Adventures In Another School.


I had the privilege to go to Springwell this weekend. It was thanks to an ITL thinking day, it was superb, following which I spent the four hour car journey from South Yorkshire back to Bristol thinking about what I’d seen and heard in this incredible school. 

Today was Saturday, there weren’t any students present but the Principal, David Whitaker, opened up his school and allowed us inside to see and hear and, to a degree, experience how the environment, ethos and values at Springwell have a positive impact on each and everyone of his students. 

Springwell is a school like no other that I have seen. I’m sorry but it’s true. It’s a very interesting place where magical things happen which in turn, have a huge impact on the life chances of children and young people in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire. It looks and feels like an incredible place to work thanks to the fabulous team which is clearly a wonderful caring, nurturing and loving family of adults, young people and children. 

There is a genuine and deeply heartfelt mission here to ensure that all children are truly and unconditionally supported thorough the challenges they face on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. This ensures that the young people who attend are forgiven, afforded time, care and support so they can continue with their learning journey and achieve success. Restorative practices are routine here and these allow potential grudges to be quashed and positive, supportive professional relationships to continue and flourish. 

I’m absolutely certain that I’ll never forget this incredible place and the love and compassion it shows towards its students. Nor the unique design features that flow seamlessly through vast learning, breakout and enrichment spaces which provide calming, comforting and supportive colour schemes where students and staff can gently meander or take giant leaps in learning journeys through innovative and thoughtful use of space which creates a range of safe, warm and invigorating learning environments. All of which have access to a kitchen area which supports the daily nurture breakfast sessions which kick starts each day. External doors also give access fresh (and sometimes wet and blustery) Yorkshire air.

Carefully selected music and imagery are gently yet purposefully experienced throughout, adding another layer of calm, focus and attention to detail. Enriching and purposeful displays can be viewed throughout all of which proudly celebrate the success, progress and achievements of students. In addition to this, beautifully crafted learning walls provide any visitor and students with the current and next learning steps to ensure success, progression and enrichment in the School’s Elements Curriculum. For all who enter the school the focus is clearly, and rightly, on providing the appropriate support and focus for learners from KS1 to KS4 this is apparent from the front door with the smiling welcome from the Principal and his Leadership team through to the heart of the school (a superb immersive learning space available for use by all) spiralling off in to four different learning zones. 

Treating students with respect, as individuals and as valued members of the school and local community is king here, issuing them with equipment, time, care, guidance, love and support also is extremely high up on the agenda. Students who can not manage in mainstream education – these are the schools that you and I teach in, for a variety of reasons, are given specialist 1:1 care here to ensure that they can attend this school, have positive learning experiences, make progress, and have choices for the future post education. Wouldn’t it be truly amazing if every school and educational establishment promoted unconditional positive regard, authentic care, intimacy, warmth, banter and trust; noticing, seeing and valuing learners individually rather than as targets, percentages and data?

My day at Springwell has given much food for thought for the learners who I welcome in to my classroom and in to the MFL spaces in my school. Springwell is a truly magical place, and I can’t wait to return.