13 Oct

Graham
Well, another week over – and I’m sitting on another train! One positive aspect of travelling is that I get chance to catch up on my emails. I’m writing this on the way home from Thursday evening’s meeting in London relating to young people with additional needs and routes into employment. I heard a brilliant quote which I am tempted to pinch, ‘Keeping ambition alive’ – how true for all our organisations.

I think I spoke too soon a few weeks ago when I suggested that schools appeared to be moving into a period of stability. We’ve since seen the release of a draft paper relating to T levels. We’ve also heard that the new Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, wants schools to concentrate more on providing a broad and balanced curriculum as she’s concerned that they are just chasing exams. None of our schools can be criticised for that!!

Let’s deal with the T levels first. T stands for technical and the direction of travel is aiming to provide courses and accreditation for young people who would prefer a more technical curriculum (click here for details). All very laudable – I really hope that our learners can fit in.

The early indications are that T levels will be comparable with the revised GCSEs and extend through to A level standards. The revised GCSE model will prove to be a significant challenge for many of our learners. You will recall that the system has moved to an ‘end of course’ exam and the vast majority of our youngsters will now really struggle to achieve a 9-5 grade (the old A-C). Our schools have worked so hard to increase participation and raise expectations and ,when coursework was continuously evaluated, many of our young people attained high grades. I, along with other school leaders, am particularly concerned that this ‘new’ (it’s not really new because I remember doing my O levels in a similar way) exam system will further isolate our learners from the mainstream. End of course exams are notoriously tricky, nerve racking and stressful – I believe the new English exam is 2 and a half hours long!!!

The promise of a more practical, vocational and technical offer is to be welcomed but I hope it can be continually assessed over the period of the course. If we are able to assess what our children can DO then we will welcome it, but if it only assesses what they can cram in and regurgitate in an exam situation then T levels will not move us forward. Last night’s meeting discussed the attributes that employers are looking for and, guess what, we talked about team working, resilience, communication, problem solving and creativity. Yes, employers want our young people to have basic skills in reading, writing and number but they also want schools to educate children in the widest sense. So, on to the new Chief Inspector’s comments on the curriculum..

Our schools and organisations have long promoted the value of having a vibrant and exciting curriculum. I don’t need to tell you all about our pathways, nurture groups, Duke of Edinburgh’s, work experiences, performances, sports events, interventions…..our list is almost endless. Yet most schools are still judged on EBacc and Progress 8. I’ve blogged in the past about my worry that the curriculum offer in mainstream is far too restricted and narrow. I really welcome the Chief Inspector’s latest report – perhaps we can also look to assess and value resilience, team working, problem solving and creativity!! That’s where our children would really shine.

From an Oldham perspective, we’ve only heard bits and pieces about the Local Area SEND review that happened last week. The inspectors saw some good practice and, as you’d expect, highlighted a number of areas that require further work. The report will be published in about 6 weeks so we’ll know more at that point.

Life at Spring Brook is gloriously hectic – but you can read about all our organisations in their individual blogs here.

Have a great weekend,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here