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Is the current secondary education system really so bad?

awardLast Friday night I attended the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Event along with two teachers : Caroline Tomlinson and Kevin Callaway. Our trust had been nominated for the Skills and Employability Award. And we won! Any regular readers will be aware that we have a strong commitment to ensure our pupils are “the most employable in the country”. It was good to see the Chamber of Commerce recognise the innovative approaches we are taking to link the curriculum with the challenges of the work place. I felt very proud when I saw Caroline collect the trophy.

At the heart of our work are strong relationships between each faculty and at least one employer. For example….the Languages Faculty at Arnold Hill works closely with Nottingham Forest helping young players to develop better Spanish skills (not sure if they taught Oliver Burke any German before he left for Leipzig!), the Technology team at Farnborough works with Nottingham City Homes and Rushcliffe’s Science faculty have been helping to develop design environmentally sound housing with Keep Moat. The list is growing. It’s our view that the traditional curriculum does not always prepare children for the demands of working life and - dare I say it - a few aspects of it might occasionally appear a little dull. Showing how employers can make use of the skills and knowledge being nurtured in lessons seems to be energising.

I remain baffled as to why the government is preparing to throw so much of the innovative work that is taking place up into the air yet again. The last 6 years have been a trial for the education system. Exam results and OFSTED inspections suggest schools and academies are now making sense of the it. The mere suggestion that Grammar Schools might have life breathed back into them is a distraction from the demanding improvement agenda that we are all engaged with. So many colleagues look at the prospect of selecting children according to ability at the age of 11 with horror. 20% of families will feel wonderful, 80% disappointed. Comprehensive schools have had their faults but positive things are happening up and down the country. Even the Secretary of State for Education went to a comprehensive school so presumably the system she experienced 20 years or so ago was working and now it’s even better.

“All ability” academies such as ours are improving examination results and trying to prepare a skilled and motivated future workforce. It would be wonderful if the government realised that their recent reforms are working and that the system should be left alone for a while. Meanwhile we’ll enjoy the success of last Friday and continue “to give everyone the chance to shine brightly “.