassic Coast Partnership could help here.

The painting entitled 'The Artist's Studio' is thought to be a self-portrait of Joyce Dennys

Many paintings by Budleigh's most famous artist Joyce Dennys (1883-1991) are in Fairlynch Museum, on loan from Budleigh Salterton Town Council.  

The children would surely appreciate her humorous observations of life in her home town. This painting is called 'Eating Ice Creams on Budleigh Seafront.'  

You can read a biography of her life here.

A marble tablet in All Saints Church, East Budleigh, commemorates the much-loved vicar Ambrose Stapleton

Maybe they could start in the Smugglers’ Cellar by finding out about the Reverend Ambrose Stapleton. He was after all the local vicar for 58 years as well as being supposedly the leader of a smuggling gang – and St Peter’s is a Church of England school.

Visiting schoolchildren at Fairlynch Museum are intrigued by this model of the smuggler Jack Rattenbury - some are understandably a bit nervous of him 

As an ex-French teacher I often wonder about Budleigh's links with French smugglers – the famous Jack Rattenbury (1778-1844) occasionally mentions his illicit trips to France.  

Imagine pupils from St Peter's School making contact with a school or museum on the French coast where they’ve been similarly wondering about links with Devon smugglers?  

Back in 2009 I approached St Peter’s then Headteacher Sally Roberts to ask whether the school would be interested in a link with an American school. Where else but Brewster, I thought.  

Mrs Roberts responded positively. Currently, she explained, the school had commitments to schools in France, Spain and Finland for the next two years, but after that she would be “very interested in a transatlantic link.” 

She went on to state, rather boldly I thought, that in her view, with the inauguration of Obama, there was “a tremendous feeling of a new era and direction.”

 Her death at a tragically early age was a sad loss for the school and for Budleigh. 

So many possibilities… too many perhaps… Oh well, this is a handy place to store them.

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