What is Open Futures

When you’re working with primary schools and an 8 year old child says to you

“The thing I like best about philosophy is building on other people’s ideas”

and another says,

“When I grow up I want to be a cooking artist”

and another says,

“When I put my hands in the soil I feel calm”

and then a teacher says to you

“I can’t go back to the way I was, because the way I teach has changed.” 

Then a child proudly points at the schools’ new gazebo and says

“My dad built that”

and then the Headteacher says,

“It enthuses and excites everyone. The training inspires everyone and leads to great developments within the school. The pupils love it. Everyone can achieve. It’s not just another strategy, but a vehicle to impact on our community”,

something has to be working!

- Lucy O'Rorke, Director, The Open Futures Trust

Key objectives

To engage and inspire children to want to learn, to develop an ‘I can’ attitude and to succeed in life.

Welcome to Open Futures

“An amazing picture of the initiative instigated by the Helen Hamlyn Trust has emerged through our experience in schools and through interviews — everyone loves it.

If we were to design schools according to good learning principles I am confident that they would be places where Open Futures would be completely at home. Within the programme, askit provokes talking, listening, thinking and questioning; growing food and cooking, encouraged through growit and cookit, are vitally important activities which also act as portals to science, natural history, design, human health, language, culture and more; and the filmmaking engendered in filmit is a quintessential story-telling activity with a technological twist.”

Funded and directed by the Helen Hamlyn Trust, Open Futures has developed an enquiry and skills based learning programme, which helps primary school children discover and develop practical skills, personal interests and values that not only contribute to their education and academic achievement, but also provide them with life skills to enhance their adult relationships and working lives. 

Originally developed in collaboration with our expert partners and 64 Primary Schools over a period of 5 years, together we established a flexible framework and training programme, which addressed each schools’ unique needs and diverse contexts. Their hard work, innovation and inspiration shaped Open Futures into the longstanding programme it became.

A Pedagogical Framework

Open Futures offers a pedagogical framework which supports teachers in the delivery of quality teaching and learning that embraces enquiry-based learning and the development of life skills in young people. Open Futures also provides a strategic framework  to help senior leaders to achieve their vision for their school. The approach connects with deeply held values amongst parents, carers, teachers and school leaders. Open Futures sits at the heart of the curriculum, underpinning it both in ethos and in practice. It helps teachers to engage children with their learning through the rewarding processes of thinking and doing. Enriching the curriculum for primary aged children, with the introduction of the Open Futures four learning strands - askit, growit, cookit and filmit and supports teachers in the delivery of quality teaching and learning that improves pupils outcomes.

The four strands

  • askit builds on children’s natural curiosity about the world and develops skills of enquiry and self-driven learning
  • growit introduces children to growing and harvesting their own fruit and vegetables
  • cookit is concerned with nutrition, preparing and cooking food, usually that produced through the growit strand
  • filmit develops digital filmmaking, literacy and communication skills 

During the operation of Open Futures the four strands could be taught independently but were most effective when used together. In all cases the objective was to support the schools’ existing curriculum and children’s learning. Introducing new contexts led to creative teaching lesson and curriculum planning, making the experience of learning more holistic and providing a more rounded education.

Curriculum development

By integrating engaging, practical and relevant activities into the learning environment, Open Futures provided contexts which enabled independent learning and the acquisition of fundamental life skills and knowledge. The Open Futures approach helped teachers to plan learning experiences which raised attainment in literacy, numeracy, science and technology. It allowed all learners to engage and contribute positively to the classroom, the school and the community. 

In engaging with the four strands of Open Futures, teachers involved pupils in fresh, motivating, highly practical learning experiences which:

  • fulfilled the aims of the Primary Curriculum – successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens;
  • fully supported its essentials for learning and life – literacy, numeracy and ICT, skills and attitudes, personal development;
  • helped to develop partnerships between schools and their communities, drawing in skilled adults to work alongside teachers in providing and delivering the curriculum.
  • encouraged community involvement in young people’s learning and thus supported community cohesion. Links with schools in India supported and promoted community cohesion in an international context

Based on extensive research into engaging, meaningful, relevant and effective approaches to learning and working closely with Primary Headteachers, Open Futures schools showed how involvement in Open Futures helped them to improve attainment, behaviour, attendance and physical and emotional well-being.