Dear Parents,

I write to you with information regarding the Harkness sessions which started this week.

The Harkness Method of Discussion Based Learning is used by our Sixth Form as a tool for their ‘Reading the World’ programme – led by Dr. Maxine Clarke.

Fiona Russo, James Conduit and Ms. Weston attended a course at Philips Exeter Academy in Boston USA, the birthplace of Harkness. It was an amazing experience and on reflection we felt that this method could be utilised with our Y6 students. The skills that are learnt and developed will enhance their depth of learning and become embedded as lifelong skills. Dr. Maxine Clarke, Director of Reading the World will also be leading a group.

On April 9, 1930, philanthropist Edward Harkness wrote to Exeter’s Principal Lewis Perry regarding how a substantial donation he had made to the Academy might be used:

“What I have in mind is [a classroom] where [students] could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where [each student] would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.” The result was “Harkness Teaching,” in which a teacher and a group of students work together, exchanging ideas and information, around a table.

This methodology is increasingly being adopted by schools and universities across the world and the skills are increasingly leading to greater success at school, university and beyond. The students will learn to interact with other minds, listen carefully, speak respectfully, accept new ideas and question old ones, using new knowledge, and enjoying the richness of human interaction.

The sessions will take place in a Harkness designed classroom in our Sixth Form Centre every Tuesday (Group A and B), Wednesday (Group C) and Thursday (Group D) during a slightly extended lesson 6 (1.45 – 2.45). We will inform You Time / Excellence providers that the children will go directly to the dining hall to be registered. For those children not doing You Time we will take them to the Memorial Hall Atrium at 2.45 for collection or send them to the bus room.


In terms of selection for this, all students in Year 6 will take part this year. However, it isn’t possible to do so at the same time. We have 4 groups of 16 students that have started so far and these have been selected by class teachers. The first children selected, were the students who put themselves forward to become a House Captain but were unsuccessful. It was decided that, as a school, this was some compensation for all of their hard-work and effort. Following this, class teachers randomly selected other students to ensure there are equal numbers across the classes.

In this round, 64 students are taking part in the programme and therefore when the next cycle begins, the other half of our Year 6 students will take part.

Apologies if there was any confusion regarding this,

Mr. J. Bilinkewycz and the Year 6 Team.