Pupil Power – Colin Baty reflects on recent US events

In a blog for the Independent Schools’ Council, Colin Baty, Head of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst, reflects on how teachers might make sense of their responsibilities to the young people in their care following the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Were his staff required to carry guns, as has been proposed for teachers in the US, Colin says the game would be lost. Might it be the principal duty of educators, then, to help students to understand the political and institutional structures within which such issues are voiced and resolved?

The difficulty with this, he says, is that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students don’t appear to need anything much explaining to them by adults. He says: “The students’ organisation and mastery of media – both conventional and social – has been total, relentless and highly strategic. Is there is a politics teacher anywhere who would now presume to tell those students that he or she knows better when it comes to the exercise of power?”

Instead, he says, we need a school educational ethos and way of doing things that allows us to pick up on topics such as this one when they arise. Curricula must be flexible, adaptable, and high on student input. It must be mindful of the hopes, fears and interests of students, and it must never, ever presume to think that adults and institutions know best.

He concludes: “We must remember that the world is waiting for, and needs, our students at their very best. No less importantly, we must have our students’ backs – to protect them as they work out how to make their worlds, and not simply to maintain the one that we have handed to them”.

To read the full article, click here.

ISC | Colin Baty

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Have you ever wanted to be a detective?

Have you ever wanted to be a detective? Have you ever felt that your opinions could make a difference? Valuing children’s thoughts on their learning experiences can have a dramatic effect on the day to day workings of a school as well as the longer term strategic planning. At Dunhurst where, along with the other two Bedales Schools, the motto is ‘work of each for weal of all’ it seems absolutely natural to involve children in all parts of their education including teaching and learning.

We have ‘Learning Detectives’ at Dunhurst. A group of Year 8 and Year 6 children who meet to set weekly investigations for themselves and discuss feedback from their observations over the previous seven days. You might be surprised at the depth of their thoughts; their summaries of teaching techniques; their insightful comments about the structure of the day and their ability to compare and evaluate different experiences and draw conclusions for timetabling purposes, but at Dunhurst we teach them to discuss and share so the meetings are comfortable, informative and purposeful.

Staff come to the weekly meetings too – these are staff who enjoy being part of a Teaching and Learning Group which promotes innovation and excellence. How does it feel to work with spies in your classroom, pupils who, as part of their role of Learning Detectives, critically observe you doing your job? Staff in the Teaching and Learning Group relish this interaction and the chance to continue their own learning and professional development. Their dialogues with pupils have two-way honesty and respect at the heart of them.

What does it take to make Learning Detectives happen in a school? Give pupils a sense of community achievement and responsibility, treat them with maturity, activate their suggestions and of course, have a pile of chocolate biscuits for meeting times! But you need to look around your school first. Do you see an environment where individuals are valued, where listening is a key skill and where rapport between staff and pupils is second to none? If you do, then take the next step and get your own Learning Detectives on the case!

By Kathy Misson, Director of Teaching and Learning, Bedales Prep, Dunhurst