You are here: Home > Headteacher’s Blog > Conversations from a Coal Mine

Conversation from a Coal Mine

With the new inspection framework out there, it seems that schools around the country have gone into overdrive writing and reviewing their curriculums to ensure it measures up when the inspector calls. It seems desperately sad that it takes a change at the top of Ofsted for schools to feel the need to create a curriculum that is broad and balanced, but understandable perhaps given the general sense of fear that surrounds school inspection. Read any school website for its aims statement and perhaps read between the lines – ‘our aim is to ensure we do ok in our next inspection’.

At Highgate Primary, the process of reviewing and updating our curriculum is possibly the thing on the list of things to do that excites me most. Decisions about what we teach and when we teach creates great discussion, and everyone will have an opinion. It’s at times like this that it’s important to have solid foundations on which the curriculum is built – a set of values that underpins the education we provide. At Highgate Primary, we have a strong set of values: inclusive, supportive, healthy and green, with a strong commitment to instilling a love of learning. Our school values serve us well, and have stood the test of time.

Decisions about the content of the school curriculum ultimately come down to the question ‘what do we want our children to be like in the future?’ – a question that was answered brilliantly by Christine Counsell at a training event I attended recently.

Her answer was something along the lines of, ‘we want our children to have the skills, knowledge and attitudes to be able to hold a meaningful conversation with anyone from any background’. I think this encapsulates what we try to achieve at Highgate Primary. In order to achieve this, children need to be interested in people, have a well-rounded general knowledge, excellent communication skills and a high level of empathy – all of which are developed through a rich, broad and balanced curriculum.

I can think of many examples where I’ve felt particularly proud of our children, but my highlight happened a couple of years ago in a coal mine in the Brecon Beacons. At the bottom of the lift shaft, in darkness lit only by torchlight, a group of our children encountered a tourist party from China. The Chinese were fascinated to meet primary school children and, to their amazement, real conversations took place – in perfect Chinese Mandarin. Our children even entertained them with Chinese songs.

Being interested in people and having the skills and knowledge to communicate well with people from all walks of life seems like a worthwhile aim for any curriculum.

William