One morning last October we had an impromptu visit from two Ofsted inspectors at SML College, Brighton. The lead inspector spent some time quizzing most of the students on an individual basis. He asked about what they did and how the college ran including the times which they attended.
The Chair of Governors in the College, Dr Ian Cunningham, explained to the inspectors that the College did not have an imposed curriculum, it had no classrooms or formal lessons, no timetable, nor any other of the arrangements found in school. After the lead inspector had spoken to students he commented to Dr Cunningham that the College in reality had a very broad curriculum in that its students were learning an extremely wide range of things. He clearly seemed impressed with what the students were doing.
After a couple of hours the two inspectors had a meeting to discuss what they had found. This took 10 minutes. After this they indicated that they would be reporting back to the Department for Education to say that the College is not a school. Just recently Dr Cunningham received the formal letter from the Department confirming the visit and the report from the inspectors. They have agreed that it is not a school and therefore does not need to register with them.
Dr Cunningham said: “We are delighted with the result that has come from this event. We had always said that we were not a school but realised that we could be challenged on this. My view is that we provide an alternative to education not alternative education. In that education is associated with schooling arrangements clearly we don’t do that and what we are doing is pioneering a notion of the centrality of learning. As the inspectors discovered, learning is driven by the needs of students and the results are quite different from what happens in a school.”
Ian Cunningham, January 2017.
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