St. Benedicts

Graeme, Helen, Chris and I have been in St.Benedicts School in Derby all week. Derby is right on the boundary of where it’s possible to get to from Birmingham by the start of school, given the limitation of dropping a child at nursery in Birmingham at 07.30. It’s been nail-biting for me, the others have wisely thrown themselves on the hospitality of Derby B&Bs.

This is the third of four projects we are involved in piloting models for project working with Year 7 pupils, a decisive break from rigid knowledge based teaching. We’ve met schools at different stages, with different scales of ambition approaching things in slightly different ways. Last year the Delicate Balance project in St. Albans saw a lot of resources thrown at a single class as part of a piece of early research. This academic year Castle Vale have started project working and we’ve been working with teachers offering elements of existing Stan’s Cafe projects as stimuli or foci for their themed projects. Next week we have a further meeting with Foxfields in Coventry where we see how our engagement there will develop.

St. Benedicts is the most ambitious, realistic and frontline form of engagement: 90 students, 3 teachers, a few teaching assistants and us, a full week off timetable, three small classrooms and a minimal amount of kit. The whole of Year 7 is part of a larger project, approaching the task from different angles. Our brief is to concentrate on building Competencies within the pupils, helping them assess their own learning styles, their resourcefulness, self-reliance and team skills.

As often happens with Year 7 work, my ambition radically outreaches the ability of the vast majority and the minority get swamped by the majority. Nevertheless, it has been rewarding in its own way, the dynamism that was generated grew quite frightening and the quality of presentations at the end, when the mayhem had subsided, was impressive. All credit goes to Alison, Andy and John, the teachers we collaborated with, they were amazingly game, resourceful and good humoured; we learnt a lot from them.


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