Talking Heads

Each month, we ask two local headteachers for their opinion on topical education issues. This month, we talk to Martyn Ward, head of Marlborough House, and Matthew Tompkins from The Skinners’ Kent Academy about the alternative and additional education options their establishments offer

Martyn Ward Marlborough House

Martyn Ward, Marlborough House

The Scandinavian ideal of outdoor learning first emerged in the early 1900s so in that respect, Forest Schools are hardly new and many schools now offer timetabled teaching sessions in the great outdoors. Woodland settings are a natural stimulus for creativity and for developing a willingness to learn something new, but I believe the trick is to view Forest School less as an ‘alternative education option’ and more as an essential and integral part of the whole school curriculum, where lessons taught outside impart knowledge and skills that actually enhance a child’s learning potential back in the classroom and vice versa.

In addition to our accredited Forest School leaders, it is no coincidence that our head of Design Technology feels very at home in our outdoor learning setting, given her out of hours passion for wild camping pursuits, bee keeping, dry-stone wall building and repairing mountain bothies. The children frequently apply knot-tying skills learned in her DT lessons, to fixing a leaking roof on a woodland shelter or unstable floor in an insect ‘hotel’. Mathematical skills also come into play in orienteering tasks and map design, with geographers applying their knowledge of rock and soil formation as they lay the foundations for a new fire pit and environmentalists rehousing a family of woodlice with the greatest of care and environmental forethought.

Forest School helps children quickly develop confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles – both physical on the forest floor, emotional in their day to day routines and mental when academic challenges in the classroom present themselves. The principles of teamwork; diplomacy, leadership, self-motivation, problem solving and risk management are all learned in Forest School from nursery all the way up to year four at Marlborough House. They are the foundation and natural by-product of outdoor learning, helping to equip the children with a life ‘toolbox’ to take with them on their journey into secondary education and beyond.

Matthew Tompkins The Skinners Kent Academy

Matthew Tompkins, The Skinners’ Kent Academy

The Skinners’ Kent Academy is the first non-selective school in England to become an authorised International Baccalaureate World School for both the Middle Years Programme in years seven to 11 and the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme, which is taught in the sixth form.

The Middle Years Programme develops students emotionally, physically, intellectually and ethically. By offering this internationally focused curriculum framework option, it encourages them to be independent and connect traditional subjects with the real world and current issues. Students have the ability to develop skills and attitudes for both their academic and personal success. Developing their communication skills and encouraging them to reflect on their work promotes a positive attitude to their learning which we seek to develop in all of our students.

Equally, the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme offers sixth form students a flexible, innovative and challenging programme of study, developing them as lifelong learners. The programme provides students with the stepping stone and skills and knowledge to accomplish a wealth of higher education opportunities such as university, apprenticeships and work placements; they also benefit from the IB being recognised across the globe as a high level academic qualification.

At The Skinners’ Kent Academy, we ensure our curriculum offers both breadth and depth. We offer a range of subjects at both MYP and CP level and personalise the offer to set it in a relevant and international context. Students are prepared to apply their learning throughout life. The Academy encourages students to explore concepts and issues with both local and global significance, using their increased knowledge of language and culture.