Category Archives: Education

3 trophies with ribbons on a table

What a performance!

There’s a sea change happening in the world of sport and I wonder how long it will be before it arrives in schools?

The new buzz word is ‘performance’. Or perhaps ‘performance!’ Schools have been in the business of improving performance since the league tables came in and have even become quite team-aware in the process. I have come across a school where the English department was forbidden to teach a tough long text for GCSE because the kids could score just as highly on a shorter, easier book and, with less reading to do, would have more time to spend on tougher subjects. That’s whole-school thinking, though I would lament the loss of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for ‘Of Mice and Men’ any day.

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Well, what do you know?

I mean really, what do you know?  And how did you find it out?  Were you taught it?  And if so, were you taught it by teachers, by mates, by parents or by the hard knocks of the School of Life?  Or – even – by the telly?  Go on, admit it, you can learn a lot from the apparently endless parade of quiz shows in one format or another. There’s probably a sociological study to be done of such shows: on a daily basis, they remind us of the value – literal, hard cash value – of knowing stuff. Much of it probably of no use to you at all except in the cauldron of a quiz show, where it can be very valuable indeed.

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Books and pencil and apple

Ready, steady…

Don’t you love the smell of a new pencil case in September? Even as I write, I am thinking two things: “How old school is such a thought?” and “Ah, probably not”. The feel of a new laptop possibly, then, or glee at the prospect of whole new technologies reclining seductively in the classroom: “Look at me! I will make it easy to differentiate for all pupils, to engage, entertain, enthuse all learners with a kaleidoscope of images and sounds to rival the Odeon on a Friday night, put the universe and Stephen Hawking in your classroom! Flick my switch, smooth my surface, open sesame – the world beyond the classroom is right here on the wall – click!”

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Back on track

Oops – missed a week.  Apologies!  I do know that a blog should be current and it does not look good to go silent, especially when you’re not even on holiday – but last week just ran away from me.  Actually, in the nicest possible way.  Spent Wednesday visiting Lichfield Cathedral School and revisiting old haunts – my earliest memories are of Lichfield, which we left when I was about 5.  Lovely, human-scale city, with a fine cathedral served by the choir boys of the Cathedral School.  My thanks to Cara O’Donnell for her time showing me around.  Boarding which is fitted into a Bishop’s Palace with all the problems of ancient buildings and listed-ness is a very different business from the now-frequently seen new-build boarding, and as always, it’s the warmth of the staff and the relationships within the building which make it work.

On Thursday to Kent College Canterbury, high on its hill, and an excellent tour with the School Captain.  Lots of refurbishment going on, again fitted into the walls of an original building.  I often think on such tours that if the guide disappeared, I would never find my way back to the main entrance, but students are always completely at home and quick to talk about why they chose this school over the two others they saw at the moment of choice – usually they confirm what I suspect, that choosing a boarding school is like deciding to buy a house – when you walk through the door, you just know, even if you can’t articulate it very clearly for others.  My thanks to Chris Joy, the eminently wise Head of Boarding, for his time and hospitality on a busy afternoon.

From the hill down to town for the King’s Canterbury production of ‘West Side Story’ – superb!  A truly inspiring evening in the Marlowe Theatre – a stage full of young men and women dancing and singing their way through that fabulous score, and a school orchestra sounding completely professional.  I have been humming ever since, and wondering how A level classes went for the last couple of days of the week with this young cast performing 5 times between Wednesday and Saturday night.  But what an experience to remember for the rest of their lives.  Here at BSA, we would say such opportuinities are a major attraction of the boarding life.  Peter Roberts, Headmaster, positively glowed wirth pride at all that these young people had been able to accomplish.

Today – to the Annual Conference of The Society of Heads, held near Croydon – another revisiting of old haunts, since I started my career lecturing at Croydon Tech.  I will be joining a panel to discuss the new inspection regime and to hear from the audience how it is going on the floor (in both senses of the words). We live in interesting times – new NMS, new inspection regime.  Readers expecting an inspection of baording in the near future would do well to consult the ISI website and download the inspection documentation which gives you an idea of what inspectors are looking for.  Also, remember that the national agenda for safeguarding children has moved a long way in the last ten years, whoever does the inspecting – boarding provision has to be spot on with the welfare of children right at its heart.

And with that, if you have been, thank you for reading, and happy week!

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