Marham Infant School Challenge Day 2014

As a Governor of the Marham Infant School I was asked to come along and help out as the Year 2 staff and pupils (and the school’s Labradoodle – Boris!) faced their ‘Challenge Day’.

Amongst my responsibilities in my role as a Parent Governor of the school is to be a critical friend of the school; to take an interest in what the school is doing and to ensure that the vision and ethos of the school, which the governors help set, is being met. The School’s tagline of ‘Living, Learning, Laughing’ intends to capture that the ethos of the Infant School is to encourage a life-long love of learning. One of the ways we try to achieve this is by showing the children that learning can take place anywhere so the School has taken learning outside all day every Friday. These ‘Fab Fridays’ take place each week and the whole school, come rain or shine, spends the entire day outside. Here the children are encouraged to enjoy the outdoors and take an interest in the world around them. The School has an arrangement with a local landowner and so groups can spend the day in local  woodland learning about the natural environment and learning to be independent and safe.

The ‘Challenge Day’ is the culmination of all of this outdoor learning for the year 2 pupils as they prepare to move on to the Junior school. It is a day for the pupils to demonstrate some of the skills they have learnt during a six mile cross-country walk to nearby Pentney Abbey and back. Yes, you read that right – a large group of seven year olds walking six miles! On 5th June, the all of the year 2 pupils and staff set off from the Infant School to begin their trek. Their first challenge was to navigate, from memory, to the Junior School, and ultimately on to Pentney Abbey following the directions of Headteacher Mrs Webb and the Chair of Governors Mr Durrant. Along the way the children showed that they knew how to walk next to, and cross, a road in safety with the grown-ups’ help. The children also had a list of wildlife to spot on route and I was amazed that the children could recognise and identify the song of a skylark! As we headed across the fields we had to walk near to water in the form of ditches and the river Nar and again, the children showed they knew how to be safe near these dangers. Whilst near to the river we broke off into small groups and the children showed me that they knew about a compass and how it can be used with a map to find your way. Next they were given a few minutes to look at a sign at a junction of the public footpaths we followed and then were quizzed on the information on the signs. Their comprehension was excellent!

After a quiet few minutes to look out for birds (we saw lots of swifts), with Pentney Abbey in sight, Mr Durrant showed the pupils some otter tracks on the river bank before crossing the footbridge to the abbey for our  picnic lunch. Whilst crossing the bridge one sharp-eyed boy pointed out a brown trout feeding under the bridge! It was so heart-warming to see the pupils loving being outside and appreciating the world around them.

After a picnic lunch in the abbey grounds it was time to practice some of the first aid skills the children had learnt. It was incredible to see these enthusiastic seven year olds successfully putting their ‘injured’ friends into the recovery position and knowing how to summon help by dialling 999 or 112. ‘Casualties’ fully recovered it was time to attempt the return journey to the school. On the way the children were set a challenge of covering one mile, of fairly rough ground and tall grass, in under 15 minutes. Once again, the children had no problem meeting this challenge.

Finally, and in the glorious sunshine, the children made it back to the school to be welcomed by all of their friends in reception class and year one who had lined the playground to clap and cheer. All of the Challenge Day participants beamed with pride as they were presented with their medals. They knew they had faced a significant physical challenge for a seven year old and accomplished more than many thought they could. I could tell Mrs Webb was immensely proud too although she claims to have had a bit of grit in her eye – that’s her story and she is sticking with it!

As a school governor I too was extremely proud of both the pupils and the staff who had organised the challenge. I thought the day was a tremendous reflection of the school’s ethos. Maybe some have doubts over the  children spending all day outside in all weathers but to see just how independent and confident in their learning the children have become is to understand that Marham Infant School is succeeding in going from strength to strength.

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