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Three Dimensions to Great Learning - November 2021

At the schools in the Enlighten Learning Trust we have a holistic view of education that will bring about social equity and improve the lives of our children and the communities in which they live.  We do this by focussing on three dimensions of learning and this is a common theme in all our schools. 

The formal curriculum 

The formal curriculum that pupils study in their timetabled lessons is of course the main focus of the planning of our schools.  We make sure that our pupils all enjoy a rich and varied syllabus taught by highly skilled teachers, employing resources and strategies that are informed by research and honed in the classroom.  We deliberately structure the subjects they study to keep the learning as broad and balanced as possible for as long as possible.  For example, at Esher High School we make sure that all students keep the full suite of subjects until the end of Year 9, so they get subject specialist teachers for three years (some schools opt in Year 8 which narrows the experience of their children).  In all our schools we focus on creativity and practical skills as well as the more academic disciplines, so all children get the chance to flourish and learn new experiences.  We plan our resources carefully to maximise the opportunity to challenge pupils’ assumptions as well as develop the knowledge and understanding needed to succeed both in school-based assessments and the wider community in which they live now and in the future. 

The wider curriculum 

We complement our formal curriculum with what we describe as our wider curriculum.  This is all the other aspects of school life that we plan for and provide for the pupils, that supports and enhances their lessons.  We know that children learn through many different experiences and need to be part of a community where they are encouraged to try new things and learn in different settings.  Our clubs, teams, productions and societies at our schools give chances for children to play sport, debate, write articles, learn new skills and perform, and this is all optional for our children.  Add to this our days when pupils have formal lessons suspended to learn wider themes, see their staff in different roles and are given a gentle nudge out of their comfort zone to think differently.  We particularly focus on building attitudes and approaches that foster healthy relationships between students, something that is often at odds with some of the social media messages many children experience.  Through this we know children learn the inter-personal skills and background knowledge that are so important to succeed in life as well as having rich memories to draw upon in the future. 

The hidden curriculum 

As well as the planned activities, we know full well that ‘how’ we do things is as important as ‘what’ we do. It is through the relationships we forge, the way we model how to approach challenges and the outworking of our schools’ values that enable us to help our pupils to learn the conventions and attitudes that will enable them to succeed and make a real difference in the world around them. These are founded on Christian principles and we make sure that these underpin our approaches at all times. This way, everyone is welcome, demonstrating love and care for others particularly the most vulnerable.  Children learn best from those they trust and all staff in our schools take this incredibly seriously, whilst also showing that you can have a lot of enjoyment along the way.  Schools should be places of safety where young people learn and make mistakes, and we walk with them through these formative years to point the way and exemplify healthy relationships.   

In all our schools these three aspects support our children in having a great learning experience in our schools.  

Mike Boddington