|Me (left) and the Doctor (right) in the fantastic grounds of Brookhouse School (no, it's not the Disney castle...)|
A private school, Brookhouse is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in the country and it is hard to deny that the campus is stunning: a small farm with ostriches, secretary birds and guinea fowl, life size sculptures of safari animals in the playground, the library with the 'learning tree' that is also a staircase (and also the pride and joy of Jonathan, the school's librarian) and a computer lab that is decked out like a space station. These are facilities that most schools in Kenya - and, for that matter, the UK - can only dream of.
While this material investment may be out of reach for many schools, the schools commitment to creative learning is not.
Meeting the deputy headteacher and curriculum leader Andrew Kimwele and teacher Susan Bantu, it was interesting to hear the school's approach to creative, cross-curricular learning. In language learning, the school prioritises independence, creativity, collaboration and application of language skills in the primary phase. This, the school claims, has a significant impact on the later stages of children's education.
Some standout ideas include holding writing and art competitions where children collaborate to create a unique artwork and creative writing pieces, publishing children's work in printed books, encouraging children to write for pleasure and using drama as a key feature of their literacy work.
But, OK, I will hold my hands up - the resources and materials available to this prestigious school is not an appropriate source of comparrison for UK education. Developing these approaches does require significant investments of money and time. But it is hard to deny that these practices are the key to developing confident, creative and flexible learners. As Brookhouse School reaps the benefits in Kenya, it is hard not to think that a focus on authentic writing experiences could have a significant impact on schools in the UK too.
Perhaps the key difference is not simply the resources available, but the freedom the teachers are given to experiment in an environment free from government inspectors, league tables and a hostile environment of surveillance, performance management and teaching to the test.