Relational Schools takes expeditionary learning to the heart of Westminster

The Relational Schools Foundation was delighted to launch the ‘super-cut’ of its new film - We Are Crew - on 9 January 2018, at an event in Westminster hosted by Jeremy Lefroy MP.

(You can view the 9 minute film here)

The film, a short edit of RSF’s longer documentary on the impact of expeditionary learning, follows a relational research project at the XP School in Doncaster, and explores how a pro-social curriculum focused on teamwork and character development both in and out of the classroom can have remarkably positive - sometimes transformational - results.

(You can purchase the full 45 minute documentary for £10 here)

The movie was followed by a panel debate featuring former Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP; CEO of the British Exploring Society, Honor Wilson-Fletcher; Director of Educational Innovation at the University of Cambridge, Professor Colleen McLaughlin; CEO of the XP School Trust, Gwyn ap Harri; and XP School student, Grace.

Hosting the debate, Dr Rob Loe, Director of RSF, said: “The findings of our research are important; they are an important tool for education leadership. We know that public policy or organisational change can either increase relational distance or overcome it. Through our work so far, we also know that those schools - like XP - which we would classify as ‘relational’, returned not just lower levels of bullying and absence, and improved wellbeing, but also superior academic outcomes.”

Indeed, just a few months after RSF’s study at XP School, Ofsted inspected the school for the first time, judging it to be ‘outstanding’ in all areas. Specifically, it’s report highlighted students’ outstanding academic progress, because ‘there is no ceiling to the standards that pupils can reach’, with disadvantaged students often outperforming their peers ‘because staff and leaders know these pupils very well’.

Speaking in the film, Tony Little, former Headmaster at Eton College, now Group Chief Academic Officer at GEMS Education, puts it like this: “The purpose of a school is fundamentally social. It is to enable young people to learn how to navigate the adult world, to learn how to develop relationships, to learn how to deal with the rough as well as the smooth. It’s all these things which, loosely, could be termed development of character.”

XP School’s Executive Principal, Andy Sprakes, commented: “Relationships at XP are wholly positive and supportive. Students describe the concept of ‘Crew’ as family and there is a collective sense of purpose which enhances individual achievement and common goals. This was underlined at the launch by our own students who spoke so impressively and passionately about their school and its ethos. Beautiful work, kindness, integrity and a sense of responsibility for yourself and each other are the glue that binds us. This report underlines that and how powerful it can be within a school.”

For Gwyn ap Harri, CEO of the XP School Trust: “Working with Relational Schools was a very reflective process for us. We intuitively and passionately feel that what we do here and how we do it has a significant and positive impact on our staff and students. To see this belief reflected back in a respected and empirically sound report and film, feels like something to celebrate and share. What we do works, but it adds even more to the value of this when these findings can become a useful and powerful tool to enhance and enable other schools and students.”

Concluding, Dr Loe added: “I was particularly drawn to the human scale values of XP, and the significance they place on building a genuine community of learners inside and outside the classroom. What is vital to understand here, is that their approach is so uncomplicated in its design and execution, and is delivered within a framework of stretched budgets and limited resource, in a system which currently seems to promote competition and individualism. Any school, anywhere, can choose to create the conditions in which relationships flourish, and are learned. What is represented here in these films is a shift in mind-set about how education can be conducted, based on the creation of a genuine community in which people treat others as ends in themselves.”



The Relational Schools Foundation was formed in early 2014 by Relational Research Ltd and the Relationships Foundation, a charitable think tank ‘for a better connected society’, to improve how schools and the people who spend their daily lives studying and working in them, understand, value and enact their relationships with one another. Through our work, we seek to influence schools’ policy and organisational practice with a relational agenda, demonstrating the efficacy of a relational approach to the achievement of a broad range of educational outcomes.

Our vision is to improve society by strengthening the quality of relationships between people, starting with children in schools.

By applying Relational Thinking - a framework of thought and a system of political economy which challenges both individualism and materialism - and measuring the quality of relationships with a robust, tried and tested empirical tool, we aim to build ‘relational capital’ in the lives of students, teachers, families and communities by supporting positive and evidence-based change in:

  • the way schools are organised;
  • the way schools conduct their practice with respect to teaching, learning, leadership and management; and
  • the way system-level organisations and authorities influence school practice through policy or regulation.

See for more



Dr Rob Loe

Relational Schools Foundation

Future Business Centre, King’s Hedges Road, Cambridge CB4 2HY

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