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What’s it all about? – Wednesday 9th December – Headmaster’s Blog – Ballard School

December 9, 2015

 What’s it all about?

Last week the  ‘Independent’ carried the following news:

The Commons select committee on education will be conducting an inquiry into the purpose of education. Neil Carmichael, the Conservative chairman of the select committee, said: “In this inquiry we want to ask the question, what is education? What is the purpose of our educational system? Is it, for example, to prepare our young people for the world of work? Is it to ready our children for adulthood and provide them with the skills to lead fulfilling lives? Is it to provide them with broad academic knowledge, based on a shared culture and values?” Parents, students and those within the education sector have been asked to contribute views on the matter, with a January 25th deadline set.

I am delighted to see such an important question being asked and I rather think that the answer to the question is a mixture of the views expressed above – and some more! I meet several prospective parents weekly, some of whom are moving down to the New Forest from London. All too often they tell me about the highly pressurised Prep Schools (and some primaries) where their children currently study and where tutors are already employed (after school) for pupils in Y3 upwards to ‘prep’ children to get into the ‘best’ senior school, be it grammar or a selective independent one. There must be more than this to education?

I know of some Prep Schools which narrow the curriculum in Years 6-8 so as to focus on ‘academic’ subjects for the 11+ and 13+ exams to grammar school / selective independents. This tends to mean that practical subjects such as technology, food science and ICT are squeezed and that more creative subjects such as drama, dance and music have to happen as an extra-curricular activity. I don’t believe this is the intention behind Common Entrance (exams taken to ‘public schools’ at 13+) but sadly it is sometimes the reality as Prep Schools are measured on the ‘quality’ of their leavers’ destinations.

Here at Ballard we strive to retain rigour and challenge in the midst of a holistic programme – and time again parents will say to me that this is what they want for their children. They want the creative all-round approach with necessary emphasis and focus as they reach the GCSE years – but not lose entirely the sports, performing arts, extra-curricular activities and outdoor pursuits. We feel strongly that young people will do well in the classroom if also kept busy and positively active outside of it. It’s always a thrill when I see the Y11 rugby player in the choir, the fashion-conscious teenager getting dirty on a Duke of Edinburgh trek or the thespian and star of the school musical achieving outstanding GCSEs – and all of this is common place at Ballard!

So, education is about a great deal but it is the lesser if simply boiled down to cramming for exams or narrowing the curriculum to fit some external test to the exclusion of so much else. We want to see positive citizens playing a full part in modern society and able to engage in conversation with others over a range of issues and interests. Education is as much about getting ‘out’ as we put ‘in’ to the school day – and above and beyond!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet regularly @BallardSchool

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Henri permalink
    December 9, 2015 11:09 am

    I absolutely agree Mr Reid. The holistic programme at Ballard helps our children grow in mind and body, offering a broad experience so they can find their own fulfilling place in life while appreciating others’ choices too.

  2. December 9, 2015 11:43 am

    Dear Henri

    Many thanks for your response to my blog. Your support, as ever, is much appreciated!


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