The theory that boys and girls learn differently is one that is backed up by an increasing amount of academic research. It is also what led Amber Way, the founder of Linbrook School, to start a boys’ school in Oakville, a town within the Greater Toronto Area.
“There was a need to create a new style of school,” says Way, “a school that exudes positive energy and offers a physical environment that suits boys so they love being there.”
A $10 million purchase and renovation of an existing school building provided Way and her team with the opportunity to bring the latest pedagogical research into Linbrook. Every classroom is bright and airy, with large windows that bring the outside into all learning spaces. There are ergonomically designed stools and tables, including standing work surfaces. Fun, humour and competition are also among the key elements, along with plenty of movement. A mathematics lesson might be introduced on the Smart Board, but boys will then go and eagerly experiment for themselves.
“We pride ourselves on our academic programme,” says Way. “All of our programmes are research-based. Our maths textbooks, for example, were developed at the University of Chicago, and we use standardised Canadian testing to make sure that the boys are succeeding across subject areas. Technology is also used to offer interactive lessons that challenge the boys and provide immediate feedback on performance. The way we teach the curriculum is just as important as the curriculum itself.”
The school’s capacity of 180 boys creates an intimate environment, where every member of staff knows every student. There is also the distinct advantage of having a girls’ school across the road – which many of the boys’ siblings attend – and the two schools proudly celebrate each other’s achievements.
Linbrook offers exceptional opportunities in athletics and the arts. In the absence of girls, boys are generally more willing to try things and take risks, including activities as diverse as hip hop dancing, knitting, karate, coding and robotics – there’s even a babysitting club. Another thread that runs alongside the school’s academic and extracurricular programmes is teaching the importance of helping others. Linbrook students often help with local charities, while “kindness challenges” encourage the boys to commit good acts.
“Research shows that many boys are becoming disenchanted with school and educational reform is needed,” says Way. “At Linbrook, our love for our students drives our passion for change.”