What we do and why we do that

Our mission and vision statements

Read also about our philosophy, staff & faculty, as well as our history of 42 years

Banbury Crossroads is a Self-Directed Learning School. We are a member of the Canadian Coalition for Self-Directed Learning, of which there are 8 schools across Canada. Being self-directed, Banbury is the embodiment of certain philosophical beliefs and practices. 

Our Mission

We at Banbury Crossroads treasure children as respected individuals and meet their diverse needs within a safe, familial setting. We are passionately committed to incorporating innovative educational methods that foster intrinsic motivation, learning to mastery, self-responsibility, and social competence.

Banbury students on a field trip to Nose Hill posing for a picture by raising their arms
Banbury students take a break sitting on a rock during a hike along heart creek in the rockies

Our Vision

The students of Banbury will be self-motivated, intellectual achievers with a strong sense of self. Their empathetic, unwavering spirit will allow them to confidently embrace the challenges and opportunities encountered throughout life, ultimately to become compassionate, resilient, and authentic leaders.

The following points delineate that...

  • At Banbury, one of our major goals is to address the needs of individual students.
  • We want these individuals to develop autonomy. Self-sufficiency is imperative for our graduates when they emerge from school after Grade 12. That is the time they immediately become responsible for all malleable aspects of their adult lives, including their education, their career, their family, their emotional and physical health, their social behavior, their recreation, and so on. They will need to consciously acknowledge the power they do exert over their own lives so that they can utilize it to make decisions rationally, morally, responsibly, and independently.
  • Mutual respect is involved in our belief that healthy children in any culture are internally motivated to master their environment, which means that it is reasonable to trust their willingness to put energy into their learning;
  • Therefore, at Banbury, students develop skills in goal identification, time management and organization, implementation of plans, self-assessment, decision-making, and adapting to change. They become autonomous;
  • (read more here)
our philosophy & practises
Flow Chart

Benefits for student life

  • At Banbury Crossroads, one of our major goals is to elicit autonomous and self-accountable behaviour from our students. We have set up a self-directed learning environment in order to do this. In practice, this means that all individual students participate in self-directed learning to the utmost of their capability. Some students, both young and old, are self-directed when they enter the school. Others have lost that ability through previous educational experiences, and need to retrieve it. This means that all of our students are at varying places on the continuum of self-directed learning. Our intention is to help each one of them to progress through the stages until they are fully self-directed. At that point, they will demonstrate the initiative and self-responsibility to exhibit all of the following characteristics. We monitor their progress along the continuum throughout their time at Banbury.
  • (read more here)

Learning is an inevitable consequence of the human condition. We are born with innate curiosity, which is the manifestation of our intrinsic motivation to learn how to master our environment. Without it, we would not survive. We are also social beings, and we learn from each other. In centuries past, learning for the common person was essentially a family or village affair. Children learned by watching and doing, under the tutelage of persons who cared about them and about the product of their labor. Education for the masses in the western world came about during the mid-1850s, when the government acts such as the Factory Act in England, made education for all children mandatory. This happened at a time when youths, living in towns and cities rather than on farms, and being neither babes in arms, nor old enough to work in the factories, had nothing useful to do. Also, factory owners had come to realize that it would be helpful to have semi-literate workers in their factories, and that training the children of their workers would accomplish that aim. And so, the public school system was founded upon principles conducive to the work done in factories. Teachers behaved as bosses; punctuality and conformity were honored; instruction focussed upon a curriculum that was utilitarian and respectful of the past, and problem-solving focussed on specific tasks assigned to individual students. This was a stroke of genius by the factory owners, as the students who graduated from this system were particularly trained for factory life. However, many of the criticisms that have been leveled at our current system of schooling over the past fifty years derive from the basic structure it inherited from those old days. Primary among modern concerns is the recognition that the conformity-seeking factory approach struggles with the modern mandate of meeting the needs of individuals. In addition, it does not promote creative or big-picture thinking. A third concern is that it leads to a competitive struggle for recognition and acknowledgment by the teacher and peer group, which both eats away at individual self-esteem and prevents true cooperative behavior. 

Our society has chosen certain ideals to pursue in its establishment of schools. We may think of these as the ideologies of education concepts that we honor because we assume they are accurate and inspirational descriptors of the world. The significance of these values is that they predict and color what we will see around us. In effect, we see what we believe. Moreover, our beliefs drive the practical machinery that puts schools in place, and they dictate how we solve the problems that subsequently arise in the systems we create. Since we tend to assume that these ideologies are true and that their practical manifestations are reasonable, it is difficult to objectively assess them. However, when signals of undeniable dissatisfaction start arising, we may find it wise to reexamine our basic premises. So, in order to change schools, we must first scrutinize and revise the ideals that drove the process that created them. I would suggest that, among more laudable values, the following troublesome concepts currently exist in the popular culture: (read more here)

A word about our history

A school of thousand dreams

Our first school

Banbury Crossroads School Society was incorporated as a registered, non-profit organization on October 4th, 1979. This formed a legal support vehicle for the establishment and future support of the school. Shortly after this, on September 11, 1980, Asilat Learning Systems Ltd. was incorporated, with Diane Cummings (later Swiatek) the only shareholder, to provide a practical vehicle for operating the school.

The school opened its doors on November 1, 1979, in the Banbury of the Principal, Diane Cummings. It began with two students in the building above. As the number of students grew, the location changed to accommodate the increase. When the student enrolment reached twelve, residential accommodation was abandoned for rented classrooms in public schools. For two years, such space was sub-leased from another private school, using the old Balmoral Cottage School, and then the Bridgeland School.

Discovering the inflexibility of classroom space, the school ventured upon commercial space, first in the Mayland Office Park, then in the Calgary Union Building. The following five years were spent in another commercial building around the corner, and just north of Rouleauville Park. In this location, we were able to design a space with many small rooms. We outgrew this space, however, and in August of 1997, we moved into Plaza 14, at 807 – 14th Street N.W., Calgary, Alberta.

In Fall of 2005 we have acquired a brand new location at #201 2451 Dieppe Avenue S.W. This is our finest location yet, and we are very pleased to be here.

Director's & principal's messages

A very different school

Director’s Message

Banbury is devoted to harmonious living. Harmony is an elixir of life, a catalyst for inspiration, an aid for accomplishment, a spur for aesthetic and emotional delight, and a precursor for positive human connection.

This does not mean that our atmosphere is always harmonious, or that we would even expect that. No social setting is static. I can’t actually see how it would even be possible to maintain a harmonious stasis, because social relationships are fluid, changing constantly as each individual’s feelings, perceptions, and actions impinge upon the experience of others, in a fascinatingly complicated ripple effect. Any social environment is being created moment by moment. Any life within that social environment is like a unique tapestry that includes not only its joyful, hopeful or serene parts, but also its challenges, difficulties, and dark patches. We need to embrace this richness that life offers, for we learn and grow through every experience.

Nevertheless, Banbury’s culture is based on the concept of mutual respect, so our predominant effort is to create a positive, nurturing, and peaceful learning milieu. Although we know that we are not able to achieve constant harmony, we do need it whenever we can get it. It helps us to clear our minds so that we can get about our business each day. So, our devotion to harmony is partly that we desire and cherish it as a necessary condition for appreciative living and learning, and that we are willing to sacrifice whatever effort it takes to promote it. We at Banbury know that learning is much more efficient, and retains a positive emotional association when people learn without fear and anxiety—when learners can concentrate in a state of relaxation. Indeed, that is the basic value underlying our provision of a peaceable and relaxed atmosphere here. When people feel generally comfortable—when there is mutual understanding and respect between the people they deal with, when they are able to solve conflicts, when they are engaged with their activities and pursuing knowledge about topics they find meaningful when they can see their skills developing, and when they feel accepted as a unique person—then they are much more likely to have goodwill towards others. We are devoted to creating the conditions that promote empathy so that people can get along with others in the first place.(read more here)

Principal’s Message

During February, we celebrate human relationships. Valentine’s Day highlights the joy inherent in loving someone, and Family Day sets time aside to focus on creating positive bonds within family groups. We are wise to recognize the merit in this most elemental of human organizations the family. It is through the intimate sizes of these small units that parents and other elders are able to provide the nurturing and instruction that children need, in order to participate successfully in our complex culture. Families are very efficient in this regard because family members usually care about each child individually, and they care about intellectual understanding, moral reasoning, physical development, creative exploration, and emotional growth that occur within each child individually. It is for this reason that our school is based upon the structure of the family. This decision in effect means that we provide a learning environment for children that challenges the practices in more institutionalized schools.

It may be helpful to realize that the structure for our typical Western educational institutions was created according to the model of the factory system that was developed during the Industrial Revolution. Mandatory public education was only instituted around 1854 when the Factory Act in England was issued. It was set up to deal with the youth who ran loose on the streets of the factory towns. They were not allowed, according to the child labour laws, to work yet in the factories, but at the same time had no useful work or occupation to do in an urban environment. Some factory owners had realized before this time that it would be helpful to provide an education for the children of their workers because it would be training for that setting. (Remember also, that the children of the affluent received tutorial instruction in their Banbury, before setting out for university.) It was a stroke of genius for the factory owners to create schools like factories because the children learned to obey the teacher (the boss) and to value conformity through such elements as mass punctuality, uniformity of instruction, and uniformity in expectation of the product. They also learned to solve problems that other people gave them, on their desks, according to other people’s organizational plans. This experience would prepare them to handle their tasks more efficiently on the assembly lines. In our era, enlightened people have complained about the pitfalls of this approach, the major ones being that it does not satisfy the needs of individuals and that it does not allow for big-picture, creative and critical thinking. These problems are actually very significant, especially in a democratic political structure. These problems also create many of the social ills that our society is beset with, and which keep social workers busy, very busy. The ideas that bigger is better, that education must revolve around economic bottom lines, that the organization of activity is more efficient for the teacher if it involves children all of the same age (and thus with the same expected ability to understand instruction) are all extremely problematic. These ideologies have produced huge schools and classrooms wherein students cannot possibly care about all of their classmates. This, in turn, leads to reasonless bullying and the impracticability of showing them how to solve problems or deal wisely with their feelings. The isolation felt by many, many students in thousands of schools across the Western world also comes from the connotation felt within classrooms that students are supposed to learn how to be alone in a crowd. They are told, – Pay attention to your own work, not to your neighbor’s! The ostensible purpose for saying this is to promote concentration, and that is a useful object. However, it ought not to happen all the time, since this solitary focus does not promote cooperative learning, a skill very suitable for work in the adult world. Another problem is that the minute adults organize children by age, instantly, competition is introduced to the group because you cannot avoid seeing the differences that are there in children of the same age. Competition amongst young children is not helpful in their quest for self-esteem, since it leads to frustration and performance anxiety. Furthermore, it promotes selfish behaviour, and it reduces moral reasoning to its lowest ebb with the belief that winning at others’ expense is not only justifiable but honorable. As you can see, there are many and sundry reasons for encouraging educational reform in our culture, especially as our culture particularly reveres the idea of liberty, and liberty cannot exist without mutual respect. Our school is a living example of this principle, and we are very proud of it. (read more here)

Our Alumni

Please read their reflections

Our Methods

Projects, lectures and individualized learning

Art class visits exhibition
Chess players sitting posing for camera with chess game in the middle of them

Projects, Modules, Units, Textbooks: In order to cover curriculum requirements, students use textbooks, audio/visual media, teacher-prepared units, workbooks, computers, modules, magazines, and other printed matter on an individually appropriate basis. Therefore, academic subjects are both integrated in the student’s projects and enrichment activities, following a constructivist and inquiry-based model of learning. Choices are built into coursework. In addition, some leeway is possible to create and adjust assignments, and to produce interdisciplinary projects according to student interest and need. Decision-making is a joint affair between teachers and students, and in some cases, parental communication is sought.

Lectures: Discussions are common practice within each classroom. In addition, teachers also plan the delivery of oral lectures on selected topics, subject by subject, grade by grade, and person by person. These teaching moments may come in the format of mini-lectures, demonstrations, seminars, debates, and discussions. Informal, spontaneous talks occur upon request by students or by teachers.

Choice Time: Each day, all students in our school have time and opportunities to choose the work they engage in. On the elementary side, within each classroom, students have certain times of the day when they make choices. They choose which subjects to work on, where in the room they will pursue this work, with what materials, with whom they will collaborate, and for how long. This decision-making process is facilitated and guided by the teachers, who are observing the student’s progress and understanding their particular needs and abilities, and motivations. The duality of decision-making between teacher and learner ensure an effective match between student needs and curricular requirements.

On the secondary side, students construct their own timetable based on their own preferences for when, where, and how long they work on a subject. These times are limited by minimum hours devoted to particular subjects, part-time teachers’ schedules, or set courses (such as physical education) but are generally up to them. Each student will consult with their mentor teacher when setting up or when changing their schedule. Flexibility is built in to allow students to alter their timetables when more time is needed in a specific subject, when a field trip occurs, or when studying for a test. The difference with this age category is that, rather than remaining within one classroom, students move from classroom to classroom at their own discretion, or by prior arrangement with individual teachers. All subjects are covered at the student’s individual rate. The guidance we give them is to remind them about the time constraints for finishing coursework within the period each student has set for their completion goal. If students wish to study in a different place from their scheduled class, they may do so, as long as they respect the rights of other students to get their work done, and as long as they communicate their decision to their teacher.

Individualized, Tutorial Instruction: Instruction is often given on a one-to-one basis. Any student and teacher may initiate spontaneous teaching of particular concepts and skills, according to the unique needs of the student and specific courses. It is important for students to learn to ask for instruction and for assistance with their time management. They need to speak regularly with their teachers, to receive instruction, to plan progress, and to keep the lines of communication open. Regular mentoring sessions for secondary students will be conducted between all students and a staff member chosen by each student, in order to ensure that students receive the assistance they need to progress both academically and socially.

Cooperative Learning: Because our approach emphasizes the growth of each individual to achieve their potential and chosen goals, we recognize the need to create and foster opportunities for our students to gather in groups for the purpose of collaborating with their peers on learning activities. Students themselves often form such cooperative groups and partnerships in natural ways. Great endeavors in our society always require the need for individuals to be able to gather non-competitively and work together as a team. Ensuring such collaboration during the school years prepares our students for such challenges. These cooperative learning opportunities occur through writing plays and stories, conducting experiments, preparing projects, holding science/math fairs and art exhibits, solving class issues, forming study-buddies, having multi-aged buddy reading/learning, experiencing field trips, participating in student councils, and planning and hosting special events such as Graduation, Ethnic Weeks, Nutritional Month, Christmas concerts, Spring presentations, etc. In addition, our personal interest projects and internships take students into the broader community where they can participate in and contribute to adult work and service ventures.

Alberta Education Policies & documents