Ben Maddison, Assistant Headteacher at The Fulham Boys School, writes…
Literacy across the curriculum, school numeracy strategy, British values… Did these ideas excite you? If you’re like me, you were almost certainly not chomping at the bit to spearhead these campaigns in your school, but you might have often thought about ways (or more likely spotted missed opportunities) to make our compartmentalised system a little bit more cohesive. If a bell is distantly tinkling, perhaps the Global Learning Programme can help.
Since we at Fulham Boys School became a ‘global learning expert centre’ (meaning we host CPD meetings and try to model good practice) we have tried to see our academic and pastoral provision through a new and more authentic pair of goggles. I’m not denigrating the incredible impact that a good numeracy or literacy programme can have. And Brexit perhaps makes even more clear that British values are universal values that have a clear place in our schools. But global learning can be argued to encompass all of these and much more.
Each week I receive an email with a series of suggestions for enhancing global learning. I share these with staff in my own school and with members of our network of globally minded partner schools. Quite frequently, an idea from these emails really resonates, and fragmented ideas come together in a powerful way in a classroom.
I once worked in a school where Y7s were taught about Islam as a faith in RE and about the crusades in history; never once did students notice that there was a connection. How could this be? The answer comes, in part, from the bell that rang between lessons and the mental switch in students’ heads that flipped history off and RE on. But it is also because teachers did not encourage students to make the connection. The missed opportunity here is that of deepening learning. This is something that a focus on global learning can help address.
Cohesion. These weekly emails kickstart discussions about learning. Dr Robin Bevan once highlighted to me that a mark of an outstanding school was when teachers can be overheard in the corridors sharing good ideas about teaching and learning: about what works in their classrooms. A focus on global learning provides a platform for this.
During Science Week our students were designing devices to trap and filter water. While making these devices, they could be overheard talking about the interactive and immersive website ‘2 Billion Miles’ – a visceral and emotionally engaging self-guided story of Syrian refugees, created by Ed Fraser at ITV.
They had explored this website in computer science class, unpicking the way the creators had used technology to create empathy and increase awareness – students were gluing together the pieces of their fragmented education.
By placing ‘conversation menus’ on tables in the canteen, students can be encouraged to continue these philosophical and practical conversations over lunch, sometimes even challenging one another over the ignored salad they scrape from their plates.
Using resources from the global learning website (in this instance, a laminated diagram placed by the board), every classroom in the school now has a reminder of the global values that we aim to instil in our students. These are gradually flavouring learning. In a recent Business Studies GCSE taster class, our students considered finance and entrepreneurship by looking at a Lagos cattle market (rather than the ubiquitous clip of Alan Sugar or Dragon’s Den) to illustrate that the principles of success and trade are the same across the world.
While Alan’s messages might have resonated with some of our boys whose fathers have city jobs, the Lagos connection triggered a resounding ‘thank you!’ from a boy with Nigerian heritage – one who has been very vocal during a GLP survey that asked students ‘Are there skyscrapers in Africa?’
The Global Learning focus that is becoming more commonplace in our school (and in those of our partner schools) is authentic but slow-burning. We all know that it is there and we all do it but, like maximising opportunities for developing numeracy and literacy, it needs that extra thought at the planning stage. The enhanced authenticity and credibility it brings to the learning experience is felt across the school and serves to smooth the rifts that bells and timetables create to diverge rather than converge thought.
What next? Several of the partner schools in our network have clubbed together to book our own bespoke P4C (Philosophy for Children) training on 22-23 June. Involvement in the Global Learning Programme comes with £500 of e-credits. Year on year I have failed to spend these kinds of perks (as with other programmes; so often they are like the midnight flight from Manchester that I used to ‘win’ from promotional scratchcards at university) but this year is going to be different. We are booked up and are definitely chomping at the bit to gain our Sapere Level 1 qualification. We have spaces for 25 people by making a group booking.
And you know what? I think there is going to be a lot more Global Learning going on in London classrooms next year.