It doesn’t just rain in Manchester!
Goa was as welcoming as ever, including the
last vestiges of the monsoon! This year the monsoon seemed as though it didn’t
quite wish to lose its grip on the prevailing weather which, whilst it made for
a lovely temperature, did make travelling around interesting! ! Everything was
verdant green and for the first time during my visits, Oxdel School actually
had a green playing space!
The rains made for a very chaotic start to
the school day but everyone just took it in their stride. Staff and pupils made
stepping stones for paths, shook off any excess water on arrival, removed their
shoes and/or flip flops so padding around in bare feet to avoid slipping on the
school corridors. This was the first nod to health and safety I have seen on
any of my visits!My umbrella was laughed at for being far too small - which I
found out it was! However, I have been told that in India, rain is considered a
blessing, so I brought many blessings with me! The rains didn’t quite last as
long as predicted and by the end of my first week, the sun shone and the
The Jolly Phonics Programme is alive and
kicking! Not just is it hale and hearty, it is being creatively used to support
the teaching of Konkani (the Indo-Aryan official language in Goa)as
well so helping the children switch from one language to another! The
introduction of Jolly Phonics is having a double benefit.
During this visit I noticed a number of
significant changes. The children are becoming much more confident at
communicating in English and they are so much more engaged with their learning.
The teachers are actively involved in pupil’s learning and their newfound
energy and enthusiasm are passed on to the children through the involvement of
songs, actions and phonic games. The early signs of building on what has been
taught before is beginning to show, particularly at Oxdel.
In the higher Standards 3 and 4, the
children are reading, not just robotically decoding the words but showing their
understanding of the meaning of both words and text. They LOVE the new reading
books. Working with a ‘perfect partner’ is gradually being established and the
children and teachers are encouraged by this and see the benefits. The links
between reading and writing are being realised.
I had a wonderful time modelling lessons and
then observing my Goan colleagues teaching the following day. The upshot of
this, is that I really must learn either Konkani or Hindi! Hindi has won the
day so I would be most grateful if anyone can recommend a patient Hindi tutor
for me. I have my Hindi primer already bought! I actually felt ashamed
listening to the children conversing in Konkani, Marthi and Hindi to help each
other with English words!
Wherever you are in the world, the
implementation of any new initiative takes time to embed and see positive
results. Goa is no exception so the outcomes that emerged from our Workshop
sessions were really encouraging and,actually, heart warming. As I advised the
teachers in Goa, we have to take small patient steps to develop confidence,
sustaining our faith that we are on the right path. The staff of both schools
have willing and with great courage and commitment kept their trust and are now
beginning to share “good” practice and so are continually learning and
borrowing ideas from each other so developing their proficiency and expertise. Blending,
segmenting, sound buttons, letter sound correlation are becoming part of their
The staff have told me how much the
children, particularly the early years children, love the Jolly Jingles. In the
Oxdel pre-school class, art work is linked to the sound of the week! I
particularly loved the bright green footprint which was made into a parrot when
learning the /p/ sound. The children went home that day with pale green painted
feet! As I have said before, there is a natural creativity here. How much can
be done and achieved with so very little, continues to amaze me.
The children’s ability to apply their phonic
knowledge has also had a positive impact on their spelling and writing. This
means they can write more independently. The teachers of the Standard 1 - 4 primary
classes in Dabolim are pleased with the progress their pupils have made since
the phonic intervention was introduced. They have moved forward to deal with
the issues of b and d reversals and how to teach double consonant endings with
double ll, double ss and so forth. This means it is time to introduce Jolly
Grammar and the higher order knowledge the children need for the next stage of
their acquisition of English. This progression shows how successful the teaching
of the seven groups of letter sounds has been in Jolly Phonics! Oxdel will be
at this stage in Standard 4 very soon. So as you can see, it is all coming
together pleasingly, even though both schools are at slightly different stages!
One of the issues which arose out the
workshop sessions was an appreciation of the need to help parents understand
how they, at home, are teaching reading and writing in English. In April, I
shall be giving presentations to parents, with a Konkani translator, of how
they can best support their children! This will challenge me, but the benefits
will be significant whilst, additionally, providing me with a personal professional
I have become very fond of my Goan
colleagues and I love their openness and honesty. They have challenges which
are hard for us to comprehend and constraints which are totally alien to us. Yet,
there is a passion to do the very best they can for their children which is
both refreshing and inspiring. Even though there is a way to go yet,they have
made such great progress that I could not be more delighted for them as they are
seeing the benefits of their hard work with the children making swift progress.
Between now and the end of March they have,from
myself though many are self-generated,a list of points to be implemented. I
know that when I return, this will have been accomplished!
During my visit there was a medical camp
which entailed each child being seen by a local doctor and a community nurses.
Immunisations, weight, height were all checked and support offered through the
local community hospital for those parents who needed advice on nutrition. It makes
the one meal served to the children each day an essential necessity as many are
still undernourished. The follow-up to the camp was a whole school assembly by
the medical team about basic hygiene, washing hands and generally trying to
have as well balanced a diet as economically possible.
My final task was to speak to a delightful
group of Headteachers who work with an organisation called Sangath. Sangath was
India's 4th leading
Public Health Research Institute in 2015 and WHO-India Public Health Champion
2016. Its founder is Vikram Patel who is considered to be within the top 100
most influential people in the world. As part of its work, Sangath
supports children with mild to moderate learning difficulties within main
stream schooling. This is, however, only a small part of their portfolio. Mrs.
Percy Cardoza visited APS for a day during the Summer Term as part of her UK
fact finding mission and spent valuable time with Mrs. McNally and Mrs. Cooper.
It was a most enjoyable morning and a wonderful opportunity to share practice
and support the work that Percy does with Don Bosco teachers.
I have asked about shipping things out to
Goa and found out a little more. Many parents have suggested that we try to
fill a small container over a period of a year with story books, pre-loved toys
and anything that might be supportive to these very disadvantaged children.
There are significant charges that accrue at the end of the journey i.e.
Dabolim/Vasco Port taxes/import duties. These include demurrage costs per day (how
long the container is sitting in the water awaiting its time to reach dry land
from the container ship) and then taxes for any imports- pre loved or
otherwise! However, Father Jose has a friend within the customs and will
explore finding out exactly what these costs may be.
It has been a really worthwhile and
rewarding trip. I am delighted to report that your generosity is playing its
part in supporting these lovely children and their teachers in the learning of
reading and writing English.