The Results Are Out!

The Results Are Out!
Highfield Prep School Head's Thoughts

With the fever around the fast approaching election, you may have missed the recent articles in the media relating to the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education director, highlighted that the UK has made "positive" progress in international school rankings, based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in 79 countries and regions.

  • In reading, the UK is 14th, up from 22nd in the previous tests three years ago
  • In science, the UK is 14th, up from 15th
  • In maths, the UK is 18th up from 27th

While the UK may not yet be challenging Singapore, Estonia and Finland in the academic rankings, surely we should be celebrating this progress and using it to fuel further improvements.  Yet, when one reads the report in full, it is the fourth point in the Key Findings that puts rather a large dampener on the results:

  • 53% of students in the United Kingdom reported that they are satisfied with their lives, compared to 67% on average across OECD countries.

This figure is concerning and there is no doubt that unpicking the reasons behind this lack of satisfaction with life in our country’s teenagers is a complex process.  There is no one reason, but when one compares our schooling system with those countries in the enviable position of having high academic standards and satisfied, happy children, there are some key points to note.

In many of these countries:

  • Formal schooling starts at the age of 7
  • There is an extremely high quality early years provision, where children learn through play that is directed by teachers
  • High importance is placed on the significance of children being socially and emotionally ready for school
  • There are no national assessments grading children when they start school
  • All-ability classes, encouraging collaboration rather than segregation are the norm
  • Teachers are highly valued and trusted

When the majority of schools across the country are having to reduce the amount of time spent teaching modern foreign languages, the arts and sport, it is no wonder that our country’s children are questioning their place in society and their value. 

At Highfield and Brookham, we are constantly trying to find the right balance for our children.  The equilibrium between academic rigour and excellent co-curricular breadth is an extremely important one.  It is through play and a broad curriculum that children practise the skills that are so vital later in life.  These key components of the curriculum give children the chance to express themselves and develop as an individual; they learn to communicate and collaborate, to be spontaneous and creative, independent and yet have the confidence to seek help when needed.  It is through the bringing together of both sides of the curriculum that we ensure our children not only make the best academic progress possible, but also leave us full of life, with a drive and ambition that enables them to excel in their chosen field. 

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