Staff development and training have been crucial to the success of the programme of residentials planned and delivered by the Thomas Tallis partnership of Learning Away schools. Their programme was developed using a co-construction and community building approach based on the ‘Mango’ model.
Why this approach?
The reason for choosing the Mango model was to enable us to deliver inclusive residentials using a shared co-construction approach; residential experiences where all of the adults (teachers, support staff and centre staff) and young people involved would come together to create a shared learning community with clear learning objectives. The focus is on co-construction – empowering every individual within the group, giving them ownership of the residential and allowing them to take collective control of their learning and reflect upon the experience.
Creating opportunities for co-construction, discussion and deep reflection
The Mango model approach works best when the group’s facilitator allows a significant amount of time for discussion and deep reflection. The structure used is based on a series of meetings:
- Home Group meeting – where the community is split into smaller groups to discuss a particular issue or decision. One person will represent the views of their home group in the council meeting.
- Council meeting – where one person from each home group meet together to discuss and agree a decision. This decision is final.
- Community meeting – where the whole community comes together to reflect on the outcomes of a previous decision.
Fantastic model, fantastic trainer
We knew that if we were to make best of this approach to planning and delivering our residentials , it was very important for all staff involved to have a full understanding of the model and to feel confident when facilitating their groups. We therefore ran a number of various types of training sessions, so it was available to many staff. We were very keen for staff to have experiential training because we felt that it was important for them to understand what we are asking of our school communities.
Our introduction to the Mango model took place during an overnight staff CPD residential at Margaret McMillan House in Kent (a residential centre used by all of our schools). We were very lucky that Juliette Baigler (founder member of Mango Communities CIC) was able to deliver the training. During this residential, all staff involved in our Learning Away programme were introduced to the Mango model and then took part in Home Group and Council meetings to decide on their evenings activities.
Our enthusiasm for this task provided one of the more memorable moments: we forgot two members of staff who were locked out of the centre in the evening and didn’t notice they were gone until the phone rang! We reflected on this in our Community meeting the next day and continued to develop and understand the model through outdoor activities at the centre.
Understanding the model
During the training, we delved deeper in to the psychology behind the art of facilitation, looking at questioning skills and how to find the truth of a situation. This provided a chance to cement our foundation of knowledge and gave us specific time to start developing ideas into logical plans for future residentials.
We have also provided a one-day training event, where we focused on the structure of the model and experienced playing the facilitator role in a range of scenarios. This day that started off with a meditation exercise to focus us on our feelings, which lead to deeper understanding of what we wanted from the training. We spent time looking at transactional analysis and role-playing to test our questioning skills.
We also held a second residential – a follow up training event, again at Margaret McMillan House.
Impact on our residential programme
All of our Learning Away residentials are now planned and delivered using this shared co-construction approach, which allows everybody involved to take ownership of and reflect on the learning experience. Our residentials have clear learning objectives and are developed by a shared learning community of teachers, support staff, centre staff and students.