Returning to school after the annual IAPS Heads’ conference is always an intriguing moment. I am never quite certain which, of all the variety of new thoughts rattling around my head, is going to gain the most traction.
One of the speakers was Lord Grabiner, QC. He said that “you should never chase a number 13 bus, a pretty girl or an educational trend…another one will always come along to take its place!” And one trend that was being discussed is that of pupil well-being and its impact on achievement. The package of initiatives comprising Thinking Skills, Mindfulness and Philosophy for Children are all focused on enabling children to be more comfortable in their ability to be learners and in the social dimension that is so central to it. It is very important, and many excellent resources and training opportunities abound. However, as far as our schools are concerned, this core principle, that “happy children learn”, is one that has driven us along for many, many years and something that we continue to know is at the heart of our future development. I am always struck when reflecting on it and observing the interactions around school that many principles enshrined in these initiatives have been in use at our schools for so long: Responsibility, cooperation, challenge, thoughtfulness, resilience and enquiry amongst others.
We always continue to explore the question that Harvard Professor of Education David Perkins asks “what’s worth learning?” and it’s a question that more schools are starting to ask themselves. We all know that entrance exams, GCSEs (or whatever supersedes them!) and A levels are at present our major focus and it is essential that our children are prepared to the very highest standard by us as a school. However, beyond that preparation, are the intellectual skills that will last them for the rest of their lives. It is a journey for all of us, yet we never lose sight of the foundations that will ensure that schools must continue to educate happy, successful young people.
If you would like a little background on some of the innovations in learning, then here are some websites for relevant material.