The Enquiring Minds programme, unique to Solefield, is proving extremely effective in guiding our students into the world of modern teaching and beyond into their adult life. In this blog, I answer some of the most basic questions about it.
Currently, Enquiring Minds is delivered to boys in Year 7&8. This allows the boys to gain the practical skills needed in each subject (Geography, History and Theology, Philosophy & Religion (TPR)) in the preceding years, before being let loose to delve deeper into topics by analysing, questioning and debating their Enquiry Question in each subject per term.
Lessons are delivered by the three Heads of Department (Geography – Mrs Payne, History – Mr Cramp and TPR – Mrs Shanmuganathan). All are highly passionate about their subjects and have a depth of subject knowledge that allows us to focus on the development of each individual child, which is yet another key passion of ours.
Enquiring Minds is split into the six terms of Year 7 & 8, into the following headings:
* Continuity and Change
These are then broken down by each subject to answer an Enquiry Question as their Key Assessment. If we take ‘the ‘Ethics’ term as an example, boys will look at the following questions or statements:
* Geography: Who is to blame for flooding – people or nature?
* History: Has the courage to kill another man diminished due to modern warfare?
* TPR: Good stewardship of the planet has never been as important as it is now. Discuss.
Students work on these projects over a lengthy period of time before being assessed by staff. The table below shows the breakdown of each subject:
Throughout each term we encourage the students to look at the connections between the subjects as well as thinking about why each Enquiry Question has been chosen. Termly projects are then submitted in a variety of different forms and assessed against a range of different skills and competencies. Students self-assess themselves against this same criteria. We aim to provide students with the skills that they need to succeed in the modern world. This ranges from Leadership, Collaboration, to Independent working. Please see the table below:
Students receive one double lesson a week in each subject, plus a Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)/Humanities lesson. With such a small amount of face to face time, this means that two things are extremely important:
* Lessons are focussed and ensure that the students gain an immediate understanding of a specific topic.
* Homework and additional learning time are essential tools for the students to develop their understanding.
One of the issues at the core of our programme is that of instilling independence in our students. This is not to say that they are entirely left to their own devices, but there has to be an exceptional level of trust on the behalf of the staff that the students use their time effectively. I must say, this is rarely an issue and we have been very proud of our students’ approach to learning thus far!
As you can see from the skills above we are looking at a programme that aims to develop the ‘all-round’ child. Looking at ways that each individual can improve as a person, not just as a student. In our lives we must learn to deal with many different types of learning, people and activities, and it is important not to lose sight of the fact that we can always improve our skills in many areas.
By looking at skills, students also get to see how everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are different. Each individual can thrive in a different area of learning and life. It is vital that we instil this understanding into the leaders of tomorrow’s world. Everyone’s uniqueness is something to be admired and celebrated.
This is the most important question that I had to ask myself when putting this programme together, and the reason has been noted a few times already. Our aim is to develop our students’ skills in order to tackle the challenges of modern life. It is so important to be able to not only work as part of a team, but be able to lead too. It is important to find the key characteristics in every individual in order to find the best way for a team to work, and it is also important to be able to push yourself to succeed, whilst also encouraging others to be the best that they can be too.
In order for our students to be successful in the future, no matter how they choose to assess what success is, we must develop their IT skills, presentation skills, confidence and endeavour. Whilst Common Entrance ensures that students could analyse historical evidence, understand how to read a map or understand the teachings from the Old Testament, Enquiring Minds ensures that our students can do all this, but are not asked to solely prove this by answering an essay, or specific questions. It really is a much wider range of skills that our students can develop, which is why I am so passionate about the programme that we have developed.
After all, Solefield is a place where every child matters, no matter what their skills are. Enquiring Minds provides them with the opportunity to show their strengths and develop their perceived weaknesses to form an individual who is well equipped for the world they are stepping into. This is why I am so enthusiastic about this unique programme, which is at the forefront of modern learning.
But don’t take my word for it; here are some testimonials from Year 7&8 students:
"Enquiring Minds helps develop several useful skills such as independent research and learning. It stretches your abilities to the boundaries, whilst being fun along the way." Max, Current Year 8
"The Enquiring Minds project allows us to express our opinions and beliefs in a multitude of ways: through essays, posters and speeches, to creating short books. The skills we develop are not just important for our current learning but will be useful for later life as well. We are encouraged to be independent learners and question our sources. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Enquiring Minds project and it has been beneficial in improving my learning skills." Christian, Year 8 leaver