BLOG: Learning beyond the classroom: one size doesn’t fit all

This week our CEO Steve Docking discusses the vital role an innovative enhanced curriculum plays in a pupil’s personal development.

Our Trust had an interview last week with the DfE to explore the feasibility of opening two new free schools. Like most interviews you prepare as well as you can, hope you can answer all the questions coherently and wish for a positive outcome.

Without betraying too many trade secrets there was one question that really made me think. We were asked if we would transfer the outstanding curriculum at one of our current schools and do exactly the same at the new schools to produce the same outcomes.

Under interview pressure the simple answer would be to say yes and hope that satisfies the panel. We’ve done it once and intend to do it exactly the same and produce the same results. However, this is where schools often fail and the job of great leadership is about knowing what to replicate and what to adapt to fit each context.

If you go into any of our schools I think you would see 6 out of 10 things that are similar but the other 40% is what makes each one special and enables us all to work together to offer children something different and unique.

It’s easy to keep the finances the same, certain paperwork and policies the same, we even have the same lunches. What makes each school distinct is in fact the same thing that unites them and that is a commitment to curriculum enrichment. If you take a look at the the NWAT twitter feed each week you’ll see how each school brings that commitment to life and the amazing array of different opportunities that all the children have enjoyed.

These opportunities are what makes the children’s learning fun and meaningful and allows them to experience the world in a different way. Trips, visits, quality in-house learning, expert speakers and specialist teaching all combine to increase a child’s confidence and contribute to producing some outstanding outcomes. Enrichment should never be seen as an “add on” to the standard curriculum, but as the bedrock upon which we all learn.
So reflecting on the interview, will we take the existing curriculum at our outstanding schools and just impose it in the new ones? No chance, but we will make sure that the leaders in our schools are empowered to get the children out as much as possible and see what lies beyond the boundaries of the classroom. By doing this we can’t guarantee academic success but we can ensure that the children will love school, learn well and be the people they want to be – which is the kind of outcome we should all be more interested in achieving.