On Thursday 16 October the Government Schools’ Minister, Rt Hon David Laws MP, visited Bath and Radstock to see for himself the ground-breaking School Without Walls project, and how learning away from the classroom can benefit pupils and revolutionise children’s experience of school.
Schools Minister, David Laws said, “It was great to see the stimulating environment which School Without Walls offers and to hear first-hand the positive impact it has had in developing the creativity and confidence of all those involved. Projects such as this are an excellent example of how schools and local organisations can work together to develop innovative new ways to bring education to life.”
School Without Walls is the brainchild of three local organisations: the egg theatre, 5x5x5=creativity and St Andrews Primary School. Over the past four years, School Without Walls has taken whole classes of children out of the classroom and into the egg theatre and other creative and cultural workspaces for up to seven weeks of their school term.
The egg and 5x5x5=creativity’s team of artists work alongside children and teachers to find innovative ways to use the city of Bath as a campus for learning whilst continuing to study the National Curriculum. Children develop enquiry skills, asking their teachers what they want to know, rather than being told what they should know. Putting creativity and culture at the heart of young people’s learning, School Without Walls connects school children to their local community as active citizens, and so they become responsible for their own learning, actions and choices.
On Thursday, the Minister visited the egg children’s theatre in Bath where pupils from St Andrew’s Primary School and St Michael’s Junior School Twerton shared their experience of School Without Walls and why this programme is so effective in helping children of all abilities develop a love of learning.
David Laws met the team who set up School Without Walls and the teachers who have participated in it, all of whom are enthusiastic about the effects of this extraordinary project taking shape in and around Bath.
At the end of the morning, the Schools Minister visited Writhlington School, Radstock. Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils involved with School Without Walls are developing their creative and critical thinking skills and were keen to tell him how it has changed their views on school and education.
Lady Strasburger, a local supporter of the project said, “My favourite aspect of School Without Walls is how children of all ages and abilities get excited by this approach to learning and are eager to learn. It is genuine, inclusive education that reaches all our children – surely that is what education is all about”.
Hannah Entwistle, Head of Creative Learning at the Theatre Royal Bath, said, “School Without Walls offers the Theatre Royal Bath the chance to engage with schools, teachers and children in a deeper and more sustained way, developing our collective understanding of what learning can be and how and where it can take place.”
School Without Walls was originally inspired by a model previously undertaken successfully at the Southbank Centre and Lambeth Primary Schools in London. Following two years of planning, the programme was first introduced in the egg theatre at the Theatre Royal Bath in April 2011 for a seven-week term with pupils from St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School in Bath. In summer 2012, the egg successfully worked with twenty local school children, aged 8 and 9 years, from St Andrew’s C of E Primary School. During 2013’s summer term, St Michael’s C of E Junior School in Bath took part in School Without Walls for the first time, before returning in 2014’s summer term with forty-four Year 5 pupils.