Below are some of the questions we are most frequently asked by teachers, journalists, academics and other people interested in Opening Minds.
Yes – we consider that Opening Minds should be applied across all students in a Year group rather than just being focused on students with particular needs – whether ‘gifted and talented’ or those with learning difficulties. However, in keeping with the principle of personalised learning schools are free to adapt and amend the application of competences to different groups of students within a Year group, where they consider this is appropriate.
No – but as implied above we would expect Opening Minds to cover a significant amount of curriculum subjects and we would encourage schools to consider and learn from others how they might extend the application of the Opening Minds competences into new areas of the curriculum.
The introduction and induction of students into the Opening Minds competences (normally in Year 7) should involve a significant proportion of curriculum resource and time – either via extended themed lessons (that combine subject learning with the development of competences), immersion days, and other forms of competence based activity (including special projects, assemblies and events) or planned integration into subject based lessons.
However, RSA Opening Minds is not setting a particular percentage or proportion – the circumstances of each school and how it operates its curriculum will be judged individually.
No – though the curriculum should be designed so that students are enabled to apply the competences when they move on to a Year group where teaching and learning is structured more round subjects.
We would also encourage schools to look at the applying Opening Minds throughout Key Stage 3 and to consider embedding Opening Minds in their approach to delivering Key Stage 4. Support will be available to help schools address this
The framework of competences established by RSA Opening Minds should form the basis of the competences to be developed and applied by schools and will be the basis on which accreditation is made.
However, schools may describe or summarise the competences in a way that is appropriate to their context and curriculum and they may add additional competences, but they are expected to advise RSA Opening Minds of this in order to track and evaluate different approaches.
A school must use the term ‘RSA Opening Minds’ to describe the school’s overall approach to using competences in the curriculum, but schools are free to describe their particular Opening Minds practice within the school as they consider appropriate – provided that it helps to build understanding and ownership of Opening Minds competences among staff, students and parents
The initial accreditation period will be for three years with a visit at the end of that period to provide the basis for continued accreditation.
In order to become accredited schools will be assessed in relation to evidence and practice in six areas:
- Evidence from the school’s most recent Ofsted report.
- Evidence of Opening Minds being part of the school’s overall vision and planning.
- Evidence of applying Opening Minds approach in the curriculum.
- Evidence of using student voice to inform curriculum development on Opening Minds.
- Evidence of being able to provide dedicated teaching and leadership resource to support the development of Opening Minds.
- Evidence of regularly assessing, recording, and tracking over time students’ progress in developing Opening Minds competences.
A fuller description of the criteria are set on the application form to become an RSA Opening Minds Training school. A school’s application would be assessed both by reference to its policies and by observing classroom practice to ensure that Opening Minds was being used in an appropriate and effective pedagogical manner.
The accreditation process, and status as an accredited school, brings benefits in CPD and providing a vehicle for speeding up the spread of innovative and good practice. Every time Opening Minds schools come together it results in the generation of new ideas and the accreditation system will provide a more systematic basis for promoting for further development, creativity and innovation.
Once accredited RSA Accredited Opening Minds schools will join a community of schools recognised as being committed to developing and sharing innovation in practice which is also characterised by rigour and quality. Schools will receive:
- The right to be known and branded as an RSA Opening Minds accredited school
- Three free CPD days per year at an Opening Minds training school
- Access to a resource library which includes an implementation guide to help support curriculum development, an observation guide, lesson plans etc
- Access to a dedicated website and practitioners discussion forum
- Access to the ASDAN accredited short-course Award(s) developed by the RSA Academy
- A 20 per cent discount on the annual Opening Minds conference fee for up to 3 delegates
- Access to an ongoing programme of CPD and events
Schools involved in Opening Minds have led the way over the last decade in showing how an imaginative competence-based curriculum can meet the needs of their school, engage learners and excite staff. They have been able to do this while still meeting the requirements of the National Curriculum and examination boards and improving attainment. The Opening Minds curriculum has been demonstrated to be an effective and engaging way of providing the skills young people need to support their academic and vocational learning.
But like any new and creative initiative there has been a wide variation of approaches between schools and within schools. This has provided the basis for innovation and learning, but, it has also brought with it a challenge to ensure that Opening Minds is always associated with high quality practice.
An independent review of Opening Minds in 2010 recommended the introduction of an accreditation system to assure quality and strengthen the support available to schools.
The charity that has been established by the RSA to oversee development of Opening Minds (RSA Opening Minds) has decided, therefore, to phase in accreditation over the next two years. All schools, whether already implementing Opening Minds or new to using the competence framework, will be invited to apply to become accredited RSA Opening Minds schools.
Accreditation will be led by Opening Minds schools, for Opening Minds schools. It will also enable teacher-to-teacher and school-to-school support to be properly resourced and organised.