☰ Real Learning

Real Learning

Posted on: November 4th 2016

Every week I lead prospective parents on tours of Norfolk House and it is something I look forward to because I get to experience snapshots of the superb learning opportunities the teachers provide for our children. Parents often mention how impressed they are by the level of challenge, the children’s enthusiasm towards learning and their eagerness to share their learning with complete strangers. Even when I am not touring parents around, children will stop me in the corridors to share their learning or invite me to a class event. These last two weeks alone the Form 4 children shared their amazing habitats, demonstrating an impressive depth of understanding about the plants and animals they had researched. Form 5 asked me to take part in their geography survey about the impact of pedestrianising the Broadway and Form 1 children eagerly explained how their upcoming museum trip relates to their learning in school. Last week Form 2 children used their knowledge and understanding of materials in science to design and build shelters in Coldfall Woods, applying their learning to real experience.

When speaking to the children at Norfolk House about their learning it is clear to see that they understand both what they are learning (as opposed to what they are “doing”) and also, importantly, why they are learning. This approach to learning permeates the whole curriculum. For example, I saw children assessing their understanding of different stitches against success criteria in a sewing lesson; all the while clear about the long term objective and aware that these skills are important in order to apply them to their future designs. During assembly this morning, Benedict in Form 1 was, in remarkable fashion, able to clearly explain the connection between the Core Values: Resilient and Ambitious, and the main character in the story I had read - very impressive! These connections are what make learning “real” and it is something that we are continually developing throughout the curriculum at all ages.

I felt the benefit of being part of an independent school acutely last week when speaking to a friend of mine who is a deputy head in a maintained school. He shared the sad accounts of schools scrapping the rest of the curriculum to focus on grammar, punctuation and spelling for days and days in order for children to meet the requirements of local authority moderators or assessment thresholds. This made me really appreciate the freedom we have to use our professional judgement to adapt our curriculum to meet the needs of our children. Seeing the level of creative writing in Forms 5 and 6 that our children produce, and the pleasure they take from it, is incredibly rewarding. They are able to spell accurately and punctuate their work and they are assessed on this in the wider context of composition, not as stand alone assessments that purely focus on mechanics and completely ignore the creative element of writing.

Providing real learning experiences that prepare children for the future is something that the staff at Norfolk House feel passionately about and makes learning fun for all our pupils. At Norfolk House, this is something that we encourage, recognise and celebrate.

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