Are you wondering what 'Flexible Learning Practice' is all about? Have you any questions you would like answered? Please use the form below to submit your question and then check back later for the reply.
Why don't we just rebuild a school with individual classrooms like we had?
We want the best for our children, the best progress, outcomes, well-being and relationships. We want our children to be self regulated lifelong learners. We have a chance (one chance!) to build a school for 2020 children, to meet their needs in an ever changing world, based on what we now understand about how children learn. That is the reason for the new design.
Does this new design make teaching better and do teachers like it?
Yes it makes teaching better, when teachers can work together, share the responsibility, share their areas of strength and expertise, see one another in action the bar is raised. Teachers who have or are working in these environments do not want to go back to the isolation of a single class.
How will you keep track of my child?
With many more eyes that we have in a single classroom. Evidence suggests that children are more responsible and self regulated in these new environments, not to mention they love the flexibility, freedom to move and spaces designed to meet their needs across the curriculum.
Will the LIFE spaces be all one year level, i.e., Y6 LIFE space, a Y5 Life Space?
No. We teach according to stage not age and the best way to do this is multi levels (like we do now) it also ensures that teachers have a stronger grasp of the curriculum and knowledge of next steps for learning. There is also plenty of evidence that children are better learners when in multi age level rooms. The exact composition of the LIFE spaces will be determined over the next 6months as we trial options.
Are we just guinea pigs? Didn't we try this in the 1980's and fail?
No and no. This type of learning environment has been in use around the world for over two decades. We have the opportunity to create the best learning environment by seeing what subtle changes other schools have made over time. In the 1980's there was no deep understanding about how to co teach, the environment was very noisy and teachers (and children) were simply thrown into the deep end. Furthermore the work we live in has changed dramatically since the 1980's. The 1990's was the decade where we really started to find out about how children learn and teachers teach best. We can now build a school to meet that need!
Will my child have the same teacher?
Yes, each teacher will have their “home” group, i.e., class and this will be the teacher that you go to with queries or concerns. They will report to you and meet with you at Learning Conversations. Your child’s sense of belonging and security with their teacher remains.
Like in early childhood centres such as Kindergartens and preschools there are other teachers and adults in the learning spaces. Your child will have times when one of the other teachers in the pod will be teaching them.
Will the teaching and learning programmes be the same?
Yes, the focus remains on the teaching, learning and student achievement. We use a collaborative approach and use teacher’s strengths. The teachers plan together and work very closely with each other.
Where are all the tables (or desks) and chairs?
Modern Learning Environments cater for the differing needs of our students. You will see furniture that is of different heights, e.g., kneeling benches, tables that you stand around, wobble stools etc. There is minimal formal seating.
With open spaces - How do you stop the talking and noises from other classes distracting the children working in the same block?
In newly built schools, ILE’s are designed with new building materials and new technologies specifically to reduce noise. Sound checks are performed.
Is reading, writing, maths still a focus? What will it look like?
Yes, these are fundamentals of learning. Like now, we will have a strong group focus, based on ability rather than age. We will still test to see what children know and what they need to know. Juniors will still reinforce their learning with relevant reading activities, as they do now.
Obviously it's a good learning environment for children who are self motivated...What about the kids who aren't, or who are easily distracted?
Keeping these children on task is an issue in a single-cell classroom also. The advantage in an ILE environment is that there will be more eyes watching – with 2 or 3 teachers and a teacher aide, rather than just one teacher. So there will be less opportunity to hide and more adults to assist. Also, with 2 or 3 teachers in the learning community, there is more chance that each child will find that they bond with at least one of those teachers, rather than spending a year with a teacher that they perhaps struggle to relate too.
How will ILE work for New Entrants? They need a little more structure to help them settle. What effect will an ILE classroom environment and no desks have on that settling in process?
It won’t be dissimilar to what they are used to at pre-school. There will be desks for those that want them – although you’ll probably notice that many children prefer to work on the floor, ottomans, cushions etc. Juniors obviously need a lot of teacher direction and strong relationships. As children become more familiar with school routines they start to learn how to self-manage and make good choices about learning and interacting with others.
Why are single cell classrooms no longer viewed as the best learning environment for our children?
Like many schools around the country our school was built in the middle of the last century based on the old Industrial Model of Factory production. The goal of learning in these environments? Efficiency and standardization- a one size fits all approach to produce obedient and hardworking citizens. For its time, the industrial revolution model of education was actually very successful. It churned out carbon copy mentalities, at a time when what society prized most was conformity. This school layout, nicknamed the “cells and bells” model, was based on the idea that schools exist for the transmission of knowledge. Teachers teach and students learn. The rectangular classroom was seen as the most effective design from the standpoint of an efficient use of space, to provide adults with the most “control”! It was also a time when it was believed that the most effective way to educate children was by grouping them according to their age, not for any educational reasons, but rather for ease of having “tidy batches” to organize.
Sir Ken Robinson describes it – It’s as though the most important thing children have in common is their date of manufacture.
What are the benefits of teachers working together in collaborative ways with a larger group of children?
Why are we trialing collaborative teaching before the new school is built?
This year the staff began exploring the ideas of co-teaching and collaborative ways of working that would allow them to operate more effectively together in a collaborative environment. As with all new learning, this is a time of change, of trialing an idea, evaluating it, making changes and moving forward. As in all good change management processes, harnessing the enthusiasm of early adopters allows an organization to focus resources in one area to support innovation and the development of good, sound practice. All teachers across the school this year are trialing to certain degrees collaborative teaching practices.
How will my child's needs be catered for in a bigger class?
Over many years we have been working in ways that involve children as central to the learning process. We have adapted the philosophy “it takes a village to educate a child” and within our school all children are our children. We believe as teachers we have a collective responsibility for supporting each other to work at ensuring all our children experience personal levels of success and wellbeing. Our teachers already plan collaboratively; they meet regularly to discuss the learning needs of children in their care, to problem solve where children are “stuck” in their learning and to share new ideas. At times teacher aides are employed to support children working in specialized programmes; children have been crossed grouped to other classes to work with others who are operating at their learning level. Teachers will continue to be responsible for the planning, assessment and reporting needs of their reading, writing or maths groups.
They will continue to monitor the social wellbeing of not only their home group, but contribute ideas and insights for the development of all students in the learning space. In a larger group, children have access to more teacher expertise.
How much of an age range could there be within a reading or writing group (particularly if a child was quite low in a group)? Will the school be able to pre-empt recovery support in these skill areas, how? Will the system give support to children who don't fit into funded help, how?
We will be grouping children according to their ability. The LIFE spaces will most likely contain three year groups but this depends on numbers. Parents need to remember that even in a single year class e.g. Year 5, that there may be an academic spread of 4 or 5 years e.g. reading ages of 7-12. Multi-level teaching doesn’t necessarily mean a vastly wider ability spread. Success breeds success, and children will naturally move to work with children who are at the same level as them and share common academic goals. Children will be grouped according to the ability, and we will use the different teachers strengths to consolidate and extend pupils abilities and passions.