Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visit to IPACA Academy

The first schools that Terry White took me to in UK was the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) opened in September 2012, bringing together five Portland schools, the Grove, Brackenbury and Underhill, Southwell and Royal Manor Arts College. The new primary school is a converted leisure centre. The school is co-educational state school providing for students aged 4 – 16, together with Foundation Stage units including nursery and reception age children.

IPACA is sponsored by educational charity The Aldridge Foundation, which has strong links to the community forging employment opportunities for school graduates. This thinking is considered critical as most school leavers stay in the area – the school has a commitment to   building  networks with commercial and manufacturing organisations in the district and incorporating opportunities for students in their teaching and learning.

IPACA is led by Head teacher Alison Appleyard and its Governing Body. This body includes Sponsor Governors, Staff Governors, Local Authority Governors, Parent Governors and co-opted governors selected by the Academy Trust

Professor Stephen Heppell,  is the patron of IPACA. Stephen is recognised internationally as a leader in education. As a school the staff  here have the advantage of working directly with Stephen Heppell who influences the direction of the school.

Gary Spracklen is the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation across all campus of IPACA. His role is to drive the vision around digital learning and innovation. As an early adaptor and enthusiast for digital and future focused learning, Gary is exploring different ways he can work with the leadership team to make sure that the thinking and culture around digital learning and innovation is consistent across all five campus with ideas being explored at all levels of the school.  His blog can be explored at

Is an ”all through school” focused on ”stage not age” Currently 5 years to 9 years, but new build will take students to 18 years. The students work in house groups, across two year groups.  Each space can accommodate 90 students with 3 teachers, plus two teaching assistants. Most learning support happens in the classroom. A typical lesson has one teacher leading 1 supporting and 1 stretching more able students. Every learner has a chrome book from Yr 7 up. 

Key educational elements of  the design include:
·        spaces within spaces
·        flexibility
·        personalising learning
·        Why before the How and What
·        mixed age learning
·        digital learning

The flexible environment is achieved by a range of different furniture including high backed sofas and utilising furniture to make withdrawal spaces. These spaces were observed being used flexibly in the junior areas of the school

Gary  explained that in UK there is huge pressure to teach to the SATS which schools and teachers are judged on nationally. Personalising learning is considered to be a risk because there are tests to pass and jobs and careers can be lost if the student achievement results take a dive. IPACAs SAT results are impressive. Gary is working with staff across all campus to have confidence in letting go didactic approaches and to have the belief that the fantastic student achievement results will just get better with the open and team teaching approach in the modern learning environment that IPACA is committed to.

We had a brief visit to the Royal Manor campus where the senior students are currently located and met with principal Alison Appleyard where we discussed the proposed  new campus at Southwell Park. This exciting project is an old Navy base that is currently a commercial centre.

It will cater for students between 3 and 16 years old, with the main school buildings divided into houses or “schools within schools”, and a separate section for early years children from Nursery to Year 3, with its own entrance and play areas. 

The plans or Southwell Park  include:
·        a performing arts theatre
·        heated swimming pool
·        a new sports hall
·        specialist sports, art, drama, music, science and environmental science facilities
·        cutting-edge computer facilities and new technology to support learning
·        a dedicated zone to support enterprise for students and the community.

TheSouthwell Park campus would offer a range of after-school activities and facilities will be available for after school and community programmes as part of the commitment to linking to the local community.

My take outs from the IPACA schools include:
  • ·        The collaborative teaching model of one teacher leading the lesson, 1 supporting and 1 stretching students, plus 1 or 2 teacher assistants for three teachers with 60 students.
  • ·        The importance of the school structures supporting the vision of the school – eg exploring leadership and team structures in relation to the school vision around teaching and learning.
  • ·        Teacher development around the vision and reflecting the vision/ way of working needs to be a priority. If we want staff to be developing a programme of personalised learning / learner led design – then they need to be involved in such a programme for their professional learning.

 I    I was impressed with the work in schools in UK where new schools were being created utilising commercial buildings - in this case both a leisure centre and naval base. This is a great way to respond to roll growth accommodation needs and get good bang for buck. The concept of several schools or campus in an Academy was new to me.   I wonder how head teachers can keep in touch with staff and learners across so many campus. The current New Zealand Government policy direction is to create communities of schools informed I think from the academy concept. While I am sure there are advantages the concern for me is that Government policy makers may consider this a way to drive right wing policy around testing through a top down hierarchy rather than developing curriculum that is future focused and relevant to learners future lives.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flipping Learning Design - the start of the journey in UK and Scandinavia

Over the 10 weeks as recipient of the 2014 ASB / APPA travel fellowship, I had conversations with educationalists, designers and architects – during visits of twenty two schools in five countries. These schools were actively engaged in new school design and new ways of teaching and learning.  My next few posts will  explore school design and aspirations around personalising learning of the schools visited.

The school  types  visited in UK and Scandinavia , included state, church, international, independent, primary, secondary, academies and free schools. It included new school builds, remodelled schools and schools that were built in refitted commercial buildings. 

The visits in UK were arranged by Terry White. Terry is a director of UK  Learning which is the UK chapter of CEFPI  (Council of Education Facilities and Planning International).  He is  an educational design solution consultant for Nova Co-Design which supports schools through the process of designing new schools and developing  and supporting the teaching vision to be implemented in the new builds.

The visits in Scandinavia were arranged by Lene Jensby Lange. Lene is founder of Autens which is an educational consultancy that works with schools, local authorities, charities, architects and others to innovate learning spaces dedicated to personalising learning. 

Both Terry and Lene were incredibly generous with their time and hospitality. I found it really interesting that in the UK and  in Scandinavia the local authorities funded talented project leaders like Terry and Lene who seemed to have ownership / leadership over the design project at all phases. A key feature of their role  is to drive the vision around personalising learning and design.

In New Zealand the role of driving the learning vision is usually done by  the principal, whose task it is ensure that  the architect understands the learning culture of the school and how that might look in the new build. We discussed at length;  personalising learning, school design and the impact of the political, social  and local context.

What a luxury to have such design consultants funded to actively engage with schools to support their transition from old ways to new ways of teaching. 

The school visits were a  fast series of walk throughs where the  worlds of pedagogy and design, intersected and  fused with vision and concerns. They all aspired to learner led personalised curriculum and design that would drive these concepts.

The challenge in all the schools was to  embed and sustain teacher practice related to learning vision and school design so that learners will be prepared for their future world.