Free school story: XP School

Based on successful schools in the United States, this free school is bringing new ways of learning to the UK education system.

Expeditionary Learning, which is based on the idea that pupils learn best by completing challenging ‘expeditions’, has been popular in the United States for over 30 years and has been praised by Barack Obama for its success. But it hasn’t been an option in the UK, until now.

XP School is a new secondary school in Doncaster which was started by a group of local teachers and parents. It’s using its freedoms as a free school to pioneer an Expeditionary Learning style curriculum, which is based around pupils completing challenging projects, or learning expeditions, that cross over different subjects. In the school’s first year this means expeditions which include, for example, looking at the site where the school’s permanent building will eventually be located or working with local partners to think about what makes a good community. 

Community is an important theme for the school, which aims to involve the talents of local people in all of its expeditions and is currently housed in a wing of Doncaster Rovers’ football stadium.

Doncaster is certainly an area where new thinking in education is needed – currently around 70% of its secondary schools are rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted – and XP School is offering its pupils to the chance to do things very differently, including by starting their school year in the wilds of Wales!

NSN followed XP School as it got ready to open its doors for the first time in September 2014. This is their story: