NATALYA WILSON finds a school with some very real teaching principals at its core.

SHERIFF Hutton Primary School is a community with a love for the great outdoors in its locality and a passion for environs much further afield.

The school, which currently has 106 pupils on its roll, from Sheriff Hutton and its surrounding villages, has a strong ethos of making learning real, and much of this has to do with two projects that they have been working hard on – their garden, and links with schools in the wider world.

“It’s a happy and hard-working village school,” said headteacher Pam Powell.

“We have very high standards of teaching and learning throughout the curriculum; we have had four consecutive Ofsted inspections which confirm that, and our local authority, North Yorkshire, has designated us to be a highly effective school.”

During the past two or three years, the school has been developing its wider curriculum to extend and enrich the children’s experiences, and one of the main aims is helping the children to understand how they can play their part in protecting and enhancing their local environment.

“We have an eco-council in school, and we also have a lot of help from our local community to develop this work,” said Mrs Powell.

“We achieved a silver award in 2007, and are now working to achieve the top award – the Green Flag. We have a gardening club each week, when members of the village gardening club work with us to make the most of our lovely site. We have a butterfly garden, pond area and new raised vegetable beds, as well as new composting bins to make sure we recycle as much waste as possible. The children love working outside, and they are learning so much which will be useful to them outside of school.”

The outdoor curriculum is a big focus in Sheriff Hutton School, and all the children are involved in lots of different ways, from the youngest ones growing tomato plants to the older ones working in the garden.

“We took the little ones to the pond this week where we watched the newts, which was great fun,” said Mrs Powell.

“The children learn so well being outside and each class has its own outdoor area. Years 3 and 4 have just had a visit to Fairburn Ings. The children have been learning a lot about habitats, and on this visit they did things like pond dipping, which makes their learning very real. It’s things like that children really remember.”

As well as working within the local community, the school has broader horizons and is just completing what Mrs Powell calls a ‘really exciting’ Comenius project, during which they have linked with schools in Turkey, Sweden and Spain. The children have been able to meet and talk with teachers from these countries and make contact with pupils from their schools to discover for themselves about other cultures and languages.

“We’ve developed a joint website for our work and two weeks ago, we hosted the final celebrations at our last project meeting,” said Mrs Powell.

“Every one of our children took part in presentations and singing and a special highlight was the displays of traditional dancing by all the children, including some excellent maypole dancing. We also had a superb demonstration of morris dancing from a local group, which the children loved.”

During the project, the children’s reality of learning came to the fore when they met teachers from Turkey, a Muslim country, after having learnt about different faiths in the classroom.

“It was an amazing project, we all – teachers and pupils – learnt so much,” said Mrs Powell.

“We’re determined to develop the great friendships we have made, and the children have penpals in Sweden. The Comenius project has really caught the children’s imaginations.”

All Key Stage 2 pupils in the school learn to play the recorder, and music tuition for a variety of instruments, from the flute to drums, is also on offer to all youngsters. There’s also a singing group, which performs several times throughout the school year, and a specialist singing teacher who comes into the school. Drama is also something that is encouraged.

If all this hasn’t been enough to keep staff and pupils busy, there are plenty of extra-curricular activities on offer to the children, including after-school sports clubs.

“Some of our children have been involved in orienteering, and did very well in a local competition, including two children who were the overall winners. It’s nice to see children participating in lots of different sports,” said Mrs Powell.

She added: “Our school governors are members of the local community and play a big part in the school, and we work closely with the local playgroup to ensure a smooth transition for the children.

“Sheriff Hutton is a lovely village, and the school reflects this.”