Anyone who has read the iconic ‘Harry Potter’ series by J. K. Rowling has wanted to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The robes, the quidditch matches, moving staircases, and wizard duelling; but sadly no such place exists.
Unsatisfied with the lack of viable wizarding school places available in the South East of England, here at Wilmington Academy we turned our school in Hogwarts for our two week Tri-Wizard Tournament in celebration of World Book Day 2016.
Wilmington Academy is a non-selective school in North-West Kent, and part of the Leigh Academies Trust. The school had gone into ‘Special Measures’ in 2009, but with hard work and perseverance, the school was able to rise from the ashes in 2012, when we were rated as a ‘Good’ school during our Ofsted Inspection that year. The majority of our students are male, as there are more schools for girls in the area than boys. We also have a higher number of students with SEN needs than the national average , while also seeing anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of each year group behind in their chronologically reading ages. Our students struggle with literacy, numeracy, the use of thinking skills, and developing a self-sufficient work ethic. But like most things worth accomplishing, it is not impossible.
The main goal of the Tri-Wizard Tournament was to create an event that not only promoted literacy, but allowed students to apply a variety of thinking skills (creative thinking, problem solving, drafting, crafting, proof-reading) to a single task inspired by literature. The tasks allowed all students to shine, with all types of intelligences represented by at least two activities.
Preparations started weeks ahead, with teachers receiving entry packs for the Tri-Wizard Cup. We have 32 tutor groups in the school of mixed ages, so each group was given a country from around the globe and tasked with creating 15 relics (items of great historical importance to their school), and competing in 10 Champion Challenges. The relics included a Founder’s Wand, a Marauder’s Map, a school uniform, and models of the school grounds. The Champion Challenges included a Spelling Bee (‘Harry Potter’ vocabulary only), a Horcrux Hunt, and a Quidditch Cup. Tutor groups were given six weeks to prepare for the event, with a judging timetable to let people know when to compete.
We also launched the event in assembly to really get the students excited about participating.
Before the festival started, the entire school was decorated with Hogwarts crests, banners, and classroom signs by the amazing Printed Instinct on Etsy.
We even decorated the bathroom signs!
To make the event even more magical, we sent every Year 7 student their own acceptance letter to Hogwarts over the February Half Term and included a ticket on the Hogwarts Express.
From there, on the second day of the Festival, we held a Care of Magical Creatures workshop for all KS3 students, with a visit from Eagle Heights for a falconry workshop.
We also invited fantasy author Sara Grant in to do a creative writing workshop with our students. They were able to learn how to improve their own writing, as well as the exciting world of a career in professional writing and publishing. She also read students passages from her books ‘Half Lives’ and ‘Chasing Danger’, which comes out in early April.
More than all of this, our students produced some amazing items, many made from recycled materials. Their use of creativity, ingenuity, and craftsmanship was exceptional.
Despite being a secondary school, we also saw a number of staff dress up for World Book Day on Thursday 3rd March, along with students who came dressed in their wizarding school uniforms.
So what did the students think?
We had almost 70% of students competing in the available competition slots, up almost 20% from last year’s participation in the Hunger Games Festival. If that doesn’t seem impressive, it is important to note that 70% of our student body means over 500 students took part.
Students also spoke to their tutors about how much they had loved the event, and that maybe they had to admit that reading was “awesome”, “cool”, or even just a little “okay”.
So if you work in a secondary school and don’t think there is a way to motivate and interest your students in the world of reading, I implore you to consider a reading festival like the one we produced here at Wilmington Academy. It has the power to change minds, promote teamwork, and help shed light on talents students may not have known they had.
Happy World Book Day everyone!