Real World Learning: School 21 and XP

Real world learning offers lessons for all schools, says an independent report by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), commissioned by the Edge Foundation and published today (7 June 2019).

Researchers conducted a study of real-world learning (RWL) in School 21 in Stratford, East London and XP School, in Doncaster, to examine the theoretical thinking, the common practices used and assess how well the model works.

While the emphasis in each school was slightly different – School 21’s focus is on oracy and XP School is characterised by its learning ‘expeditions’ - both schools employ the principles of Expeditionary Learning and share many qualities. Not least that they are both rated by Ofsted as Outstanding.

Edge Chief Executive, Alice Barnard, said,

‘Whilst radically different in some ways, these two schools share a commitment to prepare their pupils for the real world. Speaking to the articulate, confident young professionals who are their students, you can see immediately the impact of these approaches. We were delighted to ask NFER to provide an independent view. We will share these lessons which are helping us to support other schools through Edge Future Learning.’ 

The NFER researchers identified several common characteristics of the two schools:

  •  An overarching whole-school ethos valuing authentic work relevant to the real world
  •  An emphasis on the develop of young people’s character, especially communication
  • Open-minded, creative and collaborative leadership
  • Development and delivery of a broad curriculum via projects/expeditions
  • Awareness of and involvement with the local community
  • A strong emphasis on CPD with additional days for planning.

In conclusion, the authors acknowledge that both School 21 and XP are new and small schools which lend themselves to the design principles of RWL, but make recommendations as to how some elements could be absorbed by other schools.

  •  Reflect on school characteristics and values and embed any revised principles and values
  • Encourage risk-taking – by students and staff
  • Explore opportunities for external partnerships and real-world learning
  • Dedicate senior staff to building and nurturing local employer relationships so students feel part of their local community and where their education fits into the working world
  •  Expand time allowed for progressive CPD programme for staff.

The report, School 21 and XP Real world learning, is part of Edge Future Learning, the Edge Foundation’s work with schools and colleges to spread innovation approaches, support schools and teachers to embed real-world learning into their curriculum and develop profound employer engagement and careers advice.

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