Leadership programme

My Next Big Learning

Ethan Dent

I am an Early Career Teacher at Matthew Moss High School, a state school in Rochdale. I have really enjoyed my time at the school as they have really helped me grow. Over the past two years I have enjoyed expanding my teaching practice at a school that focuses massively upon the development of relationships. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking my first class through the entirety of the History and Citizenship GCSEs. At the same time it has been massively rewarding seeing our learners develop into amazing young adults.

At Matthew Moss High School, we have always been passionate about creating a learning environment that supports the whole child. We believe that students need more than just academic skills to succeed in life, and that their social and emotional well-being is just as important as their academic achievements.

Joining a movement to transform education

Recently, Matthew Moss High School joined Big Education’s Next Big 10 project. My experience with Big Education and the Next Big 10 has been eye-opening and inspiring. Movements like these are transforming education in exciting and innovative ways, and I am excited to be a part of this transformation. As an Early Career teacher, I am keen to explore how to incorporate the principles of a Big Education into my teaching practice and prepare my students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. When I first heard of the Next Big 10, I felt a mixture of excitement but also apprehension. This was because the purpose of the group struck a chord with my own motivations, I did also have a sneaking feeling of imposter syndrome being then an ECT 1 amongst experienced teachers and head teachers. These negative feelings soon dissipated when the open atmosphere of the project became instantly tangible at the first meeting.

I wanted to join this project because as an educator, and especially as a new teacher, I am constantly seeking out new ways to improve my teaching practice and provide my students with the best possible education, which isn’t limited to a narrow educational experience. I want to find out about exciting and innovative approaches to education and saw Big Education as a movement that seeks to transform education by putting the needs of the whole child at the centre of learning. This means that Big Education focuses not only on academic achievement, but also on the social, emotional, and mental well-being of students. The ideas and practices shared during the Next Big 10 meetings did open my eyes to innovative educational practices that seemed to go against the prevailing nationwide current of a more drab educational system. This could not have come at a better time in my own career as I am still in my formative years as a teacher and therefore this exposure really helped stoke my excitement for being in education.

Working in a different way

My personal experience with Big Education and the Next Big 10 has been incredibly positive. Working with NB10 has been a completely different experience to what I have usually found within education. The process has been open ended and decided completely by the participants which has at times seemed somewhat overwhelming. As an ECT teacher amongst many headteachers and SLT members from over schools there was a creeping feeling of imposter syndrome. This feeling soon vanished as during the very first session effort was put in to ensure an egalitarian atmosphere. Being able to discuss ideas and be heard by members of SLT and headteachers felt very empowering.

As the project has moved forwards, we have decided to work in groups based upon what we consider most important in education. We have begun what can be best described as a networking phase which has put us in contact with other like minded individuals, schools and professionals to share best practice. This has been a really rewarding part of Next Big 10 as it has allowed us to share some easy wins but also some much bigger longer-term ideas we might want to implement. Within Matthew Moss we have a ‘Change team’ who have three ‘Change lessons’ a week with our year 7s with the focus upon our schools core values of Change (Composure, High standards, Agency, Numeracy/literacy and Empathy). As part of these Change lessons students spend time learning behavioural theories that focus upon interacting which permeate the entire being of our institution with a behavioural practice that emphasises understanding and equality in interactions. Whilst this is Matthew Moss’ area of innovation it has been inspiring to see other schools' areas of innovation, Ladybridge’s alternative provision being one of many.

School-based change teams and working groups

I joined the EcoSchools networking group and have been able to share the good practice we already have at Matthew Moss. We have a Sustainability Group which is led by students: they get to decide on the issues they would like to lobby SLT about. Recently this group has been implementing small changes within the classroom such as changing display settings on screens and introducing paper waste bins. This was designed to put the learners at the centre of an environmental push. Our group has narrowed down our enquiry into reducing climate anxiety and researching ways to provide students with a tangible way to feel like they are making a positive impact on the environment. So far for our research we have sent out questionnaires to learners to assess how much of an issue climate anxiety is. Once we have shared with our schools ways to reduce climate anxiety this same questionnaire will be completed to gauge whether our pratices have reduced climate anxiety.

Finding out about innovative practices in other schools has been very thought-provoking. Ladybridge School shared with us their innovative English Scheme of Learning that sees the Hunger Games meet an eco-friendly narrative. This scheme has been shared with our own English department who are in the process of adapting it for use at our school, helping them implement an environmentally focused Scheme of Learning into the English curriculum.

Impact

Hopefully the outcome of our work in the environmental group will have a positive impact on our learners by reducing their climate anxiety through providing meaningful ways through which they can help support a more environmentally friendly future. It would be amazing to have the long-term impact of engendering within our learners a sense that the climate emergency is not simply a doom headline but instead an exciting opportunity to build a new brighter future.

As for the impact Next Big 10 will have on our school as a whole. I can already sense within the school that just the sense of community provided by the Next Big 10 for schools who are going against the grain has reassured our institution's sense of self. Our school prides itself on not being an exam results factory and to have other methods through which Matthew Moss can invigorate this sense of purpose using other tried and tested techniques is a unique opportunity.

I believe that by focusing on the whole child and creating innovative programs that prepare students for the future, we can create a better world for all. Education is the key to unlocking the potential of individuals and communities, and I am proud to be a part of a movement that is working to create a brighter future for us all.

Ethan Dent, Matthew Moss High School

Big Education

Leadership Programme

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This blog is from a school taking part in The Next Big 10, a programme for schools who are transforming education against strong headwinds

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