The mission of SPARK Schools is to provide globally competitive education at an affordable cost. So, when SPARK co-founders Stacey Brewer and Ryan Harrison first researched educational models, they were drawn to blended learning as a way to lower costs while increasing academic quality. Brewer and Harrison visited Rocketship Education and were impressed with the Lab Rotation model employed in their elementary schools and settled on a version of this Lab Rotation model when they opened their first school in January 2013.
In July 2015, a Flex/Individual Rotation pilot was prompted by a demonstration of personal responsibility and high student engagement in Grade 4 students at SPARK Ferndale, the first school in the SPARK Schools network. The flex model was implemented across the network in January 2016 after a successful pilot.
SPARK Schools is the first and only network of blended learning primary schools in South Africa. As such, we often face skepticism from prospective parents who are unfamiliar with blended learning and may mistake it for distance learning or home schooling.
In addition to hosting Open Days and school tours for prospective parents to see the model in action, we encourage parent engagement when students are enrolled via volunteer hours, community meetings, weekend events, and observations. Our goal is to familiarize students with the model and to invest them in the model so that they become ambassadors and fans of blended learning and SPARK Schools.
Include multiple stakeholders in the design and implementation of blended learning. By seeking feedback from students, staff, and parents, we have increased investment in our original Lab Rotation model and have successfully piloted a Flex/Individual Rotation model. Buy-in from all involved stakeholders eases the pain of change management!
SPARK Centurion opened in January 2016 and is the eighth school in the SPARK Schools network.
Contact: Bailey Thomson
Contact Title: Director of School Design
Centurion, Pretoria, Gauteng