Walk 8 Blea Tarn to Pike O’Blisco

This walk has a climb about 500m starting and finishing at Blea Tarn.  We find this very quiet spot just between the Great Langdale valley and the Little Langdale valley. On the descent we get to the three shires stone where the historic boundary of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire met. More importantly the local pub in little Langdale ( the Three shires) is definitely a Dexter favourite.

There are two similar photos at the end, and you’ll agree that’s because its’ a view to just absorb. Had it not been such a cold autumnal day we might have swum.

Walk 7 St Cuthbert’s way

Today is a long walk in fact 5-7 days staying in BandB overnights. We start in Melrose in the Scottish Borders and move into England and Northumberland. It’s 100km. I did this walk as a retreat on my own after finishing at Trinity.

Not always nice weather a few April showers to cope with. We finish in Lindisfarne and see the place Cuthbert lived 634 AD to 687. He is one of those fascinating Celtic saints – I wonder what he would have made of our situation today.

Anyway brace yourselves for the weather but whilst this is a v quiet walk w few people those you meet will be very special and both were a deep joy.

Walk 6 Hohsaas from Saas Grund in the Valais Alps

Wrap up warm today, after a short bus ride we go from the small village of Saas Grund at 1559m up to Hohsaas at 3101m and trek in the snow. Get proper boots on and a decent coat, maybe your walking poles. To appreciate the scale, look out for the little marks on the photos which are ….people, proper serious climbers. we just walked the peaks. Views are marked by posts with rocks on and a description of the mountain in view, Dom , Mischabel etc and you might be interested a Biblical quote. You’ll be Ok in a sheltered spot to sit in shorts and a t-shirt for a picnic though.

This is one of my most favourite Alpine walks and I will bring you here again to enjoy different views and colours another day. its a place that deserves a second or third trip to enjoy.

 

Walk 5 Malham Cove

This afternoon’s amble is to Malham Cove in North Yorkshire, near Skipton. This was a very bright late Spring day surrounded by Hawthorne blossom. after the walk down the valley there is a bit of a climb up but the path resembles the M1 for traffic and there is a proper staircase. There were people in trainers and ….oh you know. It’s hard getting the balance of not ‘meddling’ in nature but the need for protection, and allowing people to visit and thus strengthening  or managing pathways to avoid the damage from millions of boots…..like mine.

Walk 4 First to Buchalpsee

This is the last walk  near Grindelwald  (1034m) for a while. After taking the cable cars up to the tourist activity centre at First (2166m), we take a steady 6km walk to Buchalpsee. This is one of the more iconic views in the area. Whilst only about a 100m climb, the route is almost like a motorway with tourists, however the  fauna and flora are quite amazing….as are the views. It’s a walk where the Swiss signposts say 1.5hr but it takes us about 2.5hr as you just have to keep  stopping for views and to examine the endless variety of rockeries of flowers and spot a marmot. Oh and I added a photo of me to show we were really there.

Walk 3 Ullswater to Place Fell

Shame I said just 10 photos but there we are.

This walk needs the steamer from Glenridding down to Howtown. There is a decent amble back along the lakeside but still has its ups and downs. This autumnal day Mrs D took me up and over the top to Place Fell. But it was a bit late on the top for any decent photos.

Prepare a decent lunch and a couple of flasks for todays walk.

 

 

The Ambition literacy campaign in Nottingham

This was written for the Nottingham City Council campaign and is on the NCC intranet but it might get more publicity for reading out in the open

 

We are encouraging more children to read as part of the council’s new literacy campaign ‘Ambitious for every child’. We know that an early love of books and reading can help children to be more successful in the future. In this blog, our Education Director John Dexter reflects on his early experience of books and the impact it had on his life and teaching career…

The great children’s writer Roald Dahl said of reading: “I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”

When I was a child, we had very few books at home, only one or two suitable for children, so I read those several times, but my Dad took me to the library every few weeks. I loved those trips, partly being with him, which was rare, and partly as I entered a new world every week:

  • Outer space, imaginary planets, inconceivable journeys, hideouts, far off islands, distant countries, danger…
  • The world of pirates, ancient peoples, Victorians, Romans, firefighters, commanders, heroes, ghosts…
  • Safely in a war zone, a baking hot African country, the freezing ice sheets of Antarctica, the beauty of mountain landscape, the enchanting Far East, the hill stations of India, an adventure with superheroes…

Sometimes escaping, often fantastic, occasionally scary, always learning. But so grateful for the world I entered. It’s not just about learning the basics of reading to access the modern world, it is about being literate, about learning and sharing, enjoying and getting ideas, or having ideas challenged.

As a teacher, you might expect me to say all this but I was never very comfortable with English, let alone English Literature (a subject I failed aged 16). Not until I met with Mr Scholar (great name for a teacher). As I chose to study science, my school insisted we had “extra” English lessons – I almost despaired but probably not as much as Mr Scholar. So we came to an agreement, there was no syllabus, no exam so why didn’t he tell us what he loved to read: fiction, non-fiction, plays poetry… that set me on the road to enjoying reading and that helped me become literate.

When I worked in secondary schools, I am proud of the literacy challenges we put in place: every Wednesday, 25 minutes of silent reading, save those who struggled to read helped by trained sixth form literacy coaches. This routine said:

  1. reading is important enough to have on the secondary curriculum
  2. there is a need for time set aside to read seriously and
  3. promoting discussion between pupils and between staff and pupils about reading, about books, about fiction or non-fiction is healthy
  4. ambitions can be fuelled by literacy

For me that was great, I honestly believed reading was just so undervalued. I once made my Year 11 Science class read aloud for a whole hour lesson. At the end, one student said: “I can’t believe how much I have learnt Sir, it helped me make sense of many of our lessons.” This said something about me, probably, but I just hoped he would read the rest of the book.0_Hoodwinked-book-bench3

I was sooooo enthusiastic to get my own children to read. But here sits a secondary teacher with no idea how to teach reading, so it was the obvious: read to them, read with them, listen to them, tell them stories, find stories, get them to find stories… and I remembered that’s what my Dad did too; he took me to the library and he took books out as well. Adults can model the importance of reading by reading themselves, set aside time, and help choose books or give them as gifts.

I am envious of the wonderful array of books available today, and at reasonable costs, but the Dolly Parton Imagination Library sending 60 books over five years to small children offers a great opportunity to start reading, start imagining, to relax reading and even to find a better balance in life. But most of all to learn and enter the funny, exciting and wonderful world Dahl describes.

Go on, be ambitious and give it a go.

If you wish to support Councillor Mellen’s big read, please do so here.

OR BETTER Still tell us all about a book you loved as a child, or loved reading to your children or grandchildren or would give as a gift?

China > curiosity, culture and challenge

China – a visit thanks to Access China UK and the Nottingham Confucius Institute and Nottingham City Council

An amazing experience, which would have been incredible and fantastic but was made even moreso or as we teacher’s say “EBI” ( even better if) for the fact I went with 9 great Nottingham City colleagues and we had a wonderful Chinese guide and interpreter,  all of whom added the value to make it totally amazing.

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Feifei our interpreter at the Ningbo library

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The Ningbo 10 (ignore the man on the right he wasn’t with us!)

 

 

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You cannot go up the Pearl of Shanghai and look over the biggest City in the world (population 24 million) and not think – this is where the future of the world will be centred and so we need a plan, not a Brexit neither an educational plan but a proper plan.

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China is a long way away – 5750 miles to be precise or exactly 24 hours from me leaving a hotel in Shanghai to arriving at my front door in Nottingham. But it’s also a long distance away culturally and we so enjoyed discovering just touching upon something of its culture.

It’s a country of the highest population 1.4 billion –roughly 24 times the population of the UK and yet the 4th biggest by area which means a lot and I mean a lot of tower block apartments offices and hotels. Shanghai is the biggest City in the world. (24.2 million). We travelled to Ningbo about 4 hours away, including crossing a bridge of 16km to Ningbo, a City the size of London. It’s busy on the roads but those on cycles, motorcycles or even walking seem to just move at random and hey the cars stop and we saw no accidents. Green spaces are precious.

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Red amber green >GO GO GO

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Bicycle check, mobile check, helmet -what? Few cares in the world, hoping everyone else will stop.

We enjoyed wonderful cuisine – not like westernised Chinese food. We ate like royalty with exquisite food brought out for us, vegetable dishes, meat, noodles, all kinds of tastes, flavours and textures but not too much rice, rice comes at the end and you are not really expected to eat it. Oh and we used chopsticks all the time. Meals were very sociable, no distractions and plenty of conversations, and no rush, no TV, little wifi. That’s less cultural and more….common sense.

 

 

We were very well looked after by our guides, interpreters and hosts, who took us to the most interesting of places from tourist spots, to restaurants and of course to ensuring we travelled to time. In China one is never late. They could not have been more helpful, supportive, informative and generous, as were the hotels we stayed in and all the colleagues we met. And there was a thing – I asked one teacher what she hoped for her pupils “to give them every opportunity to learn”. QED the commonality of the vocation.

The culture is well documented but we were shown honour, respect, admiration and treated with huge kindness and generosity by our hosts. I was delighted to be part of a team that did exactly the same for one another on the trip especially when ‘stuff’ happened and they looked out to encourage, share and support even though we hardly knew each other beforehand. Representing different sectors the conversations gave us all further insight and arguably the best of CPD (one early years, two Primary heads one Primary adviser, four middle leaders from Secondary, one partnership lead and me from the LA). Such enthusiasm to ensure “this works” for our children.

 

To be a tourist and see the bund and river at Shanghai as well as to go up to the 263m Pearl of Shanghai were something but also wandering the tourist shops and trying to bargain was fun. A privilege to visit the oldest library in China (Ningbo) founded in 1561 and be welcomed as honoured guests was special. More special for us educators as we value our school library or local library and we value lifelong learning. Nevertheless our visit enabled us to consider just how ignorant we were of Chinese history and culture and the potential in the Far East.

 

What did we miss ? – very little, we had tea, it tasted different but we were ‘tasting’ China. We did not have access to facebook, twitter or google and we had withdrawal but we chatted and we asked questions and discussed education and other matters and we enjoyed the company, well until we hit wifi in a hotel then we caught up on messages via a message/chat system called wechat. We missed traffic jams, we missed litter, we did actually miss a few hours of sleep somewhere along the way. You know something else? We didn’t miss pupils, even English pupils, at that even Nottingham City pupils because we stopped at a service station in this vast country and met 10 pupils from one of our local primary schools – having an incredible time – though perhaps a little tired ( much like us) they were full of the experience.

And so to education and some things I have learned and of course I may be wrong that the whole system looks like this but here are my ponderings :

• Families really value education. Politicians value education. Children value their education. Teachers are highly respected (highest in the world according to this survey). This is a deeply cultural matter and about ethos, respect for schools, for teachers and for learning. We met teachers (sure a small sample but the message overwhelms) full of enthusiasm and diligence, we saw little disruption, and amongst pupils a willingness to work hard and and try your best. There is the extreme high pressures involved in the Gaokao exam but setting that to one side the atmosphere in schools was overwhelmingly positive

Proper resource follows the commitment – beautiful buildings; pride in showing us round. I saw huge sportshall ( possibly 4 full size basketball courts and on the floor above about 30 ping pong tables ( I even played the Principal). Their lecture theatre seated 500. We did not hear any complaint about lack of funding – of course that may be for other reasons, However the conversations reflected on their pride in schools and I was glad to be with a group of Nottingham heads and teachers also proud of their schools. Pay not be better ( not sure really about buying power etc) but most of us would trade a bit for having a culture and pride and a community which hugely respect teachers given consideration and of course good behaviours. [Although my own view is that a vast majority of parents do respect us in the UK – just some politicians and the press don’t always and look where they sit in terms of trust and respect.]

 

• Teachers teach large groups of 40, and whilst they had nice staff areas to work in, with space to share and discuss, to plan they too felt pressures. It maybe around (only) 3 hours a day at the front but they have no technicians or TAs or other adults in classes. Oh and those evenings when pupils are back in school for several hours studying and doing homework, guess who supervises. Heads and teachers take pride in pupils and in their learning. We heard about two schools at the Bureau sharing speeches and we shared about our two, and common features – pride in the opportunities we offer, in the children’s achievements and the aims and ethos in every school and that included to help our children be global citizens. I asked how the head got his children to work hard – “I don’t have to do anything” he said. Just think what all that means for attendance, punctuality behaviour, background disruption, offering opportunities…..

 

• I loved the creativity I saw, in particular pride in traditions, but also in creating new traditions. IMG_2883We saw some amazing artwork, incredible calligraphy, beautiful ceramics, others saw sport and music to an amazing standard. We met artists in residence and I was invited to play a computer at a board game, a computer that literally picked up pieces in response to my move and you guessed it – the programme and the hardware created by ….a pupil from scratch.

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a CRT – a what?

 

I also had a discussion with a Chemistry teacher – he had created something but our interpreter didn’t know the words, we had a small hand held device that translated and he said it was a ‘CRT’ and I said ‘oh a Cathode Ray Tube’ and we whooped! I mentioned Thomson, electrons, Crookes and we needed no interpreter –  science can be such a powerful language in itself but check out these facilities:

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• Willingness to stay and learn and take every opportunity including boarding, yes boarding for the weekdays because half an hour journey home was “too far”. Long days without TV, without Facebook, without mobile devices and perhaps without immediate family because, they all believe in the benefits from social activity and learning. So we saw some pupils who did more hours of homework in a two days than some of our pupils would do in school in a day. Of course there are concerns about resilience and pressure too.

Hospitality and generosity – we took gifts with us for our school and Bureau colleagues and received many back but sometimes individual  pupils wanted to give us something they had done, some  clearly stayed up to make gifts for their visitors.

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MrMcNeill with a beautiful painting made especially for him

I was privileged to pass as one of my gifts the music of Sheku Kanneh Mason ( an ex pupil at my old school) who also kindly wrote me a personal message for the schools which I had translated – that went down really well. ( thank you Sheku). But oh, we had fun – trying out our mandarin, working out currency, bartering, wondering where we were heading when taken by taxi to a school, getting trapped in hotel door (me trying to metaphorically to “open doors”) – looking out for each other and smiling our way through.

 

 

 

• Education bureau officials welcomed our vision for future work with them, they are interested in what we are doing and especially how we measure impact. How we know our City wide plans and also our school plans are being effective, as well as our regulator (ofsted) view. They are keen to foster further links Ningbo > Nottingham and Nottingham > Ningbo. we have lots of ideas from championing exchanges and learning mandarin through to just a better basic understanding of China and our own Chinese community. To be honest they struggled to understand how our system works if it means a local area does not have any control of schools. Welcome to my world!

It is quite an amazement that across the world they are interesting in learning from us.

 

 

 

IMG_3356My colleagues are now busy working out how to manage exchanges, to plan visits with children and to welcome children here to Nottingham. We are looking at how we can work together across the distances and cultures but with an internet and with colleagues here and our own traditions – Nottingham has a University campus in Ningbo which we visited and so there is much to consider and challenge and much remains to be curious about. For me I am committing to try and open more doors with friends in Ningbo – and not these doors.