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Reports, case studies


Human Scale Education (HSE) is developing a number of case studies to illuminate its ideas in practice. The framework for this case study is drawn from that used on the HSE website where four main headings are used to organise our thinking: cultures, designs, structures, connections.

High Tech High, San Diego, California case studies St Nicholas School
case studies
Sir William Burrough Primary School case studies Bishops Park College
case studies
Stantonbury Campus
case studies
The Reggio Emilia Approach case studies Madeley Court School, Telford case studies Stanley Park High School
case studies
Red Hen Day Nursery
case studies

Case Study: High Tech High, San Diego, California

Grades: 9 to 12. Ages 15-16 to 17-18

Number of students: approx 400

CULTURES – a culture of connecting kids to adults

A small (by American standards) coherent community of like minded young people and adults, focussed on using technology to generate self organisation, self-sufficient learning and individual and group responsibility. A friendly and relaxed adult atmosphere gives the school the feeling of a high-tech workplace than an exam factory. Students interact with adults in a positive way and teachers give a huge amount of time to helping students organise their work and to helping them to evaluate it. Collaboration not competition is an overriding value. Adults committed to this vision of education want to work at the school and young people who are not yet qualified as teachers are encouraged to gain experience at High Tech High as interns or coaches.

Students comments:

"Teachers teach us real life skills as well as academic subjects and lots of life advice"
"Teachers are really supportive. They tutor after school to do homework or if you get here at 6.30 or 7 am a tutor/coach will here to help"
"We don't have the sports school macho so that's why we don't have a football or lacrosse teams but we do cross country, swimming, track, dance , robotics, chess."

DESIGN – Curriculum design - technology on a human scale

The emphasis on technology as a learning tool combined with a personalised curriculum and intensive student/teacher connection develops in most students a questioning and intellectually curious mind-set. Traditional academic subjects are taught through projects which are in themselves imaginative and different but which necessitate the learning of maths or history as well as the use of technology. Projects that students completed in the autumn term 2014 included 'the Pythagoras theorem, the Electricity problem, Physics core fonts, the Khan Academy'.

Students comments:

"Project learning makes the work seem easier. Everything is broken up with self-evaluations and deadlines with your own check answers and we redo things we get wrong"

DESIGN – Pedagogy – student centred and collaborative

Teachers see their role and purpose as enabling students to become independent, hands on and critical learners. In the classroom their task is to introduce a topic, set the schedule and pull the class to order if need be. Because of the focus on group work and collaboration noise levels could be high. One physics class of fifty students worked in groups on the topic of metamorphosis. They created comic strips showing the processes involved which they swopped with other groups who in turn wrote critical comments on 'post its' and passed on to the next group. A fascinating variety of ideas emerged. Self evaluation is central to this vision of learning and a major part of this is the management of the time needed to complete a project. Students learn how to be organised and staff are vigilant in ensuring that home work is given in on time and self assessments are completed to schedule. Each student has a digital portfolio with a complete record of what they have achieved, not just in terms of marks but referring to wider goals like 'Habits of Mind' and 'Collaboration'.

Students comments.

"Vision zero is the teachers' vision that no student will fail or have to go to summer school. They help us organise our binders so that nothing is lost. If your .own is organised then you help others."
"Every week the whole week's assignments are up on the board and they are also up on the digital site for us to check"

CONNECTIONS – with parents and the community

Entry to the school is by lottery and students come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. The digital student portfolio enables parents to review their child's progress from anywhere via the internet and this makes the work of the school more transparent to parents. Parents are invited into the school by students to attend the SLC – the student led conference. The high-tech focus of the school fits in with the many high tech enterprises of the area and students are able to do internships with local firms. The adult type experience that students have in these last three years of their schooling gives them the confidence to make a success of this and leads to future employment. Many parents working in high tech enterprises want their kids to come to the school but balance is maintained through admission by lottery.

Students comments

"At the SLC we tell our parents them how we are doing and what we are doing – for example, like time management"

STRUCTURES – the environment is the third teacher

Students comments

"The school is housed in a renovated warehouse on the sprawling former Navy training base. Half the building is a vast open space under thirty five foot high, sky-lit ceilings from which hang brightly painted ducts and drop lighting. The space, known as the Great Room, is divided into four work station suites each having clusters of desks and internet linked computers. Because of the low partitions it is possible to see what is going on in the Great Room from any standpoint. In the other half of the warehouse there are more conventional classrooms each with a four foot by six foot smart board that projects the contents of a lap top computer and also laboratories fitted out for mechanical engineering, biotechnology, video production and animation"

Case Study: Sir William Burrough Primary School (2015)

Age range: 3-11 years

Number of students: 375

Address: Salmon Lane, Limehouse, E14 7PQ

CULTURES – a positive culture of respect and hope:

The 'You Can Do It' programme at Sir William Burrough keeps levels of confidence and resilience high, and is deeply woven into relationships of respect, tolerance, kindness and courtesy. Its focus is on building the social, emotional, and motivational capacity of young people rather than on their problems and deficits. Its unique contribution is in identifying the social and emotional capabilities that all young people need to acquire in order to be successful in school, experience wellbeing, and have positive relationships including making contributions to others and the community.

DESIGN – Curriculum design:

Sir William Burrough uses The International Primary Curriculum (IPC) as a comprehensive, thematic, creative curriculum for 3-11 year olds. It has a clear process of integrated topic-based learning with specific learning goals for every subject, for international mindedness and for personal learning. The IPC takes a global approach; helping children to connect their learning to where they are living now as well as looking at the learning from the perspective of other people in other countries. All this is underwritten by extensive personalised programmes in English and Maths

DESIGN – Pedagogic processes:

Children at Sir William Burrough are engaged in the rich experiential learning of the International Primary Curriculum. This generates an abundance of inspiring topics, taking the children all over London to enrich their learning, and bringing experts into the school to share their passions – eg learning about the Rainforest sees children walking over the canopy of trees in Kew Gardens, and even handling a large, live, hairy tarantula! This is captured and shared on an iMovie or an animation on the iPad.

STRUCTURES – Environment as 'the third Teacher':

Sir William Burrough is housed in an old Victorian building. The quality and care of its upkeep and vibrancy stands in sharp contrast to much of the area around it. The classrooms and public areas of the school are a proud celebration of the children's work and worth, whilst the playgounds offer endless opportunities to build camps, climb trees, and tackle a jungle gym – a true manifestation of the environment as the third teacher

CONNECTIONS – Bringing parents together :

Sir William Burrough is a hub for its community. 'Cup of Tea Mornings' are alive with great ideas and suggestions, and 'Opening Doors' brings families from diverse cultures together in each other's homes, where tolerance, understanding and food are all served up in equal measure. The Toddler Group is simultaneously a hive of activity and a place of peace and joy, and a great introduction to "big school."


The IPC is a powerful conduit to exemplify the schools approach to learning where the teachers are learning along with the children and are encouraged and supported through their engagement in an exciting curriculum – one where teachers feel comfortable not knowing all the answers. They explore the learning with the children using new technology to keep the learning alive and fresh. Sir Williams Burrough is a National Leadership School which gives its teachers an opportunity to widen their sphere of excellence and influence in partnership schools.

Case Study: St. Nicholas School

Age range: 4-19 years

Number of students: 200

Address: Holme Oak Close, Nunnery Fields, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3JJ

St. Nicholas School, Canterbury, Kent is a community day school providing education for over 190 children aged between 4 and 19 who have profound severe & complex learning difficulties. Many of the pupils also have – physical disabilities, epilepsy, autism and sensory impairment.

It is a specialist resource offering smaller class sizes, higher staff ratios and the delivery of a suitable modified curriculum by skilled teaching teams.

CULTURES – broadening while valuing community engagement:

The school has a very inclusive vision and as part of this has linked with four mainstream secondary schools and an FE college. This facilitates wider opportunities for the pupils of the school and community engagement. The school also provides outreach support to all of the schools in the locality for pupils with learning difficulties. The school values diversity and difference and respects the contributions and efforts all of the pupils make towards creating a vibrant learning community. The school uses schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, residentials and community based learning to challenge our pupils and build confidence, safe risk taking and success.

DESIGN – an integrated, holistic curriculum:

As the pupils have special educational needs, the curriculum has to be a creative amalgam of a range of resources, approaches and strategies. This means that learning is active, practical, meaningful and developmental. The teaching is multi-disciplinary and holistic and rests upon strong relationships between teacher and learner, and home and school. The school is committed to a range of specialist programmes like MOVE and Active Education which enable wider learning through physical activity as well as music, drama, art and dance.

STRUCTURES – flexible use of time and team according to need:

The school functions through strong teamwork from the classroom upwards including specialist teams, departments (Key Stages) project teams and a range collaborative work between teachers, teachers and non-teaching staff and teachers and other professionals. We support the development of teachers in their training courses as well as social workers, nurses and psychologists.

CONNECTIONS – leading new developments, leading interagency collaboration:

St Nicholas has a dedicated home-school support team to create strong links with parents. Teachers work with a range of other agencies as well as with other schools as this is fundamental to its collaborative approach. The satellite classes in secondary schools and the FE unit are strong exemplars of partnership work with clear reciprocal benefits. Project work with charities and universities has explored new approaches to using puppetry or hydrotherapy with our students. The school hosts and runs training courses and programmes with a wide take up within the community.

CONNECTIONS – participant research leading to development:

Through its staff CPD programme, the school and the work of many of the teachers contributes to the wider research community and the development of curriculum and assessment tools for learners with SEN.

Case Study: Bishops Park College, Jaywick, Essex (2005)

Age range: 11-16 years

Number of students: 600

Address: Jaywick Lane, Clacton on Sea, Essex, CO16 8BE

CULTURES – aspiring beyond one's expectations

The College adopted a 'Schools within a School' approach and consisted of three small mini-schools on the same campus. The school was established in 2002 to serve a severely socially deprived area of East Anglia. The aim was to create a safe and secure environment where students felt valued and confident so that they would be able to aspire beyond their expectations, and to engender intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn in an area where education was not traditionally highly valued. There was a strong focus on skills as well as content, and on pastoral care of the students, many of whom had very difficult lives. This aspect of the college was supported by its many highly effective multi-agency links, so that a truly holistic approach to children's education was developed, to which the whole staff was thoroughly committed.

Students comments

"The teachers are easy to talk to; if you've got a problem you can talk to them, they have time for you. They try and sort things out for you if you have a problem, and try and make you happy."
"You're comfortable with them [teachers]; not being afraid to ask for help and it's when they let you know they are there to help."
"Windmills [mini-school] is like a family to me."

DESIGN – Curriculum Design: the 'Tartan Curriculum'

Bishops Park College devised a 'Tartan Curriculum' to guide its KS3 students towards National Curriculum goals but largely eschewed traditional subject based lessons. Instead, a team of seven or eight teachers within each mini-school devised a scheme of thematic work for each half term, and students worked on this for about three quarters of their curriculum time. The teaching teams used cross curricular approaches to find ways of making coherent links between subjects across a particular theme, so that these were interwoven rather than compartmentalised – hence the 'Tartan Curriculum'.

There is considerable cultural deprivation in the Jaywick community, and the College endeavoured to provide students with opportunities they might not otherwise have had the chance to experience. One afternoon a week, all students from all year groups chose a mixed-age club to join for four weeks. The range of skills on offer was broad and offered the chance to try such varied topics as gardening, textiles, jewellery making, origami, Japanese, rock music composing and calligraphy, among others.

Fridays were given over to Masterclasses. A class of students would work for the whole day with a teacher and would focus on a particular topic, such as building and racing a model car, exploring a piece of literature through drama or creating a foreign language text to submit to a French website through language acquisition games and adaptation skills.

The final component was the notion of Faculty Days. These would run for three days at the end of term, when the College would be divided across year groups and mini- schools, allowing students to work with both teachers and students they did not usually meet in their normal school day. Faculty projects were planned anew each year, and provided a wonderful opportunity for students and staff to be at their most creative and imaginative. Often involving visits away from the College, topics ranged from researching and presenting Clacton in its resort heyday to researching the Norman Conquest and understanding why the Normans won; from creating a performance of Animal Farm from scratch to examining a member of staff's car for traces of forensic evidence and analysing it.

"Music is really good because you're doing things you've never done before. I recorded a CD in there. They've got all the equipment. It's like music heaven!"
"We do things like PE and circus skills. We make posters and masks and things and we're going to do a bit of drama …We do things that are more fun than normal and we get to mix with other mates in other schools."
"I've had more opportunities at BPC, the way we learn. It's not drilled into you. Teachers are more relaxed. They talk to you to help you to learn things."

DESIGN – Pedagogy: person- centred and inclusive

Teachers were driven by the spirits of inclusivity, and of creativity and innovation. Whilst joining the College as subject specialists, the most successful quickly became generalists, experts in human relationships and engaging pedagogies. They shared their own subject specialist knowledge with colleagues, and in turn drew on the expertise of those colleagues. Thus, within a very positive working ethos, students were supported as they worked at their own level in mixed ability classes, where teachers worked hard to differentiate so that every student could access a curriculum designed to be relevant to their learning needs, and where they themselves had the confidence (and opportunity) to put forward their own ideas about what they wanted to learn. As a result, students came to connect their learning to life beyond the College.

Students comments

"We all get taught differently. … There's nothing the same. You don't have to fit into a mould here. We [the students] make the mould, and they [the teachers] let the mould fit round us."

STRUCTURES – 'place, space and human being'

Staff who joined Bishops Park early on were able to watch as the new building grew just across the playground. It was an awe–inspiring experience. From the futuristic look of the building (one member of staff likened it to 'teaching in the Starship Enterprise') to the cleverly designed grounds with their pastel 'seaside' colours and textural pieces of artwork, Bishops Park College was a building of which its students (who had had considerable input at every stage of the design process), and the community of Jaywick could be justifiably proud.

It succeeded though, on far more levels. Inside, there was light and space, which created a sense of openness and wellbeing. Each of the three 'Schools within a School' (SWAS) was centred around an atrium, high and airy, which formed a central meeting space for the mini-school which could be used both formally and informally. There were classrooms which themselves could be changed by folding back a dividing wall from a small classroom to a much bigger teaching space, key for the team teaching which was Bishops Park's signature style, and finally, a degree of visibility which did away with any of the dark corners which allow opportunities for bullying or other undesirable behaviour.

CONNECTIONS – with parents and the community

Relationships between parents and their children's teachers were very strong and positive. Parents very much appreciated the care which all staff took to get to know their child thoroughly, and knew that tutors, teachers and learning mentors were easily accessible in person or by phone or email.

At the end of every term, a Saturday morning Academic Mentoring session was arranged for every student, who would accompany their parents or carers to the College and meet their tutor to show their work for the term to their family, and share what they had achieved. This was always a very well attended event, and often had a peripheral family event running alongside it. Students took every opportunity to invite members of their families into the College, regularly planning exhibitions (for example, of Faculty work) or other demonstrations of their work.

There were frequent visitors to the College, both from the local and the wider community. People from varied walks of life came to work with students, often giving them a taste of life beyond compulsory schooling, during Faculties or clubs, and broadening their horizons; from a local businessman who spent the day assessing their proposals for a new company, to the Holocaust survivor whose memories stunned them into an awed silence. When visitors came to see the College, it was always a group of students who showed them round.

The Bishops Park site provided accommodation to the public library, and a day care centre for the elderly, as well as a nursery. Students became involved with all of these, using the library, visiting people in the day care centre and doing work experience in the nursery. In many ways, the site became a hub for the community of Jaywick.

Students comments

"When Mum comes to see you on Academic Saturday, it's like I've got two mums!"(1)

Student comments except (1) from Less is More? The Development of a Schools within Schools Approach to Education on a Human Scale at Bishops Park College, Clacton, Essex: Fielding et al, University of Sussex 2006

Case Study: Stantonbury Campus, Milton Keynes (1985)

Age range: 12 TO 19 years

Number of students: 2500

Address: Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK14 6BN

CULTURES – a culture of connecting students and teachers.

Stantonbury placed an emphasis on developing relationships between students and teachers.

First names were introduced for everybody on Campus, students, teachers, support staff, caretakers and cleaners. There was no uniform and a refreshing absence of bells. First names were to symbolize this quality of informality and mutual respect; although there would still be the same expectations regarding norms of behaviour and effort. Collaboration, not competition, was an overriding value. For teachers and students there was an emphasis of working in teams alongside the sharing of resources.

DESIGN – pedagogy – student centred and collaborative

Teachers saw their role and purpose as enabling students to become independent and active critical learners. In some cases teachers were also learning outside of their subject specialism. Their responsibility was to introduce the project and promote group work as well as individual work with active enquiry. Lead lessons to the whole of the year group introduced the project through film, a talk or a dramatic experience. With longer and more flexible use of curriculum time the teachers' knowledge of their students was enhanced. Teachers would generally remain with their students as they progressed through the school.

STRUCTURES – flexibility supporting curriculum design

In order to promote the above values, an integrated curriculum was devised by a cross-curricular team of teachers. Traditional academic subjects were taught through projects. For example, The Environment, The individual and Society, Understanding the Past, Communications, Time to Learn. Subject specialist teachers advised on Historical content, Geographical content, etc. Emphasis was on working together as a team with year group staff sharing expertise to deliver the curriculum. Consequently, it was important for the teachers to have lengthier blocks of TIME ( 9hours per week) with their students combining their role of a tutor, delivering personal and social education, with their integrated studies teaching; at one time this programme was called SHARED TIME. This way of organising the curriculum enabled the development of relationships between the students and the teachers. It also greatly enhanced their knowledge of each other.

STRUCTURES – creating 'schools' within the school

The school, because of its size, was divided into five Halls. Four Halls for years 8-11 comprising 500/400 students and one Hall for years 12-14. Each Hall was based in its own building and joint Halls shared a Science, Design Technology and Computer block. The leadership team of each Hall comprised a Head of Hall, two Team Co-ordinators, responsible for the overview of their paired year teams both for curricular and Personal, social education, and Curriculum Co-ordinators who had responsibility for their curriculum within the Hall. Approximately thirty staff belonged to the Hall. Each Hall was supported by its own secretarial staff. Students stayed in their Hall for Integrated Studies, Languages, Maths, Art, Music and Drama. They went outside of the Hall to their shared Block for Science, Design-Technology and Computer Science. The Halls became small schools within the whole school. All Halls followed the same curriculum and had Hall Student Councils. They shared the Central Resource Area and Library as well as the Theatre and Leisure Centres, sports fields and dining rooms.

CONNECTIONS – with parents and the community

The students came from the wide catchment area that the school served and they came from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. With this in mind, community relations were a central feature of school atmosphere and organisation. On the site of the school were two leisure centres, a theatre, an ecumenical centre, a medical centre and shops. They were jointly used by the school and the community. Great emphasis was placed on involving the community in the life of the school. When the school was first opened, staff ran a variety of workshops for parents on Saturday mornings to build relationships and give them a flavour and knowledge of different styles of teaching within the curriculum. These were very successful in developing parent/teacher relationships. Parents then became more involved in the life of the school. Coffee mornings were held where parents could then informally visit classrooms. Each Hall had a parent/teacher group. Parents could come in and work alongside a teacher in the classroom.

Case Study: The Reggio Emilia Approach

A publicly funded network of infant-toddler centres ( 6 months to three years) and pre-schools (three to six years) that was first established in Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy after World War 2 by Loris Malaguzzi and have since spread across the world and influenced educators at all levels.

CULTURES – a culture of respect for the child

Central to the practice of all Reggio Schools is the vision of the child as 'unique, competent and powerful'. From a very early age children are seen as 'capable of making meaning from their daily life experiences through mental acts of planning, coordination of ideas and abstraction'. Reggio teachers believe on the basis of close observation and recorded documentation that a child's knowledge is built up through social interaction and cooperation and the autonomous exploration of his or her own world.

"Children are moved by an unlimited curiosity and by a great and innate desire to know and to discover. This extraordinary desire to investigate reality must be made visible and helped to grow and develop without being imprisoned in pre-constituted models based on programmed formalisation". - Director of Reggio Schools

DESIGN – art and creativity as the basis of education

The foundational text for the Reggio approach is 'The Hundred Languages of Children' which explains the many ways in which children can express their thoughts and their 'voice'. Drawing, painting, modelling, verbal description, the use of numbers, physical movement, drama , dance, music, puppets – these are some of the languages which children use to make sense of their worlds and to acquire knowledge. Every Reggio school has a workshop or atelier where these languages can be experimented with and practised and every school has a permanent artist/teacher known as an atelierista. The focus on art not only develops the children's imagination and social skills it also gives them the confidence to try out new things, take risks and learn what is possible.

DESIGN – the emergent curriculum

The philosophical basis for the Reggio curriculum is the provisional nature of knowledge. Once it is accepted that knowledge is not fixed but changing then the argument for a prescriptive curriculum no longer holds. Reggio teachers start from where their children are – with their interests and their dispositions. They capture topics for study from the children's varied languages - for example, puddles, cats, dinosaurs - and these lead into projects which may be short or long term depending on the interest and commitment of the children. The city is used by the children as a learning resource for projects with teachers regarding the city as extended classroom space. Parents and other adults in the community play a part in the children's learning in projects like 'Rain in the City'

"Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasure of inquiry, then motivation and interest explode". - Malaguzzi
"Once should always start from where the child's interest and knowledge is and lead on from there". - John Dewey

DESIGN – knowing through observing and portfolios

The Reggio design of a mix of large and small spaces, of art studios and workshops, of informal learning areas and then use of small groups rather than formal class teaching enable children to communicate with each other, and to listen to each other. It also helps the teachers to observe the children's interactions and to monitor and record the development of each child. Documentation is an essential tool for listening, observing and evaluating and is at the heart of the Reggio pedagogy.

"The teacher is able to monitor and record the development of each child through keeping their work, recording their conversations, photographing or videoing certain projects and noting all that occurs". - Reggio teacher

DESIGN – a pedagogy of listening and relationships

The Reggio approach places relationships at its heart. In Malaguzzi's words " We view relationships as the fundamental organising strategy of our educational system....not simply as a warm protective blanket but as a coming together of elements interacting dynamically toward a common purpose". The common purpose is learning and from the Reggio perspective learning is above all a social process which integrates the cognitive, the affective and the expressive domains. The Reggio design of a mix of large and small spaces, of art studios and workshops, of informal learning areas and then use of small groups rather than formal class teaching enable children to communicate with each other, and to listen to each other. It also helps the teachers to observe the children's interactions and to monitor and record the development of each child. Documentation is an essential tool for listening, observing and evaluating and is at the heart of the Reggio pedagogy.

"The teacher is able to monitor and record the development of each child through keeping their work, recording their conversations, photographing or videoing certain projects and noting all that occurs" - Reggio teacher

STRUCTURES – the environment as the third teacher

The model for the Reggio schools is the small Italian city with a central piazza. The typical school has a central indoor atrium, or piazza, where children and adults (including parents) can meet together. smaller pods or alcoves are built in for small groups to get together and to provide personal space. Leading off the atrium are classrooms and further informal learning spaces. There are no connecting hallways or corridors – one space opens into another. Each classroom has an atelier or workshop/ art studio attached to it and there is space to move from room to room with doorways through from one classroom to the next. The impression is of flow and openness. The classroom space is organised for small and large group projects with intimate spaces for individual and small group research and discussion. The different modes of interaction that take place between the children – meetings, negotiations, dialogues – and the different modes of learning - social, artistic and cognitive - can be in any of these places.

" We value space because of its power to organise and promote relationships between people of different ages, create a handsome environment, provide changes, promote choices and activity and for its potential for sparking all kinds of social, affective and cognitive learning. All of this contributes to a sense of well-being and security in children". - Malaguzzi
"The child who uses the Reggio school environment is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and most of all connected to adults and to other children". - Malaguzzi

CONNECTIONS – school and community

The Reggio schools were founded with the support of the municipality – the city authorities -and the close connection is maintained today. The link is provided by the pedagogistas (advisers) who listen, make connections and pass on good practice. In this way the educational activities of all the Reggio schools become the project of the municipality and are seen as part of the system of social services dedicated to the welfare of its children.

Connections between parents and schools are built into the running of the schools and parents and the relationship between educator, parent and child is central. With very young children this is essential and parents see themselves as playing a majorpart in the life of the schools, in governance and in children's learning.

Close links among teachers spring naturally from the vision of education that they share. With classes of around 25 sharing two teachers, an atelierista and other adults constant exploration discussion and evaluation naturally occurs – a form of natural continuing professional development. Teachers are with the children for 30 hours a week and for six hours a week they meet communally for planning, preparation and team building.

Case Study: Madeley Court School, Telford, Shropshire (1977-83)

Age range: 11-16 years

Number of students: 900

Address: Castlefields Way, Madeley, Telford TF7 5FB

CULTURES – education as a lifelong process of personal transformation

The vision of Henry Morris, founder of the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges, was to be realised at Madeley Court by integrating the school with the local Recreation Centre forming the Madeley Education and Recreation Centre thereby abolishing the separation of education from ordinary life and ensuring that all members of the local community participated in lifelong education. It was a school in which every child as held to be of equal value and learning in a context of sharing. A school which believed in the potential of personal transformation for every child in a lifelong process. Within this organic educational entity the individual child would find security and the possibility of personal growth and transformation. "No child, however small, undernourished, awkward, unloved and unsuccessful, could feel insignificant in this environment". (Philip Toogood)

STRUCTURES – minischools or Schools within a School (SWAS)

Ownership, the sense of a shared life and the development of co-learning grew from the positive teacher-pupil relationship that was the intended outcome of the mini-schools system introduced in 1977. The school was broken up into six mini-schools of about 100 children each in the first three years; this then flowed into 'learning communities' in Years 10 and 11 each numbering half the year group and geared more to blocked subject faculties.

Each mini-school had four core teachers of Maths, Science, English and Social Science who formed the 'base' and two tutors from 'out base' subjects – P.E., the expressive arts etc. This territory or base was the children's own and everything for the child began and ended up in the base. The school, a traditional three-decker box shape, housed two mini-schools on each floor. Each was accessible by its own staircase and was not a through way to anywhere else. Each had four linked open plan areas, a small science lab, a parent-teacher office and toilets. When a child comes to school it is to his or her own small school which they help to maintain, decorate and run – each mini-school had its own weekly Student Council - and was in effect theirs.

Each mini-school school has its own headteacher and each mini-school team stayed with their group of children for the whole three years to ensure continuity and lasting relationships. The purpose behind the mini-school concept was to develop close and positive relationships between teacher and taught and thus render unnecessary the traditional and artificial divide between academic work and pastoral care. It also gave the 'base' teachers the ability to teach in teams across the specialist subjects and promoted collaboration and community. In fulfilment of these aims mixed ability teaching was practised throughout the school.

DESIGN – a curriculum grounded in 'ordinary life'

Time table allocation of long blocks of time in both the mini-schools of the first three years and the 'learning communities' in Years 10 and 11 made possible the teaching and learning of integrated or cross curricular studies. Within these blocks a core curriculum was followed consisting of the six broad subject areas which pre-National Curriculum were generally accepted as constituting a curriculum - English, Maths, Science, Social Science, Expressive Arts, Practical Arts. These 'subjects' were transformed into a community curriculum by rooting them in the life and experiences of the neighbourhood and by involving members of the local community in contributing to the children's learning. They became cross curricular studies by specialist teachers shaping their lessons around the understanding of concepts which reached across subjects rather than the delivery of facts relating to their particular subject.

Behind the classroom experiences of the children lay a consensus as to what constituted learning and knowledge – the development through a personal relationship with a teacher or other adult of the ability to pursue a line of inquiry and articulate and express to others the outcomes of that inquiry - and how the curriculum helped the individual child develop the characteristics of independence, autonomy, awareness of self and the skills of working productively and collaboratively.

DESIGN – an experiential pedagogy

The blocked timetable and positive personal relationships provided the conditions for the learners to play a significant part in their own learning. Using the outside community as a learning resource enabled the children to respond to their own needs and interests and negotiate a learning pathway which met these needs.

Suspended timetable weeks were planned to enable all students to initiate practical projects. Years 10 and 11 often set up manufacturing companies, making things with scrap materials which they then sold to the Craft Department. They involved themselves in all stages of the manufacturing process - from design, budgeting, selection of materials, jigging of the production line, welfare union work through to manufacture sales and accounting.

The school adopted the assessment procedure pioneered by the Sutton Centre in Nottingham, another noted progressive comprehensive school. The Personal Record of School Experience (P.R.S.E) replaced the conventional school report. It was a method of collaborative profiling and was founded on two major assumptions: that there should be continuing dialogue between teachers, parents and students and that the process of learning requires active and on-going self-assessment. Each student from the start of the Year 10 kept this folder which contained regular comments by student, teacher and parent and comments from work experience employers and reports on sporting, musical, community experiences. By the end of Year 11 each student had a complete record of his or her school experience. For most students the P.R.S.E was a source of pride.

CONNECTIONS – bringing together school and community

Parents are of vital importance in the community school concept. Their partnership with the school is part of the essential fabric of education. At Madeley Court parents were invited in to the classrooms to share in lessons and participated in the Parents and School Coordinating Committee which one year raised £30,000 for the school. Their involvement went beyond traditional bounds - according to the Ofsted Report, parents had a consultative role in relation to the relevance of the curriculum for young people growing up in Telford.

Relationships with the business world were close. In an area of severe unemployment in the late 1970s work experience was seen as a high priority. Each student in Year 11 engaged in a work experience assignment, individually negotiated and written up. Parents contributed to this process. The school introduced School-to-Work conferences to Shropshire after 1977 on the Industrial Society model whereby local employers came to the school to work in small groups and workshops with the students.

Case Study: Stanley Park High School (2015)

Age range: 7-13 (ages 11-19)

Number of students: 1120

Address: Damson Way, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 4N

CULTURES – an ethos that places relationships at the heart of the school

In 2006 Stanley Park High was a school in challenging circumstances. Due to high levels of disadvantage, the school, operating within a highly selective outer London borough, was designated a One School Pathfinder as a part of the Building Schools for the Future Programme. Under this initiative the school was required to be innovative in terms of leadership structures, its curriculum, pedagogy, learning spaces and ICT/Media. Scouring the national and international landscape, the school drew heavily on Bishops Park School in Clacton and Hellerup Skole in Copenhagen; schools that had placed the primacy of relationships at their heart. These experiences had such a profound effect on Stanley Park High that the vision and design of the school was entirely focussed on enabling the development of warm, lasting relationships.

This trailblazing school opened at a new location in January 2012. Its motto is 'Igniting a passion for learning' and its vision is that every member of its community will have:

There is considerable buy-in to the culture of the school by students, teachers and parents. A friendly, relaxed and yet purposeful atmosphere pervades the school. Emphasis is very much on the children being 'free range' and not 'battery farmed'. Collaboration is dominating value, as is risk-taking within a no-blame culture. The school experience is open to challenge and change as a result of the views of its young people.

DESIGN – an Integrated, authentic curriculum, learnt through active pedagogy and assessed in a variety of meaningful ways

The curriculum, developed over a number of years, enables each young person to develop as an individual within a small community. Whilst the curriculum retains some subjects in the lower years (English, Mathematics, Science, MFL, PE), much of the curriculum is learnt through the unique Excellent Futures Curriculum. Developed in 2008, this ground breaking initiative in Years 7 and 8 has young people learning in unsegregated groups through integrated deep and authentic Project Based approaches across a range of subject areas.

The pedagogy within EFC is driven by leading questions that are set in real-world experiences and problems. It is enquiry based, active and experiential in its nature, with collaborative and co-operative learning visible across a range of scales.

Assessments by the teacher, the student or their peers have equal value. Utilising www (what went well) and ebi (even better if), assessment is based on formative principles: it is specific, it is kind and it is helpful. Assessment enables young people's learning to be affirmed in a variety of ways; portfolios, exhibitions and presentations are used more regularly than tests, and enjoy parity of esteem. Parents' evenings have been replaced by Student Led Conferences, placing the student at the heart of this reflection rather than isolated non-participant.

Structures – a move to a schools-within-schools empowerment, whereby every child is known and valued

Stanley Park High operates a four small schools model: Horizon, Performance, Trade and World, all located around a central learning space that is vibrant at all times, and very much the heart of the school. Resultantly, there has been a move to flatter leadership and management structure within each of the schools. Each school has a community of approximately 350 students, enabling human scale relationships to grow and develop. Students view them very much as their 'home school'.

Horizon school houses two Opportunity Bases for Autism (Aqua and Ignis), a provision that is unique in a mainstream English secondary school. The three other schools are parallel, although they have a specialism in the upper years. Students are not allocated to a particular school because they have a particular skill, attribute or disposition.

The environment has been specifically designed to facilitate the school's pedagogy. All areas are seen as learning spaces, not just the classrooms. Areas of note include the three studios - one each in Performance, Trade and World - in which the majority of EFC learning takes place, the 'twinned Hellerup' stairs at either end of the central space, as well as the specialist environments for 'vocational' education.

Within these spaces teachers plan in small consultative groups

CONNECTIONS – forming links locally, nationally and overseas

The school stresses the importance of excellent relationships with parents. The school works very hard to ensure that they are fully involved in the topping and tailing of every initiative. Most recently they have taken an active role in the redevelopment of the assessment procedures and the introduction of Student Led Conferences. One parent commented:

"I'm glad the school have initiated this, as it will prepare my daughter to take ownership in her education and progress. I was really impressed to see my daughter being able to present in a confident manner and I'm sure this student led conference will prepare her for the future."

Stanley Park High continues to forge links with like-minded schools at home and overseas, and is a regular provider of immersion days, tours, talks and conferences. It has contributed to the portfolio of HSE's Occasional Papers and had aspects of its work published by a variety of educational organisations e.g. 'Branch Out with Peer Feedback' (Times Educational Supplement) and 'A Curriculum that Counts' (Association of Teachers and Lecturers).

Case Study: Red Hen Children's Day Nursery (2015)

Age Range: 0 to 5

Number of students: approx 106

Address: Legbourne, nr Louth, Lincolnshire

CULTURES – holistic philosophy

Red Hen Nursery offers children opportunities to learn from the natural world while receiving guidance from highly skilled staff. Spending a great deal of their time outdoors, the philosophy of the nursery is that there is no such thing as bad weather if appropriate clothing is worn.

Food is an important feature of life at the nursery. Fresh meals are prepared daily on the premises using local produce, some from the nursery farm or vegetable patch. Staff sit with the children to make lunch an important social occasion.

"The children and staff are lucky to have the farm at Red Hen to learn about a wide range of biodiversity including wild flowers, wild animals and birds. And of course, children are also able to interact with the animals at Red Hen; dogs, chickens, ponies, horses, pigs and sheep all offer lovely learning opportunities." Extract from Red Hen's website

DESIGN – sustainable planning and approaches

A well-equipped kitchen and dining area are an integral part of Red Hen's philosophy. Nursery children can see their lunches and snacks being prepared through a large open hatch. The children know the kitchen staff and are encouraged to ask questions to help them understand how the locally sourced food has been grown, how it is prepared, and why eating healthy, nutritious food is such an important part of life. The children will have seen some of the vegetables grow from seed, helped to tend them and pick them for eating. Likewise, some of the eggs used will have been collected from the nursery's own chickens. Menus are changed monthly to help the children understand about the natural 'seasonality' of food. The older nursery children are encouraged to help with meal and snack preparation, to aid their learning and understanding.

STRUCTURES – animating the built environment

A recent addition to the nursery is the 'Outdoor Room' – a wooden building with floor cushions, fairy lights, musical instruments, and CD player with speakers – this is a place where children might come to relax, have a snooze or take part in a small group activity.

Another innovation is the stable conversation where recently one stable was turned into the 'Gruffalo's Den' and the other room had a display of activities and books for parents to come and join their children for World Book Day. The owner has had a logburner installed so that children can enjoy a hot chocolate and get warm in cooler weather before going outside again to explore the great outdoors!

CONNECTIONS – parents as equal partners

Each child has their own individual key worker who liaises closely with the child's parents, and they also help the younger children to settle when they move to a room with older children. The parents are regarded as equal partners in the all-round education of the children. Key workers discuss with the parents how they can continue a project at home. And likewise, staff listen to parents comments and suggestions, and incorporate these into their learning plans whenever appropriate. Parents written and pictorial contributions to each child's individual portfolio of learning are greatly valued.

"The high quality care and innovation is immeasurable. Children are nurtured in a secure and inspiring space with unique opportunities both indoors and out. Red Hen is a huge foundation stone in our children's lives, and our oldest two even return to their 'nursery family' for a day in the holidays!" Parent

CONNECTIONS – inter-generational aspirations

Red Hen Nursery has been interested in the concept of using the skills and talents of older people to motivate and inspire young children for some time. A retired police man works as a nursery assistant; lessons in food and nutrition are given by the nursery cook, and the children learn a lot about farming.

For the future, a planning application to build 25 retirement homes has been agreed. The theory is that the children will benefit enormously by having older 'helpers' with a rich tapestry of life to share, and hopefully endless patience. They could read stories to the children, and share any other talents they may have. The retired residents will benefit too by being kept active and being involved in the children's learning.

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