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We believe that most children in most classrooms most days are experiencing a narrow and ‘partial’ education. There is an excessive focus on exams and this leads to other critical parts of school being minimised or omitted altogether.
A ‘big’ education is an idea – a way of encouraging a discussion about what a more expansive experience might be. We must go back to the purpose of school – what are we really trying to achieve? That core question then opens up thinking about the approaches to curriculum and teaching that fit that purpose.
Our diagnostic tool is a powerful way for schools to ask themselves some big questions about they they are doing and why.
We like the idea of head, heart and hand; head (academics), heart (character and wellbeing) and hand (problem solving, creativity, making a difference).
There are lots of ways of expressing it! What we think is important is the discussion and thinking about it rather than trying to prescribe one way.
Big Education is a Multi-Academy Trust, formed of School 21, School 360 and Surrey Square Primary School, and a charity that is working to transform the education system. We are developing and modelling practices that ensure young people receive a balanced education of the head (academics), heart (character and wellbeing) and hand (problem solving, creativity, making a difference).
We believe that school can and must be better. Our founding schools, School 21 and Surrey Square Primary, one a new ‘start up’ free school and the other a ‘turnaround’, were committed to significant change and had created new practices and insights. We created Big Education in order to do more, better, together.
Each continue to strive to find the best ways for their students receive an expansive education and fulfil their potential in every way; from academia to critical thinking, creativity to community action, understanding yourself and everything in between. We opened School 360 in September 2021 and are excited to continue to grow the Big Education group of schools in the coming years.
Although proud of our achievements and the enhanced experiences our students have access to, we have more to do! We are ambitious for the whole system and much of our work is focused on how we can be part of changing mindsets, practices and policies, so that more children across receive this kind of education.
We are passionate about using our practical insights to be part of positive change in the system. We run schools ourselves. We are rooted in practice as well as big ideas as the basis for our other work with others. We are working to change;
Mindsets – through our thought leadership, blogs, networks and ideas
Practices – by sharing our practical insights with teachers and leaders through our leadership programmes, projects, courses and school visits
Policies – by sharing our insights and ideas with policy makers and influencers
We are helping schools, and groups of schools make practical changes to deliver a more expansive educational experience for their students.
A big education starts with a more expansive vision and purpose for each school.
“Empowering young people to take on the world” – School 21
“More than a school” – Surrey Square Primary School
“Think differently, learn together, change the world.” – School 360
Each school has designed and created a curriculum focused on delivering that vision.
“An education of the head, heart and hand” – School21
“Personal and academic excellence” – Surrey Square Primary School
We use a repertoire of pedagogies (ways of teaching) which best fit our purpose and curriculum. These include;
Authentic work experience, known as Real World Learning. At School 21, students in years 10-13 spend half a day a week in a workplace, for a term and a half. Our students and their host organisations work on a project that is meaningful and authentic.
Supporting students to be agents of change through civic action and community projects. Surrey Square work with Citizens UK to engage in real campaigns about things that matter to them.
Personal development and coaching. Intentional, sophisticated approaches to developing personal excellence.
Interdisciplinary and project based learning. Pupils immerse themselves in rich subject content or a real world problem and through the application of knowledge and the development of skills and attributes they craft ‘beautiful’ work of real value.
Oracy – the ability to communicate effectively. We support all of our children to find their voice – metaphorically and literally. We founded the charity Voice 21 to develop and spread this practice within the system.
Diversity, equity and inclusion – School 21 has developed practices to be an anti-racist organisation, and Surrey Square is a trailblazer for inclusive practices.
This means we need to assess pupils in more sophisticated ways, capturing progress and achievements in the broad range of areas we care about. Some examples of our work on this include;
E-portfolios for students in all our schools. These are a way of students capturing key moments, work they are proud of and progress and sharing that with staff and their families.
Capturing data about other aspects of pupils’ learning and development beyond traditional academic data. Surrey Square works with ImpactED to capture and use data about pupils’ motivation, wellbeing and engagement.
We take a holistic view and know that the culture for adults in the school is critical in enabling this more expansive experience for students. This means we;
Have evidence informed and well codified approaches to signature leadership behaviours to enable development and ongoing learning
Value leadership learning highly alongside the craft of teaching itself
Have redesigned professional development and quality assurance including the use of ‘flipped quality assurance’ to empower staff
Have comprehensive and powerful approaches to staff wellbeing