I spent most of Friday at the Gloucestershire secondary Heads conference listening to a variety of speakers talk and debate some of the most pressing and pertinent issues surrounding education today. Sir John Dunford, the “Pupil Premium Champion” gave a very forthright account of what the best schools are doing to ensure a big chunk of learners are not written off and actually have measures put in place to allow them educational opportunities that raises their expectations as well. Bradley Simmons, head of OfSTED in the SW, talked through the new Sept 2015 framework and what this means for schools especially in terms of the deeper expectations of the role of governance, safeguarding, pupil premium and more able students. Wyedean School wants to move from “Good” to “Outstanding” and to be considered “high performing” in everything we do so it was with interest I read the final DfE League Tables published last week comparing the GCSE 5x A*-C with English and Maths.
Educational funding policy concerns all schools and there was nothing reassuring at the conference from the chair of the Commons select Committee, Neil Carmichael MP, for any school leader in the room. Telling schools to “do more for less” and expecting them to aspire to “World Class” education on funding levels last seen in the mid-1990s challenges even the most optimistic of school leader. One of the other areas of contention is the government’s wish for “90% of children” to be studying EBacc subjects. The Chief Inspector of OfSTED, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has publicly challenged the thinking for this proposal and consultation with the DfE ends on the 29th January English.BACCALAUREATE@education.gsi.gov.uk). My background is strongly with the International Baccalaureate (the IB) and I have looked on in bemusement over the years as several different governments, both sides of the border, have attempted to take the word “baccalaureate” and apply it to suggest they are actually joining a curriculum together with cross curricula subjects and strands that enhance learning. I do believe the days of viewing education as dry, stand alone, disjointed and disconnected subjects forming a student’s curriculum are long gone but educational debate still needs to go some way to look to the sort of education the IB provides and make sure all students have the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills to equip them for life-long learning and high aspirations. Last week we held our Year 9 “Options Evening” and we have worked hard to provide different curriculum pathways and individual learning for our students. What all staff here want for Wyedean is a curriculum, both formal and informal, that raises expectations, challenges all learners and equips students for the C21st globalised World.
A clear example of this comes from the Science Learning Area on a daily basis. Students were fortunate enough to go to the GCSE Science Live event at Oxford last week and we are really pleased that our students are through to the Science Fame Lab final at the Cheltenham Festival in February. I have also been following the recent sporting success of our very own “Wyedean Warriors” on Twitter. The student council executive have moved our proposal for the school’s “learning garden” forward and we were really pleased to be awarded 420 saplings by the Woodland Trust as part of this commitment to the learning environment of the school. We are in the Forest of Dean after all. The respective coordinators of digital, creative and global learning all presented to the Full Governors on Tuesday and it felt reassuring to see how expectations for all learners are being raised. I agree totally with my colleague in English, it is our moral imperative as educators to have a culture of high expectations for all of our students from all of our staff.