What wonderful learning. It has been a fantastic symposium with so many learning opportunities, discussion and reflection. Thank you to everyone involved.

Throughout the symposium we asked the question ‘How do you learn?’

Take a look at some of the most popular words that came up….


Book Buzz in Room 13

A guest post by Eileen Wharton – English Specialist and Writer

Our challenge is to motivate reluctant and/ or struggling readers. How do we do this? How could SOLES help?

It’s difficult for me to put myself in the mind-set of someone who dislikes reading. It’s always been a passion of mine. I remember my parents reading me bedtime stories: Dad’s whispery, eucalyptus breath enlightening me about the Lampton Worm; Mam’s Scottish lilt revealing the mysteries of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I remember Tuesday evening trips to the local library: pink tickets and the stamp and shush of the silver haired librarian; the smell of the pages; the crack of the spines; the clunk of much loved tomes replaced on shelves.

​I feel sorry for people who haven’t experienced this and who haven’t developed a loving relationship with books. Reading has taken me to other countries, to other times, has allowed me to become other people and experience vicariously many things I’ll never experience in ‘real life.’ I’ve floated on a boat with a tiger; I’ve flown kites in Afghanistan; I’ve travelled to the moon and eaten eyeballs; I’ve been a pickpocket in Victorian London.

So how do we give young people the gift of the love of reading? How do we inspire them to want to pick up a book and get lost in its pages? Who better than a writer and a librarian to take up the challenge?


After identifying ‘reluctant’ and/ or ‘struggling’ readers we started by asking the question: What makes a good book? Pupils used SOLES sessions in Room 13 to discover this. They explored questions like Why do we read? And what makes a good author? Over a number of sessions they shared ideas and created a real ‘buzz’ around books and reading. They decided what they liked –mainly, it seems, stories where they can identify with the protagonist – and they made a list of books they would like our librarian, Dawn to buy. Dawn initially gave them a budget of £200. Pupils split themselves into groups and decided how the budget would be allocated. They came up with an interesting list. (Only two of the books were considered inappropriate for a school library.)​

Now Dawn will order the books and we intend to do some guided reading sessions to help engage and excite our readers. Watch this space (or Self Organised Learning Environment to be precise.)

#ISTL Love Learning

Take a look at our stop motion video created during our International Symposium of Teaching and Learning. The video features learners of all ages from all over the world, UK, Argentina, Netherlands, Australia and more!

It is fascinating to see the different ways we learn.

Thank you to everyone that contributed.

Thank you to Anna from our Greenfield Arts Team for putting the video together

The EngineHeads

A few words from some of our fabulous EngineHeads:


Hello my name is Millie and I’m 14 years old. I became an EngineHead because I’m interested in what Sugata is doing and I want to develop our Room 13 ideas further. I like learning without a teacher.

I’m Lucy and I’m one of the EngineHeads. Room 13 is such an important room because it’s where you get to learn independently without a teacher there.

Hello! My name is Jasmine and I am 13. I like Room 13 because it inspires me to have new ideas and learn in a different way. Also it is a fun and creative environment to work in.

Hi my name is Sam and I’m one of the engine heads. I became an engine head because we had an idea of making a group that could manage the space. Many people have since joined the group and we enjoy going there for meetings during our lunch breaks which are often once a week. Everyone has a great time whilst they are in Room 13 because it is a peaceful and relaxing environment. In the room we have artificial grass which was made so that the room could bring the outside inside, I think that it works rather well. We also have a great group leader called Katy, who organises most of the things that happen in Room 13.

My name’s Max. I love soles because of the way it teaches kids lessons beyond maths, english and science. I think the values and self reliance it teaches is completely ahead of it’s time and that’s why being a part of the team that helps it develop is so important to me.

International Symposium -The Netherlands

We have had another busy one!

We have had 11 wonderful colleagues from the Netherlands come to visit and explore together enquiry based approaches to learning.


Year 7 introduced themselves and talked about their own school experience. It was really interesting to hear from their perspective, they have only been at school here for a few weeks and have got fresh eyes.

We also had a great student led collaborative languages workshop with QE, Sunnydale and Greenfield. How do you learn… to communicate in different languages?


Our visitors were keen to see and hear more about the school’s vertical tutoring system Time4success which dedicates time to enquiry each day.

It was super to have Suneeta Skype in to talk about SOLEs and the role of the “granny”


We also managed to chat about community arts based projects, collaborative approaches to learning and some of the approaches being explored in the Netherlands.

A really interesting day. Thank you to everyone who was involved. It was a great opportunity to discuss learning.


#ISTL Sugata visits

It was great to have Sugata visit as part of our International Symposium.


We had chance to catch up and hear in more detail the progress of all 7 of the ” School in the Cloud” labs. We did some skyping and planning with lovely Amy from the other UK lab at George Stephenson plus the SSAT for the National Conference in December. The EngineHeads called in desperate to chat with Sugata and let him know how they were getting on, as well as lots of SOLEs and learning goodness.

Sugata was keen to do a bit of experimentation on this visit. We worked with three groups during the day. Two maths classes, one year 9 group and one year 7. This was followed by a year 7 science class.

Sugata explored what happens through SOLE principles when you give the students a challenging GCSE question that is seemingly beyond their current capability…?


The first task involved asking “Can you use a computer to find out how far the moon is from earth in moon diameters? And how many sun diameters are we away from the sun?”

A few groups thought they had it pretty much sorted straight away and explained that the the Moon is 235000 miles and the Sun is 875000 miles.

But what is the diameter?
How will you work this out?


The groups seemed to find this quite challenging and puzzled over the idea of moon and sun’s diameter. This appeared to lead to frustration at several points.

Student comments:
“Get Google maps up that might help?”
“This doesn’t even come up on google”
“You’ve all found the distance but not the diameter”
“We’ve got the same answer, it must be right?”
“Can we have your answer?”
“Look, we’ve got the earth’s diameter! Yeah but we need the sun and the moon.”
“This is stupid. Google isn’t giving us the right answers. I don’t get this.”

The group came up with some conclusions which helped lead them to some answers but they appeared to find the process a frustrating challenge.

For the second session Sugata asked the same question but staged it with 1 or 2 additional questions to see how it affected the process. This group got to the answer quicker and with what appeared to be less frustration.

They concluded that the answer was 108 for both and they were puzzled by this answer as the sun and moon are not the same size but the result is the same. An interesting mini experiment and has raised a number of questions to explore further.

The year 7 science session, which was about the topic the body and life, explored the question, “When is a living thing dead?”

The group decided to elect a student manager “SuperEmma”


They explored a number of ideas which included:
“It is dead when it doesn’t move or breathe.”
“It’s an awful idea death.”
“Death is really bad we don’t like the idea and don’t like to talk about it”
“It’s dead when it’s old or poorly. You can tell if it’s dead when it’s not moving or breathing. Life is connected with moving, breathing and growing.”
“Do we have to breathe to be alive?”
“When death happens all sort of things stops.”

An interesting session and lots the teacher was keen to explore further with the group in the next session.

Another day of lots of learning but even more questions…!



Skyping #ISTL

It was wonderful to Skype with the lovely Suneeta last week and to hear how things are going in India and the School in the Cloud labs there. It is exciting to hear that the flagship Area 0 lab will be open very shortly!

We are also really pleased that Suneeta can join us via Skype during our international Symposium and will able to share ideas and experiences with our colleagues visiting from the Netherlands.