How an Oxfordshire college created its personal enriching baccalaureate | Secondary faculties

At Wood Green college in Witney, Oxfordshire, a bunch of yr 7 pupils try to persuade classmates that scientists have taught spinach to ship emails. Next door one other class is being challenged to talk for 40 seconds, alongside the traces of Radio 4’s Just a Minute, on the topic “what is under the bed?”

Their friends may be doing a public talking class, a session specializing in their very own well being and wellbeing, or participating in group service or a Duke of Edinburgh award, which all pupils are anticipated to finish.

The classes in easy methods to spot faux information, in oracy, debating, teamwork and emotional intelligence aren’t makes an attempt to undermine the Gove-ite conventional curriculum. Pupils at Wood Green do all of the anticipated educational topics and take public exams corresponding to GCSEs and A-levels.

Many faculties supply these enrichment alternatives. But at Wood Green the varsity’s management workforce is pioneering the concept of assessing pupils’ achievements in all these areas and awarding its personal “baccalaureate” as a part of a marketing campaign launched this month aiming to transform the way in which secondary schooling is organised in England.

Baccalaureate awards aren’t new. Wales already has one and the worldwide baccalaureate is without doubt one of the most profitable world {qualifications}, celebrated for its promise to develop “a broad range of human capacities” and requiring pupils to finish tasks in creativity, exercise and public service in addition to reaching educational success.

Wood Green’s headteacher, Rob Shadbolt, realised he wished one thing just like this for his college years in the past after a gathering with native employers and the then native MP and prime minister, David Cameron.

“I asked how the education policy of the government created young people with the skills that these employers wanted. He [Cameron] replied that what employers needed was employees with good maths and English,” stated Shadbolt. “Although no one disagreed with the importance of numeracy and literacy, the employers in the room said they prioritised young people who could communicate, work well with others and by themselves, and who showed initiative.

“Turning out grades 4 or 5 in a maths or English GCSE, although important, isn’t enough. Broader opportunities are built into education in private schools. Why shouldn’t every child have that entitlement? This is about social justice as well.”

Shadbolt’s pondering prompted him to affix the National Baccalaureate Trust, an offshoot of the Headteachers’ Roundtable thinktank, which got here collectively on Twitter 10 years in the past out of frustration at Michael Gove’s “English baccalaureate” thought.

Critics argue that Gove’s Ebacc, which judges faculties on what number of pupils obtain a very good go in a small variety of educational topics, is nothing like the true factor, and Tom Sherrington, a former headteacher and founder member of the HTRT, has been working with different heads since then to plan a qualification extra aligned to the IB than the Gove mannequin.

The nationwide baccalaureate could be a closing qualification at 18 and embrace pupils’ leads to GCSEs, A-levels and vocational {qualifications}, in addition to different achievements within the arts, sport, undertaking work and civic exercise. Crucially, campaigners imagine, this might assist to minimise the standing divide between educational and technical routes by unifying them underneath one award.

“Young people’s educational careers are too defined in terms of a collection of exam results, with too little regard for technical education, creative learning, and personal development,” says Sherrington. “So many of those judged to be at the lower end of the attainment range are denied the opportunity to leave school with a fair record of their successes and achievements, however hard they work. We believe a successful education encompasses so much more than this.”

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The proposal, which has been topic to a prolonged session with professionals, was launched final week on the web site Rethinking Assessment, virtually 20 years after the same thought for an all-encompassing diploma at 18, crafted by the previous Ofsted chief inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson, was rejected by the then prime minister Tony Blair.

But after the saga of examination cancellations, failed algorithms and controversial trainer assessments throughout the pandemic, and a rising unease concerning the extent to which exams dominate the schooling system, some campaigners are eager to go quicker than a brand new qualification that also consists of GCSEs and A-levels.

The Tory MP and chair of the schooling choose committee, Robert Halfon, has proposed abolishing GCSEs altogether and changing them with a baccalaureate qualification at 18. Peter Hyman, the previous Downing Street adviser and now co-director of the Big Education academy belief, has known as for a closing pupil “transcript”, which might give credit for a variety of tasks and abilities over a pupil’s whole college life.

The Conservative One Nation group additionally helps the baccalaureate thought and believes it might contribute to the federal government’s levelling up agenda. The Conservative MP Flick Drummond stated she didn’t imagine the present curriculum was match for objective.

“We need to have a 14-18 curriculum with one set of exams/assessment at the end, at 18, which would include both academic and vocational qualifications, including apprenticeships, and give young people a wide-ranging portfolio to present to the next stage, whether that is university or work,” she stated.

“I am particularly concerned that we are putting so much emphasis on passing exams that are not engaging young people. They should be relevant and useful. By waiting until 18 to assess young people, they will have the maturity to understand the relevance of what they are doing, and we should make sure that vocational qualifications are seen as on a par with academic ones.”

Sherrington thinks the time might not but be proper for the outright abolition of GCSEs. “A baccalaureate is a really good way to talk about exams because you don’t have to talk in binary terms about having them or not. You can include them in a wider award that assesses pupils in other ways. And have far fewer exams that aren’t as high stakes.”

At Wood Green college, Shadbolt agrees {that a} first stage could be to place a baccalaureate framework round what faculties are already doing. “We are crediting all learning and personal development in our school, but we would welcome external accreditation that valued a wider range of attributes, and unified academic and vocational qualifications. A government commitment to this would be such a transformational step forward for schools.”

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