This Thursday thousands of children nationwide will make the nervous journey into school to pick up the GCSE results which to some degree will determine their future. They can open and shut career paths and are of course significant, yet regardless of whether the national picture is more or less positive, or about the same, it feels like there's a real opportunity to change our educational offering for the better.
GCSE results alone provide a narrow and confusing measure of success with no real consideration of the overall benefits to children of their time at school. Under Michael Gove the system was exam heavy, prescriptive and extremely Maths and English focused, but under new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, there is a real opportunity to take an approach which not only provides a strong academic grounding but also instils character values in students.
There is an opportunity to empower and trust head teachers to make the decisions they feel will benefit children most, to make the curriculum broader, less prescriptive and complementary to in-class learning with activities that encourage communication and shared experience which in turn instils life values and reinforces our role in society.
Academic achievement is and always will be important, learning in the classroom is something which should be embraced, but there is far too narrow a focus on test results, leaving a generation of children attempting to enter the working world with none of the day to day attributes they require to succeed. They need a context outside of the classroom to learn different, non-academic and complimentary life skills.
Between now and the election there is an opportunity to build and consolidate activities both inside and outside the classroom, increasing community involvement and encouraging schools to work together. With so much recent focus on results, competition between schools has intensified at the expense of collaboration, yet it would benefit all students if schools could work together to foster a more exciting spirit of competition through sporting and musical events.
I would expect GCSE results this year to remain steady or perhaps to fall a little and this could have a serious effect on poor performing schools who will immediately come under substantial pressure. Under these circumstance it is difficult to take any focus other than vastly improving exam results in as short a period as possible, but I would implore these schools to widen their focus and attempt to offer as much for their students outside of the classroom as in.
I truly believe that if young people embrace challenges - perhaps learning a new sport, musical instrument or attempting the local dialect in a foreign country, in the long-term they can expect excellence. All of these things teach failure, the ability to try again and the ultimately rewarding feeling of mastering something - an important lesson whatever stage of life you are at. We are a cautious nation who shun failure yet I believe it is essential children learn what failure means and feels like and more importantly experience the joy of overcoming a setback, one of life's great lessons.
Regardless of what Thursday holds for GCSE results I see a potential new dawn in education and hope that extracurricular activities continue to rise in importance as we look build a more rounded and enthused generation of your people.