☰ The benefits of autonomy in education...

The benefits of autonomy in education...

Posted on: May 20th 2016

I have many friends who teach, in both the independent and maintained sectors of education, and often most thinking does converge. Whichever the sector, we share very similar views on the most fundamental aspects of education: teaching and learning. Yet there seems to be a huge disconnect between what teachers and leaders in schools believe about education and what the government believes. Without being too political, it was the main reason that I left the maintained sector ten years ago. 

I have a belief that success is a by-product of a fulfilling and well rounded education and therefore tests and exam success will be able to be achieved through being developed as a strong and independent learner who can make decisions, have opinions and the ability to think critically for oneself. It is true that we teach technique in answering examination questions for 11+ in order to ensure our pupils are familiar with the exam process, but we do not simply ‘teach to tests’ nor do we narrow the curriculum at the expense of pupils’ creativity, enjoyment or engagement. 

We don’t have to do SATs to prove our worth and can choose instead our own way to assess our pupils’ progress and outcomes (and our senior school success is also testament to that.)  We are it seems, in a very fortunate position, particularly when I listen to some of the horror stories from my state school contemporaries surrounding the SATs testing and preparation (only teaching maths and English SATs style questions from September, no trips, countless pages of SPaG tests to name a few) and the pressures on both the children and the schools to perform in areas of the curriculum that not many feel benefit or fit the demographic of children they are teaching. This also seems incongruous with the government’s think tanks on mindfulness and mental health for young people; another initiative they have thrown into the mix, which was actually welcomed by teachers, only to then realise that Natasha Devon had been sacked for being critical of the government... 

What we need to remember is that our pupils are not a commodity to be used to prove or disprove government agendas and satisfy their theories or statistics. They are young people who need a full and rounded education and broad and exciting challenges that will help them to be the best adults and most robust lifelong learners that can walk out into jobs that we don’t even have the names of yet, and succeed. I doubt very much they would need to know what a past progressive sentence is, for that - and I am thankful that we can choose whether that is of any relevance to our pupils in our school.

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