students on the sofa

Early Years Teacher Training Experience at Atelier 21

My Atelier 21 experience

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna Pardoe and I’m Third in Charge and Tawnies Practice Leader at Southwater LBO. I’m currently training to be an Early Years Teacher; as part of this I have been on placement at our sister school, Atelier 21.

Recently, Hayley asked me to write a ‘no holds barred’ post to give a little bit of insight into my experience of working in the school so far, so here it goes.

When you first walk through the entrance to the piazza, you’re hit with a sense of familiarity and warmth. Children’s project work adorns the walls, while photographs of their day-to-day encounters and explorations move across the digital frames. As people begin trickling in at the start of the day, I see teachers and team members from across the school greeting children by name, from early years to senior school. You feel at home and see so clearly that respect and care flows here.

‘What would the wild say?’ – a question that permeated conversation throughout my most recent two week placement block. Attenborough class (Reception and Year 1) were in the midst of exploring the concept of re-wilding and I was invited to join the discussion. It was extraordinary listening to the insights from the children; they contributed to this important dialogue with compassion, maturity and curiosity. The teachers in the room, Becs, Jodie and Gloria, were expert in guiding and supporting these important conversations, allowing each child’s voice to be heard and valued. Becs and the team thoughtfully and efficiently began organising trips in the local area to support the children’s lines of enquiry. Within a matter of days, we were visiting the local garden centre to buy seeds for the children to re-wild their outdoor learning environment and spending a day at one of the most inspiring stories of rewilding in the UK – the Knepp Estate.

During my placements I’ve been interested to learn about Guy Claxton’s ‘Learning Powers’, that are so apparent within Atelier 21. It is all about building up the mental, social and emotional resources to enjoy challenge and cope well with uncertainty and complexity, developing the habits of mind, personal attributes and skills for thriving in the 21st Century. Within Attenborough class they have soft toy animals which represent the learning powers. “What learning power are we using?” I hear Becs joyfully expressing to a group of children as they use their determination to solve a problem – “the determined turtle” they reply happily (the turtle holds the learning power for determination, perseverance, recovery and practice). Other powers include aspects such as reflecting, collaborating, concentrating, analysing, evaluating, organising, resourcing, wondering and questioning.

My final day in Attenborough class took me deep into the forest, where the children stomped through the ‘swamp’, toasted marshmallows on the fire and whizzed down their co-created mudslide with utter joy. ‘WILD Fridays’ are a weekly occurrence at Atelier, which offer wonderful opportunities for outdoor learning and exploration, supporting children’s ongoing fascination with the natural world and developing their caring attitude towards it.

I also want to highlight that Atelier 21 is one of a handful of schools in the UK offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) to 11-16 year olds. During my last placement I chatted with teacher and mathematics Lead, Jo, and was given a wonderful insight into the IB. Learning is totally relevant, meaningful, contextual and supportive of preparation for the real world. Pupils build 21st Century skills, a broader range of knowledge and interests and the dispositions that young people need to compete and flourish. It seems to be a seamless continuation of the ethos and approach followed throughout the school and Little Barn Owls nursery group. Certainly a way I would have loved to have learned at school!

As I reflect on my experience at Atelier 21 so far, I think… this is a fantastic continuation of all that we do/are at Little Barn Owls. This is a team of trailblazers. This is a place that gives hope for the future of children and young people’s education. This is a revolutionary response to school.