Letting students take control of their education at SML College

There’s a lot we know about how children and young people learn, for instance they are all different. Yet school assumes that children and young people will learn the same things, in the same way, at the same time, through a fixed curriculum.  But not at SML College.

The essence of the Self Managed Learning approach is that they provide a structure within which young people can plan, organise and carry out learning activities. Each student is able to work out for themselves what and how they want to learn.

We asked staff at SML College to tell us a bit more. 

SML stands for self-managed learning. What does this mean exactly for the way your students learn and why is it beneficial?

Self Managed Learning does what it says on the tin. Young people aged 9-17 manage their own learning. Just as Dyson vacuum cleaners are well known for something they don’t have – a bag – we are well known for what we don’t have – no classrooms, no imposed lessons, no imposed timetable, no imposed rules, no uniform. Students are supported within a small caring learning community to take charge of their own learning.

What does an average school timetable look like at SML College? 

There are 65 students in the College – 40 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. There are 65 timetables and so, no average timetable – students can learn pretty much anything they want and in any way that they want.

Do children still learn their usual Mathematics and English? 

There is free choice in the College. Most choose to learn English and Maths – but not necessarily according to a school model.

How do you plan and research your learning activities? Can you give us an example of some activities? 

Students plan their activities each week. Activities can include 1:1 sessions with staff; workshops on a range of topics; art activities; sport such as football and basketball; discussions; making computer animations; playing musical instruments; drama; cooking; etc. etc.

The college is extremely inclusive, with a high representation of neurodiverse young people attending. How does this way of learning benefit and encourage these students in particular? 

By responding to the needs of each individual students benefit enormously. They can realise their potential by pursuing what they need.

Are there things that other mainstream schools could be doing to make sure neurodiverse young people, and the way they learn, is considered by teachers and classrooms? 

We have proved over the last 20 years that there is no need for standard classroom teaching. We have run Self Managed Learning programmes in a number of schools and proved the worth of the approach.

Who can come to SML College and how could I apply?

Anyone aged 9-14 can apply. If a young person is potentially interested they can come and spend a week at the College to check it out. There is no prior commitment required to join our learning community.

Are you looking for volunteers or donations for SML College? 

Yes. We welcome volunteers and we definitely need donations via our website smlcollege.org.uk

SML College, Gardner Road, Fishergate, BN41 1PN

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