Our educational philosophy
Our vision is to ignite a lifelong passion for learning, to discover and develop potential, allowing all to flourish in an ever-changing world.
We ignite a lifelong passion for learning by establishing the habits and routines for excellence, by developing positive relationships and behaviours and by planning an ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum.
We discover and develop potential by building knowledge and skills through effective approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.
We allow all to flourish in an ever-changing world by acknowledging the attributes that characterise young people who are academically, emotionally, socially, economically and culturally prepared for the future.
Our values underpinning this are what we believe in as an educational institution and the behaviours we expect to see demonstrated by all those associated with the school.
- Aspiration – preparing to succeed in school and in life
- Respect – having respect for ourselves, others and our surroundings
- Endeavour – striving to achieve our targets, goals and ambitions
- Participation – learning from each other to make a positive impact
- Creativity – engaging in ideas to find original and effective solutions
Our aims are to ignite these values, and to help enable children discover their own potentials so that they can flourish through these strategies:
We ignite aspiration by creating the right conditions for learning through effective and consistent approaches:
- Common approaches – Student and teacher common approaches establish the expectations for learning (habits and routines)
- Vision and values – Clear and considered articulation of the school’s ambitions and approaches (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Careers guidance – An inspiring and thorough programme that adheres to the Gatsby Benchmarks (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum).
We discover aspiration through:
- Modelling – providing models to help with good explanations; drawing from physical representations of completed tasks, conceptual models and explicit narration of thought processes; providing concrete examples of abstract ideas; developing experiential activities in the most appropriate place to maximise learning once basic concepts have been learned.
- Independent practice – offering students the same material for independent study that they have encountered in guided practice; using a flow of learning experiences; providing students with the tools to work independently (e.g. checking own work); circulating around their classroom during independent practice; exploiting opportunities for students to assist each other (co-operative learning).
- High success rate – setting questions and tasks with sufficient practice to engineer a high success rate – with an optimal level around 80% success; continually evaluating the success rate of students.
- Reviewing material – routinely engaging students in a variety of forms of retrieval practice, recalling and applying previously learned material; creating low-stakes quizzes to review learning over week or month.
We ignite respect by creating the right conditions for learning through effective and consistent approaches:
- Code of Conduct – Be Ready, Be Kind, Be Safe (habits and routines)
- Behaviour for Learning Policy - Herts STEPS therapeutic approach to behaviour (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Lifelong Learning programme – relationships and character education (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum).
We discover respect through:
- Collective experiences – opportunities to develop social interaction and shared experiences through assemblies and other collective events.
- Democratic classrooms – based on the model of authoritative democracy where the teacher is the authority but makes use of teaching methods that reflect fairness, sensitivity and respect (e.g. co-constructed learning) – explicit in routines such as SLANT (Sit Up, Listen, Ask/Answer questions, Nod, Track the speaker).
- Virtues and ethics – opportunities for pupils to encounter: virtuous activities (such as volunteering in the community); an appreciation of ethical living (regarding, for example, sustainability); and the pursuit of equity across all school structures and decisions (for example through our Race Equity Project).
- Therapeutic approaches – promoting prosocial behaviours through positive behaviour management strategies that seek solutions to anti-social behaviours and/or poor relationships.
We ignite endeavour by creating the right conditions for learning through effective and consistent approaches:
- Trips and Visits – as part of our wider enrichment programme, students are encouraged to explore opportunities to learn outside of the school environment through our extensive offer of trips and visits to local, national and international destinations (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Positive Mindsets – we encourage positive thinking that can result in the growth mindset that intelligence is flexible, expandable and adaptable. Positive language is used to frame discussions about the relationships between attitudes and the capacity to learn (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Lifelong Learning – resilience and wellbeing study units (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum).
We discover endeavour through:
- Scaffolding – we provide scaffolds for difficult tasks by: modelling, coaching and supporting students to develop a level of independence, providing guided practice before students can display independent practice; using writing frames to scaffold written tasks; using exemplar material from previous students; modelling and scaffolding strategic thinking to develop confidence; and anticipating common errors and misconception.
- Sequencing – we present new information using small steps by: recognizing the limitations of working memory; breaking concepts and procedures into small steps; giving students the opportunity to practice each step; moving from the big picture to detailed area of focus.
- Home learning – we set regular planned home learning tasks to enrich and inform classroom learning and to foster independent study skills.
- Assessment – we begin lessons with regular daily reviews to reactivate recently acquired knowledge and reduce cognitive load. We conduct weekly and monthly reviews to engage students in retrieval practice through informal activities, such as low-stakes quizzes. We check progress through formal assessments at least every half term.
We ignite participation by creating the right conditions for learning through effective and consistent approaches:
- House System – our school comprises of 4 houses, championed by British icons chosen to represent our values in 2019. The houses are Austen, Hawking, Seacole and Turing and the house system provides opportunities for participation, competition and engagement across the school (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Student Voice – we establish opportunities for students to have a voice in the decision-making processes of the school community. Alongside traditional student councils and head teams, we also have student representatives across the houses, forms and other groups such as anti-bullying ambassadors. Student voice also reaches down to the classroom and is sought through the regular use of surveys and discussions (positive relationships and behaviours)
- Enrichment – our enrichment programme covers a wide range of activities, clubs and support including opportunities to contribute to the school and wider community (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum).
We discover participation through:
- Cooperative learning – the process of breaking a classroom of students into small groups so they can discover a new concept together and help each other learn. Examples include carousel activities, project-based learning and co-constructed learning.
- Group responses – group work is well-planned (arrangement of groups, ground rules), carefully structured (roles and responsibilities) and has a clear justification (success criteria).
- Articulacy – applying the Oracy Benchmarks to help structure and develop effective talk in the classroom environment can significantly enhance the quality of learning. Teachers: set high expectations; value every voice in the class; explicitly teach oral communication skills; harness talk to elevate learning; and appraise progress.
- Inclusion – as an inclusive school we believe that all children and young people have the same right to access all available learning opportunities. Inclusion and equity underpin classroom-based and school-wide interactions.
We ignite creativity by creating the right conditions for learning through effective and consistent approaches:
- Thinking Skills – Opportunities to encourage the development of thinking skills through structured approaches both in the classroom and across the school (habits and routines for excellence)
- STEM – Opportunities for creativity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum)
- Creative Arts – Opportunities for creativity in the arts (ambitious, relevant and rich curriculum).
We discover creativity through:
- Abstract thinking – recognizing the ‘tipping point’ when learning moves from tangible ideas, objects and observable phenomena into the realm of the abstract, for example through associative thinking such as the explicit use of metaphorical language.
- Metacognition – routinely engaging students in structured opportunities to reflect on and be critical of their own thinking and learning processes. Students develop an awareness of cognitive strategies and their own abilities and attitudes as a learner. For example, students might find ways to ‘publish the process’ by displaying drafted work that illustrates the learning process.
- Conceptual thinking – threshold concepts are the big ideas that help students develop a deeper understanding of a discipline. Conceptual thinking allows connections to be made across topics and disciplines improving semantic learning. Subject areas identify the ‘big questions’ in their field, for example, and find opportunities to reference them as appropriate.
- Questioning – effective questioning is a highly interactive, dynamic and responsive process that not only can be used to check student understanding but also to encourage creative thinking and exploration. Teachers use a range of questioning strategies.