Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leigh Academy - Dartford Kent

We visited an innovative secondary school today. Leigh Academy is a new school that was purpose built. Frank Green, the CEO of Leigh Academy explained that the school was designed as a result of being required to find new ways to raise educational standards.

There are some interesting things happening in this college. Firstly they employ vertical integration where students from 11 year olds through to 18 year olds are integrated into the same classes. This is based on research stating that students learn best when they can learn from, and teach, each other.

Another innovation is around class sizes, operating classes of 50 to 60 students with three teachers, in large open spaces. This is a technology rich school and as we walked around we saw students working in all different types of groupings and purposes. We saw a large space with a lot of students and three teachers walking around, and we saw smaller spaces with students working one on one or in small groups.

And one more innovation is around school sizes. Based on research it was found that the optimal size of a school was no more than 500 students. Above this and there is less achievement and more chance of behavioural problems and so on. This was a hard issue to overcome in a very large secondary school and their answer is, I think, genius. The secondary school of over 1200 students was separated into four different colleges. These colleges are all housed in the same building as their own blocks. Each college has the exact same layout and their own speciality. DaVinci college specialises in (you guessed it) the arts, Chaucer - humanities, Darwin - the sciences, and Brunel - technology. Each college has its own principal to run the school and staff, this ensures that every child is known well as an individual by the head teacher and staff. Frank's role is as the CEO over the entire academy. Students belong to one college, however move between colleges for the specialities.

It was quite a treat to visit this school and see how new answers can be found to old problems. We recorded interviews with Frank Green and these will be available on EdTalks shortly.

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