Our teaching and learning pledge to all KAA students:
Our aim is to help prepare you – our students – for future success. We mean success in the broadest sense: whether that be academic, economic, or in your personal and social lives. When you leave us in seven years you will enter into an exciting but demanding world. To meet the competitive demands of universities and employers you will need to perform at your very best. That much is obvious – but what does excellent performance look like in 2015? Or 2019? As your teachers we keep the words of Seymour Papert below at the front of our minds:
“There is only one twenty first century skill: the ability to act intelligently when you are faced with a situation for which you have not been specifically prepared.”
Seymour Papert, Professor Emeritus at MIT
The uncertainty of 21st Century life means that, to thrive, you will need to be ready to enjoy challenging situations, and able to meet them calmly, confidently and creatively. We know that in the UK today there are many young people who can’t do this and who are struggling to cope. We don’t want that to happen to any of you. If you turn up, join in and give 100%, we will do everything in our power to give you that confidence and capability.
The qualities we value are written below; we will do all we can to help you develop these:
- embracing a challenge;
- clear thinking;
- team spirit;
To achieve this, we need order and routine. But, given that, we will always strive to value these qualities over simple, ‘good behaviour’. Also this list is provisional – we will develop it over time and we expect your input.
At KAA, we want to develop the business and social entrepreneurs of the future. We’re lucky to have Sir Rod Aldridge, our namesake, a world famous entrepreneur and a founding school Governor, to help us to achieve this. We don’t expect you all to follow this path – only those who want to – but we expect you all to have the opportunity to. Entrepreneurs create wealth and employment, and that is important to us.
There are three elements which make our school entrepreneurial:
- Excellent academic qualifications for all, including ‘technical’ subjects such as maths, science, computer science and product design, and subjects that teach you to be effective communicators such as English, history, geography and languages.
- An entrepreneurial, can-do spirit that is fundamental to all that we do – lessons, enrichment, the house system – everything. This is what Intrepidus is all about!
- Valuable entrepreneurial experiences for all of you during your seven years with us, such as our Industry Days and Kensington Creates Club.
Entrepreneur is originally a French word which means, ‘to start’. We’d like all of you to be people who can start things, and change the world for the better. This quote is important to us – what does it mean to you?
“Some see things as they are and ask, why? Others dream things that never were, and ask, why not?”
George Bernard Shaw
To achieve our goals we need your help and help from your parents. Creating this school is a big commitment for us, and it is quite a demanding one. All of us are prepared to put in the hours it takes to help you achieve the best results. We need to see a similar effort from you. We also need to know what you really want from KAA; how we could make our list of qualities above more precise and relevant to you; and how we could be more effective in helping you to strengthen them. We want your help to keep us on track and to get better. We promise to be as open with you as we can be about what we are trying to do, what we are thinking, and to take your thoughts and ideas seriously.
Beyond Exams: Growth for All
KAA will be a place where everyone wins: that is, where everyone feels they are becoming more confident and capable to deal with real challenges, out of school as much as within. Our entrepreneurial focus is a major part of this aim. It’s true that we hope all of you will progress onto VIth Form and have the choice to attend university, but we also know that some of you will choose a different path. We will help you all find the things you are passionate about and can excel at, and we will genuinely value many different kinds of success. And more than that, we know that everyone can get better at dealing with difficult things, and we will help you all to ‘win’ at that.
‘Ability’ and Reports
To do this, our attention needs to be on everyone’s progress and development and not on their limitations. So we will stop thinking, writing and talking about students as if we know how much ‘ability’ or ‘potential’ they have. Young people develop at different rates in different ways, and continually surprise us. We cannot possibly know what you might be capable of. Please remind us if we forget, and use words like ‘bright’, ‘able’ or ‘weak’ by mistake. We will write reports about you that are based on the progress you are making in developing the various, valued qualities; not on your ‘ability’. If your reports do not do this, tell us.
Evaluating the School
We need your help to be imaginative about all the ways in which we might tell if we are doing better, year by year, in achieving our fundamental purpose. What should we count, measure and publish?
- Activities of the student council?
- Success of Kensington Creates?
- UK and international visitors to our school?
- Entries into national competitions?
- Evidence of teachers taking on new learning challenges out of school as well as within?
- Your involvement in local community projects?
- Number of students who start businesses?
- The proportion of the school budget spent on staff learning?
- Self-report questionnaire measures of self-confidence?
- Attendance at parents’ events?
What do you think will be the most important things to keep track of?
The School Ethos
Fine words and good intentions – like the ones in this pledge – are no use if they do not filter down into all the everyday details of school life. We have to show that we are remembering our pledge, in detail, in everything we do and say. If we don’t, you won’t believe we are serious. So, to prove to you how serious we are, we will change the way we talk to you about your learning; the way we mark work; the displays we put up on the walls; the resources we make available to you; the amount we trust you to join in making significant decisions about your education (and not just about vending machines and toilets); the way we write reports about you; what we do in assemblies and tutor time; how we involve you in the house system and entrepreneurial activity, and a dozen other aspects of school life as you experience it.
We don’t believe that you will develop confidence and capability as learners unless you are continually surrounded by people who are learning. So we expect everyone in the school to do their best to be role models of openness, curiosity and non-defensiveness. That includes all the teaching and non-teaching staff, all the governors, all the parents and other adults who come into the school, and you yourselves, especially in your dealings with students younger than you. No one at KAA should ever be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand.’ Your teachers will make an effort to tell you about what and how they are learning, and their struggles and mistakes.
We believe that teaching is more about helping you get better at finding and figuring things out, and less about telling you ‘stuff’ and asking you to memorise it. Our job is to let you do more and more of your own learning. As you get more and more confident and capable, so we will need to do less and less telling. From now on, ‘good teaching’ is not about handing over knowledge to you to get you through the exams. It is about helping you take control of your own learning, so you will be able to learn whatever you will need to, throughout your lives. This is what makes us truly entrepreneurial. An entrepreneur is someone who finds solutions to problems and who never stops learning. Teachers will help you look for ways in which the qualities you are developing in school can be useful in business and the outside world – and vice versa.
During your education, you need to build up knowledge of course, but knowledge on its own is not enough. You need to be able to think and act flexibly with the knowledge you have been given; to critique it, connect it and use it to create new knowledge. If you can do this, you will be ready for the challenges of the 21st Century we described above.
Different subjects stretch and develop different ‘learning muscles’. A scientist’s questioning is not the same as an artist’s. Evidence in history is not the same as in English. Each of the subjects we teach has grown out of man and woman’s desire to understand the world around them and each subject has certain rules and ways of thinking that you need to understand. We don’t believe in ‘core’ subjects as no one subject is more important than another. You should always know why and how lessons are contributing to the development of your ability to face real-life challenges with confidence.
We need your parents’ help with this. If we are going to be more successful at helping you face the future – whatever your particular future may bring – with confidence, we have to have their support. We want them to get their heads around what we are trying to do, and to ask questions, make suggestions, and debate with us. We know that there are lots of ways of discouraging parents from being involved with school, for example only bothering to contact them when there is a problem. We will try our best not to let that happen. Instead, we want your parents to play a central role in your education. Please do what you can to convince your parents that it is important for them to get involved. Especially if they did not get a lot from school, they need to know that KAA is a very different proposition…