Information on Stonefields

With all the thinking and reflecting we have been doing since arriving at Stonefields, it has been difficult to find the time to actually write a post providing more information on the Stonefields day, context and curriculum.  This post will be added to tomorrow, with some photos, but please do ask if you have any questions or want anything clarifying.

History and context

Stonefields was devised four/five years ago as a new school for a new housing suburb in Auckland.  The estate is built in an old quarry and is a reasonably affluent community.  House prices have more than doubled in the area from $500,000 to $1.2 million.  Some people we have spoken to, have attributed this increase to the school.  It has been necessary for the school to introduce a catchment area as otherwise people from outside the area would be vying for places at the school.  Despite the house prices of the immediate vicinity, some children also come from areas of social disadvantage and the school has a sizeable Māori and Pasifika population, whose achievement is a national concern.

Because the school was new, fundamental design points were implemented such as an open leadership hub instead of offices.  It is a modern learning environment, and the school has been extended since it opened.  It is due a further extension next year, as numbers grow.  In a huge contrast to the UK, the school has no fence or codes for doors.

The Stonefields Day

School starts at 9am and finishes at 3pm.  That said, most children arrive early and there are before and after school clubs in the hall.  Teachers take roll in hubs when up to 100 children can sit together and the day starts in a really positive way.  From after roll, until 10:50am, there is one period of learning.  At 10:50am, children come together for ten minutes to have a morning snack and be together as a hub, before continuing their break outside until 11:20am.  From 11:00am to 11:20am, teachers all meet in the staff room for Morning Tea (except those on duty).  This is when messages and motivation are given, by Sarah.  The second period lasts from 11:20am to 12:50pm.

There is no school cafeteria on site, and most children bring a packed lunch and eat outside.  It is possible for some families to order in meals for children to collect at lunchtime.  The last period commences at 1:40pm and lasts until 3:00pm when the school day ends.  For the last ten minutes, hubs come together for reflection time when they reflect on the learner qualities they have used.  There are always after school clubs, as well as lunchtime clubs.

The Hubs

Hubs are organised into mixed year groups and consist of between 3 and 6 teachers and 60+ to 155 children.  The collaboration between staff is stunning, and the teacher-pupil ration depends on the learning experiences which are happening.  For example, one teacher might address the entire hub for 10 minutes whilst the other teachers and support staff deliver intervention or prepare the next activity.  Hubs decide their own timetable, based on the children’s needs.  They meet weekly to review teaching groups and next steps for each learners.  Because the groupings are fluid, children have the chance to work with more than one teacher depending on the size of the hubs.  Sarah and Katherine explained the importance of this in developing positive teacher-pupil relationships.  It was also interesting to note Katherine’s observation that having two male teachers in Reception meant that all 155 learners had access to a male role model at the earliest age.

The hubs are organised into teaching and learning spaces.  Some large open spaces, and some more private and smaller rooms.  Around the hubs are TV screens which teachers connect to via Apple TV and their own MacBooks.  This means teachers are free to move around the hub, and are flexible in their teaching spaces.  The design of the hubs is so impressive, and the engineered design of the furniture means that storage is ample.  Children have the capability to choose their work space when learning independently, and the different preferences are stark.  Some children prefer to work at a computer desk, other sitting on bean bags or sprawled over the floor – and for some others it depends on what they are doing.

The Curriculum

The Stonefields curriculum has reading, writing, maths and digital literacy as the core cognitive components, and learner qualities as the core metacogntive component.  In addition to PE, the rest of the curriculum is delivered through ‘concept’.  Stonefields has thought very deeply and at length about the key macro and micro concepts which children need to develop by access to different ways of thinking.  Katherine explained this as it only being in education when knowledge is categorised in discrete bins such as ‘history’.  She said that concepts such as ‘communication’ transcend the range of disciplines and it is through access to these concepts by different modes, that children are able to develop mental models of concepts such as ‘sustainability’ or ‘change’.  This stems from the thinking of Mark Treadwell, and I have also seen similar thinking in Pam Hook’s SOLO literature.  Concept is taught daily, and follows the same learning process as other ‘subjects’.

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