Pease Pottage ‘school for the future’ is first of its kind in the UK
It probably sounds like bliss to most children - a school where pupils decide what they want to learn.
And that’s not all. Children at the newly-opened Atelier 21 Future School in Pease Pottage also get to take part every week in ‘Wild Fridays’ when they can enjoy the great outdoors.
But it’s not all play-time. Academic lessons are also held in core subjects such as English, maths and science.
The school is the first of its kind in the UK.
Headteacher and school founder Hayley Peacock says her school embodies values she holds dear such as “respect for children, less hierarchy between adults and children and more professional love through an enquiry-based learning approach.”
The school opened in September last year and currently has 80 pupils aged from 0-14. It hopes to take children up to 16 years old from 2023.
The school is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approch to learning, an educational philosophy focused on pre-school and primary education.
It is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration, discovery and play.
“I brought all my learning from the best schools in the world together to create a curriculum that fits with the way children in the UK will grow up,” said Hayley.
“So they are ready to take exams eventually but have a far more joyful and self motivating learning experience to gain transferable skills to apply in all areas of their future lives, not just their academic lives.”
Atelier 21 covers the National Curriculum content and how to sit exams. But the difference, says Hayley, “is that our learner centred approach is more engaging and achieves more successful outcomes all round.
“Project based learning through ‘Big Studies’ - this is the way our pupils learn about history, geography, religious studies, politics, current affairs - and other things, where pupils are encouraged to develop their own research projects under a class wide theme such as ‘Events that changed the way we lived’.”
The school also teachess the qualities of entrepreneurship, flexibility of the mind and self-motivated learning for 21st century and future readiness
Every Friday the children and adults go outside to connect with nature and learn through outdoor exploration - including contextualising with forest-based maths, English, geography, history, drama, music and science.
It includes trips to beaches, museums and wild places with the opportunity to take part in ‘Adventure Days’ such as rock climbing, crabbing, wild swimming, raft building, kayaking, surfing and more.
For six hours every week the children are given the right to decide exactly what they want to learn and get good at.
This can range from a project on astrophysics to mastering a favourite song on guitar, reaching a creative goal such as working on Atelier 21’s radio station, learning to produce a podcast or conquering 100 ‘keepie uppies’ in five minutes.
“The point being by allowing children the opportunity to fully decide what they want to learn in some parts of the curriculum, conveys the message that their decisions about their learning are as important as ours,’ says Hayley.