For many students across the UK, the start of a new year marks the height of mock GCSE season. This is an important time for young people. Their mock exam results are designed to give them some indication of how much they have learned in school and whether they are likely to achieve their predicted grades in the summer.
These results will be of interest to headteachers too, as the quality of education schools provide is largely judged on how their pupils do in their exams.
But how can you really define a quality education? Is it about the number of exam certificates a child leaves school with? Or do schools offer much more than that?
The measure of a good education
One event that is widely regarded as the global measure of education standards is the publication of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. The report highlights the achievement of 15 year-olds from across the world and according to the latest figures, the UK now ranks 26th for mathematics, 23rd for reading and 21st for science, with East Asian countries dominating the top spots in the chart.
Published every three years, the PISA results often spark a flurry of media coverage and debate around standards in our schools. But there are those who question whether they encourage us to focus too much on measuring the academic elements of education.
There are many things children gain from school that fall outside the realms of academic performance. Self-confidence, the ability to communicate effectively, think on your feet and demonstrate problem solving skills can all be as important as good grades in the workplace.
In the independent school sector, ensuring a good balance between a child's academic and non-academic achievement has been the grounding of a good education for many years. Although schools do not formally assess their pupils on the development of these 'softer' skills, some school leaders believe it is important to give them a more official place in the curriculum, from a young age.
Looking beyond exam results
I am hearing more and more about the momentum gathering around the Prep School Baccalaureate. This is a two-year programme of study for Year 7 and 8 pupils attending fee-paying schools designed to prepare them academically, personally, socially, culturally and spiritually for the challenges of life as young adults.
Yateley Manor, in Hampshire, is one of the schools piloting the programme. Since it was founded in 1947 with just three pupils, the school has evolved to become one of the leading lights in the development of the Prep School Baccalaureate. With the help of technology, it successfully balances the academic performance of each child alongside the development of their character and personal skills. The school's deputy head believes the Prep School Baccalaureate is the most important initiative to be introduced in education since he joined the profession.
I'd be interested to find out what you think constitutes a good education. Do you think schools devote enough curriculum time to nurturing pupils' social and spiritual development? Would you want to see a shift in how the quality of provision in schools is judged with more focus placed on demonstrating children's non-academic achievements in school as well as their exam results?
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