This book is about a ground-breaking initiative, difficult to capture in linear text, a unique experiment in self-evaluation on a global scale. Known as the Learning School it is a story in which school students take centre stage, as chroniclers of their own learning and of the schools who learned with, and from them. In their own words students describe their change in role from passive recipients in the classroom to active evaluators, creating knowledge for teachers to 'consume'. Each successive chapter expands our knowledge not only of how school learning 'works' but also of how we can get closer to understanding its internal dynamic.
'I have probably learnt as much in these 10 months as I did in 13 years of school, ' writes one of the Scottish students while a Swedish student describes opening an intellectual door that had remained closed during her school years:
One thing that the Learning School did for me and probably for everyone else who has done a similar thing is that it has opened the doors in my mind, and I now believe that I can do anything. The question we all have to ask ourselves is, are we brave enough to jump out there into the unknown not knowing what we might find or would we rather stay on safe ground?
It is a book of its time, written in a period when researchers are turning more and more to the student voice as a source of school improvement. It comes at a time when teachers are ready to listen more closely to what their students have to say. More than at any other time in history teachers are willing to learn from their students, not only in obvious areas such as ICT, where a 7 year old can often be more skilled and knowledgeable than her teacher, but in respect of learning itself. With a proliferating literature on the brain, multiple intelligences and metacognition, teachers have become increasingly aware of how much they still have to learn and what a rich resource their pupils can be in making the learning journey together.
It gives the lie to the recent words of the ex-Chief Inspector of Schools who wrote: 'Teachers teach and children learn. It is as simple as that' (Woodhead, 2002). As anyone close to school practice knows, it is far from that simple.