Not a day goes by where the government isn’t pouncing on an aspect of education that needs radical reform. If it isn’t the academies programme and school inspections, it’s the exam boards and determining which courses are more valuable than others.
The academic bar is being constantly raised and schools are under more pressure than ever before to reach it – or face consequences.
Amidst the government’s agenda of rapid change in all directions, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture: and that, for me, is to help every student grow into a mature and successful adult.
And at my school, we aim to get there NOT by kowtowing to everything the government says, but by giving students opportunities to reach their full potential.
The key ingredient to this is maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum so everyone finds something that engages them – even if that means taking courses on the government’s vocational ‘hit list’ and not deemed to be as worthy as mainstream academic subjects.
So we will continue to offer, for example, the Preparation for Working Life qualification that teaches everything from preparing for job interviews to the tax system and checking train times.
And we will continue to offer tailor-made courses in partnership with local further education colleges in a number of skills like bricklaying. These are qualifications that will not count towards any league tables, but it will give them better life chances.
The government is quick to criticise schools for focusing on borderline students to improve their league table ranking, but we put a lot of resources into giving our brightest academic students the boost they need to achieve top grades and aspire to get into the best universities.
We have, for example, developed a programme with Southampton University where our most able students as well as our most deprived students take part in workshops on astronomy among other intellectually challenging disciplines. Just as for those students who are less academic, this is part of our approach to give our youngsters the tools to succeed in the adult world.
I can honestly say, with my 30-something years of experience in the teaching profession, that education has never been as good as it is now.
Students get a really good deal because we’ve learnt to adapt and personalise the curriculum to find what it is right for them.