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Let’s Move To Finland

Since the excitement of writing my inaugural blog, I’ve been carrying out extensive research into the best school in the world – where is it and what is it like? Enter ‘best school in the world’ into Google and what comes up is Le Rosey, a boarding school in Switzerland. At £86,000 a year it is, admittedly, quite expensive, but with an equestrian centre and 38-foot yacht, I’m sure it equips their pupils exceptionally well for the world in which they are going to live.

Compare that to the Janna Primary School in Zambia: the school we link with in Year 3 and where I taught on a visit in 2012. The school was set up by the charity ‘Beyond Ourselves’ to ensure the poorest children in Ndola have the opportunity to go to school. There are very few resources, class sizes are large, but every child I met felt incredibly proud to attend school and showed real determination to use their education to become the best they could be. Ask any child at Janna what they want to be when they grow up and the answer will inevitably be doctor, teacher, lawyer or engineer. Compare these two schools and it’s not so straightforward to know which is best, although it’s obvious to me which is making the biggest difference.

Following more research, I find myself reading about schools in Finland and what they do to create the most successful school system in the world. The answer is very revealing. Essentially it amounts to investing heavily in ongoing professional development for teachers, providing a strictly play-based curriculum until children are 7, teaching in mixed ability classes, providing additional support for children who need it – and no formal testing of children until they are 15. I’d say ‘it’s not rocket science’ if it wasn’t for the fact that Finland is producing many of the world’s leading graduates in engineering.

Last night our Senior Team and Governing Body received some really high quality training on how to interpret school performance data, in the context of the new Ofsted framework. Everyone in the room felt the tension between, the pressures put on schools to adapt to the ever changing demands of the Department for Education and,  the pressure and moral imperative to do what we know is right for our children. I think we strike a good balance at Highgate Primary, but to become the best in the world might just require the school to relocate to Finland.

William Dean

Headteacher