Norwich schoolchildren let imaginations run free

They could be trying to save a world where the only living thing left is one lonely plant with a single leaf or helping Charlie replace all the toys his naughty little sister Lola has broken.

At Lodge Lane Infant School, in Norwich, youngsters use fictional situations to help them learn important facts about plants, poetry and respecting each other.

Now, following its latest Ofsted visit, the Old Catton school has been praised for the innovative scheme which sees children suspending disbelief and letting their imaginations run away with them. Headteacher Andy Tovell has seen a marked improvement in behaviour and classrooms full of engaged pupils since the 'imaginative inquiry' lessons were introduced 18 months ago.

'You walk into classrooms and they are so calm,' he said. 'When children are really excited and really enjoying something their behaviour goes with it.'

Imaginative inquiry was developed in conjunction with other Norwich schools – including Recreation Road Infant School – as part of the Creative Partnerships programme. It sees pupils from reception to year two entering into a fictional world where they are asked to solve a problem, help someone out or find out more.

In year two, pupils have been learning about 'the last leaf' – a dying planet which has just one plant with one leaf left because the world has not been looked after. As well as writing poetry about the planet, the children have created bio-domes to help learn how to look after plants.

Seven-year-old Ben Rayner said he had built a generator for his which would create heat for the plants. He added: 'Most of the plants come from hot places and, as well as water, they need heat to grow. The ones that need mostly water are actually weeds. They're not important to us and we're trying to dry them out.'

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Mr Tovell said all the children were aware that the stories were not real and were keen to take control of their inquiries.

In a recent Ofsted report, where the school was rated 'good' overall, inspectors said: 'The inquiry-led curriculum has been put in place to ensure that pupils develop a broad range of skills and add to what they know so far. In addition, increasing emphasis is placed on a sense of wonder and where the imagination can take you so that pupils become full partners on the learning journey.'

As Mr Tovell walked down the corridor, a group of four and five-year-olds asked him if they could throw a birthday party for Lola, the fictional little sister in the Charlie and Lola books series.

He said that the reception class had been helping Charlie after he wrote them a letter, adding: 'Charlie was distressed because Lola had been breaking his toys. The children were looking at how they can help and support him.'

Having been given permission to hold the party, the children went away to start planning and could find themselves making party food, invitations, and maps to help guests find the school.

Have you got an education story? Call Victoria Leggett on 01603 772468 or email