The field of dreams – they are building it, will you come and help fill it?

Share your idea by clicking here.

This is the story of a man with a vision. That vision began with the rather forlorn Derry’s Building in Plymouth. At this point, Michael Gove had announced his Free School movement. At this point Professor Andrew Brewerton @ajbrewerton had a vision for a school to transform his community; The city centre of Plymouth. He decided to provide a radical alternative to the present system. His vision will become a reality and in September 2013 the Plymouth School of Creative Arts will open.

Ultimately this school will be an all through 4-16 school. Each Primary year group will care for 60 children and each secondary year group will care for 120 children. The school has a simple but incredible goal. To empower children to find their passion through art and develop outstanding academic skills as a consequence. The goal of the school is “learn, make, discover”. The School shares some of the ideology of the Reggio Emilia Movement and indeed some of the thinking of the Unschooling Movement.

This has been distilled to the essence of the entire project:

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 20.04.22              “Learning by making”

The community now has a school by the sea (40m from the waterfront)

It is a school in an area of urban regeneration, Millbay in Plymouth.

It is not in a leafy suburb, it is not a middle class area. Here is a recent article about night time activities in the area.

This school will transform the lives of residents and children alike. It is at the heart of its community.

And what now?

  • The school has a site.
  • The school has a Head teacher.
  • The school has a lot of work to do.

You can watch Dave Strudwick the Head teacher, talk about the project here:

The School opens in September 2013 for KS1 – and the team have an incredible amount of work to do.

One huge piece of work is to build a curriculum from scratch. In 6 months. With a staff of 3. (no teachers have as yet been appointed, which is entirely normal for this stage of the process).  I’m helping to design that.

The curriculum vision is simple. To enable children to learn through the act of making. The year will be divided into long term projects, each of which will culminate in the creation of something.  The creation could be an artefact, a play, a film, a painting, or even a shed or a boat ( not model sheds or boats….real sheds & boats). The concept of a project will be to present children with an incredible, seductive, consuming ‘hook’ to ensnare the children and draw them into an incredible narrative, culminating in a celebration of making.

All learning will come from the project, including Maths and English.  The making and creating will be the focus, learning in subjects will be an outcome, a serendipitous by product.

This leads to an immediate and pressing need: Ideas.

The School needs dozens of compelling projects with ‘hooks’ and ideas for products & creations. So, if you feel moved, and have a story or idea that could be used, then please share your idea.

For example:

Near Millbay, there was a luggage store, for the Great Western Railway.

Millbay Baggage Store

Millbay Baggage chute


In that store, was a baggage chute. Through this chute passed thousands of suitcases containing the lives of people leaving and arriving through the port of Millbay. What were the stories of the people who passed through there? Which of those passengers graced the world stage?

The chute has its own story, it became the centre piece of the Fine Arts Show at Plymouth University in 2012

Each of these children is taking a journey. through life. This chute, which is, or was, rusting quietly on the site of the new school , symbolises the start of the journey of the school. What could better fit a project for the children?

Through making a suitcase of memories, the children will explore History, Music, Geography, Maths, English through Art, Design and the Making they undertake.

Please help:

What are your stories?

What part of your legacy would you pass on to these children, learning in a school at a gateway to the world?

Share your idea by clicking here.


NB: the images contained in this blog are embedded, none are copied.  Click on the picture to see the image on the website behind the frame.

9 thoughts on “The field of dreams – they are building it, will you come and help fill it?

  1. Wow! What a truly inspiring vision which is becoming a reality 🙂 Thinking about moving from North Yorkshire to Plymouth as we believe in this type of schooling!!! Only the other week we were watching TED Talks about alternative schooling… Green school in Bali, tinkering school, forest school, etc.
    If you’re looking for ideas I’d say let the ideas come from the children. Is it possible to design the curriculum around the ‘process’ rather than the ‘content’ and let the content be decided by the children as they go along?
    If not perhaps its about facilitating workshops with children now. Asking them…
    Suppose you could build anything, what would it be?
    What would you like to explore in Plymouth?
    what does Plymouth need that we could create?
    Maybe run a competition…
    Trust the kids! They’ll have all the ideas you need 🙂

    • I agree partly.

      One of the things about kids is that they only know what they have seen etc…. We want to extend their world, take the example of the luggage chute….it’s unlikely they would know about that and suggest it as a project.

      However once the project is established, there are myriad ways for the children to shape that experience.

      Even in the Unschooling movement, adults shape the direction for kids to refine.

      I’m sure there will be a rich tapestry of experience and kids will have loads of choice within a broad framework defined by people who have wisdom and integrity.

      If you are moving to Plymouth, bring an umbrella.

  2. Hello Peter, Try contacting Will Coleman at for truly innovative story building and telling and David Haines at for collaborative composing and performing. Botha have worked with children from the Plymouth Excellence Cluster and are experienced at working with our children.

  3. Hi, Peter …I love this site are helping turn an idea into a much bigger story …and the baggage chute is something that we should treasure in many ways. Best Wishes Barbara Jones

  4. It sounds fantastic, it appears to have taken all the best parts of the creative partnership ideas. It would have suited my learning style for sure. Wish I had had the opportunity to school at such a place. As a sculptor and ceramicist I teach freelance and believe that all learning can be accessed through and from working with materials, particularly (and my favourite) clay. The very best of luck- Richard Gibson

  5. Pingback: Initial ideas « lplateteachers

  6. An excellent and inspirational project that Plymouth desperately needs. I sure the spotlight will be on this school as a model on how things can be done differently.

    The work around Area Based Curriculum from the RSA seems relevant here:

    The input from local experts will be vital also to bring the real stories behind the history of many wonderful places in the city.

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