Skip to main content

Jambo! Visit to Brookhouse School, Kenya

Me (left) and the Doctor (right) in the fantastic grounds of Brookhouse School (no, it's not the Disney castle...)


Our second week on our Kenya trip and an opportunity to visit the Karen campus of the Brookhouse School, Nairobi. And quite an experience it was too!

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.

Popular posts from this blog

Filthy wretch or poor thing? Rethinking the Island, KS2, Week 1

A treat for the final half term - a new workshop at a delightful school in Leeds! This half term I am working with two Year 5 teachers to develop a cross-year group, cross-curricular writing project based on my favourite picture book, Armin Greder's The Island . I've done this book many times and every time the response is different! This week, we got to grips with the facts, possibilities and mysteries of the story. What do we know about the story so far? (we only ever read up to page 6 to leave it on a knife edge...) What doesn't this story tell us and what could we infer or predict?     We looked at the crowd of islanders who 'welcome' the stranger's arrival. As in every class, country or community, no group ever sees the world the same way and we discussed how the islanders might react differently to the man. Is he a poor thing who needs to be rescued? Is he a curiosity? Is he a threat? We each adopted an islander and took on their perspective f

Creative writing based on Hokusai's The Great Wave

The Great Wave - Creative writing workshop, Year 6 Week 1: Vocabulary development Inspired by Japanese artist Hokusai's masterpiece The Great Wave , Year 6 are starting on a creative voyage to bring the iconic print to literary life! We spent some time poring over the features of painting: the spray, the wave, the boats and, well hidden, Mount Fuji. After reading an account of Ellen MacArthur's sailing voyages, we began to generate some cutting edge vocabulary to give our writing some sparkle. This was the process: Children labelled the features of the picture, including parts of the wave (crest, barrel, swell, lip) We chose personified verbs for the different features. 'Grabbing', 'scratching' and 'grasping' for the finger-like lip of the wave; 'screaming', 'slapping' and 'whistling' for the wind. The group selected similes for each of the features. The wind became 'a bellowing dragon', the boats w

Open? Reflecting on an experiment to give away my teaching resources

In August 2019, I started an experiment . Rather than sell my teaching materials online via a platform, I would share them in a pay-as-you-can arrangement. One year on, I reflect on the experiment and why (spoiler alert!) it has left me poorer. ⌚ 7 minutes Last summer, I read the excellent book called Open: how we'll work, live and learn in the future by David Price. This book discussed how developments in technology are altering how we share and gather information and, as such, have transformative implications for how we live, work and learn. These implications are relevant now, Price argues, and will become even more so in the future. It's a fascinating book. Price argues that the spirit of open enterprise (also called Creative Commons) allows traders and service providers to cut out large consultancy agencies, publishing platforms and so on by speak to their clients directly. If you have a training course to sell, for example, avoid an agency: instead promote it via socia