Over the past few weeks there has been lots of press coverage about schools keeping goats on their grounds – all of it positive and engaging. Let’s hope it leads to more goats in more schools!
One of the most high profile goat schools at the moment is Varndean School in Brighton. They have five pygmy goats (you can follow them on Twitter @varndeangoats). They’ve received a large amount of press coverage, including being in the Telegraph (click to read article) and on Good Morning Britain (click to see interview).
This has helped to highlight the real importance in educating the whole child. We as teachers and leaders can sometimes become so wrapped up in results, progress and the importance of English and Maths, that we risk losing sight of the bigger picture around these real children, children with real emotions and some very real problems. We (myself included) risk becoming so engrossed in improving data that we stop seeing the children in our care as humans and begin to see them as just a percentage.
When I was teaching and I had had enough of the pressure, enough of the constant critics, just enough, I would go for a walk. I reached the farm, I usually found children there, interacting with the animals and learning how to care for them. This instantly lifted my mood and their smiling faces proved that all the weekends I had given up, all the early starts to look after the animals on the farm, were worthwhile. It takes a big team to look after the animals, but for me (and the other helpers) the effort was well worth the enjoyment the pupils took from the farm.
The two questions I was asked time and again by visitors and members of the school community were, ‘Where is the educational benefit?’ and ‘How can we weave the farm into the curriculum?’ As time went by I have moved away from the answer of ‘Here is the educational benefit and this is how we make use of the farm in our curriculum’ to how I really feel which is, the educational benefit is great and it’s good that we can link the farm to our curriculum, but the real benefit is watching those 29 faces light up, without a care in the world when they spend time on the farm. It’s that child I had last year who hated coming to school, but since the animals have arrived practically skips through the gates and her first stop is to say ‘good morning’ to the animals. These things don’t show up in any data analysis and are very difficult to record, but they are the real reason we should have animals in school and particularly goats!
Let’s hope the tide of results driven education will slowly subside and instead the welfare and happiness of our students will become equally as important as that of results.