It isn’t every day that you get the opportunity to speak to the manager of the England football team, but today I had that chance and took it!
It was the final session of the Boarding Schools’ Association Heads’ Annual Conference, and Gareth Southgate had been invited along as a boarding parent to speak to the assembled heads. He was eloquent, intelligent and insightful; I can’t help but think that the England team is in safe hands. In answer to my question about his take on school league tables, he spoke about the fact that coaching, like education, is about the long game – yes, winning is important, but the learning process and becoming the best you can be is what really matters. Bravo, Mr Southgate!
These sentiments chime well with my own philosophy; qualifications are, of course, important, but not at the expense of the time, space and opportunities to grow and develop as a human being; that examined ‘end result’ is most definitely only part of the beginning for our students. Of at least equal importance are the attitudes, attributes and character which we nurture and develop in our pupils.
Whilst I have been away, there has been some heartfelt responses to pictures of our Junior School and Infants heading out on their PYP adventures whilst in many other schools, their contemporaries are cramming for SATs exams. In response to the photos on our Facebook page of the Rossall students discovering and adventuring on the beach and in the countryside, several non-Rossall parents have mentioned the pressure their children are under to succeed in their SAT exams. And to what end? Countless children will come away from the SATs feeling that they are failures; and this blow comes just weeks before the transition to Senior School when 11 year olds should be bouncing with anticipation for the next stage of their school careers. I also feel sad for the late developers – will they ever be able to regain their self-esteem enough to realise the potential they actually have?
Conversely, the Rossall children will be having an action-packed week, full of challenge, self-discovery and teamwork; they will learn a huge amount, but just not in a classroom. At Rossall, we embrace the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme – a creative and forward-looking curriculum which fosters curiosity, higher level thinking, collaboration, makes connections across curriculum areas and encourages pupils to ask searching questions. We introduced the PYP nearly ten years ago and are delighted with how it creates active and happy learners.
I think we realise how lucky we are in the independent sector to not be forced into taking the SATs and I hope, for the sake of the nation, that an Education Minister will soon have the courage to listen to teachers, parents and children; remove the unnecessary testing at age 11, allow teachers to make their professional judgements about pupil progress and give these young people back the time to grow as individuals, not as exam machines.