Making the Most of School Open Days

Making the Most of School Open Days

Making the Most of School Open Days

The BBC Parents’ website offers advice for ‘Making the Most of School Open Days.’ Amongst the top ten tips are ‘Find out about the lunch’ and ‘Pay attention to the pupils.’ Wise advice, no doubt, but nowhere is there any mention of the curriculum. The curriculum matters. What is actually taught, day in day out, in the classrooms of independent schools is a much more significant differentiator from the education offered in the state sector than imposing buildings or broad acres of rugby and hockey pitches.

At secondary level, we cannot hope to be entirely freed from the shackles of governmental regulation. If the assessment system for public examinations shifts from coursework to terminal exams or grading from As and A*s to 7, 8s and 9s then all but the brave few who adopt school assessed courses or the IB Middle Years Programme must accommodate themselves to those changes. Yet we can insist on a breadth and depth that goes beyond the minimum prescribed by government and more clearly reflects the educational values that we hold dear.

Budgetary constraints and the Progress 8 measure by which the government measures students’ progress in just 8 GCSEs are inevitably and inexorably narrowing the state secondary curriculum. Only this week, one of our excellent local 11-16 schools, revealed that it was closing down its Design Technology Department. Whilst in independent schools, Music, Art and Drama still ‘matter’, space on the curriculum for expensive practical and expressive subjects is being squeezed across the state sector – despite the protests of leading actors, directors and musicians that failing to invest in the UK’s lucrative Arts industry is patently a false economy.

At my own school, the Junior Department curriculum is the purest expression of our educational vision. For the youngest girls, play is at the heart of all their learning. For all the sophistication and innovation of pedagogy, for all the i-pads and e-learning, for all the academic progress that pupils make, a traditional belief in childhood stills underpins the curriculum. The time a child needs to explore their knowledge of themselves through forming new friendships and embracing new experiences cannot be surrendered to the demands of a rigid and prescriptive curriculum. The four Foundations for Learning upon which the curriculum is based and not academic targets but on the social values which really matter: Resilience, Enterprise, Community and Environment. These are foundations upon which we hope our pupils will build happy, healthy, socially responsible lives.

Angela Drew, Headmistress,
Bromley High School
www.bromleyhigh.gdst.net

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