The Olive Tree School teaches the English national curriculum through nursery, primary and secondary school to age 16, or keystage 4. The school emphasises small classrooms, with a maximum of 20 pupils from Year 1 to 11 and 24 pupils combined in nursery and reception. The Olive Tree began life in a small house near the Sitges beach, with the aim of providing a warm environment with dynamic learning. Fourteen years later it is a thriving part of the local community in Sant Pere de Ribes offering samll class sizes, sensory and project-based learning. Founder Audrey Reeder talked to us about pupil-centred education and why it is so important.
It is a school which follows a recognised government curriculum but takes as the starting point of every lesson the pupil’s current understanding.
In practice, this means every pupil has their own objectives for every hour of learning; also personalised activities for every hour. This way, the pupils is always on a steep learning curve for him / her, always engaged and feeling successful.
We at The Olive Tree use a range of methods to personalise learning:
– small classes with excellent teacher to pupil ratios
– sensory learning for younger children aged 3-6: nature, story, artwork, gardening, dance, drama, music, discovery
– project-based learning where Ancient Greece or the solar system come to life in 3D in primary
– a thematic / cross-curricular approach in secondary, where abstract concepts are explored through all the disciplines e.g. Power, Migration, Energy, War & Peace
– a pupil’s many needs are addressed holistically, not just the cognitive / intellectual: also the physical, the social, the emotional, the intuitive, the ethical, the spiritual
– a learning environment free of anxiety and pressure
– a rich programme of arts subjects for all: two weekly hours of Music and Choir with a physical response to music and emphasis on instruments for all
– weekly Drama lessons with a trained actor, exploring dramatic texts and emotions in the theatre
– a rich range of sports in our 3.000 m2 of space
– a strong system of emotional support: for younger children, warm daily dialogue; for older pupils, a mentor who provides supportive weekly guidance
– open doors to the adult community to participate in the teaching of our young people
– open doors to pupils to speak to teachers and headteachers at all times
Research shows that the advantages are overwhelming in number:
You can’t easily spot the teacher in the pupil-centred classroom!
S/he might be moving from pupil to pupil, might be sitting with one pupil, might be in the circle. There is no teacher’s desk.
Our teachers plan and create all of the learning in their classrooms; they don’t follow textbooks.
They speak much less than their pupils.
The learning they create is exploratory: every hour is varied.
The teacher models excitement about learning, reading, ideas; it’s contagious!
The teacher is non-judgemental and fosters tolerance for a range of viewpoints.
The teacher is not looking for right/wrong answers but instead poses open questions designed to open young minds and launch the child into high order thinking.
The teacher has a close bond with each pupil; a deep understanding makes for personalized objectives for each child and for effective emotional support when needed.
The teacher is optimistic and advocates for every pupil.
The teacher is always calm and trains pupils in their own peaceful conflict resolution.
The early classrooms offer choice and fresh daily opportunities to explore: a mini library, role play corner with costumes, a letters table, a number table, a science discovery table- each area is new every day, with fresh challenges and questions.
In the early years 3-6, children must have constant access to good quality gardens and nature; we have two large vegetable plots, we tend our olive and lemon trees, our flowering shrubs. Our children have their own mini theatre block they assemble in the garden or indoors for singing and dancing. They have a range of natural materials to build and learn with: sand, stone, earth, wood, water, plants.
We also have a forest beside school where children learn within the framework of Forest School philosophy; they negotiate to solve team problems and create natural tools and artwork.
As pupils grow, they continue to need access to nature and also to beautiful spaces to foster great thinking such a theatre, laboratory, a colourful library where pupils order the new purchases and are the librarians, a large all-weather sports hall of (800 m2).
All pupils need homely areas to relax in and make their own: cosy libraries with sofas, a quiet garden, a graffiti wall, a secondary café.
All of the world is our classroom! Outdoor learning (our towns, cities and rural areas) enriches and deepens learning.
You can find out more about the admissions process here