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"WOODLANDS Junior School, tucked away in a quiet corner of Tonbridge in Kent, is famous. It isn’t because the school gets good results (although it does). No, this is a school with a world-famous website.
The Woodlands website is no run-ofthe-mill school website. It has a huge section on British culture. Within it there are, for example, sub-sections on history, flags, economy, government, the Royal Family, UK symbols and festivals and holidays.
If you want to know what the British do on Bonfire Night, why they sport daffodils on March 1 or what they do with conkers, this is the place to look.
Take the section on British national anthems. All six verses of God Save The Queen are printed, and if you’re using a computer with speakers you hear the tune.
The same page also gives you the Welsh and Scottish national anthems and information about other patriotic works such as Jerusalem and Land Of Hope And Glory. And there are links to an official monarchy website if you want more.
There are 11,500 pages of information including 1,500 about Britain.
On average, a staggering 30,000 people a day consult the Woodlands website. On Shrove Tuesday this year, the site broke its own impressive record when 127,868 people visited it.
According to Woodlands’s acting head teacher, Richard Bilious, it is Britain’s most visited education site after the BBC. Some users are children and teachers from other schools. Others are families. Businesses and other organisations often tell the school how useful they find its website.
And, of course, users aren’t just in Britain. People are clicking onto the Woodlands website from all over the world. Apparently, they are fascinated by Britain and Britishness — whatever they think it is.
And no one seems to offer the range of information about it that Woodlands does.
And, because the site is aimed at children and the language and style are straightforward, it is ideal for adults who don’t have English as their first language.
It all started in the late 1990s when teacher Mandy Barrow spotted the learning potential in getting pupils to collect information and write it up for a website.
‘It is designed to support Woodlands pupils,’ says Miss Barrow. ‘The way it has snowballed is wonderful — and I must say — unexpected.’
Woodlands now has contacts all round the world, improving pupils’ knowledge of geography.
Elsewhere on the website is all the usual school information for parents such as term dates. There are also detailed sections on literacy, maths and science to assist children with curriculum work and to enable parents to help them more easily.
The homework-help section is a good idea, too. Any child can e-mail his or her question and Miss Barrow will offer advice.
There are also games pages which are popular. But the school doesn’t count these in its impressive statistics.
Miss Barrow no longer works at Woodlands, although she still manages the site voluntarily from home. Since 2004, she has been employed by Advisory Service Kent as a primary school information technology consultant, helping teachers across the county. She also manages Kent’s National Grid for Learning.
‘There is scope now for a full-timer to be based at Woodlands to run the website and develop it,’ says Miss Barrow, who would like the site to become more interactive.
AND IT is a great credit to the school that its website and the excitement it generates have continued despite near-disaster. Last October the school opened an attractive, glassy extension with spacious classrooms and a computer suite. A month later, it was attacked by vandals. They targeted the tank room in the roof. Water flowed into the computer suite, destroying all 40 work stations.
At present, workmen are busy on the room which will be ready by summer. Meanwhile, pupils have to make do with a few borrowed laptops.
‘But there’s always a silver lining,’ Mr Bilous says. ‘We now have the chance to create a state-of-the-art computer facility which will really benefit Woodlands children.’
So have a look at www.woodlandsjunior.kent.sch.uk — and direct your children to it."
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