Decisions, decisions...

Somewhat ironically I found it quite hard to find a song I liked about making choices to preface this week's comments. So I chose that one by The Clash anyway!

Choices and decisions. Making the right choices and decisions. Choices and decisions about the structure of the curriculum and what students learn. If I was to give a potted history of what schools have been able choose to teach over the last fifty or so years it might go something like this...

In the 1970s and 80s, schools enjoyed almost complete freedom over subject offer and content. Do what you want, within reason. And for those who experienced it, perhaps at time things did seem a little unstructured...

Anything Goes

So, in the 1990s we saw the introduction of the National Curriculum, with its tightly prescribed  'programmes of study' across compulsory Core and Foundation subjects which all schools were compelled to offer, or face the brutal wrath of the coterminously introduced Ofsted Inspection regime.

National Curriculum 

Move from Newcastle to Newbury as a Year 8 in March and you could guarantee almost to the lesson that in History you would be studying 'The Making of the UK 1500-1750'.

Fast forward to the present and related changes to accountability measures can constrict even further what schools choose offer their students to study. You see, headline judgements about a school's effectiveness - and therefore its potential Ofsted grading - are now based upon a measure called Progress 8.

The clue's in the title. At the end of a young person's secondary school journey the 'value' of their results to school's position in the League Tables is based on how they perform in eight subjects, with only certain subjects counting in prescribed 'buckets'.

The curriculum is therefore driven - and option choice consequently constrained - by what will maximise a school's performance in relation to this measure rather than what a young person may want to study; the subjects that excite and motive them and match their current interests and future aspirations.  At least If you allow it to be.

At Park House we don't. We make a choice. And we believe in turn that individual choice outweighs institutional outcomes; and we're prepared to take the hit if necessary, because it's the right choice for our young people.

That's why I found this potential change of approach mooted last week by Ofsted's new boss, Armada Spielman, especially refreshing...


Because it confirms a choice that we've already made to put the achievement of the young person first.

Not such a tough decision after all.