Last week I attended the ASCL conference. It’s an opportunity for Head teachers from independent and state schools at both primary and secondary level to discuss issues surrounding education. The Secretary of State for Education is always invited to give a speech to this gathered group, outlining their vision and plans.
Whilst I value the opportunity to listen to the Secretary of State, I also worry about the impact the next new and shiny education policy (often based on the current post holder’s own impassioned view of education) will have on the teaching and learning in schools. Their decisions will be felt by the schools, long after they have left the post. Over the past 30 years we have only had two Secretary of States that have remained longer than four years, each one introducing a new merry go round of policy. Education sadly and wrongly is a product of a short term cycle of UK politics.
Pupils beginning their education at the age of 4 will take their GCSEs in 2030, it will be 2035 when they graduate. At BGS we are always asking what skills will these girls need, not just to have rewarding careers but also to live rewarding lives. What we teach and how we teach has to be relevant to the girls as well as making them future fit and future smart. The conference highlighted the need to teach not just technical skills but personal skills such as communication, problem solving and emotional intelligence. Where once a career was for life, our girls will have several careers. They need to be able to learn new skills, be adaptable, be problem solvers.
It is of course right that Governments should have a say in how children should be educated but it should be a long term view. It should be a view on what education system needs to be in place to serve the country’s long term interests. We need a long term plan not continual tinkering with examination specifications or criteria for recognition in Performance Tables. The former taking up endless teachers’ time as they cope with the ever heavy content that is requested to be taught and the latter driving schools away from teaching creative subjects.
The conference highlighted that we need a broader curriculum that has flexibility to teach knowledge and skills. A curriculum that puts as much emphasis on conceptual understanding and skills as it does on knowledge. It sounds like IB to me – an education system steeped in educational research and free from political intervention. Perhaps that is why I value it so and perhaps that is why I feel its strap line of educating for a better world is one that we should all be striving for.