How will your school tackle the Activity Passport?
Welcome to 2019! We hope you have had a restful break and stayed away from any work-related duties. I suspect, however, that you may have caught wind of the Department for Education’s announcement of their Activity Passport which Damian Hinds is encouraging schools to get involved with to ensure pupils get doing things which are outdoorsy and/or non-tech based. According to an article in the TES a spokesperson for the DfE has stated:
“The activity passport is a resource that is being provided to schools to use voluntarily.
“It is to support structures already in place in schools to inspire character and resilience in children.”
There has been much debate on social media, already, about whether these are activities suitable for schools to fit into already squeezed curriculums hours, or whether this list is more for parents – akin to the National Trust list of things to do before you are 11 ¾.
There have also been a few murmurings already of companies selling tracking sheets, apps and badges for schools to use to encourage completing the list. Worry has abounded with schools wondering if Ofsted will start looking for evidence of lists being completed. To set some minds at ease on that front Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director, Education has said “We won’t be looking at the passports, no. We also won’t look to see how many of the passport activities have been completed either.
Concerns being voiced include a potential for a widening gap between those pupils whose parents can afford them these opportunities outside of school and those who cannot. This pressure will then shift to the school most likely in those areas where schools are already going above and beyond to serve their community where many are in need. Will they all feel they need to set aside budgets to allow children to explore inside caves and create sculpture trails? Or will they hand over to parents and expect that homework is less of a times tables test and more “learning to moonwalk whilst launching a rocket”?
It is clear that if anyone from “on high” does start actually checking that these lists are being used then schools AND parents will equally feel stressed to fit in both the time and budget for these activities. Not to mention the whole school planning required to get these to happen in the right year group. “Take part in a Roman banquet” seems like a easy one for schools to take on – certainly much easier to organise for a class than for a parent to do at home, and could even incorporate the next item on the list “Eat something you’ve not tried before” for lots of pupils and it does fit with the Year 3 history curriculum. However, dressing as a superhero in Year 2 is trickier as many schools do superhero topics in Reception or Year 1 so they might feel they need to swap that topic around to fit this in authentically, or fit in a random charity dress up day with a superhero theme. Anything which makes schools even consider all this means it is adding to workload immensely. As Damian Hinds has previously spoken a lot about his desire to cut down workload this is a contradictory turn of events.
I think many schools will see that they can tick off a lot of the activities already, as can most parents for their part, but the very idea that many will have to be contrived one way or another gives it all a “organised fun” kind of vibe which may take away from the very laudable aims of the National Trust and Scouts and Guides approaches over the years.
On a practical note, from our viewpoint, we do think your school website could be a great way to share with parents explicitly which items from the list that you already cover and give them ideas of how they can easily, cheaply, and freely access resources to help with the others which you feel need doing from home. A web page for each year group which links to your curriculum pages to show what you do, and some helpful links to external sites, could be the ‘easy win’ you need to make it clear to both parents and staff what you want to do with the Activity Passport. Yes it’s more workload to set those pages up to start with, but it may be one way to nip it in the bud early doors and tick that job off your own list!
Let us know what you are planning to do with Activity Passports and get in touch if you want any advice on setting up new pages on your school website for this if you wish to.