Either way, I spent many years of my education sat in neat rows, facing the front of the classroom – ironically, I still enjoyed it. Hindsight (and age) now teach me that what I experienced was an echo of a ‘factory model school’, a term first coined in the late Eighteenth Century throughout western Europe. Such schools aimed for “top-down management, separation from the community, emphasis on management, centralised planning, standardisation, outcomes designed to meet societal needs, and efficiency in producing results” (Kesley Leigh Stokes, 2013). Possibly well intended, but certainly not focused on nurturing individual talent or encouraging self-expression.
Fortunately, education has evolved. Whilst we still encourage students to sit down, often on a chair and behind a desk merely for practical reasons, classrooms at BIS HCMC are far less imperious than those of a ‘factory model school’. A school inspector from a bygone age would have had proverbial kittens if he or she had stumbled into Ms Easter’s Year 7 Computing lesson earlier this week. Students were sat on the floor, some on tables and the more orderly on chairs. However, learning was far from chaotic – students and teacher were collaboratively problem solving how to use absolute cell functions in Excel to calculate the winner of a theoretical BIS election – very democratic indeed. Was Ms Easter being renegade in her approach? Not at all. Instead, she was doing what all of our BIS teachers do – she was opening up learning as a collaborative process, where teacher and students learn as confreres.
Mr Lee Falconer, Assistant Headteacher