The plans for the temporary school are completely firmed up (and you can view them on the school's website) and the planning process is well underway. If you look at the plans, you will see that we have everything planned for our students to experience a full curriculum right from day 1. There's 'ordinary' classrooms, as well as a science lab and technology room; we also have a dinning and assembly space (which will also double up as an indoor area for PE). But there's also space for 'break-out' sessions. These are where small groups of students and individuals will meet to work through the more personalised aspects of their curriculum. . . not every lesson will be spent in a classroom with a whole class because doing things that way, although easier for the school to organise, does not help the individuals make the learning their own.
I've written already about the pastoral and mentoring support that will make Sandymoor unique, but the academic curriculum will also be unique as we will never treat students like products in a factory, where the 'date of manufacture' is the most important thing about them.
In the background, I'm working on the school's education brief; a weighty document that sets out how the school will cover all the legal requirements of the department for education. This document is ready to go off to them, but in doing it, I realised that it doesn't ask for what I consider the most important part of the whole thing, the 'how' of the delivery. I've prepared the outline of the school day, detailed how many lessons per subject and gone into detail about policies on ICT and the like, but couldn't help but include details about the how as well.
With every student known as an individual, it will be crucial that there is time for each student to engage with their learning as an individual. Here we have one of my big bug-bears and that's that most schools focus more on the teaching than on the learning. The teacher, seen as the sage, controlling the flow of knowledge into the students in front of them. This takes power away from the student and puts it firmly into the teacher and this leads to the student wondering why they go to school. The ethos of Sandymoor School will be the exact opposite, with the teacher acting as guide and support to the students. This means that the student is more in control and so enjoys the process. It also means that the education is more organic and evolves with the student.
Time in the classroom should be active, should involve the student asking questions and forming their opinions about the topics being discussed. Learning should be collaborative, with students working in groups to solve problems. This is what happens in the 'real world', so why not in school? It certainly will be what happens at Sandymoor.
Over the next few weeks, I will be short listing and interviewing staff to join me in September. This is going to be a huge task, not least due to the number of applications we are receiving, but also because of the importance to it - I will only want the best teachers joining me, teachers who share my passion for working with young people not seeing them as products to 'do' education to. I am working with a retired head who is helping me shortlist and will interview with me. I'm also very grateful for three of the local primary schools who have offered their classrooms and students so that we can observe the candidates in front of students. And I hope to be able to share with you the Sandymoor teachers by the end of May, so watch this space for that exciting news!
Also, like I've said, I will be posting out to parents/guardians who have registered their child(ren) a letter explaining how the transition will work, with me visiting each student in their primary school, talking to them and their class teacher. I will also be asking to meet each parent/guardian, so I can explain how Sandymoor will work and answer any questions. I know that everyone has busy lives, but I am hoping that people will be willing to meet me; I am more than happy to visit in an evening, in the family home. I believe the link with parents is so important in making the process work, everyone working in partnership to make the best experience possible for the young people. This is something I think we've let slip in the west - when I was in Tanzania, working with the Maassi, the way everyone in the community works to support the children is a lesson we could all learn and is why I am so dedicated in my pursuit of getting everyone involved in the mentoring and support of Sandymoor School's students.