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Exam fever? – Headmaster’s Blog – Ballard School

May 28, 2015

Obsessed with exams?

I came across this recent Press summary:

Private schools have become obsessed by exam performance and are no longer offering their pupils a rich and broad curriculum, Wellington College’s headmaster Sir Anthony Seldon will say in his final parting shot to the school on 23 May. Sir Anthony, who leaves the top performing independent school this summer and will become vice-chancellor of Buckingham University – the UK’s first private university – in September, will warn the private sector has been “damaged because of the tyranny of league tables”. He adds: “Private schools, in their hunt for exam-focused parents from Britain and abroad, have narrowed the range of their educational opportunities and become overly focused on exams and league table performance to the exclusion of much else.”

I suppose many of us concur wholeheartedly with Sir Anthony’s assertions but then throw up our hands and say, ‘what can we do?’  Clearly we can’t ignore the current exam system as entrance to sixth forms, universities and employment pathways depend on these assessments. This does not mean, however, that we need to be slaves to the system.

I have just been conducting my annual interviews with each member of Year 8, the final year in our Prep School. These interviews require each pupil to write a personal statement in advance of our meeting which is designed to encourage the young people to consider their current interests and future hopes and ambitions. Whilst I do discuss the end of Prep School ‘flagship exams’ (our version of a rigorous assessment but without what can be seen as the narrowing focus of Common Entrance) and possible GCSE choices, I focus on what might help challenge, broaden and interest the pupil going forward into our Senior School. We consider the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, Young Enterprise, the Theatre Production Team, Sports Elite, Senior Prefects, STEM projects, work experience, MFL exchanges and their own personal hobbies and interests.

Much of what we do at Ballard is designed to encourage what Professors Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas in Educating Rita call the seven Cs: confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship. I hope to elaborate on these further in my report at Speech Day (9th July). My annual address may not attract the Press interest of Sir Anthony Seldon’s but, I hope, it will be no less important for our own pupils, staff and parents to consider – as well as helping me review and reflect where we are as a holistic school.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet @BallardSchool

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