It has been widely accepted amongst the education community that a good Early Years education is the foundation for success later on. Why then, do secondary schools rarely consider the value of a good Key Stage 3 or middle school education for later success in the exam focused years?
I welcome the recent notion from Ofsted Chief inspector Amanda Spielman to penalise “exam factory” schools that teach to the test, and to instead examine choices that schools make about their curriculum. While I do not support Ofsted’s approach in terms of judgmental school visits (the teaching profession live in fear rather than receiving support and guidance for improvement), the backlash against the statement from Ofsted has surprised me. I fully support the reversal of focus on outcomes and hope that other stakeholders such as local authorities follow suit so that schools are able to become less factory like. With a focus on curriculum, schools will be able to consider what is important in their context and enable their teachers to be creative and potentially even follow the interests of their students, in an approach akin to Early Years.
Mitch Resnick, Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab and founder of the Scratch programming language argues that the rest of school needs to become more like kindergarten as it is ideally suited to the needs of the 21st century (Resnick, 2007) and has designed the ‘creative learning spiral’. Here, students first imagine, then create something and play with it, then share it with others before they reflect on what they’ve created and re-imagine it so that their learning becomes iterative, arguably in a similar way to the kindergarten approach to learning.
Similarly, Sugata Mitra’s Self Organised Learning Environment project (developed since the originalproject) has proved that children are able to teach themselves using a computer, albeit with unpredictable learning outcomes (Dolan et al, 2013).
Both of these approaches allow for the development of skills which we know skills are important in the world of work. A recentindicated that almost 40% of employers could not find people with the right skills while 60 percent complained of a lack of preparation. It would seem narrow-minded for schools not to capitalize on this opportunity to get creative with their Key Stage 3/Middle School curriculum where there is more freedom in assessment and focus on skills development, taking note of approaches used in the Early Years.
Teachers are incredibly creative people and therefore I welcome this notion from Ofsted where they can really work to improve learning and relationships without being overtly focused on outcomes. If we can give schools and teachers the confidence to do this, then I predict that outcomes will improve too.