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Schola Liberum is an entirely fresh approach to learning for all children

illustrative days in the lives of scholaliberum students

These are fictional accounts, of course, but firmly rooted in our understanding of need and provision.

Gemma's parents are sure that the need for social distancing will continue for many years in some form. They are concerned that it cannot be maintained safely in a traditional school setting and looked for a much smaller scale, safer, any age, educational solution for Gemma. Gemma's brother struggled with bullying after the transition to secondary school and he has been transformed as a learner by this smaller, more intimate group provided by Schola Liberum.

On a termly schedule, Gemma learns with her five co-researchers in a mix of their parents' houses, local facilities and outdoors. Today, Tuesday, they are working at her parent's house. Gemma's mother is with them all day, although she is also working from home most days a week. Today, Gemma's grandmother is the second adult that the cluster requires. Yesterday they worked at the twin's apartment with their father - he works full time at an engineering plant but by working four longer days is available for the cluster every Monday.

Gemma is 9, but ages in her cluster range from the youngest at 7 to the oldest at 16. The 16-year-old has progressed so fast she is beginning an online degree this summer (he will be still working within his ScholaLiberum cluster though). On Wednesdays, they all work in their community, this month on an outdoor project around the science of small creatures guided by a local naturalist - although most of their preparation work is online from some major national institutions.

This morning they are engaged in a shared longitude project based around meteorology with another cluster in the southern hemisphere; Gemma's day began promptly with an "exchange of progress" video linkup as the Australian cluster handover their work to the English group to continue. Although it is a shared project, the level of work varies from student to student, of course. Mid-morning they break off to enjoy a vigorous online PE session that many other clusters tune in to as well. It is playfully competitive!

In the afternoon they are engaged in more individual work. For example, Gemma is being introduced to poetry by her literature teacher, along with several other students from other clusters. Her teacher had a stunning schools' exam record but for various reasons took early retirement from school teaching; she remains passionate about poetry and is loving the depth they can achieve together as she takes with her dedicated group of students right through the curriculum.

The day ends with a revue session where the whole cluster shares their progress during the day and consider their needs for the following day. They post their "milestone moments" on the cluster's "show and tell" pages online. Gemma's mum oversees that organisational detail, but the cluster follow a familiar weekly pathway, knowing what is planned, and where. Today, as it happens, Gemma's mum has been doing some interesting work on data visualisation (part of her job) and she takes time to share with them her work and to hear their ideas and suggestions.

Both of Ishmael's parents work full time. Getting their son to, and collecting him from, school every day, was a burden and increasingly difficult to organise.

When his mother began her new job she was delighted to find that the small firm she was joining also had a ScholaLiberum cluster based on their premises. The two of them cycle into work together and then settled down to their respective busy days. The company has been providing Schola Liberum Space for the past couple of years after a some employees formed a group. Employee morale and loyalty quickly increased - parents of ScholaLiberum kids never left and it was pretty engaging to have young, inquisitive minds mingling with the staff on lunch breaks! For Ishmael, there's also the bonus that the company's activity provides a great resource for his project-based activities, as well as opportunities for internships and placements later.

Ishmael and his mum normally go home together, chatting about their day on the bike ride home.

Mo's father is in the armed forces. They move around quite often and Mo had struggled to settle in schools. His father's colleagues had a small number of other children who had exactly the same problem. Together their parents thought reimagining their children's learning might be a way to break the cycle of changing schools too frequently. So they together set up a ScholaLiberum cluster. Now Mo and the others learn together as a group. They are not "the odd one out", but all share that "services" background. As a group they all understand the need to move yet now it doesn't disrupt their learning at all; indeed in their project-based work the change of location has proved to be a real asset. They learn on-base and have been delighted at the amount of expertise around them that they can tap into - for example for their STEM subjects.

Last year one of the group was relocated to another country altogether, but the group didn't want to lose him and so he continues with ScholaLoberum, connected and in "their" cluster.

Shelagh's mother had become increasingly aware of the poor physical environment in Shelagh's school. The buildings were old, the rooms were too dark, the CO2 levels distractingly high and in particular the exposure to pollution levels (the school was next to a major road) were very concerning.

Shelagh seemed a different girl at home in the holidays and weekends, but on school days, she returned home listless and often exhausted. Shelagh's mother decided to read up on how to make a learning space stimulating and engaging. This coincided with her post-CoVID-19 relocation from her office headquarters to a home working hub.

Transforming that home working hub to be an optimal environment for working and learning convinced Shelagh's mother - she could feel the difference right away. Discussing this with some local families she heard similar stories of children returning home desperate for the toilet, dehydrated, or disinterested by lessons. So together they decided to try setting up a ScholaLiberum cluster.

After half a year they were showing their children's work to an interested teacher from their old school who said, simply, that she could not believe she was seeing work from the same children.

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this page created June 24, 2016 by Prof Stephen Heppell, and last updated on Thursday, May 14, 2020 19:07