The Adventurous School

Vision, community and curriculum for primary education in the twenty-first century

Paperback / softback, 220 pages, 234 mm x 156 mm
25 May 2012
Institute of Education

Price: £24.99

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This is a topical study of innovative and original practice in three primary schools. It aims to illustrate how they have made their schools successful. After an introduction and a background chapter colleagues describe the vision for their school, how it has come about and how they are putting it into practice in adventurous and exciting ways. Secondly, they describe their local context, who they serve and how they have revisited their purpose as a result of getting to understand more about their local area and setting. Thirdly, they give a picture of how they conceptualise, plan and implement their curriculum and design adventurous learning. Their primary focus is to create real learning for life – life as it is now and also life in the future and a broader view of the learning experiences and skills children need to be citizens in the world as it will be in their adult lifetime.

It looks at the ways in which the three schools have taken the power to make decisions about their school improvement priorities in ways that give their pupils a central and active rather than tokenistic role. It is about learning and leadership for everyone including the pupils. 'The Adventurous School' is characterised in the book as one that is creative and ingenious, develops a confident spirit and a hardy disposition, has a map and planned routes but is not rigid about the journey, is evolutionary, travels with others, takes risks, is questing, questioning and enquiring and is there for something more than itself.

  • Jane Reed

  • Kathy Maskell

  • David Allinson

  • Rosemary Bailey

  • Fernanda Bates

  • Sian Davies

  • Catherine Gallimore

Foreword by Mick Waters
Chapter 1: The call to adventure: Context, Change and Challenge for the 21st Century Primary School
Part 1: Vision
Chapter 2: Let them fly (Limeside Primary School)
Chapter 3: Creating a community where everyone can thrive (Malorees Infants School)
Chapter 4: People make your place (St Vigor and St John: Our Vision)
Part 2: Community
Chapter 5: Flying together (Limeside Primary School)
Chapter 6: Varied invitations for a diverse community (Malorees Infants School)
Chapter 7: Understanding and growing our place (St Vigor and St John)
Part 3: Curriculum
Chapter 8: A design for broad, deep, active participation in learning for life (Limeside Primary School)
Chapter 9: Learning to inspire and inspiring to learn (Malorees Infants School)
Chapter 10: Building a sustainable community of adventurous lead learners (St Vigor and St John)
Part 4
Chapter 11: Leading the adventurous school: Leadership as if the future really matters
Chapter 12: Conclusion

Joyous learning between communities of teaching colleagues and their primary children shines through this book ... This is a practical engaging read that inspires the reader through the art of story.

Alison Peacock, Leader of the Cambridge Primary Review Network

What a joy to read a book that has “children at its heart”, and pulsates with tales of learning experiences for children that combine adventure with excitement and enquiry. This is a happy and inspiring story of how empowered teachers and collaborative schools can overcome the reductionism of a low trust political environment to accomplish ‘higher standards’ than the mandarins and politicians could ever imagine. To the professionals in The Adventurous Schools ‘higher standards’ mean much more than the empty rhetoric of ever increasing test scores. They embrace a visionary notion of sustainable learning that prepares young people to make a life not just a living, and to contribute as engaged and thoughtful participants in a more civil and equitable society. This is a book that should be read by anyone that is genuinely interested in children and their education, and particularly by those educators who may be losing hope.

Dr Dean Fink, Educational Consultant and Author

This is a remarkable book containing significant messages for anyone engaged in school improvement … which is to say everyone involved in schooling. Recent school improvement initiatives have been very much politically led. The system has been re- structured, the workforce retrained, the curriculum re-engineered and so on and on. The driving metaphor for these interventions has been that of education as a production line. Politicians know all the answers and the profession must be got up to scratch under the lash of Ofsted.
The authors of The Adventurous School are deeply committed to school improvement but they do not like the production line metaphor. They do not believe anyone knows all the answers or indeed all the questions. They are acutely alert to the dangers of being captured by driving metaphors and have gone to a lot of trouble to choose their own. They chose schooling as ‘adventure’ it being an exciting but risky enterprise.
Most of the authors hold senior positions in primary schools each in its challenging context. They tell the story of how the metaphor of adventure shaped how the formed their school visions, how it informed and fructified their working relationships with their local communities and how it inspired them to re-create their curriculum. For each school the adventure has been hugely successful in terms of the experiences and achievements of the pupils and of community engagement. Their argument that their adventure metaphor liberated forces of creativity that a production line metaphor could not even imagine is very persuasive.
At the heart of their metaphor of course is the issue of risk. No risk means no adventure. The metaphor calls for bravery as well as creativity. How is risk to be appraised and managed; how can teachers or indeed schools help each other to be courageous and creative; how can communities and pupils be maximally engaged in the adventure whilst at the same time securing all the achievements desired by the most demanding of parents? The authors face all these questions. They share their vision, they philosophize quite a lot but they also tell a very practical story warts and all.
If you like an adventure story this is a good read. If you like the adventure metaphor this is a good guide.

Emeritus Professor Charles Desforges OBE, University of Exeter

In a time of educational uncertainty, how refreshing it is to read a book that celebrates the work of three visionary schools who have shown the courage to set their learning in the context of their children, their community and our collective future.
The book gives a clear direction for schools to take if we want the well-being of our children, the engagement of our communities and the sustainability of our wider world to be at the heart of what we teach and how our children learn.
Read it, enjoy the stories and let's see how many of us can apply more of this type of real life learning to our own school practices.

Richard Dunne, Headteacher, Ashley CofE Primary School

As a society we are starting to realise we live on the edge of the unexpected; facing challenges such as economic instability, social inequality and stresses due to a changing climate; this book offers us a refreshing angle on how those working in education and schools may innovate their own (successful) path into an uncertain future.
It seeks to understand how we might transform our education system through the inspiring and engaging active inquiries of three schools. The insights into learning and leadership lay a strong and necessary foundation for those who wish to become a sustainable school. If more schools went on their own adventures of learning we might just create a better world and prepare pupils for any future that lies ahead of them.
A must-read for anyone in education seeking to carve their own pathway into an uncertain future.

Anna Birney, Forum for the Future