The event also marked the official launch of Edge Future Learning (EFL). For several years, Edge has been piloting novel pedagogical practices at partner schools in the North East of England. Applying a clear, evidence-based approach built on tried and tested techniques, EFL aims to help schools and colleges make education relevant for the 21st century. Project Based Learning, Real World Learning, and Community Connected Learning are the three tenets of the model. Our good friends at XP have been trailblazing these techniques for many years, so it was wonderful to share the spotlight and hear about their latest work.
How we XP: Crew and Expeditionary Learning
Kicking off the event, Andy Sprakes (Chief Academic Officer at XP Trust) welcomed delegates with an outline of XP’s Crew and Expeditionary Learning and how these align with the school’s design principles and values.
Central to XP’s approach is the concept of Crew. While this is loosely analogous to traditional tutor groups, Andy was quick to make a distinction – Crew is more like family. On their first day, all students attend an Outward Bound adventure with their Crew – a team of about a dozen peers who will remain with them throughout their time at the school. Each group is led by a Crew Leader, a member of staff who has been specifically trained for the role.
The overarching concept is that a closely bonded Crew – who work together and support each other – will result in well-rounded, compassionate learners who are constantly reflecting, developing, and holding one another to account. This makes Crew a cornerstone of XP’s overall approach to building a positive culture.
Meanwhile, symbiotic with Crew is Expeditionary Learning. A form of project based learning that aligns with the curriculum. Expeditions aim to cultivate traits like activism, leadership, and equity. Accompanying Andy, Year 9 students Guraaj Kaur and Declan Richards shared a recent Expedition they’d undertaken, driven by the guiding question: ‘Why should we care about migration?’
For this Expedition, students met local asylum seekers in Doncaster to hear about and record their experiences. “It was pretty surprising,” said Declan. “Some of them were in life or death situations.” After inviting asylum seekers to the school, the students took the creative lead in developing a documentary about their experiences. The film was then screened at a local theatre in Doncaster. “I really enjoyed this,” said Guraaj. “It linked to our community and the outside world. It was interesting to learn how other people’s stories affect our society. I think a lot of our opinions changed throughout the Expedition.”
A responsive approach to leadership
Our second session welcomed XP Trust’s Executive Principal, Neil Butler. Taking a higher-level view, he shone a light on the Trust’s decentralised leadership strategy and how this aims to develop the school’s core values in both staff and students.
During the pandemic, XP reviewed their governance approach, adopting a distributed leadership model. XP Trust leaders and individual schools now have numerous touchpoints, meaning it no longer falls to Heads of School alone to disseminate Trust directives or other important information to their staff. By connecting individual Crews and other networks (such as special educational needs teams) across the schools, appropriate knowledge and best practice are shared in a timely, focused manner.
Each school in the Trust also regularly assesses their performance using self-evaluation rubrics, with support from external reviewers. A cyclical process, this culminates in a school-led conference where each school’s executive team shares their impact over the previous year and uses this to set key performance indicators for the upcoming one.
At a more granular level, XP also offers teachers individual executive leadership training. This is accompanied by a five-week induction for new staff members, getting them up to speed with XP’s unique pedagogical approach. While XP is always looking to improve, its leadership strategy highlights the importance of adaptive governance and clearly defined development pathways.
Jam-packed with speaking slots and breakout sessions, this year’s XPosé Conference offered plenty of inspiration and optimism for the future. As Edge Future Learning launches, XP’s bold approach is proof that change is not only possible but that it can help schools and colleges thrive. Our goal now is to bring this change to any school that wishes to benefit from it. If that sounds like you, please do get in touch!