Birchwood Grove


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Mantle of the Expert

At Birchwood Grove, we have been developing a style of working called ‘Mantle of the Expert’ throughout the school.

What is Mantle of the Expert?

 The Mantle of the Expert is a dramatic inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning, invented and developed by Professor Dorothy Heathcote at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1980’s. The big idea is that the class do all their curriculum work as if they are an imagined group of experts.

They might be scientists in a laboratory or archaeologists excavating a tomb, or a rescue team at the scene of a disaster. They might be running a removal company, or a factory, or a shop, or a space station.

Because they behave as if they are experts, the children are working from a specific point of view as they explore their learning and this brings special responsibilities, language needs and social behaviours.

Through activities and tasks, the children gradually take on some of the same kinds of responsibilities, problems and challenges that real archaeologists, scientists and librarians might do in the real world.

(Taken from Mantle of the Expert website:

Why do we use the Mantle approach in our school?

Using the Mantle approach provides a brilliant context for learning. It allows us to bring different areas of the curriculum into one topic, but also gives the children ownership of their learning.



Early Years - Autumn and Celebrations

The leaves are falling and the weather is getting colder- it must be autumn! We have been learning lots about this season, and have done some great activities. We went on an autumn hunt around the school grounds to search for the signs of autumn. We saw so many lovely colours on the trees where the leaves had changed colour and had started to fall.

We have also been learning about the different celebrations that happen in autumn, including Bonfire Night and Halloween. We also learnt about St Martin, which is celebrated in Germany. We made our own lanterns, like the children in Germany would do, and went on a lantern walk.

As autumn draws to an end and we head into winter, we have been learning lots about the celebration of Christmas. We have even acted out the story of the first Christmas in our very own Nativity show! We had so much fun and were very brave, singing and speaking on stage to the rest of the school and our parents.

What a busy first term! We can’t wait for the next one!

Year 1 - Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

This mantle topic began when we arrived in the morning and found straw, bricks and sticks all over the place. Then we discovered a very upset Mrs Pig. She told us that her three boys had left home and she was extremely worried about them. Immediately the children wanted to help and decided to become Story Town Police Officers. In order to best help Mrs Pig and her boys, we have been busy learning to verbally retell the story using picture prompts to help us.  

We were very excited when Mrs Pig came back in to see us to say that she had heard from her three boys, and they were busy building their own houses. To celebrate hearing from them she decided she was going to have her hair done, so that she could look her best before visiting. However, as it was raining she asked for our help in finding the best material to make an umbrella so that she could visit her pigs in the rain. This became the focus of our science investigation.

Mrs Pig has told us that her boys thought it would be easy to build a house but they soon realised that they actually didn't know the first thing about building a house, let alone where it should be built, what it should look like or what materials it should be built from! We will set about helping by finding out about materials and their properties, and by designing and building houses.

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the missing Big Bad Wolf.

Year 2 - Fire! Fire!

Year Two discovered some footprints along the Key Stage One corridor, we were wondering who they belonged to so we sent out a search party! In the studio, we discovered 60 tiny eggs scattered amongst the musical equipment. Greeting us was the sound of a deep voice asking for our help. Ignis the dragon was looking for his fire!

We have been exploring how Igins could use his growth mind-set to persevere in finding his fire. We have been looking after Ignis’ hatchlings and we can’t wait to see what happens…

Year 3 and 4 - Back to the Stone Age

In the first half of Autumn Term our topic was 'Back to the Stone Age'! We were using the text 'Stone Age Boy' by Satoshi Kitamura to enable the children to experience the Stone Age from the perspective of a modern day child. We were then transported back in time using our class time machine and put ourselves in the place of the boy that gets transported to the past to experience all parts of Stone Age life. We experienced different elements of Stone Age life in role, looking at; how they caught animals, how they made their houses and clothes and how they all worked together to keep their community working. We also produced some creative Stone Age cave art depicting parts of the story we had bought to life through drama. 

Year 5 and 6 - Ancient Greeks

The remains of a young hoplite from Ancient Greece are found in a deep, dark cave. It appears from the evidence that the solider was trapped in the cave when the roof fell in. Along with the remains of his body, archaeologists discover his weapons, armour and a bag of personal possessions.

The archaeologists need the help of our historical experts at Birchwood Grove who work hard to find out what happened to this solider. The experts discover that the hoplite fought in the 'Battle of Thermopylae', which led to a defeat of the Spartan army. This may have led the hoplite to retreat and hide in the cave. A drama company would like to investigate the new evidence and demonstrate the story in a reenactment.

Our experts are on hand to research and take part in the reenactments of different areas of Ancient Greek life.