One view of the future

Imagine a time when attendance in Secondary School is decided by the learner in collaboration with the teachers.

Project-led and individual subject areas will act as specialist help times throughout the learning experience.

What follows is only a schematic view and by no means a complete picture with full levels of detail.

Booking into Lessons
The learner goes online to check timetable availability for the lessons he/she wishes to attend and enters his/her name/code which links to all learner MIS information in the background. The timetable gives location, times, and provides a maximum number of learner spaces. In the event of over subscription, alternative days and/or times are offered or, if regularly oversubscribed, either additional staff and resources will be employed, or a list of alternative local provision – Schools and other affiliated organisations – will be available to attend for that specialist subject knowledge – again with online booking provision.

For the first 2 years of Secondary Schooling (ages 11 and 12) learning will have slightly more fixed structures than later years. For example, any learner with recognised needs resulting from below the average expected achievement levels (or for special needs reasons) will have to attend lessons in the areas defined as needing support. These areas could relate to poor ability in a subject considered essential for normal progression (e.g. english or basic maths) or perhaps even interpersonal or attention skills. These lessons might be fixed within the weekly timetable to offer a sense of security and stabilising routine.

From age 13, learners are often focused on personal relationships and they are now able to enrol into classes that look at the different aspects of personal and interpersonal development at all levels – from psychology to sexuality and drug awareness to peer pressure and personal identity.

Record of Learning Activity

Every time a learner attends a lesson or produces work, he/she receives a credit of attendance with brief details of the subjects and skills covered. As time goes on, each learner will gain a full record of attendance and attainment. This will form the core of information used in applying for work after leaving school.

There will be options for learners to take specialist (e.g. academic) examinations as required. However, not every future needs to take this route when employers will give proper consideration to a learner’s overall ability and experience as portrayed in their individual Record of Learning Activity (RLA – for all those who love their acronyms!).

Recreation areas will be placed around the learning environment with [for example] a relaxing coffee-shop-cum-plaza feel. Also, sports and outdoor areas will be available for learner use. These facilities will be integral to the regular learning environment. Drop-in advice areas will also be available for learners to use, enabling on-demand help and/or advice with everything from relationships to career paths.

The school environment is designed to be a place where people of all ages want to be – whether they are actively engaged in formal learning sessions or not.

If money was no barrier – would we all choose Ferrari cars?
There is a fear among some [ministers and academic educationalists] that, if learners could choose, some subjects would never be taken up and the country would suffer shortages in specialist and highly competitive areas such as maths, engineering, and science. However, this is not the case and there will always be people who want to specialise in what are currently deemed ‘shortage areas’ of activity. We wouldn’t all become artists, actors, or computer games specialists (only used here as examples of perceived non-academic and secure career activity).

How People Learn
Most learning takes place naturally in daily life – in context with other experience and despite formal education. Learning begins with an interest in wanting to experience, discover, or share something. I have witnessed young children between ages 6 months and 10 years absorbing information like sponges absorbing water. I have observed their discovered short cuts to understanding complex problems that few adults could master in such a short time. More is achieved through creative play with a little adult guidance than can be recorded in child care, ‘removed from reality’ walled classroom lessons of limited and rigid structure – where the focus is on tracking and producing the right assessment outcomes.

The Role of Teacher
The role of the [adult] teacher is to both guide and facilitate. On the one hand, you cannot give a child a pile of resources and necessarily expect a masterful outcome. On the other hand, you want to encourage progression from the known to the unknown by fostering interest and then supporting its development as it grows and gathers momentum – reaching greater levels of progressive expertise and knowledge.

For example, a child who has been given a simple camera and taught how to take a photo can be left to explore the possibilities of perhaps recording the antics of birds and animals. If this interest develops, a better camera might be required with a lens capable of getting closer to the action. Research into habitats and habits might ensue and the creation of illustrated work might move into writing or scientific exploration.

A child has to be shown as well as left alone to assimilate and try out what has been demonstrated. Finding that balance is a skill.

– Richard Gentle


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