We know that herding animals into large groups makes them aggressive; especially young vigorous animals. So why do so many human institutions do this to our young?
We deliberately restrict First College numbers. The school is small: maximum 35 students.
Classes are small: usually 8 -12, maximum 15, although a student also has easy access to others in the whole school for socialising.
Small size means we stay as human and personal as possible to fit what we provide to different needs. We work with ability, not age, so a student works at a level that suits them in terms of what they can manage, instead of being lumped together with an artificial year group.
Some students need a smaller workload with support, others need a bigger challenge than the standard. We can adapt to that.
A student who needs something smaller can use the Restricted Programme. That has reduced homework, which can very gradually increase, if possible. Each step is agreed with family and student.
An Advanced student who needs more can move up fast. Or if that is not right, they stay where their personality fits, but we encourage them to handle their work in a more in-depth way. We’ll discuss with student and family how many subjects are suitable.
But all that is still pretty basic. What really matters is the teaching skill of knowing our students. A good teacher knows whether to push, rebuke, praise, gently encourage, or stand back.
Nor is this static; a student’s needs can change a lot within days or weeks. Again because we’re small we really know our students’ needs. In particular the Heads are not hidden away but right there teaching our students through the school day.
Last but not least we really want to learn from the family. We generally know best about study skills, and types of student. It’s the family that knows THIS student best. So the parent as partner is essential to our work.
If problems do arise we have some advantages through working online together.
There are software advantages like private chats with a student actually while a class is going on: very helpful for strengthening confidence or mild discipline to head off problems.
Then there are automatic records of a class. That protects everyone because there can be no avoiding what was said. That can be used to follow up with traiing support to help someone understand how to express themselves better.
Then there there is our powerful personal Report so mother, father, often grandmother too, can see exactly what is going on day by day, hour by hour. If they wish they can observe any class while it happens as well.
We provide clear rules on exactly what we mean when we require courtesy among all students, and teachers.
It's no good telling people to 'be polite.' Mostly if they knew how they would be. Most people think they are being polite whether they are or not!
Of course it isn't always ignorance that causes discourtesy or bullying.Sometimes even when we have warned, and guided, the problem still crops up. In that case the software supports various options like silencing a student for a short time so they cannot speak to others. Or they can be ejected from class, within seconds. This can be done for a few minutes, or for a lesson, for a day or longer.
Obviously such discipline must not be over used. In fact it is unusual to use any of this more than two or three times a term, very briefly. Normally that would be for 5 - 10 mins. much more rarely for the rest of a lesson. It has occurred only twice in seven years that a student has been closed out for as much as day.
We are extremely proud of the friendly, helpful and polite little community we have built. It is a sanctuary of cheerful and hardworking learning. Newcomers typically pick up on it quickly and grasp what is expected of them.