Page 7 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 7

 Creativity at the heart of education
The tall, elegant Creative Learning Centre (CLC) at Brighton College, Sussex, with its southern wall of windows offering cobalt  ashes of the English Channel, is designed by world-renowned architects Hopkins. But it’s not the glamorous, modernistic exterior that the school is so excited about – it’s what is going to happen inside it. Head of Creative Learning Thomas Godber reports...
“The top  oor may offer some clue to the onlooker – it’s a vast, airy double-height penthouse classroom, with skylights and high windows that  ood light through the rounded gable roof. Inside two Microsoft hubs sit at each end of the room,
on one the face of an MP frozen
on the screen. There are small, constellation-style circles of chairs on wheels, each with a built in desk, dotted around the space. On the walls hang brackets in which small, pupil tablets have been placed.
This is the setting for Brighton’s experimental learning sessions and the culmination of years of research by the headmaster Richard Cairns and various members of the school’s senior management team who have travelled around the globe to look at how other countries educate their children.
The chairs are  exible because educational research has shown that gentle rocking aids concentration and lessens a child’s desire to  dget in class. They are on wheels because this allows pupils to quickly move around the classroom, perhaps transferring from all-class teaching to smaller, peer group learning.
Deputy headmistress Jo-Anne Riley, who was one of the  rst teachers to use the space, explains: “The pupils have quickly got used to the new  exibility and openness created by the innovative furniture. They can work in teams, pairs or alone and quickly switch between formats
by simply turning their body or desk. As the teacher moves around the room, pupils can easily track them and turn their attention to
a pupil or group giving feedback. The ability to always be able to move as a teacher means pupils
focus much better as the lesson is automatically divided into sections of ‘work’ punctuated with changes of position which help them to reset their concentration. The teacher can very easily get access to every pupil as an individual, there is no ‘back row’ effect and I have found pupils naturally take up the position of a gentle horseshoe so they can see the maximum amount.”
The Microsoft hub in the room allows pupils and teachers to write on it, like a traditional whiteboard, but also allows real-time interaction with subject experts (perhaps an economist explaining interest rates or an MEP live from Brussels). It can also host any number of software programmes as well as simply acting as a giant interface with the web.
What perhaps is less obvious (and this is done on purpose so as to
be unobtrusive) is the sound and lighting equipment that has been installed into the classroom. The main purpose of this is to enhance the school’s innovative Presentation Skills classes, which are mandatory.
The lessons, led by a former actor, are part of a scheme of work created by the school to help pupils grow con dence in public speaking, enable them to take talking to a crowd or future colleagues in their stride and help them deliver their message convincingly. Mr Cairns was inspired to introduce this idea after listening to pupils in chapel each morning and noticing how many were shy to address their peers. During lessons, pupils are  lmed so that they can watch their progress through the course. They can compare how their con dence and performance has developed as they view the  rst recording and the  nal one.
The sound and lighting equipment serves a dual purpose in that experienced teachers can review lessons from younger members of staff and provide helpful input and advice to help teachers improve professionally.
I am very proud to say that I have been appointed head of creative learning and it will be my job to continue researching new and effective methods and settings in which children are able to learn best. I’m excited that we have thrown
out some of the older, traditional notions that children have to sit in straight lines and listen for hours
on end and that I have been given the scope to explore what education will look like going forward. Watch this space!”
Independent Schools Magazine 7

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