The Free We Grow holding team is a volunteer team of parents, facilitators, friends and founders, who meet regularly to oversee the smooth running of the project, kind of like a board of trustees. We hold our meetings using roundspeak, and take consent based decisions as with the children’s meeting. The holding team helps with all the behind the scenes admin tasks that keep the project going, as well as learning together, staying true to, and helping shape the vision of the project. Over the years, we’ve welcomed new members, said goodbye to those moving on, while keeping them within our close circle of friends.
This summer we’ll be saying goodbye to Sally Hall, and welcoming Anna Hillier to the team! Anna is a parent of one of our children who joined FWG two years ago and is keen to join the holding team to support the project. Anna will be taking over some of Sally’s roles in project management, as well as being a member of the team, overseeing Free We Grow’s overall stability and wellbeing. A big welcome to you Anna!
And for this piece, I’d like to share a bit about Sally – because she’s awesome!
Sally was my co-facilitator at Free We Grow for the first two years of the project, from 2017-2019. We had recently met as we’d both started working for the Phoenix Education Trust in London, looking to bring student voice to mainstream schools. At Free We Grow, we had got to the point in the foundation process where we needed to find a co-facilitator, and having only met Sally once or twice before, I knew exactly who I wanted to ask.
Sally has a deep care for childhood and justice, for deep listening, and a natural instinct to be playful. She also seemed to have a deep, imbedded sense of what it is to be true. It was like a golden light, imbedded in her soul and from the moment I met her, I knew that she got it, – that hard to define feeling of being held by healthy relationships. And more than that, I knew that I’d have so much to learn from her. I’m so grateful she said yes! Sally had trained as a teacher and then, hearing about democratic education, went to spend a few months at Ecole de la Croisee des Chemins, a democratic school in France before returning to the UK.
Our first two years at Free We Grow were so much fun and so rich with learning. We learnt from the children, from the woodland and from each other. We learnt from the parents and from the holding team. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we agreed and disagreed and saw the contours of our perspectives. I remember one morning in our second term, we were unlocking the garage, ahead of the children’s arrival in the morning, we looked at each other and we both had the biggest smiles on our faces. Noticing this in each other, we laughed, and marveled at how good it felt to be at Free We Grow. Legend of her time at Dacres Wood still echoes in the quiet room with rumbles of ‘The Big Sally’.
Both of us were very new to facilitating, we observed each other, observed the children, observed the woodland, listened, and found our dance. You can find reflections from our learning at this time in our blog, if you scroll down through time. Some gems to pick out from Sally’s own writings can be found here, about Self Discovered, Self Appropriated learning, here about the Third Teacher, here about Show and Tell, and here, a piece by me, reflecting on Sally’s wise practice.
We also learnt from the wider, emergent, Freedom to Learn movement. Through our continuing work with Pheonix, alongside Danny Whitehouse, we set up the Freedom to Learn Network, organized festivals, connected facilitators and helped mulch the soil from which so many projects were emerging. Sally was central to this. The next Freedom to Learn Forum will be taking place at Sands’ School in Devon from August 31st to September 3rd, 2023 – join us!
Sally left FWG in 2019 to return to Norwich where today, Sally and Danny are now living together with their 2 year old daughter, Delilah! They are setting up their own project, Bamble Learning Community, at a scout hut and woodland and I’m so happy for all the joy that this will bring to families in their kith!
We are so grateful to you Sally for joining Free We Grow as a facilitator right at the start and for coming back to Free We Grow over the last year to take on Denise’s role as project manager at a time where we really needed your solidarity, organizational skills, and deep understanding of Free We Grow at a time of transition for the project. Your presence felt like an anchor and we wish you well for your next adventure and hope to be able to offer solidarity to your new community as you find your new dance!!