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Pioneering school that looked to the spaced age

Monkseaton high has been busy exploring innovative teaching approaches for more than a decade.

Dr Paul Kelley, its Californian head, wrote in The TES 10 years ago about the pioneering work the school was then doing, using short bursts of revision with materials from BBC Bitesize, pupil data, video-conferencing, and computer programs developed by its teachers.

"At present, education is still in the Dark Ages," he wrote. "We teach in certain ways because we believe it is effective, not because we have any scientific evidence to show that it works."

The school has since teamed up with the Open University, Microsoft and a handful of academics to measure different approaches to teaching.

The comprehensive school, which serves the Whitley Bay area of North Tyneside, hit the headlines in 2000 when one of its pupils, Laura Spence, was rejected by Magdalen College Oxford, despite gaining a scholarship to Harvard.

When the Government then announced its plans for trust schools in 2005, Monkseaton was correctly predicted to become the first one.

In recent years, the school has focused more closely on the benefits to learning from neuroscience, which led it to experiment with later start times for its teenage pupils, as well as eight-minute lessons.

But its innovations are not limited to the classroom: pupils received a national award for designing "bog pods" - futuristic toilets that have been installed around its building.

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