Edge’s own change delivery programme, Edge Future Learning, shares much of its ethos with Excelerate.
Edge is a few steps ahead of us and connecting with this like-minded organisation, sharing in their learning, has been critical in our thinking and development. We joined them on a study trip to Nashville and struck up a relationship with their community-connected coaching partners at Ford Next Generation Learning.
Excelerate has been heavily inspired by Edge’s work. We used their pilot in North East England to convince our Board of Directors of the approaches we’re now using. While Excelerate is still very much in the pilot phase, currently working in partnership with four schools, we’re already seeing fantastic implementation of learning and commitment to transformational change.
XP School in Doncaster’s ‘Crew’ structure, for instance, has been popular with our network. Crew is more holistic than traditional tutor time. It incorporates transition learning, team-building and skills development. It’s about creating small learning communities. Our schools have all completely restructured student contact time as a result.
One school in our network has completely reworked their timetable. Teachers now have scheduled periods to work across subject areas, sharing pedagogies and new ideas.
Another school has adapted the Academies of Nashville ‘Freshman Seminar’ model, offering students a full-year course dedicated to skills development and pathways. Their learning and experiences are all captured in dedicated portfolios.
These are some important early wins. Balancing innovation against the more rigid aspects of Scotland’s education system, such as assessment, remains a challenge. Some teachers also have low expectations of what can be achieved. Tackling these broader structural and cultural issues is ongoing but our partnerships with Edge and Ford NGL are helping schools to see that change really is possible.
Today, The Wood Foundation is taking what we’ve learned and building upon that. Excelerate is evolutionary, not a fixed concept, in its aim of being revolutionary. We believe change can only work if it’s delivered within context. It is vital schools take ownership of change in a way that’s right for them.
Our job, as we see it, is to facilitate this by exposing them to different pedagogies, providing inspiration and processes.
We fund and facilitate professional learning and, where appropriate, appoint a dedicated staff member to support powerful partnerships. We do the research. We empower a collaborative network. We take them to see amazing things in action. And then, we see them lead inspirational change.
There’s still lots of work to do and we’re constantly expanding our capacity and expertise. But, 18 months into the investment with our first cohort of schools, we’re so proud of what Excelerate has achieved. Over the next five years we’re hoping to grow our network to 25 schools and will continue to work with Edge as a partner to share our lessons learned with schools across the UK and further afield. Simply knowing that change is possible within the confines of the system is what keeps us going. Let’s see what the future holds!