OMS Senior School at Forest Farm
The senior school at Forest Farm offers an unpretentious alternative education for children and their families who want a different kind of learning experience to that which mainstream or traditional schooling provides. We are no-nonsense in our approach:
Our approach to learning: make it active, make it relevant and make it meaningful and enjoyable.
Our approach to assessment: measure what really matters, and use this to inform open and honest discussion to support their progress.
Our approach to relationships and behaviour management: respect children, truly listen to them and treat them with kindness. We practice a restorative conflict resolution approach.
Our approach to children’s mental health and well-being: take their concerns seriously, respect their feelings, listen to them and praise them. Being there for them.
Our children make good progress, achieve grades to be proud of and leave OMS as free-thinking, caring and creative people.
We know that it is important for children to leave school with good qualifications, and we make certain that this happens. But we also know that a human being is more than a collection of letters attached to their name and that a child’s worth is not measured in GCSE certificates. We want students to leave Forest Farm with a care for others and for their world, and with the intellectual, emotional and social skills to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.
Our beautiful rural setting, small size and progressive ethos alone set us apart from the myriad of other school options in Oxford. State education has been compared to the factory farming of children: our children live free range. Private education often looks to tradition and conservative guiding principles, but we are innovating every day.
Distinctive and Innovative Features
Just a small sample of the distinctive and innovative features of the school include:
Small classes of up to 10 students per class where every child is the teacher’s focus and teaching is differentiated for different learning styles.
Courses matched to learners. Our small size affords us the opportunity to match subjects and exam boards flexibly to the needs of the cohort. What this means in practice is that each year we carefully consider the students we have in each class, and design an academic programme around what best suits them.
Weekly school parliament at which every student is given an empowered voice to discuss the running of the school and make democratic decisions about life at Forest Farm. This is so much more than a school council, with children given real respect and responsibility for decision-making.
One-on-one general support sessions with a mentoring 'coach’.
One-on-one learning support sessions for children needing extra support to help them succeed in lessons.
A system of (often informal) restorative justice for resolving conflicts: an approach that seeks to reduce harm and prevent re-offending rather than punishing for punishment’s sake. It includes all of the parties involved and aims for a win-win outcome from incidents of conflict.
Children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities
Our aim at Forest Farm is to strive to ensure that all our children feel happy and safe. Everyone is valued, respected as an individual and encouraged to persevere, striving to achieve their full potential. All children receive an education that allows equality of opportunity and fosters a love of learning. We focus on removing any barriers which impede learning.
Students at Forest Farm are actively encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning and ensure that they use all resources and support available to them effectively to aid success. Students are also encouraged to contribute their views and make informed decisions about their education.
Parents have a critical role to play in their child's education. The school will work actively in partnership with parents to provide appropriate strategies to meet the student’s educational needs and encourage parents to play an active role in the student’s education.
Classes and Subjects
We have four senior school classes - where the majority of lessons are in small groups, sometimes groups are mixed in a variety of combinations, so that the younger and older children work together. Year 10 and 11 students are following a qualifications programme to suit - usually GCSEs. Currently our classes study the following, but our flexible nature means this is subject to change in future years:
Subject-based learning: English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, Spanish, Design Technology, PE , Art and PSHE.
Music and Drama and Art and working towards The Trinity Award.
Outdoor learning is based on the Forest Schools and an environmental management approach.
From September 2019 we are working towards a new innovation of Inquiry based learning incorporating the subjects above for the majority of the morning. Subjects will also be taken as stand alone too.
Why inquiry based learning?:-
The American cartoonist, Bill Watterson, once famously remarked that, “Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask.”
An inquiry based approach empowers students by giving them autonomy in deciding, ‘What would you like to learn?’ (formulating questions), ‘How would you like to learn?’ (research and skills) and ‘How would you like to share and contribute what you have learnt?’ (communication during meaningful tasks, relevant to the world in which we live).
Whilst there is value in compartmentalising knowledge into subjects such as maths and science, art and humanities, real world application almost always requires integration of disciplines. Inquiry based approaches encourage students to see the value of individual subjects in their real world application.
As such, inquiry based learning is supportive of our approach. An example might be in combining science, design and humanities to question how scientific innovations might reduce the impact of natural disasters. Such a task requires students to be active in designing and making a model of their solution in preparation for an end of unit science fair. It highlights the relevance of study to the modern world and the meaningful impact of applying knowledge. As a result inquiry based learning promotes enjoyment and engagement, empowering students to be changemakers in their world. This supports our approach to assessment by measuring what really matters to include the diverse ways in which each individual might contribute to offering solutions to complex problems, developing critical thinking skills, creativity and a caring, solution focused worldview.
Importantly, students will develop conceptual as well as factual knowledge. According to psychologist Eleanor Rosch concepts are “....a natural bridge between the mind and the world.” Inquiry based learning does not limit students to acquiring subject specific, factual knowledge but instead encourages them to develop transferable conceptual knowledge - the link between the mind (subject knowledge) and the world (real word application.) In the above mentioned example therefore, students might end the unit by reflecting on how science might be used to promote a more equitable world; an understanding that can be transferred to multiple circumstances throughout their lives.
Years 10 and 11
Courses for examinations are decided in the spring term before a child starts year 10. A programme is devised that allows each and every child to achieve their best outcome. Sometimes a child will follow a Functional Skills programme if this best suits their needs, so that every child leaves with something positive.
A year 10/11 timetable will include sport, including yoga and Pilates, The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Curriculum Plus, which follows AQA units, based on employability skills and PHSE Personal, Health, and Social education.
Examination options (providing more than 4 students opt for the subject) include:
21st Century Science-Double Award. Biology, Chemistry, Physics
Design Technology including Food Technology
Trinity Award : Drama, Music and Art
London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA)
Art, Music and Drama can be taken as separate GCSE subjects if more than 4 children want to do these.
Forest Farm is a truly different kind of school, where every child really does matter and where a senior school is about getting ready to be a genuinely fulfilled, productive and happy adult.
Forest Farm Senior School has developed the format of 3 progress checkpoints each year (in December, April and July). During each review period, teachers will assess the students’ Progress and Attitude to Learning and indicate Areas for Development. In most cases, subject teachers will offer individual comments.
The most helpful role that parents can play at this stage is to take an active interest in students’ learning, celebrating success and talking with students about their next steps.
On entry into the Senior School at Forest Farm, students sit a series of Cognitive Ability Tests (CAT) which help us to determine how best your child can learn and reach their individual potential. CAT 4 gives us an indication of what your child is likely to achieve and enables us to set appropriate targets and monitor progress.
Students who have started their GCSE/KS4 courses are measured against their CAT scores, describing their performance in the skills and knowledge areas in the courses they are taking. As students make different rates of progress, CATs should be used as a general indication only. The Progress column gives an indication of whether this level is expected and represents good progress for the individual student.
We are so pleased and happy for our students' exam results who left at the end of the summer term. They have all got into colleges and 6th forms of their choice. We wish them luck with their higher education.
There were quite a few very high grades but the crucial thing from our perspective - all of the students met the challenges that they identified and we supported throughout the year.
At OMS we offer examinations with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel, OCR and AQA. Boards chosen for each subject are decided upon at the beginning of each two year course or at the beginning of year 10 and each group of students needs, interests and ways of working are taken into consideration.
Children are well prepared for exam conditions and expectations in the year before and any measures for access arrangements to support children with additional needs are maintained during the two year course.
There is a cost to parents for each examination taken.
After School Clubs and extra curricular activities currently on offer:
Any other sports by request
Eco School: Lunchtime club
LAMDA: Individually or in pairs
Individual music: Guitar, Ukulele, Piano
Eco School: We endeavour to play our part in ‘Saving the Planet’. We are a Bronze Award Eco School and we have a council with members from each age group of the school. Each half term we focus on a topic to create a greener environment for the children and help children to actively engage in a sustainable future. We are working towards the Silver Award. We focus on reducing plastic within the school, we plant trees, we created a wild flower meadow during the summer and attracted bees and butterflies, moths as well as many other insects. We plant trees yearly and have over two thousand trees in our coppice wood where the children play and take part in Forest Schools. The coppice wood creates every opportunity for diverse wildlife.
At Forest Farm School we aim to spend 20% of the week outside learning. We believe the natural environment promotes good health, feelings of peace and positivity and the chance to challenge themselves in the great outdoors. We have varied spaces, such as fruit growing areas, a greenhouse for planting, outdoor classroom areas equipped with chairs and tables, an adventure playground, the coppice wood, large open spaces and shady areas such as the willow domes. There are footpaths around the school into the woods and open farmland.
We have integrated outside learning as part of the curriculum. There is no limit to the experiences and curiosities that outdoor environments and activities can arouse. Participants frequently discover potential, abilities and interests that surprise themselves and others. Safety codes provide clear boundaries and learning goals give clear direction, but Outdoor Learning draws in energy and inspiration from all around. 'Broadening horizons' is a common outcome.
Outdoor learning in the seniors often means working around the school, such as; planting seeds, planting trees, pond building, learning about the weather, collecting water and measuring, vegetables and fruit harvesting, juicing apples, creating an eco house….
Outdoor Learning is real learning
Not only does Outdoor Learning happen in the natural environments where participants can see, hear, touch and smell the real thing, it also happens in an arena where actions have real results and consequences. Outdoor Learning can help to bring many school subjects alive while also providing experiential opportunities for fulfilling the National Curriculum aim "to enable pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, to manage risk and to cope with change and adversity." Source: DfES & QCA, The National Curriculum, 'Aims for the School Curriculum' 1999.
Senior staff members
Judith Walker and Daniel Ardizzone -Proprietors and Founders
Katie Townsend - Principal
Jessica Richmond - Senior Curriculum Coordinator and Head of English
Adam Riley - Head of Science
Vicky Harris - Mathematics
Alba Gorris - Spanish and PE coordinator
Jessica Richmond - Humanities and Geography
Olivia Packe - SENDCO and KS3 English
Susan Glaisher - Music-GCSE and Trinity Award
Jess Elliot - Design Technology and Food Tech
Fran Godsal - Drama-KS3 and Trinity Award
Victoria Reaston Brown - GCSE & KS3 Art and Trinity Award
Melanie Young - Computer Studies-GCSE, KS3 and primary
Mike Smith - Individual guitar, ukulele and piano lessons
Below is some information about the subjects:
In English at FF we aim to enable students to:
understand and respond to what they hear, read and experience
communicate accurately, appropriately, confidently and effectively
enjoy and appreciate a variety of language
complement their ability to work with information and ideas in other areas of study, for example, by developing skills of analysis, synthesis and the drawing of inferences
promote personal development and an understanding of themselves and others
We do this by: following students' interests; collaborating with colleagues in thematic, cross-curricular learning; selecting rich and relevant texts; offering alternative ways of exploring and creating texts; using visual resources and hands-on experiences; continually monitoring and assessing progress and adapting pace and challenge to suit the children in our lessons
At KS4 we prepare students for the CIE English Language IGCSE (0990) which offers candidates the opportunity to respond knowledgeably to a rich array of reading passages. Students will use what they read to inform and inspire their own writing, and write in a range of text types for different audiences. This specification allows writing skills to be taught and assessed through a portfolio of coursework, which we feel is more reflective of real-life writing contexts and gives students the best possible chance for success.
Students also have the opportunity to develop both their speaking and listening skills, presenting to others and responding to feedback and questions. Students are able to develop a range of skills in organising content and adapting their written and spoken language to meet the needs of the purpose and audience.
We encourage all our students to become appreciative and critical readers, writers, speakers and listeners.
The study of Mathematics is essential to all parts of life. As well as developing the numeracy skills required for day to day living it also strengthens important problem solving skills which can be applied to all situations. Good Mathematics skills support a pupil’s learning across the curriculum and no matter what a pupil’s ability and aspiration in maths will lead to good progress throughout. We aim to promote Mathematics not just as a functional tool for working life but a subject that can be enjoyed in a fun and stress free environment and in which success can lead to immense satisfaction. In all year groups Mathematics is taught as a series of topics based around Number, Algebra, Shape and Data Handling
The lessons are derived from the student's interests and driven by their engagement with many hands-on projects including working out the average time it takes to complete an obstacle course built by the children or how many doughnuts it would take to fill the barn!
At key stage 3 science is taught using a a bespoke scheme of work written by drawing from 8 years of experience teaching at outstanding secondary schools in Oxfordshire. Students have the opportunity to engage in practical work on a weekly or daily basis and have an excellent experience of practical lessons due to the small group sizes (usually 6-7 students) and the close supervision and guidance the teacher is able to offer. Science is regularly taught in the the outdoors making use of the beautiful site we have at Forest Farm. Students enjoy learning about classification, feeding relationships photosynthesis and calculating biomass in the coppice wood on site, and participate fully in activities like making charcoal and pizzas in our wood burning oven to get hands on experience of combustions and chemical reactions. The principles of Forest Schools are also being implemented into our curriculum to encourage the well being of our learners as well as academic achievement.
At GCSE we currently offer single science Biology, double award science and the separate sciences Physics, Chemistry and Biology. We follow the OCR 21st century science Specification as it is due to the engaging an interesting course content. Last summer we were incredibly proud of our largest ever GCSE group with all of the students who did the full 2 years with us exceeding their CAT-4 predictions. Students get the opportunity to participate in all of the GCSE required practicals and many more that help reinforce their learning. Whilst resisting the temptation to follow the general trend in education of assessing our students to the point of anxiety, we consistently assess their progress in lessons and offer immediate feedback to enable them to achieve their best. Students regularly get to practise their science ion an outdoor environment e.g. taking part in exercise to better understand respiration or making charcoal to explain the difference between incomplete and complete combustion.
Humanities and Geography
Humanities for KS3 is the study of human culture. It an be broken down into Religious education, Geography, History and Citizenship (which is mainly about identity) and can include topics like human rights, conflict and co-operation and prejudice.
Geography GCSE is the study of the world in which we live; the Earth's landscapes, peoples, places and environments. The GCSE is separated into physical and human geography with a focus under both those headings on the UK. For physical geography we will study tectonics, weather, climate, ecosystems, coasts and rivers. In human geography we will learn about urbanisation and sustainability, the changing economic world and resources management. We will go on a field trip and learn new skills and concepts in the field.
Design and Technology
New DT overview:
At GCSE, DT students study 3D Design. The course will provide a secure knowledge of basic processes and techniques in a variety of materials including wood, metal and plastic. Students will follow projects in different areas of 3D design such as sculpture, product design, jewellery and prop design, before completing their exam project in their chosen area.
Students will learn how to generate design ideas and communicate these ideas through sketching, annotating, drawing, modelling and then producing a final 3D product.
Ideas are generated from looking at, and being inspired by the work of historic and contemporary artists and designers as well as the world around them.
The qualification is made up of 2 components. Component 1 (60%) is a portfolio of coursework built up over the 2 years. Component 2 (40%) is an extended project including a 10-hour practical exam in May of the final year.
We follow the AQA Art and Design specification which can be found here.
Design and Technology (DT) is mainly a practical subject but has a strong written work element. Students will learn to design and make quality products and develop their creativity and imaginations.
At Forest Farm we will try to include as many of the DT disciplines as we can, which include product design, food technology, engineering, systems and control, electronics, textiles and graphics.
D&T is a cross curricular subject allowing students to use other subject knowledge, such as mathematics, science, engineering, computing and art.
As trainee historians, we investigate past politics, societies, cultures, languages, health, art, education, money, conflicts and more, looking at how things have developed over time and connecting the dots to understand how we got where we are today.
In history we study lots of different sources of evidence, and learn that events are often the result of multiple factors.
History can also be inspiring. When we discover what people have achieved against the odds and how things can change over time, it can give us the motivation we need to succeed. As students of history, we ask two very important questions:why and how. This is key to sharpening our students critical thinking abilities, combining analysis, projects, essay writing and communication skills to help students solve problems and form arguments for debate.
We encourage our young historians to look at all the available evidence and come to conclusions, a lot like a good detective, which helps them learn to be organised and manage information.
The study of history primes our students analytical, writing, debate and detective skills, opening up a huge range of careers in; Law Politics, Business, Journalism, Economics, Teaching, Academia, Social Research, Archaeology and Curation (museums, galleries, archives and libraries).-
Sports in our senior school are aimed to physically build the skills children need to be physically fit and well, build confidence in their own bodies and minds and build self control and self esteem. Each half term the focus is on a new sport or area of development. Both traditional sports and sports from around the world are combined throughout the year to introduce the children to a variety of sports and activities that each and every child may find enjoyment through. Our sports have a non competitive focus, instead, the focus in on self improvement and positive collegiate teamwork. Sports that children particularly enjoy on a more regular basis, such as football or dance are offered after school all year round. Occasionally throughout the year, children play as a team with other schools in friendly games of football, basketball or athletics. All the children in seniors take part in the sports programme as part of their physical development and well being. Our annual sports day is held at the beginning of July and other sports events are held throughout the year; such as the Mile Run for charity and the annual football event for parents and children at our camping evening in June.
At Oxford Montessori we want students to develop their confidence and imagination as well as their acting talents. We use Drama not only to grow as a performer, but to develop skills as an individual and a contributor to the wider society. We favour a collaborative ensemble approach where the aptitudes and strengths of individuals together build unique performances.
In KS3 we work thematically covering topics as diverse as African folktales, the Tempest and The Ice Man whilst students develop skills in physical theatre, masked performance, physical comedy, stage combat, and devising. We explore Shakespeare and look at the techniques of practitioners such as Frantic Assembly and Brecht in a practical and engaging way.
At KS4 students can take Drama GCSE or alternatively they can opt to take lessons where they look at the wider social influence of theatre. We explore the political impact of productions of Hamlet, students also practically explore the work of two significant theatre practitioners who have had a profound effect on the way that we encounter film and theatre. We also extend the Drama skills that are valued by employers and useful in the workplace; building creativity, self-confidence, thoughtfulness, effective communication, teamwork and critical analysis.
LAMDA London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art is on offer as extra curricular
Trinity Arts Award:
Comprises of Bronze Award , Silver Award and Gold Award
The Bronze Award: 40 taught hours + 20 hours home study
The Trinity Arts Award is a skills based award comprising the 4 sections below. The children study each part with Art and design, Drama and Music keeping a portfolio of their experiences and practice.
Part A - Exploring the Arts as a Participant
Collaborating together as a group, but students put forward their best work
Part B-Being an audience
Students experience the theatre, exhibitions, concerts and partake in workshops
Part C - Arts Inspiration
Research a practitioner - life and work of a chosen inspirational person
Part D-Passing on Art Skills to Others.
Demonstrating the skills they have learned and passing these on to others in the form of a workshop.
Evidence: students have to demonstrate that they have presented the information and received feedback.
The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme
A Duke of Edinburgh's Award is so much more than a 'pat on the back' for completing a programme of activities. It is recognition of a young person’s successful journey of self-discovery and development, renowned by employers and universities alike for the qualities young people have who've achieved a DofE Award.
Its balanced programme develops the whole person - mind, body and soul, in an environment of social interaction and team working.
There are three progressive levels of DofE programmes which, when successfully completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
They do a Bronze DofE programme once they are 14 (or almost 14). The Bronze DofE programme has 4 sections, Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition. They must do a minimum of 3 months activity for each of the sections and plan, train for and do a 2 day (1 night) Expedition.
Each section takes approximately one hour per week. They have to spend an extra three months on one of the Volunteering, Skills or Physical sections.
The award involves commitment and planning but should be immensely rewarding and fun to take part in.
Photography - (Not being offered this year)
Photography is the art and science of creating lasting images by recording light onto photographic film or on digital memory cards for digital or film cameras.
Far from being a mirror of an image, photography is a complex and problematic form of representation. Photographs are never just what one sees. Behind each photograph is a number of readings that relate to the expectations and assumptions we bring to the image we are taking, to the actual photo subject itself.
The students need to read a photograph as text: a reading that needs to be unravelled. A photograph mirrors and creates a dialogue which is never neutral as the photographer carries his/her upbringing, cultural and social expectations onto the image taken. A photograph is as much a reflection of the “I” of the photographer as it is the “Eye” of the camera.
In our photography class we will create images that look, question and analyse both photography and what is behind the images the students take. We start from the invention of photography to the traditional ways of creating images with film & paper. We will learn how to operate film cameras and how to develop films and create images in the darkroom.
Through the images we will look into young people's perceptions of their own identities and how the media but also our surroundings are used to shape conceptions of oneself.
The specific focus will be focusing on critical thinking, and rethinking perceptions, values and beliefs imposed on us by our surroundings.
It will involve research of photographers work, short essays as well as thinking through, taking and printing their own photographs in order to create a body of work that reflects these ideas.
Parents and OMS
Parent support is vital for the well being of children and the school. We welcome parental contribution and parent interest in whatever is going on at school, as well as supporting children’s time at school. We have an open door policy and parents are able to come into the school before class starts and after school. Appointments can be made to talk to the Principal or teachers after school hours and more formal parent teacher meetings are held once a year in February/March. Parents receive a full written report at the end of the school year.
Regular events to include parents are :
Our End of Term winter performance with a drama or music focus.
End of Year event in the summer-Drama/ Music
Camping Night-Held around the Summer Solstice
Sports day-July and other sports events such as the Mile Run in aid of Cancer Research.
Half termly Charity Cafe breakfasts from 8.30am-9.30am
Regular Social teas and occasional Open classrooms
Parents group meetings
Ways to support your children’s progress and time at school:
Know your child’s timetable and what they need to bring to school each day, ie, PE kit, homework, instrument for individual lesson, etc.
Read the class newsletters, emails and diarise events for things happening in school
Be punctual for registration-important for not missing out on important information at the beginning of the day and for minimising disruption. It is vital that children are in classes on time.
Support your child’s homework by knowing how they access it on google classroom and showing an interest. It’s important that they are given plenty of time and space to complete homework in a non stressful way.
Attend school events as often as possible.
Let us know about anything; activity, speaker, visit, trip that might interest the children.
Above all-be positive about school with your child.
The School and Montessori Education
The teaching in the senior school is inspired by Montessori ideals. Our ethos entails a genuine respect for our students as individuals and a desire to see them develop into well-rounded adults through freedom, coupled with responsibility, in their schooling. Teachers and students are on first-name terms with each other, and we seek to form meaningful relationships such that conflicts can be resolved through support and understanding (given firmly when appropriate) rather than compulsion alone. Our pedagogy emphasises the importance of child-centred, interest-led education that enables students to acquire practical skills and knowledge that will be of use to them in the real world. Lessons at Forest Farm tend to be hands-on and interactive, with students encouraged to understand not only what but why they are learning. We have high standards for teaching and learning, and encourage our teachers to employ a variety of pedagogical approaches.
We are particularly proud of the school's record in adding value to young people's educational achievements. Remember - we don't select on academic ability, we welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds with a broad and diverse range of skills. That they achieve well at GCSE level is very rewarding
We trust our teachers as professionals and believe in the great value of teacher autonomy. We continually look for creative ways to make innovative developments in educational theory and practice part of everyday life at the school.