ARE SCHOOLS BECOMING MORE LIKE FACTORIES FOR OUR CHILDREN?

IS CHILDHOOD ALREADY BEING ABOLISHED?

SHOULD THERE BE MORE FREE RANGE ALTERNATIVES?

To share your thoughts you can email Sean at dialogue@sands-school.co.uk

I have been working at Sands for twenty five years and have always resisted writing about what we do, believing that it may interfere with my ability to remain flexible to the changing interests and needs of the students. I was convinced that all that was essential to say about Sands could be written in a page. I still think that common sense, humour, a passion for teaching, endless patience and faith in the wisdom of people are all we really need to run good schools. It is also true that I still do not believe that we have found the best way to do this’ education thing’ and so I am loathe to suggest that there is a right or wrong way to be with children in a school setting.

However when I sat down to write a personal response to some of the proposals coming from our present Government, I realised that it may be useful for our present generation of parents to read about the ‘method behind the madness’, about the hundreds of hours of discussion and thought that has gone into creating a school with such a unique identity. Everything that one might experience at Sands, from the absence of uniform to the informality of class has a deep logic behind it. Sometimes it may be flawed and need challenging; at times it just does not work and at other times it appears to be the ideal way to educate teenagers.

As a result, I found myself considering some of the things that make us fundamentally different but also writing about topics that are common to all of us involved in raising and educating teenagers.  The topics cover issues such as uniform, punishment, emotional intelligence, becoming a learner, whether teenage brains explain teenage behaviour, the value of home education and the first topic which is about the value of play, day dreaming and undirected time.

What I am hoping is that we can explore whether there are ways to be with teenagers that are creative and effective, prepare them appropriately for their futures and challenge the orthodoxy of present corporate thinking about education.

Sean

 

     Play…

How valuable is play in our children’s lives? Is it the best and only way to learn? Is there an ideal balance between teacher-led and independent learning? Using some examples from my experiences at Sands I consider what is happening in schools in the light of Gove’s latest proposals to lengthen the school day and fill more of our children’s days with directed activities. Do we need to give our children time to just daydream?    read more…

       Emotional literacy…

Probably the thing hardest to teach, but the most valuable thing for our children’s future happiness. Eighty percent of our success is attributed to our emotional quotient and not our intelligence quotient.  If it cannot be accessed through the curriculum then are there ways that we can ensure our children develop these skills while at school? read more…

          Punishment…

How do teachers (re)gain control of the classroom? Is it possible to work with children to create codes of conduct that make schools friendlier and safer places? The Sands experience suggests that the absence of rules is a resource, that children are capable of disciplining each other and that they self-regulate their environment. Is this transferable to larger schools or is it a luxury only possible in human scale environments?         coming soon…

             Uniform…

In an image obsessed world controlled by media which objectify young people, are we liberating our children by demanding they wear a uniform? Or are we denying them a basic right of self-expression?  Are they becoming mannequins for schools’ corporate aspirations or is the uniform a valuable way of children identifying with the place where they grow up?    read more…

                Becoming a learner…

Is there a difference between a capable student and a talented learner? Inspirational teachers, parents and exciting school atmospheres all have their part to play but could it be that we only truly become life-long learners, not just  exam candidates, when we become responsible for the learning choices we make? In a world in which education is seen as the key route to success are we incapable of allowing our children to make the choices, and the mistakes, that help them become independent learners?  Read more…

                     Teenagers..

I have worked with teenagers for thirty years and have fluctuated between believing them to be an alien race and a bizarre construct of the mid twentieth century. Did the change in working practices, the increase in school leaving age and the new found wealth of post-War Europe create a new group of young people with adult qualities but few responsibilities or does latest research into brain development reveal that I was right: there is an alien race living amongst us with its own language, needs and way of thinking?       coming soon…