School 21 is one of a growing number of all-through free schools, which offer education from ages 4 to 19.
One of the significant benefits of being all-through is that pupils avoid the often difficult transition between primary and secondary school - the free school programme has led to a 50% increase in the number of schools in England that offer children a high quality education from 4-16 or 4-18.
School 21 is located in Stratford, and was the first of its kinds to receive an Outstanding grade from Ofsted. The founders wanted to create a school that challenged the usual focus of education, as they felt that many young people were under-prepared for life after school, even if they had succeeded in achieving high grades while there. Whilst academic achievement is important, School 21 believes that it must be combined with other skills that will enable children to grow into confident, resilient and successful adults.
“We all believed, along with a growing number of people, that the current model of education, particularly secondary schools, was outdated, having been designed in the 19th century and barely changed – a factory style of education, with students treated in batches, too often told to conform rather than given the chance to grow, shoved out at the end with a few qualifications but without the tools to succeed.”
To provide a framework for this focus on developing skills for life, School 21 has defined 6 attributes that they want their students to acquire: professionalism, being ready to learn; expertise, mastering the basics of learning; eloquence, finding your voice; grit, overcoming set-backs; spark, creating new things; and craftsmanship, making beautiful work.
To ensure students develop these skills, the curriculum has a focus on projects, where pupils work together, using a range of skills, to develop effective solutions for real world problems. For example, when the school was still on its temporary site, pupils were given a project to design a classroom for their new building. They developed ideas about effective learning spaces, and ended the project with a presentation to the school’s architects.
The head teacher Peter Hyman, who came to teaching following a successful career in politics where he was a strategist for Tony Blair, believes that the values that they teach will ensure that pupils have gained skills that will remain relevant throughout their lives:
“If each child learns what it takes to create beautiful work, work of true quality, work that has required many drafts until it is as good as it can possibly be, then children will have learnt a lifelong lesson”.
You can find out more about School 21 by watching videos about the school, its approach and the atttributes it seeks to develop in its pupils.