Everyone should know about ‘Growing Minds’ at The Marches School, Oswestry

January 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

by Alec Patton

This week I visited the Marches School and Technology College in Oswestry, where they’ve developed a very exciting curriculum for Year 7 called ‘Growing Minds’.

It consists of two four-hour multidisciplinary extended sessions, one on Monday and one on Tuesday, during which a mixed-ability class of students pursue lines of enquiry, individually or in groups. All of humanities and ICT are participating, and they freed up the eight hours by getting a ‘donation’ of an hour each from every department in the school. I was struck by how closely aligned their work is with what we’re doing at Learning Futures. As I’ve said before, it really feels like there’s a movement afoot.

What impressed me most about the school is how focused the staff are on their own learning – I was invited up part of a group of ‘critical friends’ (along with a primary school head, a secondary head, a children’s centre head, and a representative from th local authority), by a school governor who had been commissioned by the head to evaluate the programme. The school also has a team of students who meet fortnightly to discuss how Growing Minds is going, and what should be tweaked, dropped, or developed. This was not a ceremonial exercise – the students are valued contributors to the school’s discussions about its trajectory. Now that I think of it, this use of often-untapped resources* (parent as evaluator, students as co-producers) has a lot in common with Radical Efficiency.

I’ll let one of the students I spoke to have the last word (bar the footnote):

I’ve been told that mistakes can be a great way to learn, so I think it’s good that the school took a risk by doing Growing Minds, and it’s even better that it’s paid off!

  • *For the record, I really hate describing human beings as a ‘resource’, but it’s the shorthand that seems most convenient at the moment.


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    Hilarious video on project-based learning from High Tech High How much do we really believe in early intervention?

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