On one visit to a fantastic school* I was introduced to an inspirational headteacher. He had such a clear vision which resonated through the school and manifested in the values and practices seen. The educational philosophy created was one of “learning power” and growth mindset – as the headteacher remarked “to predict what kind of world awaits our pupils once they grow-up and go out into it is laughable; the world’s best futurologists can’t make that prediction and I certainly can’t. What we need to do is equip our pupils with the skills to live in that world whatever it may be.” To that end, his school put great emphasis on developing children as learners – and this conviction served to reassure and strengthen within me my own belief that what we were doing at my school was absolutely right.
The belief in my school centres around developing learning habits. We’ve implemented a strand in our curriculum designed to instil in our pupils a growth mindset philosophy. This means we believe that everybody can learn and succeed with the right attitude. Courage, tenacity and self belief are crucial, we believe, to learning and can be developed by how we recognise and reward success. Directed effort alongside outcome is valued and children are encouraged to take risks and not fear failure. This element of the curriculum is known as our “learning: it’s up to you!” strand and is the part of our offering which focuses on the principle that there are thinking skills, learning dispositions and good habits as well as subject specific skills which we can develop in a range of contexts.
This aspect of our curriculum weaves in the development of meta-cognition and learning habits so that our children become brave (taking risks with their learning), challenge themselves (stretching their thinking and enjoying the “struggle” of learning), smile (staying positive even when learning is tricky), become honest learners, sustain effort (recognising that good learning requires resilience and perseverance), fail well (learning from mistakes) and become deeply reflective about the learning process. These habits are found at the centre of our model in recognition of their status as utterly vital components of our curriculum.
Now that’s all well and good. But so what? Why do we believe in this at my school and what difference does our curriculum make?
We took this question one step further and asked ourselves to think about the whole Laxey School experience. If a child comes to Laxey and experiences our school, experiences our curriculum, experiences our learning and teaching philosophy and is encouraged to develop good learning habits that they choose to use through intrinsic motivation, then what sort of person will they be when they graduate from our programme? Will those pupils who have been schooled at Laxey stand out from others? And if so, how so?
If our approach is our means – then what is the ends?
We decided to map out what a Laxey pupil would ultimately become so that we could answer this question and better articulate our school’s purpose and raison d’être. Our response resulted in a model we have termed “Laxey Learners” which celebrates the growth mindset and learning power culture that is so established in the school and makes clear the outcomes it aims to produce: Laxey Learners are fit for the future; Laxey Learners are successful; Laxey Learners are compassionate; Laxey Learners are leaders; and Laxey learners are inclusive. Coming to Laxey means a commitment that no child is left behind, as we develop in them the skills to tackle the challenges of the 21st century and create tomorrow’s leaders amongst others. We believe our Laxey Learners statement is an important strand to our school that helps mark us out as clearly and identifiably inclusive in nature because it seeks to build character in everyone. In everyone. Regardless of age, stage, background, culture or gender. It accepts no excuses in its belief that every child can succeed and deserves to be taught to the very highest standard.
Our ‘Laxey Learners’ statement:
Laxey Learners are fit for the future
The development of learning habits drives our curriculum. As a result, children have a growth mindset and the transferrable skills and dispositions that make them fit for their future in a diverse world. We equip children with the skills to succeed: confidence, resilience, problem solving, communication, adaptability and reflection. They are brave enough to take risks. Faced with an unpredictable future, a growth mindset allows our children to see future challenges are actually opportunities to succeed.
Laxey Learners are successful
Our approach to schooling and our curriculum ensure that every child is challenged on a daily basis. We believe that everyone has the potential to improve and that hard work and a positive attitude can make the impossible possible. This growth mindset approach brings success. Children succeed when they take responsibility for themselves and are accountable for their choices. This approach drives Laxey School.
Laxey Learners are compassionate
At Laxey we know education and school is more than just academia. Our responsibility is to develop children as global citizens, and it’s a responsibility we take very seriously. Pupil’s at Laxey School use empathy to guide their choices. Because they are compassionate they are able to look beyond themselves and consider the needs of others and the wider world.
Laxey Learners are leaders
At Laxey we foster leadership. Children learn to collaborate and to take responsibility for themselves and others. They make decisions and evaluate them. They identify problems and solve them. They are given genuine leadership opportunities such as a voice for change, choices in learning and decisions about school life. These experiences provide our children with the skills, knowledge and understanding which enable them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
Laxey Learners are inclusive
We are committed to equality and inclusion. We believe it is crucial that children develop the attitudes which allow them to embrace, value and celebrate difference. We ensure that our children value individuality, each person with their own unique qualities and experiences. We believe that everybody counts: everybody is important, everybody has something positive to offer and together we can embrace the exciting opportunities a diverse world offers.
Fundamentally, as a school, we believe in learning. We create opportunities for children to become confident, curious, creative and courageous. We don’t do something because it’s always been done. We do it because we believe it’s a better way and has a greater impact on the lives of our children. And we believe our approach results in Laxey Learners.
And finally, it is vital to stress that “Laxey Learners” is not our latest initiative that has to be delivered. It is a statement of what happens if you come to the school we already have and experience the curriculum and opportunities we already give.
It is not some target driven scheme . It is not about progress, percentages and pie-charts. Instead, it recognises that learning is messy, not linear. It recognises that attainment is unique, individual and ultimately not as important as the people we aim to become. We want people with values such as inclusivity and compassion. We want people who can find success in whatever they do – but understand that success is measured in different ways and looks different for everyone. And we want people who can go out into the world and contribute, drawing on a mindset and skillset that allows them not only to survive but to thrive. We want to build character.
And at Laxey, we think we do just that.
*Credit to Kensington Primary School, Manor Park, London for inspiring this project through their own work.