St Silas School in the UK’s north-west is founded on the principle of enabling its pupils to comprehensively study various topics and to do so at their own pace. The school believes that this ensures pupils come to take responsibility for their own learning. St Silas Primary School does not use timetables, but the pupils are divided into school years, and each year has a clearly defined curriculum. These are used by the teachers to develop ‘challenges’ that the pupils are responsible for meeting, either by themselves or as part of a group. The curricula include diverse topics such as fairy tales, health, winter, pirates and lifecycles.
There are no closed classrooms and the school is characterised by large open spaces called ‘areas’, each of which is dedicated to a particular challenge. All of the materials needed to complete the challenges are always freely available, and the children can choose the topic that they want to work on. This prevents them from being torn away from their studies after a 45-minute period; a time at which they may have just begun to make progress. The people behind the school call their approach ‘slow education’ and are convinced that their pupils learn more, do so in a better way, and are happier than pupils in other systems. The older the pupils are, the more complex, lengthy and open-ended the challenges that are set. Teachers are always present, but instead of being mediators of information, they are coaches, facilitators, educators and critics who cautiously intervene in the pupils’ work. Slow education means that the pupils spend most of their day conducting independent, collaborative learning.