Pupils of different ages at a new independent, non-fee-paying school opening in Croydon at the end of the year will be taught in the same class despite a four-year age gap.
The New School on Central Hill, Croydon also says that students will not have to take SATs and will have optional GCSE exams.
Its director Lucy Stephens said: “We are an independent private school but we are non-fee paying. We are the first to try this in this country.
“We believe that the outcomes framework should be different and that we have to find a wider measure for education. We cannot do this as a government funded school, and we cannot be fee-paying as we cut out the section of the population, we believe are most advantaged by our model.
” We believe our model created equity within the system, which our current system cannot because of the outcomes measures.”
“Mixed-age classes are a benefit for many different reasons. It gives an opportunity for each child to really be known by a key adult – staying with a teacher for 4 years builds the supportive relationship that many young people need to thrive and to engage in learning, particularly if they come from a background where they don’t have as much parental support, or aspirations for learning, as is the case for more advantaged peers.
“Mixed-age groupings also offer more of an opportunity to create a truly inclusive classroom as there is a much wider range of achievement level, said Stephens.”
At the moment, the New School is taking only applications for primary age students, however when the vacancies are full, it will become an all-through school with children aged four to 16.
The classes will be divided into four age groups, four to five, five to nine, nine to 13, and 13 to 16, with also opportunities of having all age groups mix together throughout the day.
Stephens used to be a teacher but she left as she felt like she needed to change the educational system, but did not have the freedom to do it as an educator. As she progressed from her career, she did further research about educational systems, and so she took the initiative as a director to help make a difference in the usual education seen in other schools.
She said: “Ultimately we need to widen the values that we hold ourselves accountable to in the UK. Accountability per se is not the problem, but the value we attached to standardised testing, means teaching and learning is skewed to the test, which impacts behaviour policies and classroom management as we have to ensure children meet these standards.”
“GCSEs are a standardised measure that can sometimes be useful and sometimes superfluous. We support young people to get the qualifications they need to pursue their interests and further their education.”
The school will have one teacher for 15 students in each class, and also have at least half of the school’s staff being from minority ethnic communities to reflect the Croydon citizens.
Stephens said “If we want to close the disadvantage gap, engage all young people in learning, support innovative thinking and 21st century skills, we need to change the structures of our education system and rethink the values of education so that we create a system that works for every young person, and one in which they have a voice in creating. We are changing the outcomes framework for education and holding ourselves accountable to every young person having a sense of agency.”
“Our outcomes framework focuses on young people achieving a sense of agency – defined as a sense of purpose and goals, and the skills and competencies they need to achieve those goals. Ensuring every young person has what they need to progress, that they are supported with their next steps, that their projects are carefully scaffolded and the outcomes they are working towards are identified, is just good teaching. Giving them the space to follow their own interests ensures that they know what it is they want to pursue `when they are teenagers and need to make decisions about their next steps.”
The New School is opening in September 2020 in Croydon, at Central Hill, taking place of the former Virgo Fidelis Primary School.