Manifest – Returning from leave

Posted on May 30, 2018

As you will be aware, I have recently returned from a sabbatical, or time of study. In the previous Newsletter, I shared my perspectives on the state of education in the UK and USA, and the concept of justice.  This week I want to talk about what I saw from a teaching and learning perspective, how schools are reimagining education, and how St Paul’s is ahead of the curve.

One of the primary purposes of my time away was to visit schools who are, like St Paul’s School, challenging the traditional model of education and embracing the realities of a world that is very different to when many of us grew up. To this end, I visited schools in the UK and the USA who are delivering learning programs through the lens of competency rather than age, and who are developing and delivering entrepreneurial learning.

The latest Gonski report recommends “personalised” learning, which many schools have said is idealistic but too expensive. Schools designed around competency see students in classes of mixed ages. The premise is that children learn at different rates, and should not be pushed on to the next grade level until they are ready, and not because they are just a year older.

The success of this model was very evident in the UK school I visited, which has Years 9-12 students in mixed age (competency-based) classes for their elective subjects. The school was finding that the Year 9 students were, more often than not, outperforming the Year 12 students. In one US school I visited, the program had greatly enhanced each student’s ability to be a resilient independent learner, equipped with the dispositions they need to lead successful lives.

We have already been looking at the notion of “competency-based learning” or vertical learning in IST and our entrepreneurial pathway, as well as in our vertical tutoring system. Over the coming few years we will continue the research, ensuring, as we continually do, that any decision we make is going to enhance learning and the development of every student at our School.

The schools I visited were recommended to me as places of innovation. I was very impressed with what I saw, but was also greatly encouraged. Each of the schools was fascinated with our Realms of Thinking and with our entrepreneurial pathway. Avenues School in New York has a significant entrepreneurial program itself; however, the staff were quite envious when learning about our start-up fund, which enables students to borrow money to launch their business.

All the schools want to learn more about Realms of Thinking, particularly on the back of Cambridge University Students Union’s listing of St Paul’s School in the top 100 most innovative learning organisations in the world. They were particularly keen to learn about our approaches to nurturing creativity, particularly our IST program, as well as our approach to design thinking.

There was much upon which to reflect and learn as we continue to ensure we are preparing your children with the knowledge, skills and character traits to lead successful and fulfilling lives.

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