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Go Compare

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, these days schools are under increasing pressure to deliver on standards. The standards children attain in reading, writing and maths at the end Year 2 and Year 6, are published by the Department for Education with the data presented in all sorts of ways – including the Raiseonline report, the dreaded league tables and more recently, the Ofsted Data Dashboard (complete with speedometers for progress and attainment). I was pleased to note that last September the Dashboard was officially abandoned – but not at all surprised to see that its replacement, the government’s ‘Compare Schools’ website, is every bit as crude.

I’m not suggesting this information should not be in the public domain, after all it is important that schools are accountable for their own performance. The issue I have is that the narrow focus on test scores in just reading, writing and maths puts pressure on schools to move away from a broad and balanced curriculum. I often wonder what would happen should the IOC decide to award Olympic decathlon gold to the athlete who performs best at just the throwing events. I suspect that over time, standards in running and jumping would fall.

Last week I met up with the new Headteacher at Campsbourne School, who was interested to learn about our approach to outdoor education and how we implemented our Forest School curriculum. We had an interesting discussion about how a rich, relevant and well-planned outdoor curriculum will support a school to raise standards in other areas. Providing children with opportunities to apply their knowledge and understanding to other real life settings is how learning is consolidated.

I suspect the world has moved on much faster than the traditional school curriculum, and certainly faster than the system in place for measuring school’s success. The starting point for planning a school curriculum really needs to be a serious discussion about the skills, knowledge and attitudes children will need to be successful in the future – not so straight forward when we don’t know what the future will look like. Having good basic skills in core subjects will enable children to understand and describe other people’s ideas, but our children need to be able to come up with ideas of their own. The thing that will really make the difference will surely be the ability to think creatively, inventively and flexibly – and to be able to adapt quickly to change.

Last week’s science fair was a brilliant showcase for these skills and attitudes. It was heart warming to see the quality of work children had produced and the creative ways in which their ideas had been presented. To hear children present their ideas with such enthusiasm and talk so knowledgeably about complex scientific concepts was wonderful. The science fair might not feature in a league table, but it’s this type of learning opportunity that will enable our children to be successful in the future.

William