Free Learning

What is distinctive about learning at Dulwich? Like all good schools, we ensure that we prepare our pupils very well for public examinations – the results of these tests matter more than ever – but we do not believe that this type of learning should define the breadth or nature of what we provide.

We also believe that there are ideas to interrogate and knowledge found beyond syllabuses to which our pupils should be introduced; these will serve to enhance and complement the necessary learning to the test, but also provide a path to enjoyable lifelong learning, at university and beyond.

So what is Free Learning? It encompasses pupil-led independent learning as it now generally understood, but it is more than this (and it understands that school-aged pupils often need direction). It is learning that is free from a syllabus, free from teaching just to the test, and free to challenge pupils to thinking for its own sake. It is fed by intellectual curiosity, often supported by the interest and enthusiasm of a teacher, and should take place both within subject lessons and without.

Free learning is often interdisciplinary in nature; it certainly breaks through the compartmentalisation of learning that subject syllabuses can impose, consciously or unconsciously. It allows the possibility of failure, from which pupils can learn, without it costing them.

This type of learning is not new to us, in fact there are many examples of our provision that already capture what it means - the pupil-created Evolution Fair, the Spanish poetry recitation and translation competition, the Upper School Symposium, Liberal Studies, the Scholars’ Programme and the Extended Essay - but this list could continue with the many other activities, societies, publications, national and international competitions (e.g. ranging from the Peterhouse History and Science essay prizes through The Times’ Stephen Spender Translation Prize and Target 2.0 challenge to the Weizmann Safe-cracking competition), visits and lectures that already take place within our community. Each year we provide a cross curricular Free Learning week that takes a different focus centred around a theme. In 2016 it was Dulwich Linguistic, in 2015 Dulwich Inventive and in 2014 Dulwich Creative.

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