Chapter 2: The Vision in Action
1. What is the point?
1.1 If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that there is, or there should be, more to life than exams. Anthony Seldon in The Sunday Times on 21st August 2020 commented:
“Is it surprising that so many young people have been distraught in the past fortnight, when we have been telling them all their lives that exams are all that matters? That their entire worth is to be judged by exam grades? Exams tell a truth about a young person. An important truth. But they do not tell the whole truth. They tell us little or nothing about the character of the young person, about who they are, or what they have to offer the world.”
1.2 Schools should not just be exam factories. Young people must know there is more to life than the 10 numbers and 3 grades they get at the end of their school career. Schools should be about preparing young people for life.
2. What should an 18 year old look like?
2.1 Schools should work backwards. Our starting point is always: What does an 18 year old need to know, be and have to make it in life? What do businesses, universities and industries require? In a global economy, we need to know what other countries are doing and how their students compare with ours when they leave school, because it is against these young people that our young people will compete. What do our communities, our country and the world want a young person to look like? Working backwards, we put everything in place to provide our pupils with what they need to go into the world and hopefully change it for the better.
2.2 To help students, staff and parents understand what we are trying to achieve, a ‘picture’ of what an 18 year old should ‘look’ like should be displayed: the skills, knowledge, experiences and character they should have when they leave school.
3.1 We believe that our young people should:
3.1.1 Have good knowledge of history and geography;
3.1.2 Be able to appreciate the arts, literature and music;
3.1.3 Be at the very least bi-lingual;
3.1.4 Be numerate, literate and be able to communicate;
3.1.5 Be able to understand technology and science and how things work;
3.1.6 Be able to understand what people believe and why they act in the way they do;
3.1.7 Be able to question these beliefs critically, including society’s values and culture, and know how to do that in the right way.
3.2 Every child, from whatever background, should have this knowledge so they can appreciate the world they live in. Therefore our pupils study history, geography, RE, science, English, maths, languages and computing. As they get older, they can choose to study politics, economics and business.
3.3 The approach to Art, Sport, Drama and Music should be different. These subjects bring the ‘feel good factor’ to the school and community, allow pupils to be creative, build up their confidence, develop their skills and give them the platform and opportunities to excel. We want to unearth real talent so that our young people can grace the West End and entertain us with their singing, dancing and acting and can make our country world beaters in sport.
3.4 Subject areas need to have curriculum maps in place with a clear rationale on the topics covered and when they are covered. To help pupils, curriculum maps should be displayed in their books.
3.5 The curriculum should flow clearly through the key stages. In each subject, pupils should know and understand why they are studying the topic they are studying and how the curriculum builds year on year. A-level students should be able to see how GCSEs have prepared them for their studies. GCSEs students should be able to see how KS3 has prepared them for their studies, and so on down through the other key stages. Pupils should also be able to make links between subjects. In the real world, the subjects we teach are not in departments or compartmentalised. And the real world is what we are preparing our young people for.
4. Beyond the classroom
4.1 Above and beyond this, schools should provide experiences which you cannot learn from books.
4.2 Let me give you an example. A number of years ago we took 11 boys to the Calais Jungle to play football against refugee children. They also visited some of the men and women in the camp and distributed aid. Why? To broaden their experiences, expose them to real world problems that seem impossible to solve and ask them how they would solve them; to ensure that our pupils understand how personal ambition must combine with social compassion.
4.3 On top of these once in a lifetime experiences, schools should have extended school days where they offer a rich co-curricular programme that enables pupils to try new things, find lifelong hobbies and discover talents and skills; to use London, their local area and the world around them as their classroom.
5. Mind the Gap
5.1 All pupils should be able to access the curriculum in a way that supports their needs and leads them to flourish. No gaps should be allowed to grow between groups of pupils based on their economic, social, cultural backgrounds or any special educational needs they may have. All leaders and teachers should know who these priority groups are and how they are performing, use data frequently to identify patterns and have a systematic approach and effectual action planning to improve the outcomes of these groups.
5.2 As well as the curriculum, all co-curricular activities, including trips and visits, should be accessed consistently by all groups. No one should be left behind.
6. Fit and Healthy
6.1 Sport should play an important part in school. Schools should have PE lessons, sports afternoons and co-curricular clubs. These should be set up to find every pupil at least one sport they enjoy and take with them through life, while at the same time developing elite athletes and winning teams.
6.2 Food and nutrition is also important. School lunches where possible should be compulsory. No packed lunches or food to be brought into school. Only bottled water and fruit. The food should be hearty and freshly cooked in order to fuel pupils for their extended day and teach them the importance of sitting down at the meal table, conversing and laughing over good food. We want our pupils to look back in twenty years’ time and remember happy times in the school dining hall with friends and teachers.
7.1 Schools need to nurture in pupils a spirit of enterprise. They need to have a can-do attitude, be resilient, solve problems, work as a team, know how to improve their performance, be game changers, push boundaries. We want to produce young people who don’t sit down under things, feel sorry for themselves, wait for things to come to them, blame everyone and everything, but rather they make things happen. Norman Tebbit said that when his father became unemployed, he didn’t riot. He just got on his bike and looked for work. That’s the spirit we need to cultivate in our young people. Good fighters don’t just hit hard. They get hit hard but can keep fighting.
7.2 Young people should also have opportunities to engage in social enterprise. Visit old people’s homes, do shopping for those who cannot get out, help out in soup kitchens; older pupils visiting primary schools to help with reading, support charities in line with the school’s vision and ethos. Fundamentally, enterprise should not be something we do but rather enterprising is what we are.
7.3 These essential skills are hard to quantify, assess and evidence. They are soft skills that need toughening up in our education system. All programmes of study should show how these skills are developed in their subjects and they need to be embedded in everything pupils do in school and recognised for their worth outside it.
7.4 This is why we are keen to develop the ‘FBS Enterprise Award’ and get it approved, even accredited, by universities, industry, professions and businesses. It is an excellent way of showcasing young people’s personal, creative, physical, emotional, moral, spiritual and enterprising qualities, alongside their intellectual intelligences. A young person’s worth and value is so much more than GCSEs and A Levels.
8.1 More importantly, schools must develop the character of pupils:
8.1.1 Do they have the highest standards of behaviour?
8.1.2 Are they well mannered?
8.1.3 Can they relate to and engage with people from all different backgrounds?
8.1.4 Do they put the needs of others before themselves?
8.1.5 Are they kind?
8.1.6 Do they work hard?
8.1.7 Do they show compassion?
8.1.8 Are they encouraged to build, strengthen, and repair relationships with their families?
8.1.9 Can they hold their nerve when life gets hard and bad things happen?
8.1.10 Do they ask for help?
8.1.11 Do they think and question?
8.1.12 Are they thankful?
8.2 We want young people who stand up for what is right, not look the other way. As Martin Luther King once said: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Our young people should be those who treat other people the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7.12). They perseveringly talk to the young person who is painfully shy and socially awkward until they start to feel at home.
8.3 Schools should instil into pupils the importance of these characteristics and the importance of doing the right thing not the easiest. It means being brave and as Aristotle once said: “It is by acting bravely that one becomes brave.”
9. Tackle the Big Questions
Schools should make it clear that there are more important things in life than school. We live in a world full of sadness, worry and suffering. We live in a society where standards and values change from one generation to the next. All young people have to face death. So they need the opportunity to think about these things, be given all the knowledge and conflicting evidence for these big issues and the skills to critically interrogate them. Accepted norms should never be just accepted but always be challenged and questioned.
Schools need to be fun and exciting. Education is too important to be taken seriously! Whilst the work may be hard and the days long, pupils should enjoy school and want to attend. Places to get to know hundreds of other young people and enjoy their company. Learn, try and experience new things in interesting ways.