As a passionate teacher with time on his hands due to a Home Affairs mix up, he started tutoring one student. Word spread and one student soon became eight and before he knew it they had outgrown a garden cottage in Hout Bay. An angel investor shared his dream of creating a school that wasn’t a “school”. One that shifts out-dated ‘Victorian’ paradigms and lives its ethos. Two years later, this unique learning environment is thriving and is about to move to a pristine natural setting in Hout Bay, for the next leg of its journey.
A long and winding road
As a South African in the late 80’s, Daniel Landi was compelled to relocate to realise his aspiration of becoming an Olympic Swimmer. Although these dreams were never realised, his many adventures led him eventually to the Nalaboor Desert of Western Australia. It was while sitting on the back of a 200cc Yamaha farming sheep in 1997 – when he realised that teaching might just be the best way to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Despite his love for education, after many years of working in the UK and the Middle East, he became disillusioned with the methods and management of schools. He felt that the system had become a ‘broken concept’ and was no longer ‘fit for purpose’.
Daniel returned home to a country with more entrepreneurial promise and an appetite for enhanced education. He initially landed a teaching post at the International School of Hout Bay until visa complications ended his tenure on 8th May 2015. A phone call on the 9th of May was to change everything. The call was from a parent looking for a tutor for their son. This student seemed to find a new enthusiasm for learning, and improved his grades so markedly that soon his friends were joining him in a garden cottage for their lessons.
Realising that this was the start of something important, he approached an Angel Investor and together they found larger premises in Victoria Road, that quickly filled to accommodate 58 children and 10 staff. The Academy dream continued to evolve and its sights were focused on wonderful new premises. However, this relocation proved an arduous 2-year process besieged with obstacles. These challenges couldn’t discourage the steadfast vision.
The Academy Ethos
The Academy Hout Bay’s ethos is inspired by the Montessori philosophy that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. Based on Daniel’s experience he wanted to augment the Montessori ethos with the pedological principle of “Educere” (to draw out from within) and the practical requirements of academia needed to succeed in attaining a recognised high school certification. The aim is to open a whole new world of possibilities of learning.
It is about creating inspiring learning environments where students develop their abilities, create self-knowledge, interpret the world in their own unique way, and ultimately realise their full potential as a human being.
“We aspire to develop young adults that have critical reasoning skills, the ability to organise and communicate their understanding and the confidence and courage to apply their skills and knowledge. Creativity, adaptability and perseverance: This is what FTSE 500 companies are now demanding. Students cannot just have 1-dimensional academic skills anymore. We want children to never lose their wonder in the world.”
The Academy offers a unique academic programme focused on personalized, experiential learning, and critical thinking that develops independent learning skills for university and marketable life skills for the work place.
New Approaches and Flipping Paradigms
There are several approaches that the Academy follow that differentiate them from the traditional schooling system. One of these is the use of technology through Cambridge Online Learning Support (COLLS) – another of Daniel’s passions. This is an online teaching and learning platform that mirrors the Academy curriculum. The Academy builds content for the online system and this system supports the concept of a “Flipped Classroom”, crafting a symbiotic relationship.
The “Flipped Classroom” is a concept developed from the ideas of, among others, Alison King and Eric Mazur and strongly differentiates the Academy from conventional schools. In the latter, the teacher delivers content to students as facts and information. Once the pupil has received the information they are expected to answer questions in isolation through homework or tests. The teacher then marks these efforts, also in isolation, and returns the work to the student. Thus, the students’ engagement is limited, and they rarely fully process the information and develop new understanding.
In contrast, the Academy uses the media-rich learning resource provided by COLLS, requiring that students research a subject before the class. The student then enters the class, armed with a basic knowledge and class time is spent processing this information and synthesising new understanding. There is work you do at home, however it’s not homework, but rather preparation and research.
The Academy uses vertical teaching methods where classes are formed based on abilities and not age; allowing the flexibility for students to complete certification in shorter or longer time frames.
Another unique attribute of the Academy is that study skills, information literacy and learning support are all a standard part of the curriculum. These essential skills are often overlooked in traditional schools and yet are so imperative to future success. Students are also assigned to a tutor and a tutor group on arrival. Tutors monitor the holistic development of the child.
The Academy is also pioneering Environmental Management as one of their subjects, which is fundamental to their ethos.
Something rather ingenious and that really sets the Academy apart from the rest is that their teachers receive performance related pay, linked to a profit-share in the school, serving to encourage genuine buy-in, boost motivation and encourage commitment to the whole vision.
From stables to school
The 10 000 sqm of pristine natural environment along the banks of the Hout Bay river, provides for a rich learning canvas for subjects like Art, Geography, Environmental Management and Biology. Students will apply their subjects experientially in the Valley and Mountains of Hout Bay. Outdoor classrooms fashioned out of natural rock seats and indigenous wood have been designed to facilitate this learning.
The entire area has been landscaped with indigenous plants and the grounds are imbued with the captivating aromas of almond, lemon and fig trees.
The new Academy is in fact a retrofitted horse stable designed in a U-shape with a communal space in the centre. The high ceilings allowing plenty of natural light and wide wooden stable doors are all aesthetics designed to maximise student well-being and adhere to eco-friendly principles.
Three of the classrooms are multi-use and comprise of a learning area, a kitchenette and snacking area in a self-study zone and a quiet study area on a mezzanine level.
Other classrooms are designed as smaller studios used for tutorials for up to 8 students. These tutorials can be filmed, live streamed and feature a chat stream for questions from distance learners. These learners can dial up from all over the Western Cape with new sign-ups originating from Botswana and Zimbabwe. They are generally home schoolers and use these tutorials to understand difficult concepts and prepare for exams. The tutorials are recorded and posted online onto COLLS for revision and review purposes.
The Academy also plans to have a mobile kitchen that uses fresh produce from their organic vegetable garden. Grade 10 business studies students are currently doing a project to design the business model. An opportunity will then be offered to an independent contractor to provide school lunches.
Where time flies
The Academy Hout Bay believes that school should be a place where students are excited to go. A place where time flies. They aspire to create an environment which feeds the student’s soul and energy, because they learn and develop there and it becomes a place they are passionate about.
Daniel maintains: “Happy students are better learners and will become young adults that are independent, creative, open-minded, principled and brave.”
His vision is to grow the Academy organically as small, modular schools throughout Southern Africa. With the advantages of a centralised administrative and assessment capacity through COLLS – the Academy can remain affordable to parents while providing expert teaching and a world-class curriculum.
The Academy Hout Bay will never exceed 96 children. Intakes for 2018 are therefore limited. An Open Day will be held on 4th October from 1pm – 4pm at 186 Valley Road, Hout Bay. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Tel 021 791 0886