Igniting a passion for learning – the story of a Changemaker School

How A South London Secondary School – Rated In 2005 As One Of The Least Favoured Schools In The Borough – Became An Oversubscribed “Hub Of Innovation In Education”

Stanley Park High has long history of schooling in South London, and in 2006 was designated as a ‘One School Pathfinder’ by the London Borough of Sutton. This designation effectively labelled us as a ‘Changemaker’, requiring us to design a new school that responded to the outcomes in our vision statement:

  • Ambition, commitment, resilience and perseverance
  • Confidence to take risks
  • An ability to organise and present ourselves effectively
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Imagination and creativity
  • Initiative and self-motivation to learn independently and with others
  • Optimism for a future in a rapidly changing world


The new school also had to be innovative in terms of leadership structures, curriculum, learning and teaching, learning spaces and ICT/media. In being innovative, the school had to provide inspiration to other schools so that they could change aspects of their practice to meet the needs of all of their students in the 21st Century. Needless to say, following an extensive period of visioning at home and overseas, we were confident that we got this right and our new state-of-the-art school opened in January 2012.

Human Scale Education

Human beings are a social species. Learning is a social activity. We understand that life in the 21st Century will be strongly dependent on the quality of our social interactions. Consequently, we believe that the ability to form excellent relationships will be critical to our students’ learning and success in the future. We strongly adhere to the fundamental importance of human scale in facilitating such relationships.

Human Scale Education takes inspiration from E.F. Schumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’, which advocates small-scale working units as a means to personal fulfilment, environmental sustainability and social enterprise. As Schumacher placed people at the heart of economics, so Human Scale Education places children and young people very much at the centre of learning. 

Set up in 1985 by Satish Kumar, Philip Toogood, Colin Hodgetts and Maurice Ash, Human Scale Education aims to promote small, human scale learning communities within the state maintained and independent sectors of education. It was founded on the principle that human scale learning environments can foster positive relationships, enabling teachers to know their students well and make possible, a more holistic approach to learning.

So, how do we at Stanley Park High know our students so well? Central to this are two key features. Firstly, we operate a ‘four schools within a school’ model – Horizon, Performance, Trade and World. These small-scale communities have a maximum of 350 students, and are led by a Head of School. Other than Horizon, which has two opportunity bases for students with a statement for Autism (a unique provision in England), the placement of students into each of these schools is not determined by ability, aptitude or personal attributes.

These schools – all of which have some specialist learning spaces – are very much each student’s home school, one in which they are known well and valued. More information can be found on our website.


A Bespoke Curriculum

Secondly, we have developed our unique Excellent Futures Curriculum for year seven and eight students. Now in its eighth year, EFC has avoided the pitfall at primary/secondary transition, whereby students move from one teacher in year six to sometimes more than 14 teachers in year seven. Stanley Park High students have twelve lessons of EFC per week in year seven, and eight lessons in year eight. English, Maths, Science, PE, French and Music are separate lessons, but EFC encompasses the rest of the curriculum, and is taught by one teacher, who also acts as the Form Tutor, to small classes of up to 23 students.

Going forward Stanley Park takes its designation as a Changemaker School very seriously. Our critical paths very much resonate with those in Ashoka’s publication ‘Our Approach to transforming education systems’ – August 2015. With this in mind we started a new social enterprise called SPIRA – Stanley Park Innovation and Research Academy – in September 2015. Both inward and outward looking, it will change the way we train and support teachers, and spread good practices. 


-By David Taylor. David has taught in London schools for 30 years and has been Headteacher of Stanley Park High for ten years. He is passionate about the critical need for innovation in education in order for all young people to thrive. Stanley Park High School was elected an Ashoka Changemaker School earlier this year. Click here for more information on Ashoka’s work with education.

This article was first published on 21st October 2015 on Virgin.com.