“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope” Martin Luther King Jr

The words of MLK could apply to any number of situations not least a strong resonance to anyone gearing themselves up for the start of the Six Nations at the start of February. Wyedean Warriors have enjoyed some New Year success with the Year 10 Boys football team winning the district football tournament last week. Netball, Badminton and hockey teams are in action this coming week. I spoke to Year 7 on Friday morning about this time being a moment in history with the inauguration of a new president as well as the UK government’s position on what sort of Brexit becoming clearer ahead of Article 50 being triggered in March. These momentous World events are providing an interesting back-drop to the everyday life of the school but it is precisely the everyday that is moving us forward. The Year 9s went through their Options Evening on Thursday and this coming Thursday Year 11s have their consultation evening. The Sixth Form applications closed formally, even though we are still taking more applications, and we topped over 200 applying to come to Wyedean for this September. Linked to the recent news on nearly 200 first choice applications for new Year 7s this autumn it is a strong endorsement from our students and community in Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire that the curriculum, learning, achievement and education at Wyedean school fits in with their aspirations for what they want from their school. As I walk around the school daily I see this in every classroom and how hard my colleagues are working to deliver quality education for the young people in our care.

Part of the strategy for Wyedean School over the last couple of years is not just re-engagement and strengthening the ties with our community but also as an academy being able to develop our own partnerships for school improvement, transition and developing further compelling learning opportunities. We are pleased to have become a strategic secondary school partner in the West Forest Primary Group of schools and last week, Martin Jenkins, vice principal for pastoral, attended the regional conference for Challenge Partners with our fellow CP schools in Portsmouth. The Music department has been involved in an incredible collaboration project with the Gloucester Vocal project that is currently running a special masterclass stretch and challenge programme with Year 8 throughout the next 10 weeks. The wider enrichment of music in this school and our commitment to music in the curriculum is sadly something disappearing in so many schools with the ongoing budget cuts.

I have the huge honour of speaking at the World Education Forum in London on Thursday at the invite of the British Council to talk about the curriculum, community involvement and global learning work of Wyedean School to an audience which will include education ministers and policy makers from around the World. Getting the opportunity, in the words of Quaker George Fox to Oliver Cromwell, to literally speak truth to power. The DfE released official figures last week for the 2016 summer examinations using the new accountable measurement of Progress 8 and Attainment 8. This is also the summer where English and Maths are undertaking the new specifications with the numerical grading. Wyedean is in a fairly unique position because only around half of our Year 11 are included in the figure because of a sizeable chunk of our students coming to us from Monmouthshire. Statistically we did fine, still with room for improvement but interestingly a lot of the debates between educators and parents on social media focussed on the magnitude of the Government reforms now hitting schools linked to the real term spending cuts of around 10% linked to a perceived confused DfE strategy for education. I did highlight this to my leadership team as we discussed at length the curriculum model for September 2017 onwards against this backdrop and actually trying to keep true to what our students need in terms of skills, knowledge, education for the 21st Century. Wyedean School is working with the International Baccalaureate with the aim offering IB programmes linked to the school vision of global education. Education in schools at all Key Stages has to be much more that a narrowing set of foundation skills being offered in state schools. If Theresa May’s vision for Britain is to be more “global” as she said last Tuesday, in a fragmenting multi-polar world with economic power shifting eastwards then a dynamic knowledge economy is the way schools should be developing their curriculum to allow a breadth and depth of sorts of skills and knowledge to equip young people for the challenges their generation will face in this century.

I even shared with my Leadership Team an overlooked paragraph in the DfE’s circular this month on Progress 8 which I will share in full here:

The performance measures are designed to encourage schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum with a focus on an academic core at key stage 4, and reward schools for the teaching of all their pupils, measuring performance across 8 qualifications…Schools should continue to focus on which qualifications are most suitable for individual pupils, as the grades pupils achieve will help them reach their goals for the next stage of their education or training.

The great champion of Pupil Premium, John Dunford, wrote a great article in the TES on the 17th Jan extolling schools to remember; ‘Despite the avalanche of change, it is still possible for schools to develop a curriculum fit for the 21st century’

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/despite-avalanche-change-it-still-possible-schools-develop-a

I heard John speak to Gloucester Heads last year and he is always worth listening to especially on this issue. I think the infinite hope has to be that despite some despondency and disappointment in what has been allowed to happen to education under all colours of recent governments, we can still ensure the curriculum and education excites, captures and grows the minds of our young people still resonating as they progress long after their school days are over. But by then they have become lifelong learners and good global citizens in the process.

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