22nd March 22
On Saturday 19th March The King Alfred School Society and campaign group Rethinking Assessment hosted the ‘Education on the Move’ conference bringing together voices from across the UK to share ideas on how our education system needs to change.
Researcher and educator Professor Bill Lucas summed up the day saying, “A very broad group of thinkers, parents, employers, educators, students, researchers came together today, all convinced that in different ways we have something of a curriculum emergency and we need to radically rethink the way we evidence the full range of young people’s strengths.”
The day started with a poetry performance by three Year 6 King Alfred students who talked about being in their perfect school. Here is their poem in full:
Welcome, welcome to dreaming big,
Come in, come in, step into our Dream School!
A blank canvas
Where education rules!
Open the door to our comfort zone,
Our very own KAS community,
A place full of acceptance,
With boundless opportunities.
A sanctuary in which to nurture our minds,
An equal partnership of ethnicities, gender and races,
Feeling comfortable and never left out
Acceptance of all faces.
A place where bullying is not even a concept,
A place to have faith,
A place of compassion – choose your own fashion,
A place where we all feel safe.
A sunny place close to nature,
A great space to feel free,
Lots of outdoor learning,
A place where we can be.
Teach us how to think not what to think
That’s our dream education
Teachers listen and are positive
They are our inspiration.
A place where there are no limits to our imagination,
Where dreaming is believing,
Something to make you get out of bed,
And where everyone is achieving.
We’re the new generation!
And this is our education!
This was contrasted by a Year 13 speaker, Alanna, who felt that having to cram for exams was crushing her love of learning. The point was clear, by insisting students take make-or-break exams we are robbing them of the positive learning experiences which characterise much of the primary school years.
Next, a panel of speakers representing different perspectives, including Cambridge University admissions and Law firm Mishcon de Reya, shared their views on why change is necessary. The panels included Aliyah York, founder of Pupil Power who said, “Exams de-humanised my experience of school. Something has to happen and we need to open our minds to alternatives.”
Schools who are already making changes to how they assess pupil attainment and moving away from a solely GCSE based offering gave presentations in the new Sixth Form Centre. Diverse schools including state school ‘School 21’ in Stratford, pupil referral unit ‘The Key Education Centre’ in Gosport and independent schools ‘Bedales’, ‘St Paul’s Girls’ School’, ‘The King Alfred School’ and ‘Latymer Upper School’ gave inspirational examples of delivering different educational models.
The day was rounded off by keynote speaker Gwyn ap Harri of XP School in Doncaster who urged any educators who were fed up with the current system, not to wait for policy change, but to, “Just do something because what we’re doing to our kids right now is ridiculous.”
Conference delegates came from a range of backgrounds and all shared the desire to see change, while acknowledging the difficulties in finding a way to accurately record and represent a student’s learning journey. Peter Hyman of School 21 shared their vision of a holistic learning profile which would show their strengths and weaknesses alongside what courses students had taken and their outside interests.
Audience member Chris McShane said, “This is a very complex issue and today we’ve seen that it’s only through changing our thinking that we can really start to expand what we’re doing in the context of our of our own schools, our own environments.”
Steve Yeomans from outdoor nursery, ‘Into The Woods’ felt positive about the future, “I find it really reassuring to see people out here doing really progressive things. I didn’t know that some schools are already moving away from GCSEs and that’s inspiring.”
Speakers and delegates spent time discussing the issues and making connections in the spring sunshine, sharing ideas of how to work towards change for the benefit of all students.
Co-organiser and Deputy Head of The King Alfred School Al McConville said,
“It’s been great to host this amazing group of people and there is a real feeling here today that we are building the momentum for real change to happen. Here at The King Alfred School we are already trialling a new way of delivering a more interdisciplinary curriculum in Years 6-8 and want to start taking the learnings from that, and from speakers we’ve heard today, into the GCSE years.”