I missed a couple of days last week as I was attending the ACAMIS conference in Shanghai. ACAMIS (the Association of China and Inner Mongolia International Schools) is a powerful regional association of international schools offering staff and pupils in its member schools a chance to interact through sports and arts activities (for pupils, clearly) and training opportunities for staff. The theme of the 2019 Spring conference was based around the idea of giving ‘agency’ to learners. In this context, ‘agency’ is essentially the power of choice and active engagement for children in their learning.
The keynote speakers and workshops focused on new and exciting ways to open up the way schools work for their young people – from the curriculum to health and safety; leadership to service-learning opportunities. In these models, and as so much in education, there is broad agreement on the benefits of increased agency but little common ground as how to go about delivering it.
I was struck by the number of speakers who offered visionary solutions which would have huge consequences for the way children are educated. To me as a school leader, new ideas and new thinking is essential in shaping our work in schools. After all, we plan a minimum of 3-5 years in advance for our major strategic developments in the school, so ideas that today may seem impractical and idealistic are often ones which come to drive educational philosophy within a single school generation.
I will write and talk more about these developments in the coming weeks, as I think it is important for our whole community to be involved in this debate: education is not just created by teachers, and it is crucial that all stakeholders are engaged and consulted.
In the meantime, I wanted to highlight the ways in which we here at the College offer greater agency to our pupils. You will not be surprised to learn that I consider a Wellington education is one which has pupil engagement and influence at its very heart.
- Our pupils have significant leadership opportunities at all levels, from the classroom, to Houses, the school, sports’ teams and academic competitions.
- Surveys of our pupils encompass everything from their lessons and academic progress, to IT, catering, ASA choices, the uniform, and anti-bullying. We listen to their feedback, and we act upon it where we can.
- The Student Council is a vibrant whole school organisation designed specifically to allow pupils to engage directly with the school’s leadership teams.
- Pupils nominate charities for the school to support; they organise stalls at our markets and Summer Fair.
- The differentiation in every class gives pupils the chance to select material and resources to support their learning; fostering skills in decision-making play a key part in school.
In these ways, and many others, pupils are encouraged to take ownership for their learning. If we are simply here to direct their thinking, we rob young people of the chance to learn the lessons of influence and responsibility. As we prepare our pupils for the world beyond Wellington, a world which will test their critical faculties and their ability to engage positively with their peers, the promotion of such ‘agency’ is a vital part of their education.
It would be great to hear the views of parents on this issue; if you have any thoughts or contributions to what I hope will become a significant community-wide debate, do let me know. In the meantime, I will leave you this week with two suggestions for further reading. The first is a website: modernlearners.com which offers some thought-provoking ideas about how schools can revolutionise teaching and learning. The second is a book by renowned historian Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. It contains some fascinating sections outlining his views of the remainder of the century; his chapter on the future of education is excellent. An English-language version is available in the school library and I hope to be able to add translations soon!
FROM STUDENT GUIDANCE AND WELFARE
Mental Health Week – ‘Be Good to Yourself’
Do you ever feel that things are out of your control, that you have to follow what others decide, and your feelings are not taken into account? Well here are two things that you should remember; we all feel like that at some point and there is one part of your life where you have and will always have total control:
The way you treat yourself!
This week the school is focusing on how we can look after ourselves, thus improve our happiness and positively affect our community. Let’s all give ourselves FIVE well-being treats. Here are some to choose from:
- Have a coffee/tea break with a friend
- Go for a walk with a friend
- Have a phone free day
- Read a book
- Go to the gym
- Cycle along the river
- Bake a cake/cookie
- Listen to your favourite playlist
Further details to follow with regard to activities for the students. In the meantime – feel free to start being good to yourself now!
FROM THE UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS’ TEAM
University Visits: University College London and Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Monday 11th March
We are pleased to inform you that we will be hosting two university visits on Monday 11th.
Mr Christophe Castiglione of University College London will be here to talk about their Summer Schools for international students as well as discussing applications to UCL and the UK in general. Ms Liu Yiaxian will also be here to discuss opportunities at the Carl Benz School of Engineering at KIT in Germany.
The presentations will begin at 1550hrs and run until around 1700hrs in the Black Box. Parents of any year group are welcome to attend. Please contact Mrs Sabio, Mr Batey, Miss Luyi or Hannah Kim if you have any questions.
University Guidance Coffee Morning
Wednesday 13th March
Every Wednesday of Week B, we will be holding university guidance coffee mornings in the coffee shop from 0930hrs until 1030hrs. All parents are welcome to come along to have a chat about any aspects to do with university applications. Parents with children in all year groups are welcome to come along.