An Education worth Having | Whole Education Curriculum Conference March 5th London
Developing a curriculum that meets the needs of all young people, whilst making the most of the choices we have
David Crossley Executive Director Whole Education Network
The Whole Education Network champions and shares practice that supports the development of a curriculum offer that is “real, relevant and engaging” that not only will meet the conventional system demands, but also develop wider skills and attributes too. We argue that the offer of an entitlement to a whole education is the only way to truly narrow the gap and genuinely meet the needs and aspirations children and young people.
Together we can build our confidence to really make a difference
Our annual curriculum conference on 5th March seeks to explore how we can offer a curriculum that meets the needs of all of our learners, whilst at the same time meeting the demands, challenges and changes to our system; including GCSE and AS Levels examinations, changing accountability measures and life after levels. To help us to navigate this territory we have contributions from; our Partner organisations and supporters, an examination board (OCR), and expertise on data analysis including use of Progress 8. Most importantly, successful schools in our network will share what they are doing in their schools, and what’s working. Contributing schools include; Passmores Academy, Cramlington Learning Village, Shireland Collegiate Academy, Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust and School 21. We genuinely believe that together we can build our confidence, share our knowledge and understand how best to achieve these goals.
The potential of the profession to harness evidence to drive improved outcomes for children
This year, in the innovative surroundings of The UCL Academy at Swiss Cottage, London the conference will open a keynote talk from Dr. Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation, which will both challenge and inform our thinking. He will explore the potential of the profession to harness evidence to drive improved outcomes for children and inform the design of the curriculum they are offered. We hope the conference will act as catalyst for your schools, and mark the beginning of some important on-going development work across the Whole Education Network, with a particular focus on assessment and measuring what we value.
Isn’t there a case for a more balanced approach to assessment in general?
What exactly are we assessing in a three-hour handwritten terminal examination, and are these the things we really value? Why not include something really radical – teacher assessment. Teachers see students’ work every day and can formally assess a far wider range of skills than is currently asked of them. When combined with an examination element, would we not get a better and more balanced assessment, and a more professional profession too? We live in a digital age: high levels of competence in oracy, presentation, problem-solving, creativity, interpersonal engagement and teamwork are now expectations rather than desirables. Surely it is time to move forward from just assessing what students can write in a test?
Unleashing the Curriculum designer in us all and making the most of the choices we have
Demonstrating what works, being bold, and showing that radical approaches do not just develop wider skills but also deliver in conventional ways too, is surely the best way forward. In England, we have one almost unique advantage – the bulk of the resource is in our hands in our schools. This gives schools choices and options, but only if they choose to use them. This isn’t really about new money. Rather, it is about abandoning things and redeploying the resources we already have. As Sir John Dunford, Chair of Whole Education, Pupil Premium Champion and former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who will close the conference often remarks – this is the time for us to stop looking up and to start looking out.
All schools have more choices than they often think or feel. Some are understandably fearful in a context of accountability pressures, floor targets and changes in examinations requirements. Indeed, part of the purpose of the Whole Education Network is to help us be bold and to give us the confidence to take the risk out of innovation. Whole Education offers schools a call to action, a safe space in which to experiment, and a range of contact with others who are on the same journey, maybe even trying the same things. There is a world of lessons out there for us to draw on as we seek to do the very best for all young people.
David Crossley is Executive Director of the Whole Education Network and a former school leader. His book, Sustainable School Transformation: There is another way, was be published by Bloomsbury in 2013.
Whole Education is a non-profit organisation committed to ensuring that all young people have access to a broad, rounded education. It works with, supports and enables collaboration between schools that are experimenting with effective and engaging curricula.