Thames Valley District school board report Rethink Secondary Learning part of preparing high school students for digital world

Dale Carruthers

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

Credits given for extra­curricular activities.

Learning spaces that look more like offices at tech companies than traditional classrooms.

Math and English classes running the full school year.

Students using iPads instead of notebooks.

These are just a few of the ideas floated in a new report from the Thames Valley District school board.

Faced with the challenge of preparing students for an ever-­changing world, the board wants to provide a more relevant high school education.

The board gathered feedback from hundreds of people — everyone from teachers and students to employers, colleges and universities — through discussion groups and online surveys for four weeks during the spring.

Now the findings have been published in a 63-page report called Rethink Secondary Learning that was made public Wednesday.

“This isn’t the end. This is Phase 1 of the journey,” said board learning supervisor Rose Anne Kuiper.

In the coming months, the board will meet again with groups to develop an action plan to be released in the 2016-17 school year.

The board brought in a consultant, Teamworks Inc., to help with the report that touches on a number of key themes, such as making schedules more flexible, creating safer learning environments and providing more opportunities to explore careers.

The report is peppered with quotes from participants.

“We need to focus more on learning rather than marks,” said one high school student.

A teacher said: “Students learn best when they have a reason to care about what they are doing. If they don’t care, they will only do what they need to do.”

The report also addresses one of the greatest challenges facing the Thames Valley board: falling enrolment.

Enrolment at high schools has been falling since 1999-2000. It’s expected to stabilize in 2017-2018 before declining again.

With more than two-thirds of the board’s revenue based on enrolment, that means less money to make the report’s ideas reality.

“Continued drops in enrolment will result in reductions to both the number and variety of courses and supports offered,” the report says.

Kuiper said some resistance is always expected when talking about changing education.

“I think with change there always does come some hesitation or some reluctance,” she said. “And that will be the work of our committee in moving forward.”

By the numbers

700: people participated in discussion groups

1,400: people completed online survey

4: weeks it took to collect feedback

13: members on Rethink Secondary Learning committee

63: pages in the report

Read the full report:

 Rethink Secondary Learning: A Resource for Moving Forward