With the last few staff being recruited over the next couple of weeks, and with the teachers now in place, it’s time to get back to planning and building the student experience. And it’s good to get back to that, in my head, because that is what has always been at the heart of Sandymoor!
One thing that has been occupying a lot of my time over the last few weeks has been a document called the Education Brief. This forms part of what is called the Education Plan for the school and is assessed by both the Department for Education and Ofsted. The Brief goes into the details of the school, in minute detail – the contents page alone runs to 3 pages and the whole document is over 100 pages long. . . In writing it, I have been able to refocus back onto the students and the experience they will receive.
We have decided on the first term’s focus – every topic covered will be related to the concept of ‘Reflection’. In Maths, this will look at the concept of geometry and 3-D shapes, linking to technology, whereas Art will be looking at the concept of reflecting the world through different movements in art. English lessons will be focussed on the concept if reflective writing, biographical / autobiographical, both real and fictional. In science, the concept of reflection and light in general will be the starting point for exploring many aspects of the world and in Humanities, the concept of reflecting our impact on the physical world will be the link. Community engagement will look at three aspects of reflection; locally exploring the issue of different ages’ perceptions on being a local resident, regionally looking at the different perspectives of faith communities and how that reflects on being ‘British’ and internationally, looking at different perspectives of global issues. Within all this, we will also be developing the students’ ability to reflect on their own learning and progress. This is core to the Sandymoor way – the skills for life-long learning at the front of what we do.
One key difference is going to be the integration that takes place – in far too many secondary schools, each subject is treated as a discrete item in the curriculum, in its own box, unaffected by other subjects. As a science teacher, for example, I’ve found myself frustrated by other departments unwilling to change the order in which they teach their subject to make links, and I’m determined that this won’t happen at Sandymoor. Or when secondary schools do claim to run an integrated course, it’s often taught by non-specialists. At Sandymoor, we are developing a curriculum where the subjects are taught by specialists, but in an integrated way, with each element of the curriculum placed in sequence to match other subjects.
For example, the Maths department will be working with Technology to look at geometry and shapes. This will tie in with Art, looking at the use of shapes and colour in compositions, so the Science department will look at light and colour, how we see the world around us. This then leads into the humanities subjects, with our interactions with the world, and so the links grow. These links will also be made explicit with the students too, with time for them to reflect on these links as they work in multi-age groups on projects of their choosing, but tied into the curriculum.
This all takes effort and time, and that is often why schools don’t do it; it is simpler to buy a scheme of work from a publisher, with all the worksheets and student text books all linked together. But that then stops the creativity in linking the subjects together. The text book and bought in scheme takes the priority – “we can’t do that now because it’s not the next chapter in the text book…”.
And all of that is built into Sandymoor; collaboration between departments, creativity in the curriculum and freedom for teachers to teach to the individual needs of the students.