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Reflections on a conceptual journey - July 2019

As I approach the end of the school year I wanted to reflect a little on what I have learnt of late and how my thinking and school leadership has been affected.

Our school is a wonderful example of the comprehensive ideal, with a wide mix of home backgrounds, motivation levels, educational attainment and wealth, both in terms of finance and values.  This makes for a vibrant and exciting community where our children keep us adults on our toes at an academic level and by needing positive, firm relationships.

This year I have made a few conceptual shifts that I thought might be of interest:

From ‘Providing a great school for the community’ to being ‘A school that will improve the community’

When I first took on headship I was convinced that a school like ours should be a place that serves its community brilliantly – my role was to bring this about as best I could.  Recently I have come to realise that it runs deeper than that and the community we serve will be enhanced as a result of the rich education that children receive by attending Esher High School.  It is through uplifting relationships, vibrant learning, applicable skills and rich subject knowledge that our young people will make our locality better in itself.  They will develop the character traits that will lead to a more inclusive community, will be able to contribute more economically should they choose, and make choices that will improve the fabric of our place.

From ‘Social mobility’ to ‘Social equity’

Much has been made of the case for social mobility over the years, none more so than by our current Education Secretary.  I am not against the concept in itself – excellent education can open doors that would otherwise be closed and enable young people to aspire to greater things than their parents may have.  However, I have been reminded of the idea that every undertaking needs to be celebrated and valued, regardless of its status.  Whatever our children wish to do or be, we should enable them to be the best [whatever] they want to be, AND have a rich understanding of wider life to help them.  By ranking one type of profession above another some are constantly switched off and demotivated and we cannot let this happen.

From ‘Excellent Education’ to ‘Transformative Education’

I believe in the importance of academic standards and encouraging children to achieve the best qualifications that they can.  Our challenge is to couple this with the wider experience in our schools that will transform their outlook and give them opportunities to reappraise their views and beliefs.  Schools must provide the stimulus and safe space for this thinking that might otherwise be absent. 

From ‘Ready for the world beyond’ to ‘Ready to enhance a changing world’

I watched the promotional video recently which finishes with me saying the line that our children will be ‘ready for the world beyond’.  I now think that this is a cop out on two levels: firstly, our young people can be enhancing their communities now – not when they leave once we have finished with them! Secondly they will be the architects of the future, not passengers in the process – and they must see themselves in this way.  Our role is to encourage them to take up the baton, see the opportunities, and have the confidence and wherewithal to improve our rapidly changing world

Quite a tall order. Mike Boddington