‘People who have the wherewithal to shape their own life well’
The vision looks for all of us to be building on strength and interest and passion at every opportunity- both the pupils and the staff;
We recognise the importance of modelling positive attitudes. Perhaps the most powerful way adults can support children is through the quality of their presence and the atmosphere that this creates in the in-between times of any day. Children will absorb this. We believe in people; “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” (St. Augustine Letter 211, c. 424)
A focus on the present
We know the best way to provide hope and the wherewithal to live life well is to get it right now. ‘A classroom in which the teacher doesn’t have to talk about the future because the present comprises of all the conditions, forges all the habits of mind and introduces all the knowledge from which the future, whatever form it takes, can be navigated…..from which rich lives can emerge.’ (Debra Kidd 2019)
We have an evidence-based approach: we look to respond to research and carry out our own research, based on our in-depth knowledge of our children, in contrast to one defined by politically motivated bureaucracy.
We accept that the act of drawing upon research, carrying out our own research as well as the act of teaching will never be an ‘exact’ science. We remain wary of anything purporting to be a simple answer. We are committed to a scientific approach which we would define as the pioneering work at the edge of certainty as opposed to the controlling ‘scientism’ of bureaucracies with their deadening desire for certainty. (Furedi)
Preparation for the 21st Century
We look to prioritise the development of 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration and communication (Charles Fadel & Bernie Trilling).
We recognise the importance of narratives ….children will hear and re-tell hundreds of stories, rich with vocabulary and imagery in their time at school.
‘The human mind seems exquisitely tuned to understand and remember stories- so much so that psychologists sometimes refer to stories as psychologically privileged, in that stories are treated differently in the memory compared with other types of material.’ (Willingham, 2004)
The importance of knowledge
We cover the National Curriculum. ‘The National Curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thoughts and said, and helps to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.’
We are mindful of two important things that cognitive science has taught us about skills, that they are firstly hugely domain specific and secondly rely on large amounts of foundational knowledge. ‘Knowing things helps us to know more things. Knowing things helps us to connect with previous knowledge and to make connections.’ (Myatt, 2018)
‘Comprehension is highly text specific and dependent on background knowledge…then we need to make sure that pupils have plenty of knowledge.’ (Willingham, 2018)
That said we are wary of the blithe take on learning as simply a shift in long term memory. ‘The process of learning certainly requires the engagement of cognitive processes, but without other so-called non-cognitive processes, learning will simply not take place.’ (Marc Smith)
We are also wary of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.”― Charles Dickens,Hard Times
Knowledge must lead to greater understanding. ‘We have reached a point in our evolution where we know a lot, we know a hell of a lot but we understand very little; never before in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge as there has been in the last 100 years but look where we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? The problem is that knowledge alone is not enough; we lack understanding.’ To have understanding we need to live the knowledge, we need to belong, when you belong you understand, when you are separated you can accumulate knowledge but understanding is holistic.
The search for meaning
A linked and plaited approach to knowledge— applying knowledge and making explicit links between different skills and concepts or bodies of knowledge, not for the sake of it, but in order to make something new, something meaningful….
…Socrates believed wisdom began in admitting your own ignorance: that the only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing…’I myself know nothing, except just a little, enough to extract an argument from another man who is wise and to receive it fairly.’ (Theaetetus, 161b)
Therefore we offer many opportunities for pupils to debate, question and challenge knowledge;
Therefore we offer many opportunities for hands on, authentic experience and experimentation;
Therefore we offer many opportunities for enquiry, analysis, critical evaluation and problem solving.
‘There is nothing in the world that has the cutting edge of a new thought. It is fascinating to watch the clearance it can make and the new life it can bring….Indeed it becomes the mother of a whole sequence of new feeling, thinking and action. Though we live mostly in the visible world and our personalities, roles and work distinguish and identify us externally, we dwell more forcefully elsewhere.’ (John O’Donahue, 2003)
An approach that gives to pupils the feeling of autonomy in and the confidence to take responsibility for their learning; that helps pupils become self-regulating;
Oracy and the communication of meaning
An approach which gives pupils the means to turn outwards to the world, to communicate with it, have a relationship with it and make a difference to it.
Therefore we offer structured speech events for pupils to share and debate ideas with others;
Therefore we offer opportunities for pupils to perform, to make things and show- case the products of learning.
‘Good literacy floats on a sea of talk.’ (James Britton),
An approach that makes best use of group work and talk and collaboration ‘to achieve certain kinds of intellectual and social learning goals….for conceptual learning , for creative problem solving.. Socially it will improve intergroup relationships by increasing trust and friendliness.’ (E Cohen)
The old system of ‘command and control’- using carrots and sticks –to exert power over people is fast being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate’- to generate power through people.
A survey in 2008 by Gensler concluded that the best companies spend 23% more time collaborating, 40% more time learning and 16% more time socialising than average companies. Open conversations are the underpinning of these companies’ gospel. This is the essence of synergy- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
‘I like having a talk partner who can help me if I get stuck, and I can help if they get stuck. The talk partner system is great because you get to know what they are like to work with.’ (Pupil self-report 2020)
‘People who take a delight in learning.’
All about learning
An approach preoccupied with learning and preoccupied with what is best for the children’s learning— not with generating evidence for a third party. We talk about learning: we do not talk about Ofsted.
An approach that aims to commit knowledge and skills into pupil heads, into their long term memories; that ‘stumbles upon’ a test rather than teaching to it: we do not talk about SATS and we never say to a child, ‘you will need this for the test;’
An approach that encourages awe and wonder and reverence for life, for the world around us, for learning.
All about play-
We recognise two of the best indicators for future success are self-regulation and reading for pleasure. Early on we therefore strongly commit to play, to oracy and to engagement with books….and we maintain these throughout their time at school- see below.
‘The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.’ -Timo Heikkinen, Kalahti School, Finland
‘If a child has been able in his play to give up his whole loving being to the world around him, he will be able in the serious tasks of later life to devote himself with confidence and power to the service of the world’ -Rudolf Steiner
‘Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.’ -Fred Rogers
‘Playtime is precious. Play builds brain pathways for thinking, creativity, flexibility, empathy, and many other lifelong skills.’ -Heather Shumaker
‘Play is the highest form of research.’ -Albert Einstein
‘A child that has been severely sheltered from social contact as a member of a play group…will always find himself hampered in his adult social interactions.’ Desmond Morris
Questions and Socratic Dialogue
We want our pupils to be critical thinkers. At the heart of this critical thinking is the Socratic method, first wielded by Socrates two millennia ago. We teach ‘Philosophy for Children.’ Wisdom for Socrates was not knowing lots of facts, or knowing how to do something but how you use the knowledge you have. It is about fashioning the body and mind to create moral, just people: the method is to question and question until people can clearly defend their beliefs. ‘We run this company on questions, not answers.’ (Eric Schmidt (CEO Google))
‘We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know enough to get by. Every question we answer leads to another question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species.’ D Morris
‘I would say that I am curious. The deeper I go, the more questions I have.’ Pupil self report 2020
Love of Reading
A love of reading remains at the heart of all we do. We want reading to drive pupils’ passion for learning; to give them knowledge and understanding; to help them make connections in their learning.
‘A world will come over you, the happiness, the abundance, the incomprehensible immensity of the world. Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. this love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn- it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads of your experience, disappointments and joys.’ -Rainer Maria Rilke
We don’t want a curriculum that simply engages pupils and keeps them busy….we need pupils to feel ‘concerned,’ to feel like it matters…we believe it is this personal investment that will tip them in the direction of independence and self-efficacy.
We want pupils to encounter empowering knowledge that draws on ‘the best that has been thought and said.’ (Mathew Arnold)
We want to teach knowledge not simply for the sake of providing building blocks for more knowledge. Like Arnold we do not see the act of learning in school as a purely functional exercise to be defined by scientific principles alone. We want knowledge and experiences that engage the heart and soul. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris)
‘..we need knowledge as power: power not promised in some distant vision of a university hall or pay packet, but right here, right now, in a child’s loved experience.’ (Debra Kidd 2019)
Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Alfie Kohn
We look to challenge our children because they enjoy their learning then all the more. ‘I love it being difficult. I like it when Maths is hard.’ (Pupil, February 2020)
‘We do not truly know what anyone is capable of until they are given interesting and difficult things to do… If children are engaged in thoughtful, absorbing practice, they are both paying attention to the now, are in the moment and are also on the path for a bigger story, which moves them into tomorrow and the future.’ (Mary Myatt)
“You dig deeper and it gets more and more complicated, and you get confused, and it’s tricky and it’s hard, but… It is beautiful.” -Brian Cox
We aim to put children in ‘positions’ which allow them to simultaneously actively experience the subject at hand and develop skills that are relevant to their lives. ‘…we need to place children knee deep in dilemma..to let problems and difficulties drive learning.’ (Debra Kidd, 2019)
‘It’s worse to spend your life on the outside looking in, wondering what if, than it is to try and dare greatly and risk the chance of failure. Dare greatly; get in the arena and try.’ -Brene Brown
“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”– Ted Hughes
Creativity not as a gimmick in a bid to engage children, instead creativity as the making of links, as being truly responsive….as being flexible to allow for constant ongoing adjustment of plans based on ongoing formative assessment close to the coal face.
‘A curriculum geared to the needs of the learner requires of the teacher an enormous amount of flexibility, a high tolerance for unpredictability, and a willingness to give up absolute control of the classroom.’ A Cohen
We encourage children to have a go- we might say, ‘Do something only you would come up with- that none of your friends or family would think of.’ (Mark Runco) We celebrate originality: we might say, ‘This could be the first time anyone has ever done it this way.’
A fearless approach that embraces risk and possible failure; that avoids ‘off-the-shelf’ schemes.
We embrace Dahlberg and Moss’s concept of learning happening on a plateau…’a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development reactivated or between which a number of connecting routes could exist. This avoids any idea of moving towards a culminating point or external end- the antithesis of the dominant discourses in today’s….education with their fixation on predetermined and sequential outcomes. Instead we are always in between, with many possibilities open to us.’
A delightful adventure
An approach that makes pupils feel they are on a journey of exploration, that they are on an adventure.
As teachers we need to be poised with ‘infinite humour to take an impossible voyage with a improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.’ (M Gardner)
A school environment that feels to the child like a place to explore and wonder at.
An approach that embraces the unexpected and unusual in order to prime the best and deepest learning.
We need to resist ‘the notion of learning as a race and instead embraces it as an exploration. What if, instead of running to the end point of the education system, or even to the end of a unit of work, the purpose of the course lay in the journey itself?’ (Debra Kidd, 2019)
‘They (the adults) are the ones who are trying to limit exploration and are selling out to the cosiness of sub-human conservatism. Luckily for the species there are always enough adults who maintain their juvenile inventiveness and curiosity and who enable populations to progress and expand.’ -Desmond Morris
The great outdoors- letting the world come to us
A commitment to making the best of the beautiful world on our doorstep; to taking the learning outside.
A world of opportunity
A commitment to providing enriching and challenging experiences
A vast range of learning opportunities beyond the classroom to stimulate love of learning and interests for life
Quality books at the heart of the learning experience and a love of reading as an ever present aim.
‘People who are compassionate, who appreciate the value and preciousness of each and every person and all life on earth.’
Commitment to developing our understanding and appreciation of the interconnection of the self with the universe; including inculcating and polishing all the innate qualities that allow one to feel a better communion with a higher sense of being. This can be through prayer and/or good deeds and/or compassion and/or mindfulness and meditation.
We are mindful of the Hindu proverb about the 4 rooms, “There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual . Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” (Rumer Godden)
‘…you are not just a meaningless fragment in an alien universe …Underneath your outer form, you are connected with something so vast, so immeasurable and sacred, that it cannot be conceived or spoken of.’ (Eckhart Tolle, 1999)
Appreciation of difference
We embrace the enormous variety of interest and need amongst the people in our school as our raw material; as an awe inspiring, unpredictable, non-linear and ever- evolving challenge. When delivering the curriculum, we are committed to a very flexible approach so every individual has a chance to flourish.
We look to maintain links with other schools in very different circumstances, local government, universities, national and international companies and organisations. Through these links we aim to maintain a programme of experiences/ lectures and a thread of the curriculum that drives intercultural understanding and appreciation.
A celebration of our uniqueness
We want to enjoy individuality and celebrate our human creativity.
‘Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.’ -Rainer Maria Rilke
Nurturing mental health is a key priority—this includes the practice of mindfulness.
We teach for empathy not just about it—we both model empathy and teach and learn in a way that requires it.
One year 2 child said, ‘I love this school. This is the life.’
For us democratic has to mean more than having a vote: it has to mean active and fulfilling participation in the life and running of the school. It has to support individuals to express their convictions, assert their will and contribute to making the world a better place.
‘It is not simply enough to learn about politics in school. To really understand how politics works, you have to experience it yourself.’ (Nikhil Goyal, 2012)
The search for meaning
When we apply our knowledge we link it to a moral compass, to a strong purpose; we look to ask the big questions, to make meaning, to make the world a better place. Powerful knowledge is the knowledge that helps us understand where we are from… and where we are going.
Communication of meaning
We offer pupils opportunities to contribute to the discourse about their values shared in the school and the wider community