Lindfield's School of the Future: a learning village...

Some notes from Stephen Heppell: at Lindfield we are aiming to embrace the most successful and appropriate of the very many new directions currently transforming education - making it better for learners, for teachers, for families, for wellbeing and for results too. All schools are unique, and so we will be assembling a unique Lindfield recipe from many of these tested and effective ingredients. That recipe will continue to evolve as we see and learn from others' proven ideas around the world.

The principles we have embraced so far, are rather like jigsaw pieces, interlocking and interdependent - take away one, and the others function less well, or not at all. This doesn't mean an ossified structure of course; a reflective institution, with "making learning better" at its heart, will always evolve and change, but these tenets below underpin that freedom to reflect and move forward, rather than prevent it. So here they are some of them:

all-through, from birth upwards

There is plenty of support for all-through - see this page I produced for another group in another project for example.

The short version is twofold: at phase breaks - for example at 11 - too many children go backwards and too many of those do not recover the ground lost. By removing phase breaks they achieve more, and progress more quickly. And secondly, it really helps parents and teachers get to know each other across many years - and this is always helpful for making the best possible provision for each child. Without phase breaks children can go a little faster in the areas they most love without having to hold back and wait for that Big Change at 11, or whenever.

And of course we don't want to close the door on our learners at any age - our young Mums, our late bloomers, our grandparents even. An institution - a village - for all learners of all ages is really achievable here - we have the space and the history too.

schools within schools, modular, competitive, and agile

Again, plenty of well documented support. And again I have a web page offering a representative sample of it all, here.

The short version is that small all-through schools (we might call them families, or home bases perhaps?) within our school offer us the stability and collegiality of a stable long term community, they offer us the opportunity to grow (or shrink) our institution (just add / subtract another school-within-school) whilst keeping our communities close to optimum numbers. They give us a lightly competitive structure too, within which we can fast track ideas, and explore new appraoches as SWS 1 pushes (for example) for boys' engagment, SWS2 explores peer led assessment, SWS3 looks for effective but narrow specialised parental support and so on. Then they swap their reflections and evidence moving the whole institution forward rapidly, and we still gain institutional economies of scale.

Additionally, they could each focus on a specific specialism - and then share that expertise with the other SWSs. In that way we could have a focus on Sports Science, Computer Science, Food Science, Environmental Science, Cognitive Science, Natural Science, Space Science and so on.

stage not age

Lots to say about this really, but if we are building an institution where our all learners can excel, it makes a lot of sense to LET them excel (!) and not hold them back in a Piagetian "hold hands, wait, then step forward together" kind of way.

This is quite complex - the organisational details need to be right too: who writes the reports?, what parents' evening is appropriate?, etc), but when those details are in place it certainly isn't streaming or hot-housing. Here is my daughter Melissa, who teaches at our IPACA school, talking pragmatically at a TeachMeet about Superclasses and Stage not Age...

Coincidentally, I have just been shown around a school in the UK by their new head boy and head girl. Both were exemplary students - but the boy said in confidence that he felt he had wasted his last year because he spent the whole year doing things he had already mastered (in Maths) and knew if he had moved forward sooner, he would have enjoyed learning new and stretching things. He said it was boring having to wait... and he was the head boy!

tech rich

Do we need to say much about tech rich? Probably not, but the point is not to fetishise technology. The point is to make learning as good as it can be, affordably, using the best tools at our disposal. Perhaps, since I've introduced daughter Melissa, you might also have a look at her West Base blog to see the impact of tech rich which isn't tech-in-your-face. on young 5, 6 and 7 year olds.

global focus

A bit of a no-brainer this one - if our learners are to hold down jobs in the future. The ability to work with, solve problems with, and learn from others on-line will matter hugely. But a global focus does mean embracing details like the popular "Skype bars" - I have lots of examples like this one in Thorning School in Denmark's Silkeborg:

a skype bar in a school in Denmark

Of course, they might use Google's HangOuts, or Apple's FaceTime too. We would expect to use these for regular day to day contact with other forward facing schools elsewhere. Hopefully, the many screens on our walls will often function as our "Windows on the World". Ideally also we'd have some residential space so that we can invite overseas learners into our institution for real exchanges too.

This applies across the full breadth of ages in Lindfield. Here is a rather effective example of that "world" outlook from a UK primary school.

strong learner voices, strong community voices

This is complex - but hugely effective. There is a mountain of literature about reflective practice, of course, but not enough about the learner's role in that. However, there are plenty of sources: this Teachers TV programme for example. We are not talking here about a Schools Council of a few chosen voices, but about engaging every learner voice. Everyone.

Importantly, this is absolutely not about asking the students for their opinion, but to ask them to research and reflect on what solutions elsewhere might work for our institution and to report back with ideas. A significant part of that research might be to talk with other empowered reflective learners - like the ones who put this sign up on their redeveloped learning space in one of my Spanish project schools:

redesigned learning space - by children for children

I love that the project is never finished; always "under construction". And here is a teacher from one of my Spanish schools talking through the practicalities of learner led learning improvement. The community voice is part of a larger debate about governance of course.


mixed age strong vertical structures

short version: older children reinforce their understandings by becoming "leaders" of younger children who in turn chase after the role model of the older student and usually "get there quicker". Everyone gains.

mixed age teaching

In this image (above - click to enlarge) the teenager is helping the tiny infant age woodworker, maturely guiding his hands as the youngster does the sawing. Behind is an excellent teacher who nevertheless in this instance holds both saw and wood as her youngster looks on. As you see, children can be very mature, wise, teachers, when given the right support. In our new institution we are putting that support, and the accreditation of their teaching of others, at centre stage.


agile spaces - commons and zoned "nooks"

Well, so much to explore and read here. Have you read Language of School Design : Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools by Prakash and Randy? Worth a look - but quicker is to look at these two short videos:

Mark Oliphant College | IPACA (Melissa again! - and no you can't entice her to teach in Sydney!)

And here are two girls in the Ingenium spaces we built in Richmond-on-Thames talking about what it is like to learning their "classroom of tomorrow. We opened the Ingeniums, one primary and one secondary, in 2004. Here is a school brochure about them too, from 2008.

Of course all this agile space means some focus on Superclasses too. Teachers working at different tasks (leading, helping, stretching...) in parallel get there quicker that a single teacher working in series on the same tasks. More Superclass details here though.


a focus on project based work

Project based black belt country (so to speak) is High Tech High in San Diego - S. California's best perfroming state school by a mile.

nearer to home, I think you can see in this project based example from Mark Oliphant College in South Australia that finding a powerful human rights speech, typesetting it, printing and framing it, speaking it - with QR code to trigger the reading - changing the text into an artwork of the speaker's face, laser etching that onto glass, building a cabinet with LED lighting to house that... has a lot of curriculum overlap in it, efficiently, but also is hugely engaging.

project based exhibition


celebration, exhibition, praise,

Praise rich schools seem to be effective at reducing disengagement, but praise needs to value real progress, real gains, real achievement to retain its currency with everyone. Praise Pod is one of many praise rich schemes - it has been hugley effective. Here, helpfully the primary school deputy who set it up summarises benefits here.

At the heart of this is the intention to lead your eyes back to interesting and ambitious learning, wherever you may be looking. At Mark Oliphant College the buildings are numbered playfully with simple challenges. Building number 9 carries the legend "square root of 81" for example.

square root of 81

Similarly, stairs can be ideal for sequential learning - this in one of our Spanish schools:

learning steps

Exhibition - is way more than pictures on walls in corridors! It needs to get out into the community:

hoardings advertising kids capabilities

here (above) you can see the students of Bilston in the UK taking over the advertising hoardings in their town to "advertise" their capabilities - it changed the whole community's perception of the students...


More to come; this is rather work in progress, but it helps the dialogue progress....

this page created by Prof Stephen Heppell on May 14, 2014 and last modified on Saturday, October 21, 2017 7:30 PM