The school building, nestled in the centre of a housing estate, does not, in itself, suggest something exceptional, in the way that some of the Building Schools for the Future arrivals do. It’s a single story, I am guessing 60/70s building, with reasonable sized grounds, creating a school that makes the best of what is available. Within the grounds are a Forest School area, a bus, bought on Ebay, as an extra gathering space and a Celtic roundhouse. These three elements suggest that the school looks to extend experiences beyond the classroom.
The reality is that the building and the grounds are simply the base from which learning is derived and enacted. Wroxham is a people place, where older humans create learning opportunities for younger humans to engage in, to make sense of and within which a rich language opportunity arises, through which each of them learns.
The whole ethos is premised on capacity building, of the professionals as well as the learners. Relationships are strong, supportive of learning, and the school enables learners of all ages to encounter more challenging areas that might include the potential for failure, with every experience being seen as a learning opportunity. Learning dialogue is strong, between learners and teachers, between teachers and teachers and parents. These conversations enhance relationships, which, in turn, create an openness that enables difficult conversations, as well as allowing support, guidance and challenge appropriate to need. The whole demonstrates a collegiate approach to enhancing learning, within which learners thrive.
Acknowledging that learning and life occur with risk attached, activities are created where risk, although inherent, is considered, discussed and appropriate training and guidance given to minimise the potential. The whole setting is risk-aware, rather than risk-averse. As a result, children enjoy experiences which challenge them to be involved, to make sense of what’s happening and to become producers, rather than consumers of learning; they get to think for themselves.
There is the usual range of lessons, with maths supported by concrete apparatus and other lessons by appropriate first hand resources; e.g. one classroom had a labelled skeleton, another had a Roman soldier uniform. Opportunities to be involved in structured talk supported every lesson visited.
The children were very willing to engage with visitors, to share what they were doing and show those things of which they were proud.
This is a school where teachers are challenged and empowered to think for themselves in the best interests of the children for whom they are responsible. They create rich learning opportunities, with challenge embedded, within which they have the capacity to alter course to need, dependent on the evidence from the learners. It is a balanced and shared journey. As a result, the learners feel that they can tackle challenge, can keep going, with appropriate support and guidance and be proud of the outcomes.
There is a simplicity that sums up Wroxham; the teachers know their stuff and know their children and create a balance between what can, at times appear to be competing needs.
Knowing their stuff means knowing about progression in each subject so that clear advice can be given to each learner about the next steps to be taken.
They match and challenge appropriately, so children make progress.
Summarising what works at Wroxham.
An open, honest and humane learning culture that involves everyone.
Clarity of structure, so there is a clear overview of direction.
Confidence in the professionalism of teacher and other adults.
Thinking teachers who know their stuff and who are adaptable to need.
Feedback, based on learning needs, that supports everyone’s learning journey.
Virgil summed it up best
(With thanks to John Thomsett)
Success nourishes them; they can because they think they can.