It appears that the English educational system is about to enter another tumultuous period of change following the Chancellor’s budget statement this week and the subsequent White Paper launched by Nicky Morgan. On one level it is actually a relief to finally see the educational strategy the government is outlining for the next few years so at least as educators we can plan accordingly. Over the last couple of weeks I have attended the ASCL conference, SW Education conference and Gloucestershire Heads and listened with intent to the debates generated by the likes of Michael Wilshaw, Nicky Morgan, John Dunford and David Carter as well as my colleagues leading their own schools. It is amazing how much thinking can be done up and down the length of the M5 motorway.
Everyone involved in education wants to raise standards and opportunities for our young people in an ever changing globalised and technology influenced society but how we do this is where people are going to obviously differ. The debates and dialogues are healthy though and what has worked previously isn’t necessarily what is needed now to address the issues we are facing in education in 2016. I look at my own kids and the students entrusted to me as the Headteacher of Wyedean and want to make sure that the nurture and the learning we are providing for them gives the right skills, life choices and well-being to allow them to grow and soar in this World. I don’t know if making every school an academy or pursuing the EBacc curriculum or even every school joining a MAT necessarily achieves this ambition. I do know having dedicated professional teachers working hard offering challenge and stimulus supported and trusted by school leaders, administrators and pastoral care is part of how we achieve this aim. I know the work of the school’s governors & parents supporting and challenging the staff and students is a key part of achieving success for our young people. I am not sure if it was Steve Jobs or Abraham Lincoln (or neither) who said the best way to predict the future is to create it but Wyedean School has joined the highly successful Challenge Partnership network of schools this term as a way of creating unique opportunities and raising standards further as we plan for our future here and avoid capricious educational fads. And more investment in schools is needed Secretary of State, not less as funding is now being reduced to a crisis level that will impact negatively on standards & what we are trying to commonly achieve in education.
There are two examples of what we can achieve in partnership from the last couple of days alone. On Thursday one of our parent governors, her partner, our creative learning coordinator and director of Sixth Form worked with our students planting over 400 trees kindly donated by the Woodlands Trust to plant at the front of school. The Spring weather was glorious and it ranks as one of the best days I have experienced at Wyedean to date even with the various expected curve balls thrown my way during the same day. On the same evening staff and parents worked in partnership having the often tough and difficult conversations with students facing exams in Year 11 and Sixth Form in just a few weeks but all in the spirit of support and partnership. I know from the conversations I have had this lunchtime with three of the Year 11 lads I am mentoring how important this support is from school and home. The latest round of lesson observations we are undertaking also reveals the compelling learning going on in the school and the impact this is having on the individual student’s progress. We can’t afford to waste any learning time.
It was Sport Relief today and I did let the younger more energetic colleagues take part in the staff netball match at lunch and opted instead for the judging role of the Easter Cake competition. My thanks to Year 10 Food Tech students and Year 9 entrants for the invite. The Student Leadership Exec’ are currently looking at the Wyedean school uniform and dress code and in our meeting this week there certainly was as a lot of “healthy dialogue” generated on the issue. As I looked at the whole of Year 9 in my assembly this morning it reminded me of my time in US high schools as we held a non-uniform day in aid of Sport Relief and students wore their own clothes. I think it is fair to say Hogwarts style academic gowns are definitely a non-starter for now and the future.