At William Booth, we prepared a number of booklets about our aims and approaches which we gave to all parents, translated if necessary. They were published by us in a simple A5 format (A4 pages folded and stapled) but designed to be colourful and attractive. Below are copies of the text of: 1. Our Values and Aims; 2. Learning What’s it all About?; 3. Helping Your Child to Learn and 4. Our
William Booth School – Our Values and Aims
At William Booth School, we believe:
* We are all born as natural, powerful and talented learners. The urge to learn is as natural as breathing and the urge to make meaning is strong and powerful.
* Young people are therefore naturally curious, imaginative, creative and autonomous learners who have a sense of wonder and delight in exploring the world and a huge thirst for knowledge and understanding. They are confident and highly-motivated learners.
* Schools should above all seek to ensure that their systems, procedures and curriculum protect, support and reinforce children’s motivation, confidence and self-esteem and their sense of themselves as good thinkers and clever learners.
* Far from achieving these aims and supporting children’s natural learning, we believe that the formal education system very often damages and prevents it, and creates passive, dependent and unmotivated learners who feel powerless and not respected. We want to avoid this, and we reject over-formal and directive approaches and a narrow, restricted curriculum focussed largely on national assessments in English and Maths.
‘Education should not be about answering the question but about questioning the answer’
* Children learn best through play and purposeful explorations and investigations of their environment. Challenges and questions posed to them should reflect their interests and concerns and prior understandings.
* The role of adults in schools should be to love and cherish children, to ensure they are safe, and to support their learning and development in the best possible way for each individual.
* Support for children’s learning depends crucially on achieving the best possible partnership between home and school. Schools should show respect for parents’ expertise and knowledge and their wish to do the very best for their children.
* Learning should be fun, interesting and enjoyable and schools should be places where children want to come to learn and to be with their friends.
* Schools should show respect for children as young people with rights and dignity who can and should make their own choices and decisions about their learning.
‘If you think seasons, plant crops. If you think years, plant trees. If you think centuries, educate your children’ (Chinese proverb)
So we organise the learning environment and our teaching in the following ways:
* We place Social and Emotional Development, and trying to ensure that children are happy, confident learners, at the heart of everything we do.
* We organise our teaching around the 6 areas of learning, with workshop areas in all units.
* We have high expectations of behaviour and achievement; we challenge inappropriate choices and support children to develop the skills and attributes to make good choices.
* We have mixed age-groups in all classes.
* We give children as many opportunities as possible to show and accept responsibility and leadership.
* We use very thorough and wide-ranging assessment and record-keeping techniques to help us to know children and their strengths and interests and to plan how to best help them learn.
* We try to make our curriculum as rich and varied as we can, including organising a very wide range of visitors to school and trips out of school.
‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’ (WB Yeats)
* All children are able every day to access opportunities for outdoor learning, learning through play, and independent choices.
* Teachers’ time is very carefully planned to achieve the best support for learning, with a mix of one-to-one, small group and whole-class activities.
* We plan activities based on children’s individual interests, experience, and possible next steps of learning.
* In supporting each individual’s learning, we see ourselves as partners with parents, who are the real experts on their own child. We try to be as flexible as possible in achieving this and to develop home-school relationships based on mutual trust, respect and understanding.
* We aim to be excellent role models for children in terms of good relationships and good learning.
* We try to relate everything we do to our aims and values, and we constantly review and evaluate what happens in school in order to try to find ways to improve.
At William Booth, we love children and we love helping them to learn. We try to show respect for children’s individuality and uniqueness and to develop their sense of themselves as confident and capable lifelong learners.
‘What we want is not knowledge in pursuit of the child, but the child in pursuit of knowledge’ (GB Shaw)
William Booth School – Core Aims and Values
We are aiming for:
A Learning Environment which promotes:
* Support * Challenge
* Choice * Excellence
* Fun * Wonder
* Excitement * Inclusion
Learners who show:
* Enthusiasm * Creativity
* Motivation * Confidence
* Involvement * Curiosity
* Resilience * Responsibility
and Relationships based on:
* Trust * Respect
* Love and care * Honesty
* Empathy * Self-awareness
* Tolerance * Co-operation
Learning – What’s it all About?
Learning is …. fun!
We learn best when we enjoy what we’re doing, because it’s easier to work hard when you’re having fun, and it’s easier to remember what you’re learning when positive emotions are involved. On the other hand, it’s much more difficult to learn if you’re bored or unhappy.
Think back to your own school days: generally, we remember much more of the subjects we like than those we don’t.
Having fun at school helps to build confidence, motivation and a positive attitude to learning.
And having fun is part of the meaning of life! As we like to say here at William Booth:
Feeling good about yourself, Getting on well with other people, Good learning and Having fun –
That’s what it’s all about!
‘Happiness in childhood is absolutely necessary to the production of the best type of human being’ (Bertrand Russell)
Learning is … natural
The human brain is probably the most incredible and complicated thing in the universe, and we are finding out more and more about its amazing power
all the time. We are all born with an extraordinary capacity to learn: to explore, investigate, communicate and to make sense of the world. In a very real sense, learning is as natural as breathing!
Very young children are naturally curious, talkative, creative and imaginative – as every parent knows, they can often drive adults crazy with their questions and messes! It’s all too easy, sadly, for a school curriculum which is too formal and prescriptive to produce passive and timid learners whose job is to answer a teacher’s questions instead of asking their own.
At William Booth School, we try to encourage and develop each child’s innate curiosity, sense of wonder and delight in the world, and natural love of learning.
Learning is …… for life
Although we learn more in the first few years of life than we ever do after this, we can and do keep learning throughout our lives.
As the pace of economic and social change gets ever faster, and we face growing environmental and political challenges, it’s crucially important that we all have a strong and robust sense of ourselves as lifelong learners, able to face new challenges and adapt to constantly changing circumstances. We need to be confident, independent, flexible and adaptable learners.
At William Booth School, we try to ensure that all children have a strong self-identity as confident, creative and talented thinkers who can be successful during and beyond their school lives. We also try to be good learners ourselves, and to help parents develop their own confidence as lifelong learners.
‘We want people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned’ (John Holt)
Learning is ……. making connections
Literally, learning means making connections – between brain cells. Scientists have discovered that we have the potential for billions of these connections. Brain health is helped by fresh air and a good diet – at school we eat fresh fruit every day and have milk and water freely available.
Good learning also works by connecting with existing knowledge and understanding and building on previous experiences. We do our best to get to know children’s interests, skills and learning styles as well as we can in order to organise appropriate learning experiences that are relevant, meaningful and interesting.
We also know that some of the most important insights and ideas we have as learners come in times of reflection and relaxation – daydreaming and being ‘off task’ can sometimes be good for you!
Learning is …….. asking questions
The only real object of education is to leave a person in the habit of continually asking questions’ (Tolstoy)
Instead of asking your child ‘What did you do in school today?’ try asking ‘What questions did you ask in school today?’ – it’s what Einstein’s mother used to do!
Very young children are naturally inquisitive; asking questions is a very important way of gaining information and learning about the world. We try to make sure that in our school children still have plenty of opportunities to ask their own questions and pursue their own lines of interest. We hope that children will remain inquisitive and questioning and thus be active, independent learners.
‘Once you have learned to ask questions, you have learned how to learn and no-one can keep you from learning whatever it is you need to know.’ (Postman and Weingartner)
Learning is ….. talking
Learning to speak is the most complicated intellectual thing we ever do. Considering that most of us can’t even remember doing this, it shows what fantastic learners we are, because we don’t just learn by copying, we actually re-invent language for ourselves.
Our speaking and listening skills then become crucial tools for further learning; in particular, they are the vital foundation for reading and writing skills. This means that a silent classroom is not usually a good place for learning!
Studies have shown that the factor that is most associated with learning success – even more than family income, social class, or the number of books in the house – is the quality and quantity of talk between children and interested adults at home. Children love conversations and need them to support their confidence and identity as learners – as well as to provide them with most of their knowledge and understanding about the world around them.
Learning is ….. having lots of teachers
Most of a child’s most important learning, such as learning to walk and talk, takes place out of school, without direct or formal teaching. It’s more helpful, therefore, to think of ‘teaching’ as ‘helping someone to learn’. In this sense, all sorts of people are teachers because children can and do learn in a very wide range of situations. In particular, they can learn by watching, talking to, and working with, adults who want to help them to learn
A child’s first, most enduring and most important teachers are her or his parents. Other family members, especially grandparents and brothers and sisters, can play a major role in helping children to learn and grow. It’s especially important that children have support and encouragement at home for all their learning – it’s the most important determinant of success at school and in life.
At William Booth, we want everyone – children, parents, staff and visitors – to say: ‘We’re all teachers, we’re all learners.’
Learning is …… hard work
Inquisitive, eager, well-motivated learners are quite prepared to work very hard at their learning – as is shown by new parents learning about feeding, bathing and changing nappies, and by their babies when they learn to walk. Indeed, very young children have no conception of work, play and learning as separate things.
Later on, school learning can place great demands on children; we recognise that their capacity to work hard depends on their motivation and self-esteem as learners, and on the capacity of their teachers to make the curriculum interesting and enjoyable. We try to do that, and to make sure that children realise that big effort can bring great rewards; that making mistakes is fine (‘getting it wrong is part of getting it right’) and that persistence and resilience are vital learning skills.
As teachers, too, we try to be good learners and to always work hard on behalf of your children.
Learning is …… different for everyone
Nowadays, instead of saying ‘How smart are you?’ we can ask ‘In what ways are you smart?’ We understand that people who are not high-achieving academically may well be highly intelligent in other ways – artistically, physically, musically or socially. We are also now aware of different learning styles: some people learn better through visual input, others prefer to hear information; still others are ‘physical’ learners who need to move around and touch things as they learn.
Traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’ need to be drastically revised, and we need to recognise every individual’s skills and abilities and to learn how these can support learning in all areas of the curriculum.
One of our school sayings is ‘We’re all special, we’re all unique’. We try to respect and celebrate everybody’s individuality, and give everyone appropriate support and challenge in their learning and development.
Learning is ……. imagining, creating, exploring, investigating
Imagination is more important than knowledge (Einstein)
Especially for young children, learning is ACTIVE and MESSY! We learn by actively exploring and investigating new materials and activities – learning cooking by cooking, painting by painting and football by playing football! These explorations also give children the chance to develop their natural imagination and creativity.
Learning can certainly be messy but we also encourage children to take responsibility for their learning environment by learning to ‘Choose it, use it, tidy it away’. Try it at home!
‘The starting point is wonder, curiosity and the joy of discovery’ (Philip Coggin)
Learning is …… for everywhere
Lots of good learning happens in schools, but it also happens just about everywhere else too – at home, at the shops, on a journey, on holiday … Children learn by talking, watching, listening, exploring, making and doing, and they can do these things anywhere. We can also have insights and solve problems in moments of relaxation and quiet thinking – in bed, in the bath, on the bus …. learning really is for everywhere!
Parents can use opportunities to encourage learning, in particular by spending time asking and answering questions and talking to and with their children.
At school, we also try to give children a very wide range of learning experiences, including visits to different places and environments – the city, the countryside, the seaside; farms, museums, other schools. And via the Internet, we can go anywhere…
Learning is ….. playing
As adults, we tend to think of work and play as opposites, but for young children, there is no such distinction – they explore and find out about the world through play, and in a real sense, play is children’s work.
Play gives children a chance to solve problems, to be creative and imaginative, to take risks, and to develop language, ideas and concepts. It encourages social interaction, teamwork, co-operation and self-control. Children teach, and learn from, each other; and in self-directed play are typically deeply involved. Play can be socail, physical, intellectual, creative, mathematical, scientific – relevant for all areas of learning.
At William Booth we passionately believe that play should remain the basis of learning throughout the early years of education.
‘The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things’ (Plato)
Children Learn What They Live
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place to live in.
(Dorothy Law Nolte)
Helping Your Child to Learn
We’ve put together some ideas to remind ourselves of some of the important ways of supporting children’s learning at home and at school. We hope you’ll find them interesting and useful and something you can discuss with your child. Let us know how you get on!
Let them enjoy physical challenges
For young children, movement is generally a key part of learning – movement gets the brain working better. Risk-taking is an essential learning skill, and challenges breed confidence and self-belief.
Share your memories
Children love to hear about their parents’ childhoods – your home life, your school, the games you used to play – especially your funny stories.
Let them solve some problems
It’s tempting for us to want to solve all our children’s problems for them, but successful, resilient learners need to feel able to cope with the frustrations and setbacks of problem-solving for themselves.
Enjoy playing – join in
Being with an interested adult very often makes learning easier and more fun, and builds the skills and attitudes of lifelong learning. Rough and tumble especially can be great fun, and helps to teach children the difference between play and fighting. Go on – re-live your childhood.
Let them go out and get messy
Getting outside is healthier and more fun. The world out there is waiting to be explored. Dirt? It’s what baths and washing machines were made for!
Let children teach you
Often, the very best way of learning something is to teach someone else. Giving children the chance to be teachers and experts also builds confidence and self-esteem. Let them teach you about their toys or computer games.
Remember, everyone’s different
Some children are energetic, some prefer gentle play; some are born performers, some love making things (and maybe destroying them). Some are musicians, some are scientists; some writers, some mathematicians; some are specialists, some all-rounders. We are all uniquely gifted and talented.
Find the right blend of support and challenge
As learners, children need approval and encouragement and praise for their efforts – and sometimes a bit of a push too.
Remember, you’re the expert
You may not be an expert on everything your child wants to know! You are certainly the expert, though, on your children – their personalities, strengths and interests; when they need a hug and when they need a bit of a push; how to react – and how they’ll react – when things are not going quite right.
Get involved with school
The closer your partnership with teachers – based on mutual trust and respect – the better your child will do at school. A school is a learning community and like all learners, needs the right blend of support and challenge too
Share day-to-day jobs and activities
It’s true that with young children a job shared can often be a job doubled! But it builds relationships and helps learning which makes it a very worthwhile thing to do.
Let children make choices
Children learn best when they’re doing something they’ve chosen and doing it their way.
Share books together
The most successful readers are those who develop a very early love of books, based on having a lovely time sharing books with adults at home.
Give your child a good listening-to!
Give them a chance to make sure that you can find out what they think and how they feel.
Listen and talk
Listen to their questions; if you don’t know the answer, say so – maybe you can find out together. Talk about their interests, concerns and learning – and yours.
Have fun with words and numbers
Children are better motivated to learn about Reading, Writing and Maths when they know they’re fun, and linked to real situations like doing the shopping – writing the list and counting the change.
Be your child’s secretary
The HARDEST part of writing is often the handwriting, spelling and punctuation. But the MOST IMPORTANT part is having imaginative and important things to say. So help by doing the hard bits for them sometimes – let them dictate their stories or letters to you.
Sing and dance together
Kids only get embarrassed about Mum or Dad singing or dancing in public, not at home!
Go on a visit
Museums, galleries, the theatre, the countryside, the seaside ….. lovely times together and wonderful learning opportunities.
Talk about learning
And about how and why we learn; about learning attributes like persistence, co-operation and independence; about having a go and learning from mistakes; and about the importance of all sorts of learning for the future.
Believe that your child is great
Because if you don’t, they won’t either.
Be a role model
Children need to know that adults, especially those they love, are learners too, and that like them we make mistakes and need to say sorry, get frustrated when things go wrong, and don’t have all the answers. Adults can also role-model good learning attributes like persistence, concentration, and co-operation, and qualities like politeness, empathy and being a good loser.
Try to see the world through a child’s eyes
For children, the world can be mysterious, magical, awe-inspiring and fascinating – but also intimidating, scary and worrying. The more we can appreciate their point of view, the better we can help them.
Remember how wide learning is
There’s a lot more to learning than the 3Rs. And the most important learning is about Emotional Intelligence – managing your own emotions, empathy and social skills – and Thinking Skills – problem-solving, making connections, being a philosopher. Remember the big picture!
When it’s all going wrong, have a biscuit
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes with our children. Treat yourself!