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Pod off! It’s the end of school’s experiment with huge classrooms

Progress at troubled Bexhill High is being hampered by “huge” class sizes and it seems the pod system may be scrapped.

This comes as reaction to the latest visit by Ofsted inspectors who found the academy is making “reasonable progress” as it attempts to come out of the Special Measures it was placed in early this year.

However the inspectors felt class sizes were not working with students taught in pods of up to 90.

The large class size was the brainchild of former Executive Principal Mike Conn and a key feature of the £38 million new school when it opened last year.

It was an experimental move which saw the entire building centre around the large wide open Heart Space with pods coming off it, and the idea was to allow pupils to be immersed in subjects with less time wasted travelling between different classrooms.

The state-of-the-art facilities were an extension of a new approach to education and another major change was the longer school day which ended at 5pm.

Head of School Darren Gelder confirmed that architects are currently back in the academy looking for ways to change the pods’ layout.

He said, “It is true that we are planning to reduce the number of pupils taught together, so for most lessons the maximum number will be 30.

“We have listened and taken on board what Ofsted said, and in reality it was a change that we had already been carefully considering.

“The idea of a team of teachers delivering to 90 pupils is a very challenging one, and it has been a vital element of our review since the new management team took over.

“There may be occasions when having 90 young people together for one lesson may be relevant, but for the main that will no longer be the case.

“Students will be mainly taught in groups of up to 30. We have been in liason with parents and indeed talking to our pupils so we can come to the best decision for the future of the academy.’

“Teaching to 90 students at once has always been controversial, and when introduced it was largely an untested practice.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “The new building was part of the Building Schools for the Future Programme with the design and curriculum being driven by the school.

“The governors and the head teacher at the time were key to the final scheme.

“As an academy, Bexhill High is responsible for its own operational procedures, curriculum and learning and the building design may need to be adjusted to accommodate their thinking.

“The council is supporting the academy sponsor as the school continues to progress towards coming out of special measures.”

 

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