Doing education differently…

Never before have young people been tested so frequently, or from such a young age.  This limited information is being used to measure potential, which is a very hazardous undertaking indeed!  

Simultaneously, mental health issues, poor emotional well-being, depression and self-harm are becoming increasingly prevalent in schools - not to mention our workplaces - so we need to use whatever means necessary to understand and intervene to ensure our young people are thriving and happy - and so have the best chance to become thriving, happy and fulfilled adults.  

Furthermore, debates around the education system are mired in a succession of false choices:

  • inclusive vs. selective
  • caring vs. strict
  • concerned about the development of well-being and character vs. academically rigorous
  • academic vs. pastoral
  • good for the lowest/highest performers vs. good for all
  • fostering social mobility vs. bringing all to the same level

I believe that if we are to have the schools our children deserve, we have to look beyond this binary thinking, and we certainly do so at All Hallows.

In recent times, many schools have been driven by the need to deliver and demonstrate headline results and measurable data, so that they can clearly exhibit improvement over time or place themselves towards the top of league tables in a highly competitive marketplace.  Whilst it is certainly clear that additional accountability has been part of a development of teaching standards over the past 25 years, I believe that the need to produce such quantitative data is now impacting too greatly on our thinking and decision-making at the expense of the best interests and well-being of our young people.  

At All Hallows I hope that, in addition to the quality of academic results, parents and teachers are also working together to promote more ethereal outcomes of schooling, such as long-term well-being, a sense of self, a moral compass, a degree of resilience, preparation for some aspects of work and even an appreciation for philosophy, culture, creativity and civilisation.  These products of schooling are no less valuable because they are difficult to quantify!

As both an Educational Psychologist and an educationalist, I am incredibly grateful to be leading a school that has a great deal of control over its curriculum, structures and ethos.  This enables us to offer a much more bespoke service in the best interests of each pupil. We are free for the most part from the either/or thinking that can often dominate the broader educational debate and we see our mission as preparing each young person to flourish in society – with all that entails.  

Many of the features that parents and educators frequently define as key features of an archetypal modern education are embodied at All Hallows:

  • a focus on the whole-child
  • concerned simultaneously with both maximising academic progress, well-being and broader child development
  • child-centred
  • built on positive relationships, a growth mindset, innovation, creativity and an inherent warmth
  • working in partnership with parents

I am very proud to be leading a school community that recognises that the very best results are underpinned by young people’s well-being and that this needs to be at the centre of all we do, rather than be treated as a subsidiary role of education.

Trevor Richards (CPsychol)

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