Why does Hebden Bridge School charge fees?
The government’s ‘Free School’ model is the only way for an independent school to get state funding, but it requires a minimum of 120 students in each cohort. Not only is this impractical for us, but being a small school is a central principle, because it is basic to wellbeing and learning. So to make the school fairly available, irrespective of income, we aim to offer bursaries to 75% of students (9 in every cohort of 12), graduated from 33%, through 50% to 90%, means tested. This involves a huge amount of fund raising, especially as a bursary needs to cover the five years of schooling for it to be a reliable option for parents. If you have time and skill available to help us fund raise, please tell us: our strength is in collective working.
Why is yoga a prominent part of the school day?
We define yoga widely, as conscious movement, by which we mean any movement that unifies body, breathing, emotions and the mind through conscious awareness. This includes yoga exercises, tai qi, qi gong, dance, running, walking and many other possibilities: more an approach to activity than a restricted set of practices. Yoga helps to keep students physically and mentally fit, flexible of mind and body, and sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. It increases self-esteem and makes it easier to relate to others, thereby enhancing meaningful positive communication. Through relaxing the body and focusing the mind it helps create an optimum condition for learning.
Why is meditation a prominent part of the school day?
Meditation enables being at peace with oneself, which is a powerful basis for learning: clear and alert, it is possible to concentrate wholeheartedly. As they develop their practice, students are able to keep focus even when under pressure. Mental and emotional blocks are dissolved. Just five minutes’ reflection before beginning a piece of work, whether creative, analytical or mathematical, can facilitate a task. Our meditation practice is pedagogic, rather than religious.
What does cross-subject learning mean and what does it involve?
Children are capable of making free associations, linking new and existing experiences to find out about their worlds. At secondary school, learning is typically split into unconnected channels (‘subjects’) that bear no relation to the other. Students want to engage by making connections not only between subjects but also between the theoretical and the practical. This is done through projects. For examples, learning about sugar in science and PSHE can be taught at the same time as learning about slavery and the sugar plantations, bringing science and history into relation and widening both horizons. By studying pigment and light in art alongside electromagnetic wavelengths in science have greater understanding of the theory through its application. Hebden Bridge School’s year 7, 8 and 9 curriculum encourages pupils to understand such connections, enabling them to become analytical, reflective, and creative thinkers.
We teach through a combination of cross-subject learning and single subject learning, the latter ensuring that students cover what they need to prepare for GCSEs. Even when being assessed, students are given points for originality, cross-curricular thinking and expressing complex emotions and ideas.
The cross-subject curriculum is planned by all teachers together, so that each teacher is aware of what the others are doing and a topic is taught as a whole. This way, teachers broaden and deepen their practice and engagement is spread all around the school. This collaborative approach to planning, teaching, assessing and evaluating allows us to be holistic in the true sense of the word.
What does a school week look like in year 7?
The cross-subject topic is taught on Mondays and then on Fridays. This enables the student to begin the week making links across the different subjects studied and then be able to carry this integrated momentum through the rest of the week. Tuesday to Thursday sees the children covering other parts of the curriculum, maths, science, languages etc., to make sure they cover what is needed in KS3 to take them into their GCSEs. Here they are invited to make cross-curricular links in everything they do. Fridays are a day for returning to the topic through reflecting on the week’s work and expressing themselves creatively through arts and the written word.
|08:35||*PE including yoga and meditation||PE inc Y+M||PE inc Y+M||PE inc Y+M||PE inc Y+M|
|09.30||Cross Curricular Topic (CCT)||Maths||Science||Spanish||English Lit.|
|2.20||CCT||Community Service||Maths||all afternoon||CCT|
|03.40||Reflection and preparation for homework and next day||Reflection + preparation||Reflection + preparation||Reflection + preparation||Reflection +preparation|
Will students be able to study for GCSEs and which ones are likely to be available?
GCSEs are available from year 10. Students will have the option to do their GCSEs over a three-year period by staying at the school for an extra year.We would like to give our students more time to develop their learning abilities for qualifications before going on to further education or work. This allows students to have time to negotiate GCSE studies at their own pace.Practically this means that students can do their GCSEs over two years with their groups in the standard fashion. Then if they require they can join year 11 groups for a third year of study.
Subjects available at GCSE*
- English Language and Literature (2 GCSEs)
- Science (dual award) Physics, Biology & Chemistry
- Philosophy and Ethics
- Computer Science
*Since we do not foresee beginning GCSE study until 2019 other subjects could be added if enough students wanted them. Since it is impossible to start the GCSE curriculum without prior coverage of certain specialist topics, for example single subject learning accompanies topic-based learning from year 7 onward. (See above FAQ “What does a school week look like?”)
Is there a school uniform?
At the moment there is not, however, it is possible that the weekly meeting, with its student majority, might decide on school uniform. What is assured is, if that is the case, the pros and cons (for example the expense) will have been thoroughly aired and taken into consideration.
Is lesson attendance compulsory?
Yes. The school is here to help its students learn – something on which their futures heavily depend. At the start of each academic year a contract is drawn up between the student and the school with parental participation and attendance is then compulsory. Everything possible is done to ensure that classes are a good place to be and we are confident that our holistic, creative approach will engage students strongly with learning. Learning contracts may be reviewed on a termly basis.
My child is an ‘outdoors’ child. What opportunities will there be to learn outdoors?
The ‘outdoors’ is available in five forms:
- Sports activities at local sports centres and sports grounds.
- Project linked outdoor experiential learning in local woods and moors.
- The wooded river valley which is part of the school grounds.
- In break times there is a secure, flat area outside the Birchcliffe Centre where children can congregate and play
- The School Camp at the end of every year provides an intensive week of learning in nature.
What will happen when the school outgrows the Birchcliffe Centre premises?
Depending on cohort numbers in the first two years, the school will outgrow the Birchcliffe premises after two or – at most – three years. The long term future of the school is best secured by owning its own premises. We will be on the lookout for premises very early, but the big challenge will be to secure funding to buy a property. Again, donations are crucial and fund raising skills would be helpful.
What does school democracy mean in practice?
A weekly school meeting consisting of all teachers and students will decide on all pastoral matters: for example, behaviour, rules in school time, uniform, upkeep of the school environment. Decisions will be made by arriving at a consensus and, if that is not possible, through majority voting (one person, one vote).
We have to put faith in the processes that children will learn over the course of weekly meetings, which are an important opportunity for learning how to communicate: listening without interruption, accepting the value of both sides of an argument, speaking with respect. Such a forum encourages free speech, develops the ability to express ones’ opinions in public, models respect for other points of view, provides experience of positive and negative group dynamics and demonstrates decision-making. Students will be expected to do research to inform proposals to the school meeting. New ideas can be trialled to test their consequences before they become school policy.
If students outvoted staff and decided something dangerous or ill-advised, what would the Lead teacher do?
Freedom comes with responsibility. This principle will deter any dangerous or ill-advised policies. Children are innately fair and they will mature as democratic practitioners as the mantle of responsibility will help them develop their wisdom. The lead teacher and the staff are there to offer advice to make sure this principle is followed. Parents are also invited to particpate in school meetings when they are directly affected by a decison. (E.g. changes in timetable, educational expenses etc…)
What would happen if the school started and then didn’t recruit enough in subsequent years to be viable?
There is no absolute guarantee of ongoing viability, but there are multiple factors that give us confidence. First, if we can recruit to a school that has not yet started, then it is going to be easier to recruit to a going concern. Second, knowledge about the school will spread through word of mouth; as the school year progresses, and inevitably some children are not thriving in the available state secondary school environments, parents will consider Hebden Bridge School. Third, there is an undercurrent of revolt against the heavily assessed and didactic learning that characterises the secondary curriculum in the UK. Schools that offer an alternative are likely to attract more, not fewer, pupils. Finally, we feel our values and lifestyle resonate strongly with many people in Hebden Bridge and their aspirations for their children.
What are the arrangements for staff cover, when the starting number of teachers is so small and someone could fall sick at the last minute?
We have a stand-by list of teachers who can step in at short notice as cover. The list is made up of trustees and collaborators who the children will already know. Everything will be done to make sure children’s learning is not disrupted and that the skills and knowledge of the cover staff are consistent with the school values and high standards.
My child will be arriving by train. Is there a way of getting pupils safely from station to school and back?
We are making plans for a car ferrying service, or a chaperoned walk through the park, the town and up the hill.