A Tale of Two Schools

We are currently working with two schools in London so that we can learn from each other different ways of thinking and exploring big questions and ideas. This involves taking our own students to visit the schools and inviting pupils and teachers to visit us at Winchester for a liberal arts inspired day of activities and workshops.

John Scurr Primary School

In 2015 we contacted Maria Lewington, the Headteacher of John Scurr primary school in Tower Hamlets, London. John Scurr is a 2 form entry nursery and primary school in Tower Hamlets that is centrally located between the Mile End Road and Bethnal Green Gardens. Maria was a former student of Winchester University and had, since taking over the leadership of the school, shaped the social, moral, cultural, religious and spiritual life of the school as something profoundly educational for both its pupils and staff.

On visiting the school one is soon immersed in the experience of a challenging learning environment and one which seeks to nurture the common humanity of its teachers, staff and children. This is no mean feat when faced with the various educational challenges of an inner city setting. The commitment and inspiration of its staff are testament to the distinctive character of the school. What interested us in particular was the introduction of a unique programme of philosophy for children across all years that sought to foster not only the philosophical questionings of young minds but the dialogical rather than argumentative intelligence needed to sustain the formative life of those minds. It was the vision and values of such an environment that cohered with the sorts of educational theorising taking place on the Liberal Arts course at Winchester.

Since 2015 tutors and students from Winchester have visited John Scurr each year to observe, play and interact with children. This has been followed each year by a return visit to Winchester by Maria and 20 children from years 5 and 6 for a dance/drama workshop and discussion/debate or class based activity. These visits have proved to be truly inspiring for all concerned and ultimately led to the development of the LAT pilot study.

Addey and Stanhope School & East London Science School

It also happened in 2015 that we were contacted by Dr Mark Taylor, who was then a teacher at Addey and Stanhope School in Lewisham. Mark invited us to a pupil led Liberal Arts day that he had organised called The Plato Conference that brought together large numbers of teachers and students from across the school who had been engaged in a project to bring ‘core texts’ and ideas to inspire and strengthen pupil’s engagement with their learning. The conference demonstrated a distinctive and inspiring depth and breadth of thinking.

This is a letter from Professor Nigel Tubbs and Dr Rebekah Howes sent to Dr Taylor and all who participated in the day.

A year later, Mark became deputy head of the East London Science School in Bromley-by-Bow, with the aim to introduce a more sustained liberal arts and core texts element to the curriculum. Mark has introduced weekly seminar groups for students to read and discuss Plato’s Republic and has brought 15 of these pupils each year to us at Winchester for student run seminars on a chosen text. This was followed by a theatre workshop on themes from the Republic run by a tutor on the Liberal Arts programme. The days have been fun, serious and engaging. Mark’s venture is a unique and inspiring vision of liberal arts education in schools.

Since then we have been working with Mark to develop the idea of a modern liberal arts approach to education and its place in our respective settings. This is part of an ongoing conversation with colleagues on liberal arts programmes in European Universities about the wider resurgence of liberal arts in the UK and Europe.

Modern Liberal Arts meets Addey and Stanhope

University of Winchester Thursday 12th March 2015
Liberal Arts undergraduates put on a day of liberal arts type seminars for Addey and Stanhope students.

View Programme of the Day

Liberal Arts meets John Scurr

University of Winchester, 23rd March 2016.
We were pleased to host 20 children and 3 adults from John Scurr. The day was a mixture of food, play, philosophy, and movement…

East London Science School

Most recently, Mark Taylor is introducing a Great Books curriculum to the East London Science School, and a video of one of the seminars can be viewed here.

MLA students visit John Scurr Primary School in Tower Hamlets

Monday 13th November, 2017.

On our visit we were treated to a day long session on bread making! Year 2 students worked from the beginning of the process to the end, helped by the Guild of Master Bakers, and everyone was able to take home the loaf they had made during the day. Needless to say the smell of fresh bread filled the rooms and corridors.

We also attended some Philosophy for Kids sessions, on the theme of bullying. The question that will long in the mind was ‘who was the first bully?’

A letter to John Scurr

A letter from John Scurr