I’ve been incensed by the headlines in the news recently about school leavers not having the skills necessary to go into the workplace. For example, Companies ‘pick up the pieces’ of school failure, or Children being failed by GCSE exam system. But not for the reasons most teachers might say for being outraged.
I am outraged because these children are being let down.
Every child only goes through school once and that is why I am determined that Sandymoor will be outstanding from day 1.
Now, I don’t believe that the only point of education is to provide fodder for industry; that was thought to be the point of education in the 19th century, but we are in the 21st century and our education has to adapt to that. The Sandymoor curriculum is designed to empower the students that go through it, giving them the skills to be reflective learners, able to adapt to new situations and take on new skills throughout their entire life. To be change agents in the world. And this is embedded throughout the school structures.
On entry to the school, each student will take a set of diagnostic tests to identify how they learn, their strengths and weaknesses and any specific learning issues they may have. They well then have an interview with their personal tutor or a senior member of the school, where the results will be discussed and explained to the student. Also in this interview, each student’s individual likes and dislikes will be explored, along with their aspirations, hopes and dreams. This all forms the beginning of the student’s Individual Development Plan, which will grow with the student as they go through the school.
Following this, each individual will then be paired up with an outside adult, someone in the local or regional community who is in business, or works in an enterprising environment. And will be in some way linked to the student’s hopes or dreams. This person will be the Business & Enterprise Mentor and will be in school regularly (roughly every couple of weeks) for mentoring sessions with their mentees. This is where the student has the opportunity to develop the ‘soft’ skills required in the real world and explore how they will become successful in whatever they want to do. These sessions will be recorded in the IDP as well.
In school, the student’s academic tutor will be monitoring their progress against subject targets, whilst their personal tutor will be working with them to develop the interpersonal skills as well as the reflective, creative skills so necessary in today’s world.
Thorough out the first two years (years 7 & 8), the students will follow a curriculum that covers all of the national curriculum requirements, but does so in an integrated way. They will have specialist teachers delivering their subjects (as aspiration and passion is essential in the classroom from the teacher), but there will be over-arching topics that thread the whole school together. These topics will also form the basis of the community engagement lessons, where the focus is on demonstrating the relevance of the subjects and topics to the real world by engaging with the real world.
I am challenging companies to get into schools in this way, rather than ‘pick up the pieces’ when the students have left. I am aware that most secondary schools can’t accommodate this, but here at Sandymoor we can & will be doing this.
Looking ahead, I do agree that GCSEs can let students down. If the school teaches just to pass the test. By nature, GCSE exams examine what it is possible to test on, which tends to be very strictly defined knowledge regurgitation and so schools have evolved into producing this sort of student.
From the age of 14, through to 18, at Sandymoor, each student will follow a ‘pathway’ tailored to provide the qualifications that student needs to go into the profession they are wanting to, but also ensuring the focus is as firmly on the skills as on the knowledge. A Sandymoor student will already, through the first two years, have these skills, but they will continue to be valued and nurtured as they progress through the school.
And the development of the Business and Enterprise Mentor scheme will be crucial here, with the students then having the opportunity to engage with their mentor in their workspace. Not a traditional work experience model, where a teenager visits a place of work and makes tea for most of the time, because that relationship will already be there.
Sandymoor’s pathway approach to post-14 education will stop the focus on the damage GCSE cramming can do & help the student see themselves as on a journey, with the pathway to 18 as the start of their life-long journey. In this way, Sandymoor school has a number of the elements the government and industries are saying are a strength of the new University Technical Colleges (UTCs).
Sandymoor Students will be highly employable, highly creative and fully in possession of all the skills needed not just for today’s workplace, but the workplaces of tomorrow as well.