The RSA hosted a really successful event in collaboration with, the professional development association serving the independent sector groups GSA, HMC and SHMIS on Monday. The event sought to bring some of the experience of schools implementing the RSA’s Opening Minds programme to an audience of independent school representatives, and at the same time explore new options for collaboration between the state and independent sectors. Speakers included Anthony Seldon, from Wellington College, Lesley James from the RSA Academy and Patrick Hazelwood from St John’s School and Community College in Marlborough.
The developments at the RSA Academy, St John’s and Wellington College are inspiring, yet, when it comes to implementing such drastic transformations in their own schools, teachers and curriculum leaders may understandably find the task overwhelming. However, the independent representatives highlighted lots of smaller things that they can do in order to change the way they think about education and ensure they keep students at the centre of our school practices.
So, here are some of the things they suggested:
- Encourage independent learning in the classroom – independent research and enquiry – and perhaps even encourage some student-led learning.
- Let year 7 students direct the syllabus in PSHE lessons, so that the issues explored are those that are important to, or affecting in some way, the students in the class. If the issues covered are relevant to the students, surely this will encourage greater engagement with the lessons?
- Follow Patrick’s lead and drop Head of Department roles, allowing teams to take equal responsibility for the students’ learning and for the performance of the whole team.
- Creating a professional learning community, that develops teacher practice rather than criticising or judging it.
- Re-emphasising the importance of personal growth, and particularly personal growth through independent learning, rather than spoon-feeding.
- Using competencies rather than content as the starting point when planning schemes of work.
The range of ideas discussed demonstrates that, however big or small a change we feel able to make, there are always ways in which we can better engage both students and teachers in education and development.