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Winter Edition 2017

  • Text
  • Pta
  • Headmistress
  • Headmaster
  • School
  • Boarding
  • School
  • School
  • School
  • Hart
  • Whitehall
  • Notices
  • Ballet
  • Exclusive
  • Pupils
  • Funds
  • Author
  • Dancers
  • Soho
Winter magazine out now! Going to 35,000 families at our member schools, all raising funds for great causes.

Struggling to get your

Struggling to get your child to enjoy reading? Follow Michael’s advice… “Don’t force it. The main thing as a parent is to try and pass on a passion for stories to our children. When you read a story you love to a child or that the child loves, you hold hands through an adventure, have a tiger for tea, go for a walk in the woods together with a Gruffalo, find out together what the ugly duckling really is. You live the story together and imagine it together.” failing them as teachers.” “These children seemed to be on a road to nowhere, and most of them were beginning to know it, beginning to resent school, beginning to give up. There had to be another way.” To their minds, self-worth was the key: “Get children to feel good about themselves and that their contribution was valued, then maybe, maybe, things could change.” And so it was, in Devon in 1976, that the couple, together with the neighbouring farmers, the Ward family, pioneered a Above: Children who visit the farms learn to work in a team and also start thinking for themselves programme of work designed to extend children physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually. “They would become the farmers, work alongside their teachers and the Ward family, and me, and Clare, so that they could be involved in every aspect of the farm. It is hard work, real work, and they know their work is essential, that it matters to the animals, to the farm, that it simply matters. They matter.” A lot has changed since the first lot of pupils, from Chivenor Primary School in Birmingham, came to stay with the Morpurgos. There are now three farms – the original one in Devon, another in Wales and a third in Gloucestershire – and more than 3,200 primary school children now visit every year. But the concept remains almost exactly the same. The children do everything that is important to the farm. “They get up at the crack of dawn to feed the animals, take part in the milking, see lambs being born, dig the vegetables and mend fences, collect the eggs and clean out the stables,” explains Michael, who has an MBE for services to youth, as well as literature. What are the most valuable lessons children take away from the experience, I wonder? “They learn to work in a team and look after one another. They also become more independent and start thinking for themselves. It’s often surprising to the teachers to see that pupils who aren’t very good at school are the ones who really blossom and thrive.” Michael experienced both city and country life as a child, having grown up near Bradwell in Suffolk, “where I would watch the sea-birds diving and dipping,” and also in Earl’s Court in London, where he went to school and remembers “playing in bombsites just after the war.” The children who visit the farms often find the differences in the environment strange, though, according to Michael. “Because [the countryside] smells so different. It’s so quiet at night when the wind blows and the owls hoot. The darkness of the lanes PHOTOGRAPHY: © SHUTTERSTOCK

INTERVIEW walking down in winter evenings can be frightening.” “But it all opens their eyes to a totally different world, a real world. They often go back with a stronger sense of where their food comes from and the importance of looking after the natural world but, we hope, also a sense of belonging.” There are no screens at the farm, either. “It is extraordinary,” reveals Michael, “but really none of them miss their gadgets. They learn to communicate with each other without them.” As a master storyteller, it’s something Michael is passionate about. “I think it is Above: The Duchess of Cambridge is one of the charity’s many influential supporters Left: Children do real, hard work on the farm vital that children spend time just thinking or dreaming or making something. This is where creativity comes from.” Time away from devices is something the charity encourages beyond the farm, too. It recently launched an UNPLUG for the day campaign to help raise funds for the charity, which has to raise 1.2m every year for its work. Luckily, it has a glut of influential supporters to help achieve this. Michael always had a vivid imagination, something that was fostered by his mother. “I did love having stories read to me. Listening to her voice as she acted out the characters really brought the stories and poetry that she loved to life for me. It was a huge influence.” Indeed, it was telling stories to his pupils during his time as a primary school teacher in Kent that actually led him to become an author. “I could see that the story I was reading my class of year 6s was really boring them. I went home that night and my wife suggested that I tell them one of my own stories. I went in the next day, took a deep breath and started to tell them my story. Slowly, they started to listen, and then intently on the edge of their seats, and by the time the bell went for the end of school, I had them in the palm of my hand. It was a great feeling and I have really never looked back.” And thank goodness for us that the prolific author, now 74, never has. Find out how to support the charity at farmsforcitychildren.org Toto The Dog- Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz Harper Collins Hardcover £14.99 W I N T ER 17 ★ schoolnotices.co.uk 33

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