News and opinion

Matt Writtle

The great outdoors at Boston West

13 October 2015

Matt is an award-winning freelance portrait and documentary photographer based in London. In July, he travelled to Lincolnshire to photograph staff and pupils at CfBT Schools Trust school-with-a-difference, Boston West Academy.

I have never been to Boston before – Boston, Lincolnshire that is – so when I received the commission from CfBT Education Trust I was quietly excited. I travelled up the night before. It was a clear, warm, sunny evening and one of the things that inspires me as a photographer is flat, linear, vast landscapes with big skies – and this part of Britain has plenty.

Suitably inspired, I awoke early to make sure I arrived at Boston West Academy in time to capture the happy faces of children arriving at school. I met headteacher Mike Schofield who immediately struck me as an enthusiastic and inspirational man. Happy faces captured, Mike took me on a tour of the school.

Boston West 

Mike Schofield, Boston West 

A large portion of the school is based outside. Being a lover of nature and the outdoors this really excited me. It was at this point he described his philosophy to me. ‘At Boston West, we realise these are important.’ He took out his smartphone and held it up to me. ‘It’s the future and it’s crucial children utilise and develop their skills of technology to compete in the future – but society is in danger of spending the majority of their time with their eyes glued to these devices to the exclusion of anything else. We encourage children to embrace the outdoors, understand and appreciate nature and learn about the dangers of everyday living and take responsibility for their actions.’

Boston West

He then proceeded to tell me how a lessons might be taught outside in their learning garden – this is the kind of school I would have loved to attend growing up.

Boston West 

The children and teachers seem to have a really healthy relationship and the happiness at the school seemed genuine. Venturing indoors I photographed 5 year olds learning and operating very competently on iPads, 7 year olds making poetry scrolls and frames out of tree branches and 9 year olds exploring the garden and allotments – yes they grow their own fruit and veg – in search of laminated phrases which they had to decipher which were similes and metaphors. I confess, I was slightly embarrassed when the teacher asked me to do one and I got it wrong, only to be corrected by a 9 year old! Maybe I should come back to Boston West and get a re-education!

Boston West 

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Freelance photographer Matt Writtle captured what makes Boston West Academy so special