Posted by: Bill Lord | November 27, 2009

Burglar Bill

Burglar Bill

I spent most of yesterday dressed as a burglar whilst videoconferencing with angry children! This was as  part of the wonderful Jolly Postman project in Rotherham. I have been supporting the two consultants who are leading on the project which involves twelve schools. Linda and Amy have  tirelessy driven the work which is brilliantly structured and creative.

They managed to persuade one colleague to be filmed as a newsreader telling the children that Burglar Bill had stolen the Jolly Postman’s sack and that without it the people of Storyville would not be able to receive their letters. Another colleague was filmed as the Jolly Postman himself telling the children how miserable he was and how he was worried that his friends would suffer as a result of not having their letters.
The project started this term and during the October and November children have been able to send letters and cards by post to characters in the book and also able to use an email address which diverts to the consultants’ inboxes. On some weeks they have been dealing with up to 50 emails which they have used to encourage and motivate the children and to give them ideas for writing.

The extension of this was to give the children the opportunity to hot seat Burglar Bill live to find out why he had done the terrible deed and what he was going to do about it.

It is clear that a huge amount of work has gone into the project and certainly the organisation for yesterday’s videoconference was incredibly impressive. Andrew Lickley from YHGfL worked with us at a local secondary school and co-ordinated the calls to 19 classes whilst we also popped out to one school to do session live in the school hall.

During the day we encountered a few issues in schools who were not regular users of VC or where specific pieces of kit struggled to cope but out of the 19 calls I would say that 15 were perfectly fine. I just had to pretend that I was an old burglar who was a bit deaf for a few of the calls.

I have posted a tiny amount of it onto youtube obviously being incredibly careful to avoid any clips with identifiable children on it.

In terms of the learning there were some very astute children who had really got to grips with the story and asked some impressive questions. Some classes (often the youngest) were most concerned about the Jolly Postman’s feelings and what Burglar Bill was going to do to make him feel better. In one VC with a Year 3 class we ventured into a line of questioning of why Burglar Bill had chosen a life of crime, why he hadn’t looked to get a job which didn’t upset people and what he was going to do when he left prison. I was impressed with their level of reasoning andunderstanding of the text.

The experience has given me even more zeal about promoting the use of videoconferencing and it has also caused me to consider the opportunities that videoconference events will provide for undertaking Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) for Speaking and Listening. The materials will be shared with schools by QCDA early next year and I think that it is vital that the edtech community consider how ICT can be used to support it. There is already some work being done using podcasting and audio files to record evidence for Reading APP. The examples of Speaking and Listening which have been shown at conferences have some use of ICT but I think that it will be important for  us to support colleagues with developing other approaches to make accurate measurement of children’s progress and achievement. I think that the use of ICT will have a very important role in Assessment Focus 4 (Talking about Talk) which will focus on meta-cognition with children expected to consider the effectiveness of their performance as speakers and listeners. We ignore the opportunities this brings at our peril.


  1. Fantastic ideas. I will certainly be pushing what you have done with our Lit AST. Look forward to seeing what else you do to support APP.

    • Hi Pete,
      Thanks for the comments. I do hope that we can develop this further. I am hoping that it will be going into some schools in one of my LAs after Christmas. It would be interesting to see how other countries could run with as the DVD has clips from all over the globe.
      The APP materials will be released in the Spring so I am going to have some time to develop my thoughts but more to come.

  2. I have just been doing a course with Nik Peachey on web 2.0 tools, and used video for the first time with TokBox. Eeek! It was quite confronting at first for me, but one I got used to it, I just ignored my face in the video which seemed to have aged ten years! I think that confrontational aspect is part of the problem, truly.

    The other part is that the technology can be fiddly, and teachers just don’t have the time to fiddle with microphone settings etc.

    Having said that though, i LOVE your Burglar Bill video. What a wonderful way to engage kids!

    • Thanks Book Chook. I am getting some cracking stories in from the different schools and am hoping to post some of the artwork, writing and anecdotes from the classes in the new year.
      I understand one school wrote their christmas performance in response to their work on the Jolly Postman and Burglar Bill’s complaint that Betty made him do it!!

  3. […] back to the Burglar Bill work I wonder whether some of the work which was sent out as video files setting up the project could […]

  4. […] Using videoconference to support the use of quality texts In November I posted a blog about my work with consultants in Rotherham on the Jolly Postman project when I videoconferenced with 19 classes dressed as Burglar Bill […]

  5. […] I finished the session off with two examples of project work about which I have previously blogged.  I talked about the Jolly Postman project in Rotherham LA where I ended up videoconferencing with 19 classes dressed up as Burglar Bill. Blog post here […]

  6. […] Dick King-Smith,  Allan Ahlberg, Anne Fine etc (indeed I was involved in a project based upon The Jolly Postman) it is about knowing texts and to do that teachers have to read books. You have to know your […]

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